Yes! There Is Good News!
Bill Rollins has been publishing each week a column in the local Elk Horn paper for the past several years.
Note the original publication date on each blog post
Note the original publication date on each blog post
In the last article, I mentioned how valuable the book of Proverbs was. In it is wisdom and riches beyond compare. One of my favorite scriptures is found in this book of Proverbs, in Chapter 3, verse 5 and 6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.”
It goes on from there with some beautiful instruction, but let’s start with just these two verses. “Trust” comes from a Hebrew word that means “to be reliant, to trust, to hasten toward refuge.” And the word for “heart” literally means “the center of something.” To go a little further with this word, we can see that the organ that pumps blood is somewhat at the center of our bodies. But this word also includes the center of who we are. By definition in Hebrew, “it includes our motives, feelings, affections, desires principles and thoughts.” This is really a huge word. It encompasses the entirety of our personality.
This suggestion that we “trust the Lord with all our heart” looms large in our devotion to the Creator. At what point do we leave His understanding out of our lives? When do we not accept His instruction or wisdom? Does he not know all things? Does He not see all things? In Psalm 139:4 it says, “before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” If we desire to have a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of all things and He tells us to “trust in Him with all that we are,” I believe we shall find this to be a good thing. Oh, and by the way, if you find this to be news to you, then let’s just call it “good news.”
This is a powerful statement, my friends and neighbors. Let me say that it takes guts and determination to put all of your trust in God.
So what does the second part of this statement in Proverbs say? “In all your ways acknowledge Him ...” The words “all your ways,” is another way of saying “with all your heart.” Once we have put our trust in Him and asked for His advice and guidance, as we come out the other side of that situation, I do believe we must acknowledge His leading, and help.
Then what happens? The next part of this scripture states “and He will make your paths straight.” This word straight has the sense of being smooth, pleasant or prosperous.
Doesn’t it seem obvious that we would want our paths to be pleasant or prosperous? Why would we want it any other way? Our God desires good things for those who trust and acknowledge Him. And that, of course, is “good news.”
There’s still more to come.
A few weeks ago I began an article by stating that today “I strive to encourage people to pick up God’s word, read it and study it, so as to be comforted, edified and instructed by these words of life.” Why? I suppose this is one of those curious cases were the answer to the question is sort of stated within the question.
If you were the winner of some $100 million lottery, wouldn’t you want to share it at least with the ones you love? Well, I have something worth more than a paltry monetary figure and, of course, I would like to share it with those I love. The second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I find more than “comfort, edification and instruction” in these words of life in the Bible; I find joy and I find “the fear of the Lord.” You are my neighbor and I desire to share the fear of the Lord (which is a great treasure) with you. How do I do that?
Well, let’s piece some things together - Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Okay, so what does the Bible say about wisdom? Proverbs 8:11 says, “Wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” So if I put 2 and 2 together, I find that this $100 million jackpot can’t compare with the wisdom I may obtain from fearing the Lord! And where do I find this wisdom? The scriptures are replete with wisdom. From one end to the other wisdom may be reaped.
Let us take a look at one chapter in the book of Proverbs - chapter eight. Here we find Solomon personifying the idea of wisdom. Would you please read this chapter? And while you are at it, please read chapter one. Chapter one gives us the whole reason for Solomon penning this book of wisdom.
I think that we are all intrigued with the idea of winning the lottery. What could we do with multiple millions of dollars? Yet we all know what the odds are of winning. And we have all read the stories about those who have won and have in some way destroyed their lives. Earthly riches never bring true happiness. Yet God says that we can have great gain! It is more than riches and wealth. We can have a close relationship with the One who created the Universe, the One who is life itself and who gives this life unto us, His creatures. And yet, this physical world is not all He wants to give us. He has more! And just as any engineer includes a set of instructions with the product he created, God gives us a manual for life - the Bible.
- Till we meet again, seek wisdom and true riches.
I was raised in a church organization that discouraged the lay people from reading the Bible. Having left that church some 46 years ago, I find it somewhat ironic that today I am striving to encourage people to pick up God’s word, read and study it, so as to be comforted, edified, and instructed by these words of life.
From Genesis to Revelation there is an abundant joy and amazing wisdom to be found. Would you please pick up God’s word and read it? And as you commit yourself to do this, may I suggest that we look at one particular scripture together?
Zechariah 3:10 “In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty.” Let me invite you, my neighbor, to sit under your vine and fig tree with me! For perhaps we are in “that day” today - that day of “invitation.”
“But I don’t have a vine or fig tree,” you say? Oh! Let us see if we can locate them for you.
This symbol of the vine and fig tree can be reckoned as an idiomatic expression. In other words, these things stand as a type of something else - something the Israelites would have recognized and understood right away. Let’s ponder the question, “What was of utmost importance to these people who lived several thousand years ago?”
The answer is simple - food and water! One only has to look at the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years - what did they worry and grumble about? “Where will we get water to drink and food to eat?” (See Exodus 16: 1 - 3 and 17: 1-3). These people were not so concerned about cable TV or Internet reception back then. Physical life itself was bound up in their concern for food and water.
God promised Moses that He would rescue the Israelites from their bondage to the Egyptians and take them to “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” “Milk and honey was another expression to say that they would have an abundance of fertile land for the cattle and plenty of flowering fruit trees for the bees to make honey. Food was important.
Okay! So Let’s get back to the “vine and fig tree” of Zechariah. This expression is used to indicate what kind of life the people would have under the rule of King Solomon. “During Solomon’s lifetime, Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba (i.e. from the northern border to the southern) lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.” Ah! So we have safety and everyone’s eating grapes and figs. Sounds like good news for the people under Solomon’s rule.
Don’t go away, folks - there’s still more to come!
When I began writing these articles a few months ago, I really only had one goal, one desire, and that was to help you, the reader, to come to a closer relationship with our heavenly Father and with His Son. I wanted to, perhaps, highlight the joy and the good things I have felt as I strive to draw near to my God.
I am excited about knowing my God. I am excited about seeking Him with my whole heart and my whole life, and so I wish that others can taste of the good things that God has brought to my life. It is good sometimes to just speak from the heart, to pour out for all to see the wonders of His love. I hope and I pray that my words here on this page will help all to long for a deeper understanding of just how much God wants to be a part of your life. God’s desire to have you seek Him, to have you come to Him in prayer, to have you open up and read His book of love, the Bible, really is beyond our comprehension.
A line from a song I enjoy says this - “You’re wanted, you’re precious, you’re the love of His heart and the old rugged cross was for you ...” I believe that says a lot! Oh, how He wants us to know Him so that He may shower His love upon us whom He has made. My friends and brethren, do you really know how precious you are in His sight?
And so to pick up on last week’s theme, let me say that our God has desired to give us true freedom. It is the world, society, and Satan that wants to put us in chains of bondage. The bondage that comes from sin can seem so enticing. Satan tries to turn things upside down and deceive us into thinking God’s ways are somehow chains of bondage.
“God doesn’t let us to have any fun,” is the broadcast Satan promotes. But the truth, that is the truth that sets us free, allows us to experience the depth of joy that only God can provide. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” His peace is true peace and His joy and His love is true love.
I speak here from first hand experience. I have known that peace, joy and love. It is real and it is beyond our measuring by human means. It is I that slip and fall - not God; It is I that err and fail - not God. His ways are perfect. He is a Father, a parent if you will, like none other. His love is perfect. His instruction is perfect. He is an awesome God, And He offers us true freedom.
More on this next time.
There are many “threads” that run through the Bible, weaving a multi-colored tapestry and one of those is the concept of freedom. Last week I mentioned freedom from “the law of sin and death” as Paul stated in Romans 8:2 This freedom only comes through choosing Jesus Christ as one's personal savior. Oh, really! ... Just what does it mean to have a personal savior?
Let me begin to answer by stating that, “God so loved the World that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is probably the most quoted scripture. And many people misread it. Yes, He gave His Son for the World, but in order to not perish and to have life and thereby to have this freedom we have been talking about, one must do something. One must believe in this “sacrificial Son of God.” (A little side note is that this word “perish” comes from a Greek word that means “to destroy fully.”)
You want a personal Savior? You must believe! You say you believe in God, good, even the demons believe that and shudder (see James 2:19). Do we really think we can just pay lip service to the Creator of the Universe and all will be well with us? Can we just give a nod and wink of the eye to Him who gives us life itself; who has written the entire DNA code for our bodies, and expect life eternal with him?
No. “Belief” as we read it in the Bible, is so much more than that. The Greek word for belief is “pisteuo” and by definition means, “to be persuaded of, and to place confidence in; to trust, and significance reliance upon, not just belief. Maybe translated as ‘commit unto,’ or ‘commit one's trust’”
So, do you have faith in a personal Savior? Have you really accepted Jesus as your personal Savior? Are you, “persuaded of” Him?
Have you committed yourself so as to place your trust in Him? He gave His life for you; have you given back that life to Him for safe keeping? A lot of questions here to answer in order to get the good news of that freedom.
More on this next time ...
Last time we met, we were discussing the topic of freedom. We swung from our national freedoms won for us 240 years ago to the freedoms won for us almost 2000 years ago by our redeemer Jesus Christ. And those freedoms, the latter ones, are immeasurably more important than the former.
The Good News is that if we have personally come to our Savior and have accepted His blood as a sacrifice for our life, then we have freedom that is far beyond anything any government could ever promise. The things of this world, this society, this physical life are subject to certain laws of physics that cannot be changed. All physical things are subject to the concept of entropy. There is no way out; we will all die.
So what am I saying? No man-made government has or will last forever. All of the world’s empires have crumbled. But there is one government and only one government that is eternal. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace ... Of the increase of His government will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) And this is why the freedom given to us through and by the Son of God is immeasurably more important than the transitory freedoms granted through the Constitution.
In the gospel of John, Chapter 8, Jesus said two things concerning this freedom; “If you hold to my word you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” But what is it that we will be set free from? “Through Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit of Life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) You see, Jesus did not set us free from keeping the law, for Paul has already said in Romans 7:12 that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” We still find that stealing and coveting, etc. are sin. John in his first letter confirms this when he defines sin for us by stating, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact - sin is the transgression of the law.” So again, what is this “law of sin and death” that we have been set free from?
Simply stated, scripture tells us that the penalty for sin is death; we sin, we deserve to die! But our freedom from this law is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and went to the cross for us. This is a big subject!
More on this next time.
I know I mention this in hind-sight, but I do hope everyone had an insightful July 4. Leading up to this day, just last Monday, I began to think about the thousands of men and women who shed their blood on the battlefield of the American Revolution some 240 years ago.
We, today, get caught up in all the celebrations and can forget that this day is a memorial of what our forefathers accomplished in winning freedom from tyranny of the king of England.
Oh, it is a day to celebrate all right - parades, picnics, cookouts, and of course the day’s end fireworks celebration. The victory, of the somewhat rag-tag colonists over the world’s best equipped fight force, set in motion one of the greatest political experiments on this planet.
Our nation became a worldwide symbol of freedom and we, today, still stand in the afterglow that made this nation great.
I do not believe this to be a circumstantial coincidence that somehow just fell into the “laps” of men like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc. I believe (as they did) that the hand of God was involved. Excuse me while I quote from the book “The Thousand Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen, “ ... they (the framers of the Constitution) declared that the formation and the adoption of our new system of federal government represented a political achievement unprecedented in human history. They looked upon it, more over, as an event that was actually ‘influenced, guided and governed’ by the hand of God.” In my words, “It was a blessing of extreme importance.”
Are you with me on this? What happened 240 years ago was indeed “Good News.”
But you, like I, have seen the sometimes gradual, sometimes precipitous slide this nation has taken. We have fallen away from these freedoms that were won for us.
So as I pondered these freedoms through the shedding of blood, my mind swung around to another event that took place almost 2000 years ago, to grant all men freedoms that will never fade, never grow old and can never be taken away. These freedoms were also won by the shedding of blood, not on a physical battlefield, but on a spiritual one. They were won by the Son of God as he hung on a cross, Jesus Christ came to Earth to set men free. He came to redeem us from our sins, He came and died to set us at liberty.
More on this next time.
We have given some thought to the three aspects of how we are to love God. Someone may say, “Now I know something about loving God; how is that good news?”
I believe that is a fair question. But in asking the question, one must assume that good news comes only from receiving something, and not giving something. And from a purely human standpoint, I must disagree with this assessment. True joy comes to us when we can give of ourselves to another. It is only a child that believes good comes from receiving. The anticipation of a gift on the part of a youth can be delightful to watch. Why? Because we can understand the maturity level held by a child.
When an infant is born, the maturity level stands at a flat zero. There is only room for growth. How much love does the baby have for others? The answer is also zero. A newborn has many needs; one of the greatest needs it has is for love. The love a mother and father have for the infant is inherently great enough to make up for the lack of love in the child. One might say the “love” that a human has is directly proportional to the level of maturity that exists in a human. Allow me to make another formulaic statement: The level of maturity that exists in a human is directly proportional to the joy he or she receives in giving of self to another. Maturity and love for others travel hand in hand.
Okay - so let’s not get too out of hand. We are talking about love for God, and how that can be the good news we are looking for. But we also made the analogy of an infant’s love for a parent. The love of a parent will teach the infant how to love. And so it is with our Father in Heaven. The scripture leads us to this same conclusion. The epistle of 1 John is said to be the “love book” in the Bible. And the topic of love comes to an apex in the fourth chapter. As we make our way down this chapter, we come to the nineteenth verse where we read, “We love because He first loved us.”
Can we just stop here and ponder the fact that even before we understood that there was a God, even before we knew who that God was, He loved us!
In the proceeding chapter of 1 John, Chapter 3, we read, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I cannot as of yet place everyone on the Earth as being called children of God. But you ... you are reading this column and I pray you are being led to see God’s love for you and so are coming to see what manner of love you are to have for this Father of ours.
To be continued ... stay tuned!
And so we come to that third aspect of the love for God that was given to us in the book of Deuteronomy and was quoted by the Son of God in Matthew 23:37: you must love the Lord your God with all of your mind.
Have you ever thought of loving someone with your mind? How could we go about doing this?
We often think of the mind as the center of intellect.
This is where all thought processes takes place. We perform calculations in the mind; we memorize dates and numbers, and we store all of the information that we gather during our lies. How then do we love with our minds?
Let us take a few minutes and consider this complicated device. Have you ever ridden a bicycle? The coordination that takes place between the eyes that see where we are going, the hands that steer, the legs and feet that pump the pedals, the inner ear that keeps the body and the bicycle in an upright position, and the lungs that pump air through a correctly formed mouth so as to whistle a sweet melody, are all controlled by what we call the mind. And while all this is going on, you are thinking about what you will have for lunch, not at all paying attention to this complicated coordination process.
Wow! Are you able to contemplate what you mind can do and thereby praise the One who created the mind? Your brain has trillions of connections that operate without you having to do anything. Dr. Paul Brand, in his book “In His Image,” says this about the brain: “During each second of life, the brain performs about five trillion chemical operations, When we are awake, only a few reach our level of consciousness and those so quickly we hardly are aware of the process.” Five trillion connections every second - receiving input and sending messages that regulate every aspect of the human body. What a marvelous piece of creation we are! I think we can label that as good news.
What is there around you in the world that does not fill you with awe when you consider it deeply? If we are to consider loving God with all of our mind, the process starts when we consider His creation and thereby give honor, glory and praise to Him. So much of what God has done for us is just taken for granted. We see a beautiful flower garden and perhaps remark about the one that planted and cares for it but do we ever “love God with our whole mind” by thanking Him for the diversity of color, scent and patterns that are His design and creation?
We take for granted that every spring the leaves on the trees will appear and turn the landscape into a verdant expanse of peaceful joy. We all have a sense of awe and wonder when this happens, but as we come to know and love God in His creation, we come close to loving Him with our whole mind.
To be continued ... stay tuned!
It might seem that according to the previous article, loving God with one’s whole heart is a big enough task to accomplish. But this scripture we have been looking at tells us that there are two more prerequisites in coming to this love that our God would have from us.
In Matthew 22:37 we find second item mentioned is to love God with all our “soul.” Many people believe this word “soul” has some mystical, ethereal, or spiritual quality that separates it from our bodies. But that is not the case. A simple study of the word from the Bible will show that the soul can and will die. This word “soul” is not limited to humans. In fact the first time the word appears in the Bible, it is applied to animals. (It is in Genesis 1:20, “...let the waters teem with living creatures.” The word translated “creatures” from Hebrew is the same word that is translated “soul” everywhere in the Bible.) The Hebrew word here is “nephesh” and its basic meaning is “breath of life.” Ezekiel 18:4 says “The soul who sins will die.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for soul “psuche,” has much the same meaning - “the breath of life.”
Okay so what are we learning here? This second aspect of loving God, to love Him with all of our soul, actually means we are to love him with all of our life. The life we have in us is a gift from Him and we are capable of doing many things. We may take a walk on a beautiful summer morning with the sun shining on our faces. Because we have life we can smell the fresh scent of flowers and behold the array of colors that surround us.
Yes, the life we live is a gift from God. We can show him our love when we enjoy the gift and give him the glory for all we have and all we do. The key here is to give Him all the glory. To love God with your whole life is to appreciate each day you have and to give the credit to God for all you are able to do, no matter how great or how small it may be.
God’s love for us is unconditional - our love for God must be with all of our heart, and also with all of our life. In other words, with the whole-hearted love than encompasses all our lives.
And yet there is a third aspect ...