The Terror of the Untamed Tongue

tongue is a fire

It’s said that a slick tongue causes bad slips and loose lips.

A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”

“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”

“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”

She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”

He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half” he concluded.

Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”

“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s known for its great hockey teams and its ugly women.”

The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!” “And which hockey team did she play for?” (selected)

James has much to say about the difficulty of controlling our tongues (James 3:1-12, The Message, MSG, and The New American Standard Bible, NASB). Though it is small, it is known to…

~ Boast of great things, vs. 5. (NASB)~ Spark great destruction like a forest fire that starts with a careless or wrongly placed word, vss. 5-6. (MSG)

~ Ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, and be the cause of death, itself, vs. 6. (MSG)

~ Be untameable, uncontrollable, running wild, like a wanton killer, v. 8. (MSG)

~ A restless evil, full of deadly poison, v. 8. (NASB)

~ Bless God on one side, but curse men and women who are made in God’s likeness on the other side, v. 9. (MSG)

James tells it like it is about the human tongue and the way it ought to be used. He emphasizes the need for Christians to put more restraint on their tongues for, “from the same mouth come both blessings and cursings,” (vs. 10, NASB).

Inconsistency appears to be a distinct problem of an untamed tongue. James remarked, “My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (vss. 10-12, MSG).

The terror that results from an untamed tongue speaks of the necessity of building our lives on Godly wisdom. It means our priority is to “live well, live wisely, live humbly,” (v. 13, MSG). Our style of holy living will have a positive effect on our relationships and the way we communicate.

James says,

“…It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats,” (vss. 13-16, MSG).

James urges believers to not merely talk the talk but walk the walk (James 1:22-27). What we say will be revealed by the way we’re living according to the wisdom that is from above. And this can only produce good results. Indeed, we won’t be so apt to slip on a slick tongue and spread its terror.

James concludes,

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor,” (vss. 17-18, MSG).

The use of our tongues for building up rather than bringing down includes telling others about the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). As others see us living the way we say we ought to live, then our witness will be more believable when we share our hope and faith. The Good News of Christ and his Kingdom will be validated by our wisdom and actions toward our desire to obey God and his Word.

Here’s a song taken directly from scripture titled, “Taming the Tongue” (James 3:1-10):
https://youtu.be/NUBj_d5a5Hw

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Being Thankful for 25 Things That Are Not

gratitude-cartoon

We are thankful for many things—good things that we have, or nice things that happen to us, or happy things that we’ve done. Yes, we’re grateful for our many blessings. And, as Thanksgiving Day arrives, we will be reminded of how thankful we are for these blessings.

But there’s another perspective on being thankful. And this includes the things for which we can be thankful that did NOT happen, or that we do NOT have. It all depends on how we look at it.

For example…

Snoopy is getting dog food for his Thanksgiving Day dinner, and he is aware that everyone else in the family is inside having turkey. He meditates and talks to himself: “How about that? Everyone is eating turkey today, but just because I’m a dog I get dog food.”

He trots away and positions himself on top of his doghouse and concludes: “Of course, it could have been worse. I could have been born a turkey.” (“Peanuts”)

Snoopy was grateful in spite of the fact that he couldn’t have some Thanksgiving turkey, too. He was able to look at the bright side even though he was a disappointed dog. But this illustrates a positive way we can handle the times we feel hurt or let down in some way.

Here is a list of 25 things you can be thankful for which didn’t happen to you. You can be thankful that…

1. You were not born a gnat because people would always be swatting at you.

2. You are not an Oscar Mayer wiener because people would love you so much, they would want you for lunch, and that wouldn’t go down too well.

3. You’re not the temperature because you would always be up and down. And someone, somewhere would complain about you. (“Too hot,” “Too cold,” blah, blah, blah!)

4. You are not a skunk because you’d be making a big stink and no one would want you around.

5. Your nose does not grow an inch longer each time you tell a little white lie.

6. Your car doesn’t turn into a pumpkin if you get home too late.

7. You don’t have as many eyes as a nearsighted fly with double vision.

8. You are a match because people would be striking you and that would burn you up.

9. You are not someone’s appendix about to burst—a big pain who needs to be cut out.

10. You did not see your name in the obituary today.

11. Your ears don’t burn and you set off a smoke alarm when someone talks about you.

12. Your deepest secrets haven’t gone viral on the Internet yet.

13. You are not over 9 feet tall like some say Goliath was or you’d be bumping your head all the time and that’s just ONE problem!

