Jesus Prays for Us

Jesus Prays for Us

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

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

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

Ymca logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:27; also, 2:1-7).

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Talking About Love…

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

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

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

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

What?!? Love? Obedience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Indulging in Kingdom Joy

kingdomjoy

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finding Success Through Failure

failure

John F. Kennedy said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.”

Kennedy’s words hit home. Our nature is such that we hate to fail. And, if we DO fail, we don’t even want to talk about it. It’s embarrassing, demeaning, and discouraging.

Yet, as much as we’d like to avoid failure, it happens. We encounter it in a variety of ways—when losing a contest; falling short of reaching a goal; making a mistake; not keeping a promise; neglecting a warning, and so on.

Failures like these can have a negative affect on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can cast clouds of doubt over our self-confidence and keep us down. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine that as much as failure can put us in deep, dark funk, there’s a silver lining in it, too.

It all depends on how we view failure. If we fear it, then it will get the best of us. If we think of each failure as a stepping stone to success, then we’ll likely overcome it.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958)—American inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 186 patents—said, “We have come to fear failure too much. Failure is the practice essential for success.” He’s also quoted, “The only time you must not fail is the last time you try.”

No doubt, other successful inventors and business persons would agree with Kettering. One of them, Thomas Edison, failed many times. And yet he made 1,100 inventions. It’s said that when he worked on the idea of making artificial light, he couldn’t find a filament that would give good light when electricity flowed through it. He spent two years experimenting with thousands of materials including everything from blades of grass to wire made from platinum. Finally, he used carbonized thread, which is cotton sewing thread burned to ash. On October 21, 1879, he succeeded. (selected)

It is written that failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. Though we’re inclined to try to avoid failure, we can learn from it whenever we experience it. Thus, we take each experience to move closer to success. We might have to go through much defeat in the process before achieving success.

Consider Abraham Lincoln:

Failed in business ...................................age 22;
Ran for legislature ..................................    23;
Again failed in business .............................    24;
Elected to Legislature ...............................    25;
Sweetheart died ......................................    26;
Had a nervous breakdown ..............................    27;
Defeated for Speaker .................................    29;
Defeated for Elector .................................    31;
Defeated for Congress ................................    34;
Elected to Congress ..................................    37;
Defeated for Congress ................................    39;
Defeated for Senate ..................................    46;
Defeated for Vice President ..........................    47;
Defeated for Senate ..................................    49;
Elected President of the United States ...............    51;

Great people fail but they also succeed when it’s all said and done. That’s what makes them great. And this includes persons of faith. (selected)

The Apostle Paul failed. He said,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Paul admitted he wasn’t perfect due to his sinful nature. And so he failed to do what he knew he should do even though he desired to do good. But by coming to grips with his failings, years later he was able to declare his success:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

Paul wasn’t the only person who failed yet became successful. There were many other persons of faith who failed. Peter failed, yet he was a great leader of the early church. The same with all the other apostles.

In the Old Testament, David, Israel’s greatest king, “a man after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) failed (2 Sam. 11). Moses, giant among the Israelites, giver of the Law, deliverer of the people, failed (Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 3:23-29; Psalm 106:32-33). Jacob, father of the nation of Israel, failed; Isaac, son of promise, failed (Gen. 25:29-34). Isaac, son of promise, failed (Gen. 26:6-7). Abraham, progenitor of Israel, father of the faithful, prototype of those who are righteous through faith, failed (Gen. 20:1-3). And, as we’re well aware, even our first parents, in their human perfection, failed (Gen. 3). So, who hasn’t failed? (Rom. 3:23)

Thankfully, by God’s grace, we can find success through our failures. On account of God’s marvelous grace, we can gain more knowledge and wisdom with every failure because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, his Son, (Ephesians 2:8-10). And if we trust God through Christ who gives us the power to overcome our circumstances, we shall move forward with success.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Included in the “all things” are the failures we go through in order for God to work them out for our own good, that we might grow in our faith and overcome our faults. Here’s “Your Love Never Fails,” featuring Chris Quilala and Jesus Culture: http://youtu.be/IoezWBPGRAc

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Criticizing Criticism

criticism_ppt

A Peanuts cartoon depicted Linus with his security blanket in place with his thumb resting safely in his mouth. But he was troubled. Turning to Lucy, who was sitting next to him, he asked, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?”
Her response was typical: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.”
Exasperated, Linus threw his hands up and asked, “What about your own faults?”
Without hesitation, Lucy explained, “I have a knack for overlooking them.” (selected)

Do you know of someone like Lucy? If push came to shove, I suppose all of us would have to confess we all have that knack to one degree or another.