14. You don’t turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife just because you turned to look back.

15. You are not a penny for you would not make much cents and people would throw you away.

16. You are not a sidewalk because people would walk all over you all the time. Ouch!

17. You were not raised by apes or you’d make a monkey out of yourself.

18. You are not a snowman having a REAL meltdown.

19. You aren’t a hamster on a wheel going nowhere fast.

20. You are not a hurricane full of much wind and causing lots of damage.

21. You are not a worn out shoe—tongue hanging and not much sole.

22. You are not a bump on a log and getting bored.

23. Your toes do not actually curl when you drink a strong beverage.

24. You do not really hit the ceiling when you hear bad news.

25. You are not struck by a lightning bolt every time you say something wrong.

Yes, you CAN be thankful for some things that do not happen. When you start feeling down and out or, like Snoopy, just plain left out, remember this verse: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” First Thessalonians 5:18. Give thanks! Things could always be worse!

Here’s an uplifting music video that reminds us to be “Grateful”: http://youtu.be/s7eVr-OUYkQ

Happy Thanksgiving!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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What We Can Learn From Noah

days of noah

Noah is a fascinating person we much admire for, had it not been for him, all of humanity as well as all living creatures would have been completely washed away in the worldwide flood. God was contemplating wiping out everyone from the face of the earth, because, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Gen. 6:5, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

But, thank God, there was one righteous man, Noah, and his family who were spared. For “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord,” (v. 8). And, following God’s instructions, Noah built an Ark or huge boat that saved him, his family, and the animals that entered it from total destruction.

You can learn many lessons from Noah.  Here are several witty ones that someone listed…

Don’t miss the boat.

We are all in the same boat.

Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something big.

Don’t listen to critics; just do the job that needs to be done.

Build your future on high ground.

For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetah’s.

When you’re stressed, float a while.

Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow.

Noah is one of our heroes of faith. While everyone else undoubtedly thought Noah and his sons were nuts for building this huge, odd-looking structure on dry ground, they kept working on their boat building project day after day. While the mass of humanity was flooded with corruption and violence (Gen. 6:11-12), Noah and his three sons were faithfully getting read for the big flood of water that was going to cleanse the earth of this evil.

Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith, Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prpared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

When God saw that Noah was a man of faith and integrity, God knew that Noah would follow his instructions. This example shows that God will reward anyone who honors and obeys him in faith (Heb. 11:6).

To have faith, however, doesn’t mean we are without flaws or weaknesses. As a reminder of this fact, even Noah’s imperfections are exposed when he got drunk one day (Gen. 9:20-21). But this, too, is a lesson that teaches how we must always keep on our guard, continually praying to our Father in heaven, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and pleading, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” (Matt. 6:9-15).

Noah’s role of building the Ark and being saved from the Flood waters are symbolic of our salvation. The Flood was a type of God’s judgment upon the ungodly people of the world. The Apostle Peter cited the Flood as an example of the reality of God’s retribution: “[God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly,” (2 Pet. 2:5).

What we can learn is that because of God’s judgment or justice, he is able to rescue us from the disaster that ungodliness brings just like he did for Noah and his family (2 Pet. 2:9). One day, the earth will be cleansed of sin with fire just as it was once cleansed with water (2 Pet. 3:3-13).

And let that be a warning to those heading for disaster—that is, those who are NOT living in faith and virtue including, “those who indulge in the flesh in its corrupt desires and [those who] despise authority…” according to Peter (2 Pet. 2:10).

Noah and the Ark illustrate how we are saved from eternal condemnation by obeying the command to be baptized [immersed] in water. First Peter 3:20-22 says,

(20) “…who once were disobedient , when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (21) And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (22) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and power had been subject to him.”

God wants to save us from eternal condemnation (2 Pet. 3:9). He is patiently waiting to see us enter the “Ark” of safety, Jesus Christ, by being buried into Christ’s death under the waters of baptism, and coming up alive in the power of his righteousness, having our sins washed away through God’s forgiveness and grace (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19-21; Romans 6:4-11).

Those who have entered into Christ at conversion are reminded to remain faithful, looking eagerly for the return of our Lord and his eternal kingdom, even as we live in a world of sin and corruption today. Although humanity has always had its dark periods of evil, it will get worse according to the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 13).

We are told that in the last days before Jesus comes to restore all things, social conditions will be like it was in the days of Noah. In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus said,

(37) “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. (38) For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Noah’s day teaches us that we need to be ready, unlike those who did not get themselves ready when the Flood was sent upon them. The vast majority of people in the world today remain in ignorance of the times in which we’re living which points to the nearness of his glorious return (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Jesus warned, “For the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will,” (Matt. 24:44).

Noah and what happened when the Flood came teaches us that we can’t afford to have our heads buried in the sand. We must not make the mistake of going about our own daily routines, like they did in Noah’s time, without knowing what is going on in the world and what God’s Word teaches. Our duty and privilege is to be about the work of building our lives in Christ, proclaiming the Good News, in preparation for the Great Day that WILL come.

Let’s give a listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford in, “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord,” https://youtu.be/rDtjBeIktJ4

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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How to Be a Good Soldier for the Lord

Gods army

The United States Army abides under what is called, “The Seven Core Army Values.” They are, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Soldiers learn these values and their meanings when they first begin their basic training. They are to learn them, understand them, and use them in everything they do from then on. Their minds are as conditioned as their bodies in order to be good soldiers for their country.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his young associate to, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Metaphorically speaking, Paul was applying one of the core values of a good soldier serving the Lord Jesus. Paul could make this comparison since he had many encounters with Roman soldiers in his missionary journeys. Undoubtedly, he had witnessed the fortitude, discipline, and loyalty of the soldiers and their commanders he had met during his ministry (for example, Acts 21:31-40; 22:23-29; 23:10; 23:17-35; 24:1-27; 25:1-22; 25:23-27; 26:1-32; 27:1-44; 28:1-30). And the apostle observed how their military life reflected the values of an even more meaningful spiritual life of a soldier in Christ.

Applying the kind of values expected of believers, we consider how to be a good soldier for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here are seven core values for those in his army:

Core Value #1. A good soldier has faith.

Faith is belief, confidence, and trust. All three characteristics are essential for being a good soldier in Christ. If a soldier doesn’t believe in the cause for which he or she is fighting then the soldier is bound to be defeated. If the soldier lacks confidence, he or she will be weak on morale and motivation to overcome the enemy. If a soldier doesn’t trust his fellow soldiers and especially his superiors, he or she will likely be unfit for duty. Christians live by these standards of faith as they fulfill their duties as good soldiers of the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation THROUGH FAITH which is in Christ,” (2 Tim. 3:15). In fact, Paul commended Timothy for his sincere faith that was instilled in him through the influence of his godly mother and grandmother since childhood (2 Tim. 1:5). And Paul testified how he, himself, “Fought the good fight…finished the course…kept the faith ,” once he accepted the call of Christ in his career (2 Tim. 4:7).

Core Value #2. A good soldier obeys the commands.

No soldier should even think about questioning the commands of his officers. Rank is essential when a soldier is given orders. God, the Commander-in-Chief, gave his Ten Commandments to Israel. Jesus Christ, who was granted “all authority and power in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18) serves as God’s Appointed Supreme Commander in the office of Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22), Priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3), and King (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:16). We, as good soldiers, are expected to live according to the commands given through God’s Son. We are instructed to practice unconditional and unquestionable obedience to our Master for he knows those who are loyal to him (2 Tim. 2:19). We’ve enlisted in God’s army through Christ. And, therefore, we are under obligation to not allow ourselves to be entangled in worldly matters. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier,” (2 Tim. 2:4). Our duty is to obey the commands found in God’s Word. It is the instruction manual for achieving complete victory. “Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Core Value #3. A good soldier makes sacrifices.

Good soldiers of Christ are willing to give of their time, their toil, their talent, as well as their blood, sweat, and tears for serving and honoring the Lord. When Paul spoke of suffering hardship like him, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. He went through more than most of us ever will as he took his stand for the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:7-10). One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was that every new recruit was branded with a hot iron. To have that brand mark is said to be an honor for being in the Roman army. The Apostle Paul used this as a metaphor for his sufferings for Christ. He said to his fellow soldiers in Galatia, “…I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus,” (Gal. 6:17). Just think of all the scars and wounds his body suffered from the beatings, whippings, and all other abuses for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! But Jesus said this is what his recruits would suffer (Matt. 5:10-12). And then, of course, there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus suffered, bled, and died for the sake of completing his mission—a true mission of love. He said to his little army of disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” (John 15:13-14). Stories are often told of brave soldiers who died falling on grenades or standing in front of gunfire or diffusing loaded bombs in order to spare fellow comrades from fatal danger. Any good soldier of Christ is just as brave if it comes to sacrificing one’s own life while under persecution for sharing Christ with others and saving them.

Core Value #4. A good soldier has endurance.

You can’t think about sacrifice without including endurance. It is for the Gospel that Paul endured hardship. He stated, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned,” (2 Tim. 2:8-9). Endurance, like sacrifice, takes divine love in one’s heart. Love of this kind “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7). You can have much faith, sacrifice everything, and endure all things, but without love, nothing is profited (1 Cor. 13:2-3). With godlike love you can endure with patience and kindness without becoming jealous, boastful, arrogant, unbecoming, selfish, or vengeful. Rather, you can endure because you are rejoicing with the truth rather than rejoicing in something not true (1 Cor. 13:4-6). When times get tough, the tough will endure. We are told that at the end of the age when perilous times will really get tough, it will be those who “endure to the end” that “will be saved,” (Matt. 24:13). It begs the question, “How tough am I to endure?” Our love for God and others (the primary essence of living God’s commandments—Matthew 22:36-40) provides the ability to endure with perseverance which can accomplish great things. It is written that “there are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.” You never give up if you’re enduring as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Core Value #5. A good soldier has strong will.

A soldier must have a very strong will to succeed. One cannot enter a battle without having the will or desire to move forward even when it’s against all odds. That does not mean one will not have fear in the face of the adversity. But the determination to enter any conflict with the help of God’s guidance and power will yield greater gains. Paul remarked, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (2 Tim. 1:7). The strength of our will depends upon how resolved we are to win life’s battles. But such strength does not merely stem from what WE want but from what GOD wants. He has supplied us with the grace or favor to make us strong through Christ. Paul said to Timothy, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:1). It is our reliance upon God that strength is found and the will to make progress regardless of the circumstances. Paul relied on God’s grace even though his “thorn in the flesh” was never removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). We can endure only if we are willing to accept God’s will and, like Paul, declare, “that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Core Value #6. A good soldier knows the enemy and is adequately equipped.

What is a good soldier without knowing who he’s fighting and what he will need to fight with? Can you imagine a soldier going out to fight without any weapons and equipment? A good soldier of Jesus is no different when it comes to spiritual warfare. First, a good soldier must know the enemy—his strengths, his weaknesses, his knowledge and abilities and fighting patterns, and so forth. In Ephesians 6:12, our enemy is identified. Christians are not in a fight against an invading army of troops (“flesh and blood”). Rather, we’re in a battle “against the rulers, against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly (or, higher) places.” It would be easy to shoot from guns, fire the artillery, and march in an infantry against an opposing army that is fighting you compared to the kind of spiritual war we Christians are in. The forces opposing us are of a spiritual nature—higher powers that operate in the darkness of their wickedness, spreading their propaganda, persuading their victims to depend on them for false security, support, and strength rather than God and his Word. So, we take our stand against these powers but not with conventional weapons. No, we fight spiritual battles with something far more superior—spiritual weapons and equipment—“the full armor of God,” (Eph. 6:13). This will help to resist evil and take a firm stand in God’s truth. Therefore, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 4:14-17, New Living Translation, NLT).

Care Value #7. A good soldier expects victory.

What good is fighting without expecting to win? A good soldier sees beyond the present conflict to the joy of receiving the crown of honor and glory. This is his hope. It’s the driving force behind one’s desire to succeed no matter the price. And there IS a price—a kind of spiritual death which will ultimately lead to life eternal. For Paul said to Timothy, “For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself,” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Dying with Christ means that once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism, we are no longer living in the dictates of our own sinful inclinations. Rather, we are now living a new way of life, under the Power of Christ taking priority in our lives so that we are now serving him as good soldiers and not ourselves. Since we are now living as his good soldiers, we can claim the promise that one day we will “reign with him.” This is referring to the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes to call forth all the faithful—those in Christ who are living and those in Christ who are resurrected from their sleep of death (1 Thess. 4:16-18). And believers will be co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom when he reigns on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 1:6-7; 5:10; 11:15; 19:16; 20:6). When the Kingdom of God is finally established, and all of his judgements are complete, those who will inherit his kingdom will be the good soldiers who served faithfully according to the scriptures. Sadly, all others (the unsaved who do not accept Christ) will be the fallen victims of their own refusal to join the army of God and his Son (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

By the way, another metaphor regarding the war we are in as good soldiers in Christ is the sound of the trumpet. The trumpet, often the blowing of the ram’s horn, was like a bugle that called the soldiers to commence fighting. This goes back to the Old Testament when Israel went to war against their foes (Numbers 10:9; Joshua 6:4-20; Judges 7:8-20). Paul used the trumpet or bugle when he was speaking of misusing the gift of languages or tongues in worship services. He said to the Corinthian church, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). In other words, if someone is speaking in a foreign language that others do not understand, then they would be as confused as soldiers who did not recognize a certain sound of the bugle that called them to war.

Then there’s the reference to the trumpet that will sound when Jesus returns to gather his church and to fight his battle with the nations. First, the resurrection of believers: First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and WITH THE TRUMPET OF GOD; and the dead in Christ shall rise first….” The sounding of the trumpet will signal the start of the coming eternal age of God’s kingdom as the dead in Christ are resurrected to immortality. Paul also refers to the sound of the trumpet in the Resurrection Chapter—First Corinthians 15:52. Next, is the REAL war that WILL END ALL WAR. After gathering his church which has met him in the air, Jesus will come down to Mount Zion and defeat the enemies who fight against him. This will be the final war known as Armageddon (Psalm 2:1-12; Joel 2:1-3:21; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:1-21; Rev. 16:16).

Good soldiers of Jesus Christ look eagerly forward to their eternal reward. The curse of sin will be removed for good (Rev. 22:3-4) and death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). And this gets us full circle to Core Value #1—Faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?…He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life,” (1 John 5:4-5, 12).

We are soldiers of the Lord for it his battle to win. Here is, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” by Maranatha! Music: http://youtu.be/vKD9ywL_OmA

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Clean Mind

Businessman Wash And Clean The Brain Of His Colleague

I was reading a cute story about a Sunday School teacher who had carefully prepared his lesson for the kids in his class. He was talking to them about the need for keeping their minds as clean as their bodies. To make his point, he held up a bar of soap.

“Uh, oh,” murmured one of the boys. “Here comes the commercial!”

In this day and age, it would probably be a good idea to teach this lesson to young AND old alike. I don’t doubt there are a lot of dirty minds that could use a good scrubbing. But it would require more than what a bar of soap could do.

Now here’s MY commercial…

Are you suffering from DMS? Do you know others suffering from it? What IS it, you are wondering? DMS is Dirty Mind Syndrome also known as “lust of the flesh.”

It’s something that anyone can catch. Young and old; rich and poor; Christian or non-Christian. It’s not that difficult. For you see, our minds have this tendency to think nasty thoughts. And when they get control of our brains they are not so easy to control. Like it says in Isaiah 64:6, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind,” (New Living Translation, NLY).

Before you know it, our minds are cluttered with unclean thoughts. A vulgar joke here, a naughty image there, an urge to satisfy those carnal desires and, before you know it, a kind of sludge starts settling in the mind. As it builds, it clogs the brain cells and bogs them down so that pure thoughts are prohibited from functioning thus leading to DMS. This disease can create so much corruption that it even causes addiction. Unless something is done to cure this malady, there is grave danger of eternal death instead of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is that healing CAN take place. One’s mind can become clean and whole again. DMS can be treated and cured once a person starts on a rehab process known as TIS—The Indwelling Spirit. Here is the antidote recommended by the Apostle Paul:

“The mind set on the flesh [DMS] is [eternal] death but the mind set on the Spirit [TIS] is [eternal] life and peace. Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God…But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit dwelling in you,” (Romans 8:6, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Paul also addresses the problem of DMS in his letter to the Galatian churches. Amongst the many symptoms that arise out of “the desire of the flesh,” such as idolatry, sorcery, uncontrolled anger, envying, drunkenness, and so forth, sexual immorality (adultery), impurity (fornication), and sensuality are at the top of the list (Gataians 5:16-21). Those who are plagued with these symptoms will one day find themselves disinherited from living in God’s Kingdom. “I have forewarned you,” the apostle says, “that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (v. 21).

So, just as he does in his letter to the Romans, he recommends TIS to the Galatians for it produces just the right ingredients or “fruit of the Spirit” for curing DMS. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (v. 22-23). These not only cure DMS (v. 24) they enable us to walk in hope as we seek to enter the Kingdom of God.

When we start thinking and doing according to the way Christ Jesus directs us, we can enjoy the good health that comes from TIS. This means, however, that we must be willing to set our minds on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and walk the way Christ would have us go rather than our way.

In writing to the church at Ephesus Paul reminded them how once walked in their own way and how they suffered from DMS on account of it. Their “former manner of life,” that is, “their old self” which was being corrupted “in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” was due to walking in the “futility of their mind.” They became “callous” or indifferent having “given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice ov every kind of impurity with greediness,” (Ephesians 4 17-23). Besides other problems, they really had a bad case of DMS.

But now their lives were changed and their minds renewed by living on TIS through Jesus Christ. They had put on the mind of Christ and now they were restored to good spiritual health. Paul encouraged the believers, “that you be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth,” (Eph. 4:24).

And thus, a whole transformation takes place with TIS. The mind is made clean and one can feel much better in the process. Unlike the way the sinful world thinks (breeding ground for DMS), believers think differently. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [philosophy and trends of this modern age] but be transformed [changed] by the renwing of your mind, that your may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Interestingly, clean minds affect clean hearts. While your mind is pictured as the source of your thinking and reasoning, your heart is pictured as the source of your emotions and attitude. What affects the one affects the other. That’s why the heart is metaphorically referenced along with the mind for being focused on Christ.

In Ephesians 4:17, when Paul pointed out that the members were to no longer walk in the “futility of their mind,” he added, “…being darkened in their understanding, excluded [alienated] from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart…” (v. 18). When DMS is contracted, it’s also advisable to get a heart check up, as well.

As they say, the mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is truly a part of you that you want to keep clean at all times. And not only to prevent DMS, but to experience something that only TIS can provide. For one thing, it starts with having the kind of attitude Christ had. This includes looking out for the interest of others and not just your own interests. And when one starts thinking this way, one can expect to be blessed by it with wonderful joy and gratification. (See Philippians 2:1-18)

And, with this attitude comes peace beyond comprehension. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:7). Did you get that? Both “hearts” AND “minds”? So that with TIS, you can keep your mind trained on the positive features that produce such peace, namely “whatever is is true…honorable…right… pure…lovely [lovable and gracious]…good repute, if their be any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” (v. 8).

The Apostle Peter chimes in with the same kind of recommendation. He puts it in the context of being holy—that is, to stand apart from the crowd, and be a true fellow thinker like Christ. “Therefore, gird [prepare] your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation [second coming] of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13).

A clean mind is a most important objective for followers of Jesus Christ. A clean mind is a clear mind and a clear mind is a mature mind focused on the power we receive through him. You can have an open mind or a closed mind on certain things, but a clean mind is needed for better health. As it has been written, “If you want to be the picture of health, you’d better have a happy frame of mind.” Jesus is the One who puts us in that frame.

Here’s a lovely guitar special, “May the Mind of Christ My Saviour,” http://youtu.be/Y_ZBhSxWots

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Take Courage!

courage

Courage is a special quality that we admire in others. But what about the man in this story…

In the Moscow circus a beautiful woman lion tamer would have a fierce lion come to her meekly, put his paws around her and nuzzle her with affection. The crowd thundered its approval. All except one man in the audience.

“What’s so great about that?” he shouted. “Anybody can do that.”

The ringmaster challenged him. “Would you like to try it?”

The man replied, “Yes. But first get that lion out of the there!”

I imagine many in the audience thought, at first, that the man was very brave to go into the cage and face a lion like that pretty lion tamer. Some may have even thought he was just plain nuts. But when his true intention of entering the cage was made clear, his courage as well as his stupidity raised a lot of doubt.

Courage is not an easy hug. In fact, it’s not easy…period! For courage takes guts. No guts, no courage. A military inductee, when asked if he had any physical defects, replied, “No guts!”

You can see courage demonstrated in living color on TV shows and in the movies. Death-defying feats…running into burning buildings to save the damsel in distress…jumping into a raging river to rescue a drowning child…coming to the aid of an abused dog…saving the world from an invading army….these are picures of courageous heroes going in and saving the day and being praised and rewarded for it.

But there’s just one hitch here. Unless these kind of scenes depict true stories, they’re just make-believe. Hollywood is good at entertaining and trying to make everything look real. And, admittedly, the stunt people do deserve credit for being brave acting out dangerous scenes, risking life and limb doing their work. Now, that’s REAL danger. Which makes the point that REAL courage is what REALLY takes place in the REAL world.

But aside from the action type of stories we usually associate with courage, there’s another side of it that I dare say few often consider. What about moral courage? What about the courage to say “no” to something wrong or potentially harmful while everyone else is saying, “yes, that’s okay.”? How about the courage to walk away from a dangerous dare? Doesn’t it take true courage to speak the truth even if the crowd questions it and even mocks you for believing it? It’s not always easy to take a stand against an injustice done to someone, or to resist a bully, or to love someone who is difficult to love. But that’s when you really need real, genuine courage.

I agree with the statement, “Courage is the quality it takes to look at yourself with candor, your adversaries with kindness, and your setbacks with serenity.” Such quality is admirable. It’s worthy to be applied. And it’s what we’d expect to find in Christians.

Just turn to the Scriptures and you’ll find many passages that describe the source of courage, the ethics of courage, and the reward of courage. From the following list of Bible references (New American Standard Bible, NASB) on courage, I am going to place a blue (S) for source, a green (C) for conditions, and a gray (R) for result to convey how we are encouraged by applying it.

Deut. 31:6-8Be strong and courageous, (C) do not be afraid or tremble at them, for (S) the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, (R) for you shall go with this people into the land which (C) the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and (R) you shall give it to them as an inheritance. (S) The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; (S) He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. (C) Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Joshua 1:9-11 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! (C) Do not tremble or be dismayed, for (S) the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, (C) “Pass through the midst of the camp and (C) command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, (R) to go in to possess the land (S) which the Lord your God is giving you, (R) to possess it.’”

1 Chronicles 28:20 “Then David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and courageous, (C) and act; (C) do not fear nor be dismayed, (S) for the Lord God, my God, is with you. (S) He will not fail you nor forsake you until (R) all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.’”

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (C) I fear no evil, for (S) You are with me; (S) Your rod and Your staff, (R) they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:13-14 (C) I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would (R) see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.(C) Wait for (S) the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, (C) wait for (S) the Lord.”

John 16:33 [Jesus] “These things (S) I have spoken to you, so that (S) in Me (R) you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage [good cheer]; (S) I have overcome the world.”

Acts 4:13, 31 “Now as they observed the confidence [boldness] of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, (R) they were amazed, and (R) began to recognize them as (S) having been with Jesus….And (C) when they had prayed, (R) the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all (S) filled with the Holy Spirit and (R) began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Ephesians 3:11-13 “This was in accordance with (S) the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access (C) through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you (C) not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for (R) they are your glory.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have (S) a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, (C) let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but (S) One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore (C) let us draw near with confidence [boldness] to the throne of grace, so that (R) we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

1 John 4:15-17 “We have seen and testify that (S) the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (C) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, (R) God abides in him, and he in God. (R) We have come to know and have believed (S) the love which God has for us. (S) God is love, and (C) the one who abides in love (R) abides in God, and (R) God abides in him.”

These, and many more passages I could list, encourage us to take courage. The source of courage is not from human will or power but from God through Jesus Christ, his Son. When we apply the conditions upon which we exercise courage, then we can expect great results.

Some, however, might think we’re a little crazy for stepping into the cage to face the fierce nature of opposition and intimidation and danger. But even in the midst of fear, we can take courage. Why? Because we know the One who will help us and guide us through whatever circumstance we are in.

God wants us to take courage. He wants to reward us for it. The reward of eternal life is waiting for those who have the courage to love him, trust him, worship him, and serve him through his beloved Son. (1 John 5:13-15).

We need not be discouraged or dismayed whenever we take courage in the Lord. For God will take of YOU! Here’s the hymn under the same title, “God Will Take Care of You”: http://youtu.be/MdZ7RdF07Eo

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Going the Right Way

the right path

It’s not easy going the right way when most people are going the wrong way. It’s even worse when you’re penalized for it. Take, for example, Mike Delcavo.

Mike was one of the 128 runners participating in a cross country race at the 1993 NCAA II Track and Field Championships. They began following the 6.2 mile course that race officials set for them.

But, as they came closer to the end, Mike Delcavo of Western State College in Colorado noticed something that didn’t look right. He was in the middle of the pack when he saw ahead that the runners in front had missed the turn.

“I was waving for them to follow me and yelling ‘This is the right way,’” he told an interviewer after the race. But they kept going anyway. Only Mike and four other runners followed the correct course.

Everybody else ended up taking a short cut which gave them the advantage of finishing sooner. What is most bizarre, however, is how the race turned out. The officials chose to allow the shortened route, that the majority of runners took, to be counted as the “official course.” As you can figure, this was a highly controversial decision. And, to his dismay, Mike officially finished 123rd.

As Christians, we want to go the right way down our path of life. But when everybody else takes the wrong turn that we know isn’t correct, we have a choice. We can either go along with them or keep on the right course, meanwhile warning the others they are going the wrong way. Ironically, it’s the majority going the wrong way, taking a short cut toward temporary gratification (unlike Moses, Hebrews 11:24-26), that the world recognizes and rewards. Is it fair? No. But are we still determined to go the right way anyway? Yes.

Now, why do we want to go the right way now matter what others think? In short, it’s because there’s only one way to go that leads to the just and truest reward. Jesus laid down this course when he said to one of his disciples, Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” (John 14:6). What did Jesus mean by this statement? How does it encourage us to go the right way?

He starts out declaring, “I am.” This isn’t the only time he used these words. Jesus made many “I am” claims in the Gospel of John. For example, “I am…

…the bread of life” (6:35);
…the light of the world” (8:12);
…the gate” (10:9);
…the good shepherd” (10:11);
…the resurrection and life” (11:25-26);
…the vine” (15:5)

The “I am” term is often compared to God’s self-identification to Moses as “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14). God is revealing that he is the self-existent and eternal God thus indicating his perfect nature as opposed to the false gods or idols other nations worshipped. This is the same one true God who is the Father of Jesus Messiah, his Anointed One, who saves us from our sins and through whom believers will receive eternal life (John 3:16). Thus, Jesus could correctly say to the scribes and Pharisees, “Therefore I said to you, that you will die in your sins; for if you believe not that I am he, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:12). Jesus was stating the fact that he is the Anointed One or Messiah of God, who came to save his people from their sins and give them eternal life in the Kingdom (John 1:29-34).

Therefore, Jesus refers to his rightful position as the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus perfectly qualifies as our Lord and Savior because he is 100% Son of God (divine) and 100% Son of man (human). He is the mediator or “go-between” between God his Father and humanity. Moreover, Jesus is the ONLY person who qualifies for this position, for “…there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 8:12, New American Standard Version, NASB). So, Jesus could truthfully say, “No one comes to the Father except by me.”

There’s not a shadow of doubt that Jesus is indeed THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. The word “THE” is definite, personal, and distinct. It leaves no doubt about who Jesus Christ is.

This is Good News for us. It is Good News because Jesus is…

THE WAY

The word, “way” literally means, “road, journey, path.” Jesus is the one and only Road we must take if we are to come to our heavenly Father and receive his blessings. When we are converted to Jesus through faith, repentance, and baptism, we start on a journey in Christ. We choose to take his path fully aware that it’s for a lifetime of growth and maturity. There are no short cuts or instant rewards. Our natural inclination is to take the quick and easy route and get our satisfaction now. That’s the wide way, where everyone goes. But that’s not the way of Christ. It’s not the right way. The right way is narrow; it’s where few persons dare to run. It’s the only way, however, that leads to eternal life as Jesus points out (Matthew 7:13-14).

Since Jesus is THE way, Christianity is THE only religion that we must choose for taking our journey. It’s no coincidence that before converts of Jesus were called Christians, they were originally called “men and women of the Way,” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23;22:4; 24:14, 22). Dr. Alva Huffer stated, “All other religious roads are dead-end streets.” (Systematic Theology) True, you can try to forge another course, pave another street out of another religion or cult, but it won’t be the right one to take. It will only provide a wasted, empty, temporary illusion.

THE TRUTH

The concept of “truth” includes not only as it is spoken, but in idea, reality, and sincerity. Jesus is the embodiment of truth since all truth comes through him from his Father in heaven. There can be no other truth than Jesus THE truth. In fact, when Jesus came on the scene, he did what the Law of Moses could not do–provide “grace and truth,” (John 1:17). Which leads to the truth that no other person except Jesus Christ can bring us to our goal of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom. 

Since the truth is that Jesus is “the way,” it stands to reason that the church is identified the same way.  Interestingly, one source says, “The use of the primitive expression, the Way, seems to point to an early date for Acts. In China, Christianity has been called ‘the Jesus way’ (tao), in contrast to the Confucius and Buddha ways,” (The Acts of the Apostles, Carter and Earle).  Which brings us back to the truth that since Christ is the only Way, no other religion or religious leader can give us any hope of life beyond this one (Acts 4:12). Which reminds me of this old legend:

A man became lost in his travels and wandered into a bed of quicksand. Confucius saw the man’s predicament and said, “It is evident that men should stay out of places such as this.” Next, Buddha observed the situation and said, “Let that man’s plight be a lesson to the rest of the world.” Mohammed came by and said to the sinking man, “Alas, it is the will of God.” Finally, Jesus appeared. “Take my hand, brother,” he said, “and I will save you.”

THE LIFE

The “life” that Jesus is talking about, does not merely mean to exist. You may be able to breath, to think, to walk and talk but that’s not all there is to THE LIFE. Recall what Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10b). Jesus is the One through whom we receive the fullness of life and all of its vitality and value. It includes both the physical and spiritual benefits that only Christ Jesus can provide as God’s Son and the Savior of humanity. John records that everything God made in the beginning of creation was planned with His Son in mind. Jesus was born according to God’s Word. Thus, God’s plan took on human form in his Son. “And in it was Life; and the Life was the light of men,” (John 1:4, 14).

When we “put on Christ” at conversion, we die so to speak (Rom. 6:1-11; 13:14; Galatians 3:26-27). When we give our lives to Christ, we die to sin and revive with new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Only he can make us new. Only he can provide what we need to make life enjoyable and satisfying, even when life hands us disappointments, failure, pain, and grief sometimes.

We are never promised that everything in this present mortal life will be the way WE would like it. But the difference of having Jesus as THE LIFE is what we’ll receive in the Age to Come (Mark 10:17-27; Romans 8:18-23). No one else can provide us with this blessed hope, a hope that helps us endure knowing that a day will come when there will be no more sorrow or pain or death (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Titus 2:13-14; Revelation 21:4). Like First John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God, does not have the life.”

It’s the desire of believers to trust Jesus, serve him, and live for him. We want to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1) by staying on the right course that leads to the crown of life (1 Cor. 9:24-27). For, after all, Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. By following him, we are going the right way.

Here’s Pat Barrett presenting his music video, “The Way (New Horizon)” http://youtu.be/MOzsJlk8p6I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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