It’s easy to criticize others. THEIR faults stand out like a sore thumb. But OUR faults? What faults? We can’t seem to find any.

Jesus was well aware of our nature to criticize others. In Matthew 7:3-5 Jesus said,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (New International Version, NIV)

Jesus was rightfully criticizing the criticism of those who wrongfully criticize. We’re more than glad to pluck someone’s splinter from THEIR eyes and remove THEIR faults. But due to our short sightedness, like Lucy, we can’t see the big plank planted in OUR OWN eyes.

Jesus harshly criticized the critic: “You hypocrite….” The Greek word for “hypocrite” is hupokrites (pronounced, hoop-ok-ree-tace’) which literally means, “a stage actor,” or acting under a mask; pretending to say one thing, and doing another. In his criticism, Jesus was exposing a two-faced person who needed to clean up his own act, first, before trying to straighten out someone else.

Now, often we may feel justified trying to correct another person’s faults, calling it constructive criticism. Maybe that’s all Lucy was aiming to do whenever she criticized Linus. But Linus didn’t seem to take it that way when he questioned her. And her flippant remark wouldn’t have gone down well, either, saying she had a knack for overlooking HER faults. As someone said, “Constructive criticism is when I criticize you. Destructive criticism is when you criticize me.”

And that’s the dilemma of criticism. It may be sincerely intended to help someone. And, perhaps, when someone has criticized us, they were only trying to get us to change something that we didn’t even know needed to be changed.

How we perceive and receive criticism is important. One of the surest marks of good character is a person’s ability to accept personal criticism without feeling malice toward the one who gives it. If it’s going to be with good intentions, it needs to be in a spirit of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Romans 12:9); humility (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; James 4:6-12); and respect (Matt. 7:12; Rom. 12:17-18; 1 Peter 2:17).

If there’s to be any need for criticism, it should always leave a person with the feeling he has been helped. Anything short of that only causes provocation, resentment, and anger. Faultfinding without offering suggestions is counterproductive.

And examine your motives, too. Ask yourself: Am I criticizing someone because of my concern for the other person, or is it simply to make me feel better? One wise rule to follow: Before finding fault with another person, stop and count ten—of your own.

Criticizing criticism is a way of being objective whenever we’re tempted to find fault with someone, even a friend. If Lucy would have thought more seriously about why she was really criticizing Linus, he likely wouldn’t have needed to question her. Before finding fault, keep this thought in mind: “It’s smart to pick your friends—but not to pieces.”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a Bible song taken right from Matthew 7:3-5, https://youtu.be/B4JBo9adBVM

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Noses Up in the Air

slide1Someone with much pride is often described as having their nose up in the air. This is especially evident when they’re in the company of those they deem as inferior. What do we do when WE are in the presence of someone who looks down their nose at us like that?

There’s a joke about two well-bred female AKC (American Kennel Club)-approved dogs who were proudly strutting down the street with their noses held high in the air. Along came a big alley dog, a mutt. Embarrassed at being in the company of such a no-account, one of the dogs said, “We must go. My name is Miji, spelled M-I-J-I!” The other one said, “My name is Miki, spelled M-I-K-I!” The alley dog put his nose up in the air also, did his own little strut, and said, “My name is Fido, spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X!” (selected)

Fido wasn’t about to let these uppity canines outdo him. He could put his nose just as high as they could, strut around, and make HIS name just as classy as theirs. Fido had his pride, too, and he wasn’t about to let them outdo him. But was this really necessary? Did he have to raise himself to their egotistical level?

There’s a saying, “Always hold your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.” This would have been good advice for Fido. So what, he was only a mutt! He could still hold his head up as an alley dog without his nose up in the air like those other two snobbish dogs. He didn’t need to make an impression on Miji and Miki just to get their acceptance or to impress them or to show he is better than them. But isn’t this natural?

We want to fit in, be respected, and feel like we’re just as good as those who look down upon us. But when we let our own pride get the best of us, and try to outdo them, we end up only fooling ourselves and making ourselves look foolish in the process. Like Fido—a common, ordinary alley dog—we can’t change the fact that we are who we are, too. And, as such, we don’t need to pretend we’re something we are not.

God can and will use us just as we are—that is, as long as we are willing to give up our pride and humble ourselves before him. James wrote, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you,” (James 4:10, New American Standard Bible, NASB). He’s not looking for persons with their noses in the air, but those who humbly submit to him out of love, honor, and devotion. Then, he will exalt us or lift us up, not we ourselves.

In essence, when we are humble, we have no need or desire to hold our noses in the air. And yet, when we humble ourselves and literally look up to heaven for strength, there’s no other choice but that our noses point up in the air, too. The big difference is, however, our noses are not pointing up out of haughtiness. We’re humbly turning to God. As the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up my eyes [and nose!] to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD…,” (Psalm 121:1-2a, NASB).

Once there was a King called Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced, neh-byoo-kuhd-NEHZ-er), a great and powerful ruler of Babylon from 605 BC to 562 BC. Babylon was home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens, which is credited to him.

The Bible says that one day, as Nebuchadnezzar was walking around on the roof of his royal palace, he gazed out over his grand city. And the self-righteous king “…reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I MYSELF have built as royal residence by the might of MY power and the glory of MY majesty?'” (Daniel 4:30 NASB). Talk about someone with his nose up in the air! He was a typical elitist who let his power go to this head.

But God was about to teach him a valuable lesson. It says that even while these words were in his mouth, “…a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty [literally, “your kingdom”] will be removed from you,'” (Dan. 4:31). God went on to reveal his ominous punishment:

“And you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over you, the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever he wishes.'” (Dan. 4:32).

So it says that,

“Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like bird’s claws,” (Dan. 4:33).

There are different explanations on the kind of sickness God afflicted on Nebuchadnezzar. According to The Pharmaceutical Journal (posted by Prospector PJ, 10 July 2013), it is believed that the king suffered from boanthropy, a psychological disorder in which the sufferer believes he or she is an ox or cow. Another assertion is that he had porphyria—an enzyme disorder that produces “neurological symptoms such as hallucinations, depression, anxiety, paranoia, or general paresis or paralytic dementia caused by syphilis.”

The post adds,

“The porphyrias are a group of rare inherited or acquired disorders of certain enzymes that normally participate in the production of porphyrins and haem. They manifest with either neurological complications or skin problems, or occasionally both.” (https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/blogs/nebuchadnezzar-and-boanthropy/11123165.blog?firstPass=false)

Whatever his affliction was, it was enough to bring the king to his senses. After suffering for a period of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar again turned his nose up in the air. But this time, it was out of humility, not pride.

In his own words, Nebuchadnezzar recalls,

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation,” (Dan. 4:24).

Once Nebuchadnezzar turned his face toward the true God of heaven, he was returned to his sanity and his sovereignty was restored (Dan. 4:36). And he concludes,

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride,” (Dan. 4:37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s experience serves as a good lesson for us. God desires that we do not put our noses in the air out of pride and arrogance. He wants us to look up to him and give him the praise that he so deserves since he gave his only begotten Son to give us the hope of receiving eternal life. Unlike Fido, all we need to do is give God the glory and praise, for as King Nebuchadnezzar declared,

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Dan. 4:34b, 35).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a worship video that encourages us to look up to God for our help: http://youtu.be/KP1QKueGK-o

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resolved to Be Distinctive

distinctive christian

Making New Year’s resolutions is both customary and natural. It’s customary in that it has become a time-honored practice for many whenever we enter a brand new year. It’s natural because we are humanly inclined to want to put past disappointments behind us and look ahead with hope to make things better.

Some make resolutions; others don’t. Ironically, those who don’t make resolutions are resolved to believe that they can’t be kept anyway. So, why bother? This is natural, too. For in their thinking, why get one’s hope up only to see a resolution broken not long after it was made? Someone quipped, “Most of the leaves we turned over in January have already started to fall.”

But the cynics against New Year’s resolutions are apparently in the minority. According to one source, a survey taken by YouGov just prior to 2018 revealed that most people were looking forward to turning over a new leaf. It was reported that only 32 percent were not planning to make New Year’s resolutions, therefore, leading to the conclusion that the majority were. Some of the top resolutions were to eat better, exercise more, spend less money, take better care of themselves like get more sleep. and to read more. (https://patch.com/us/across-america/here-are-most-popular-new-years-resolutions-2018)

Did all of them follow through with their goals? According to a YouGov survey taken midway through last year, only one out of five Americans or 20% mostly or completely stuck with their 2018 New Year’s resolutions. To break it down, the survey showed that only six percent kept their resolution 100 percent while 14 percent said they had “mostly stuck” with their resolution. As far as I can find right now, the stats on this issue for the remainder of the year are not in yet. But I venture to say that, according to the statistics gathered previously in the year, the numbers didn’t change much. (https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2018/06/28/2018-new-years-resolutions-update)

So, with these figures, we ask: Are the cynics correct? Are many justified in not making any resolutions for the year? What does it mean to make a resolution, anyway?

Consider the meaning of the word. A resolution indicates that someone is resolved to find a solution to a problem and firmly decide on the action one will take. “Resolve” is a strong word with synonyms like courage, firmness, steadfastness. When someone of strong character is hell-bent on pursuing a resolution, that person is resolved to see it through.

As we find from the statistics, most people sincerely make resolutions but very few are totally resolved to complete them. The custom of making them is natural. But if there isn’t enough resolve, then the custom of breaking them is also natural without the strength of will.

For Christians, living the way of Christ is more significant than the custom of making New Year’s resolutions. For it’s far more than a natural desire to make things better for the next 12 months. It’s a serious resolve to let Christ provide transformation and growth for the rest of one’s life.

In my thinking, following Christ boils down to a genuine and sincere resolve to be distinctive as opposed to the ungodly ways of the world. For the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian church, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you,” (2 Cor. 6:17.) Paul was concerned that the church was into idolatry and worldliness that went against the higher standards of God’s Word (verses 11-16). He was exhorting believers to be resolved in two things: (1) to set themselves apart from sin; and, (2) to set themselves apart for God and his service.

This is the kind of resolve we all need. Even though we wrestle against sin everyday as we strive to serve God, we do not give up giving 100 percent toward reaching this goal. Like Paul testified, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet (resurrection to life, vss. 10-12) ; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:13-14).

The apostle reminded the Corinthian church, just as we’re reminded today, that we are part of God’s family. Quoting Isaiah, the prophet who recorded God’s Word to Israel, “I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty,” (2 Cor. 6:18; Isa. 43:6). Now that Christ has grafted Gentile believes into “the commonwealth of Israel” (Romans 11:11-13; Ephesians 2:11-13), we also have the duty and privilege of pursuing our resolve to obey our Father in heaven. This gives us a unique distinction to which nonbelievers cannot identify or relate.

Our resolve to “come out from among them” and “be separate” is not taken lightly (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Peter 2:9-12). When the unbelieving world sees us working to hold to our holy resolve, it will challenge us to remain true to it. Moreover, due to our nature, we will be tempted to give up under the pressure of our own personal temptation. And even though we give it our best shot everyday, we will often fail. That’s just the way it is. (Note Paul’s frustration: Romans 7:14-25.)

However—unlike making and breaking New Year’s resolutions—we are still determined to NEVER give up on our resolve as God’s people to trust and obey him through his wonderful grace. We continue to move forward, resolved to be distinctive in truth, through love, faith, and hope in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. The cause of our resolve is Jesus Christ and our desire to make him Number One in our lives. Here’s Kari Jobe singing, “The Cause of Christ”: http://youtu.be/v0ybgYajDHg

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment