Yes! There Is Good News!
Bill Rollins has been publishing each week a column in the local Elk Horn, Iowa paper for the past several years.
Note the original publication date on each blog post
Note the original publication date on each blog post
The final instructions given to the disciples before Jesus was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified are found in John 13 – 17. Let’s not forget how we started looking into these chapters. We began, several weeks ago, by considering what to do when trouble strikes. The answer I put forth came from Jesus mouth “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:53).
When we find that trouble has struck, the salve we should apply is the peace found in our Savior. Paul tells us, “the peace that comes from God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.” Let’s take a look at some more of “these things.”
At the start of chapter 14, Jesus tells the disciples they should not let their hearts be troubled. I suppose if we consider ourselves to be His disciples, we should take this to heart. But it’s hard to do sometimes when all we find around us are troubles, dilemmas and heartaches. Jesus then tells us that He is going to His Father’s house so as to prepare a place for us and then says that He will come back for us “that you may abide where I am.”
This is a sign of the betrothal. In ancient Israel, after a marriage had been arranged by the fathers, the groom would not see his prospective bride again until he had built for them a home. When this house met the father’s expectations, the wedding date would be set, the wedding take place and the groom would take his new bride to this abode he had built.
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb had come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear” (Rev. 19:6-8).
In John 14:4, at the end of this segment, Jesus says, “You are aware of where I am going and you are aware of the way.” A somewhat cryptic statement; to which Thomas (you know – doubting Thomas; or as some call him, “honest Thomas”) replies, “Lord, we are not aware of where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you one who calls Him Lord and Master? Is He your teacher? Only you can truthfully answer these questions and only you may understand the answer to Thomas; do you know the way?
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me’.” Jesus gave the answer and Jesus is the answer. More on this next time.
Slightly past the mid-point of the Book of John we have, what may arguably be called, some of the most important chapters in the Bible. Chapters 13 through 17 contain the final instructions of Jesus to His apostles while He walked this earth in the flesh. They take place during His last Passover meal. In fact, He tells them in Luke 22:15-16, “With eagerness have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” This is an interesting statement for it tells us that He will partake of the Passover again and that it will find a final fulfillment in the kingdom!! So when we call it the “last supper” we must realize it was actually the Passover and also, Jesus will partake of it in the kingdom of God. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
In our previous article we were talking about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet and how that might be quite significant for us. There are lessons that our Savior is continually striving to teach His followers and here we are 2000 years later, striving to be those followers.
First lesson: Jesus is exampling for us humility and taking upon Himself (our Lord and Teacher) the servants’ role of washing the feet of those invited to a banquet. But He goes further than this in that He specifically tells us that we should do “as I have done for you.” I know that many people will reason this away and apply it to how we should be humble servants in our daily lives. There is nothing wrong with serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, but He did say we would be blessed if we did as He did.
Lesson 2: Peter in his first epistle, tells us, “You as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” Later on he says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Did you get that? There is a priesthood that awaits the called out ones of God!! What does this have to do with washing the feet of our brethren? Moses (a type of Christ in the Old Testament) is told by God to wash the newly ordained priesthood (a type of those called out ones in the Old Testament) and then later tells this priesthood to wash their hands and feet as they minister at the sanctuary. (Paul tells us that these things were written down as examples for us. – 1 Cor. 10:11.) Today, we are that sanctuary and we are the servants/ministers of God!!
Lesson 3: Perhaps a much deeper lesson than humility and cleansing is also intended. When Jesus told Peter that he did not now realize what He was doing and then said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” Jesus was referring to the cross. In fact, Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him (Jesus).” Our participation with Christ is a relational thing. Jesus told us to, “Pick up our cross and follow Him.” In all things that He did, He wants us to do likewise. “He humbled Himself, obediently, even to death on the cross” (Phil. 2:8).
Whew!! Lots to think about here; until next time, keep your eyes on the good news.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:53) We ended our previous article by quoting this scripture which comes at the end of John 16. The appearance of these words at this point is quite significant.
But, let’s go back to the very start of this whole episode and see where Luke, the writer of the third gospel, begins. Luke 22:8, “Jesus sent Peter and John saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ … When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table. And He said to them, ‘With eagerness have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’.”
As we piece this story together, we see from John 13 that about the first thing Jesus did, before the Passover meal, was to wash His disciple’s feet. What was meant by this act? Well, when Jesus finished this task, He says in verse 14, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet, I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” So Jesus sets an example for us.
Today, in the 21st century, we have many means of keeping our feet clean. His admonition to us, who read these words today, must have much more meaning than making sure our brethren have clean feet! Let’s go back and take a deeper look at this activity.
In the process of washing feet, Jesus came to Peter who questioned his Lord’s actions. First of all, in ancient Jewish traditions, this just was not done. A disciple was not to question the actions or motivation of the Rabbi! But Jesus was very gentle with Peter as He answered him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but after you will understand.” In today’s vernacular, I suppose we might say that Peter was always quick to “open mouth – insert foot”. Peter replied, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” If questioning a Rabbi was a dubious action, commanding the Rabbi was quite unheard of!
Again Jesus was gentle but firm (Don’t we wish our bosses today were as gentle as the Savior was?), “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Uh-oh! “Don’t stop with my feet, but wash my hands and head as well,” was Peter’s reply.
Many have said that this foot washing was done to show the humility Jesus was exampling for us and there is something to that. This task was to be accomplished by the lowest servant of the house. But I believe that there is more to it. Jesus said to Peter that he had already had a bath (a reference to baptism) and so “his whole body was clean” (13:10). Friends, there is a profound lesson for us here, but we must (God willing) leave it for the next article.
Remember, in Christ Jesus we have PEACE!!
We pick up where we left off in our previous article. And as I have pondered this topic of “trouble” over the past week, into my thoughts came one of God’s servants, our dear brother, the servant of God, the Apostle Paul. Listen, if you will, to his litany of troubles: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, and I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have been cold and naked. Beside everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
Okay, so I do not really have any troubles!!
The Bible teaches us that we should not compare ourselves one to another. If we feel the need to compare ourselves to anyone, it must be to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was, “… despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed. … And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” (Isaiah 53:3-7)
Maybe it’s a good time to consider how good we really have it. Two men, Paul and Jesus, suffered greatly on our account. One, Paul, desired so much to bring the good news to all men and we have his example, his testimony and his teachings in our Bibles; Bibles that have been purchased by us for the equivalence of one or two hour’s wage. The other, Jesus: He not only brought the good news; He was the good news. I guess, with spring approaching, it is a good time to ponder the sacrifice that our Savior made for us.
Until next time, let us rejoice and not be troubled by the things of this world. Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:53)
What should we do when trouble strikes? I suppose one must define “trouble.” Like everything else in this world, we all see trouble in differing lights. And depending upon our own personal situation in life, we might rate trouble higher or lower. For instance, suppose you receive notice that your home insurance is going up – that can be labeled as trouble. But last week your boss was feeling generous and gave you a healthy raise in pay. On the other hand you just learned last week that you will be laid off and the possibilities for getting a good job are slim. On a scale of one to ten, the first case might be a 1 or 2 but the second case is scarier and is a 6 or 7.
I just finished reading a book titled, “The Auschwitz Escape” by Joel Rosenberg. I’m sure we are all aware of what happened at Auschwitz during the early 1940s. So why didn’t the Jews rebel? Because they thought their trouble was at a level of 4 or 5. Getting on the trains, they thought they were going to a concentration camp to work in factories helping to supply the German war machine.
All will be back to normal after the war.”
Shortly after they arrived, they saw that their trouble was off the scale of 1 through 10. As one prisoner put it, “The only way out is in ashes up the chimney.” Death and cremation was all that was in store. I have never ever seen that magnitude of trouble.
And so trouble, in varying degrees, comes upon us all. What should we do when trouble strikes? The Bible has a lot to say concerning trouble. And I am sure you are way ahead of me on this one. The number one answer to my question is to seek God.
As I ponder this topic, my mind turns to a statement that Jacob made after he had come to Egypt and to his long lost son Joseph, who was now second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph then brings him into Pharaoh’s presence. (This episode is found in Genesis 47.) Pharaoh’s first question to Jacob is a curious one, “How old are you?” he asked. And Jacobs answer is equally curious, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult.” The story of Jacob’s short (130 years) and difficult life begins in Genesis 25:21 and end with his death at the end of Chapter 49. It is a long section of scripture devoted to one man and his family, but it gives us quite a picture of Jacob who started as a self-serving twin son of Isaac who encounters many troubles and difficulties, who was changed into a to a repentant patriarch who seeks the God of his fathers and then confesses that this God is his God.
Where are you in your short and difficult life? I believe I have said this before but it is true that we have a tendency to seek God only when we have difficulties and troubles. A very wise man once said to me, “Seek God when things are good and perhaps you won’t have to see many troubles.”
This world can be full of troubles. I think back to my first attempt at an article for this venue and consider the fact that sometimes we just need good news. God willing we will consider the topic of trouble and its anecdote, seeking the face of our God.
I grew up in a branch of Christianity that discouraged the reading of the Bible. Today, I am amazed at this attempted hindrance! It wasn’t until I was 26 years of age that I picked up a bible to read. This was due to a challenge given to me by a co-worker. It had been about eight years since I had attended any type of church services, and he told me about something in the scriptures that I did not believe. I located a bible, read the passage, and realized (from the pages of the Bible) that my friend was correct. This was indeed a life changing moment for me. Without trying to be judgmental, I saw that I had been deceived.
From that moment on, I wanted to know what the Word of God said and so I read. Were there other things that I had believed in error? Yes! But why am I mentioning this in an article concerning good news today? Because, the good news for me, has been that I have come to love God’s word more and more. It is a pure joy and a real blessing to find extra time on my hands and then fill that time with reading God’s word.
I know that statement might seem strange in today’s world. People have a tendency to fill their extra time with every secular activity under the sun. And there is nothing wrong with many of the activities we have surrounding us these days. I have noticed that we have a lot of “extra time” on our hands, too. Oh, I know we are so busy these days, how could one ever say we have extra time? It has been my observation that our excessive busyness is really only the many secular activities we partake of. I could make a list of the inane things we do these days but I’m sure you are well aware of your own list.
So, where is this discussion going you ask? It comes full circle to where we were two weeks ago – it has to do with this (and let me take a line from that article): “Reading in God’s word by yourself is always a good thing to do, but reading out loud with another is a wonderful way to gain understanding and share the blessings of God’s word.”
There is a saying today that goes something like this, “the truly worthwhile things in life never come easy.” The Bible I have sitting in front of me, as I write this, has just short of 1700 pages. I must admit, that is a lot of book. And some of it (OK a lot of it) can be hard to understand. But it does contain the thoughts of God! And that is the “good news.” God has given us an anthology of books that contain instruction, history, stories, allegories, poetry, letters, prophecy and wisdom. Who could ask for more?
In conclusion let me just say this, our Heavenly Father is honored by our reading His word – yes, honored! And, you guessed it; that is good news.
“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!” Psalm 66:1-2.
We continue to look at the Psalm we began last week. Let’s consider that last phrase “make His praise glorious!” Have you ever wondered how we might make our praise of God glorious? Well, the secret is in the word “glorious.” The Hebrew for this word is “Kabod” and it literally means “a great quantity or weight of a thing.” Many times in scripture we find it written that God has glory or that He is glorious. In Psalm 19:1 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Have you ever looked up at the stars on a clear dark night? I cannot take my eyes off of them. If it’s summertime I just want to lie under the canopy of stars and experience the awesomeness of God’s creation.
The “great quantity” of stars gives us an inkling of the glory of God! I can praise God from my innermost being – yes, I can make His praise glorious.
Verse 3 & 4: “Say to God, ‘how awesome are your deeds!’ So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” Here we are at the beginning of February, and if you are like me you can’t wait for the first daffodil to poke its head out of the ground; then come the tulips and the lilacs; then the clematis, and on and on the flowers continue. They give beauty to our eyes and precious scent to our noses. Oh the wonders of God’s creation – it’s no surprise that David desires all the earth to bow down before Him.
David continues in this Psalm by asking us to “Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man’s behalf!”
He reflects upon some of the awesome deeds that God did for David’s ancestors – the parting of the Red Sea for one, and he even praises God for some of the trials they and he went though. He says, “We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” It is not during good times that God teaches us the deep lessons of life. No, it is more often in the trials and problems of life that God teaches us the profound lessons and then brings us to that “place of abundance.”
These are the lessons that stay with us. These are the lessons that we must cherish. James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be perfect and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
This Psalm 66 ends with the words, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!”
More good news to come – stay tuned!!
Sally and I are in the process of reading through the Psalms together. Reading in God’s word by yourself is always a good thing to do, but reading out loud with another is a wonderful way to gain understanding and share the blessings of God’s word. The Book of Proverbs 27:17 says this, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As one of us is reading, the other might ask to stop because something caught their eye: A discussion follows and both of us have learned something new.
God’s word is amazing, in that when this happens, there is an inner joy that nothing in this world can duplicate. My prayer for you, my readers, is that when you pick up God’s word to read the next time, you will find a brand new nugget of wisdom and knowledge and have this same joy.
Do this sometime soon: fathers and mothers, read to the family in the evening after supper. Turn the TV off, put down the phones and tablets, etc. and pick up God’s word. Read to the whole family and make it a fun time! But you’re not sure where to start? Let me help with that. Start with Psalm 66. You don’t have to read the whole thing, then close the bible and let everyone go their own way. No, just start with a portion of this Psalm – a few verses perhaps (you don’t want to overwhelm anyone); and close with a short prayer. Perhaps the kids may even have a question or two for discussion. Honoring God in this way as a family will reap some very precious blessings.
Well, let’s look at Psalm 66 and see what we may find: “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!” This is verse one and two. What a beautiful start to a Psalm! We have three verbs here: shout, sing and make. That first verb is expanded in the King James Version of the bible to “Make a joyful noise.” First of all, I must confess, my northern European background seems to inhibit me from literally shouting for joy. But I know that God hears my heart and in my heart I have often shouted to God with joy.
The second verb is “sing” or as in the KJV “sing forth.” Now here is where I can follow the instructions. I like to sing! I do not have a great voice but as someone once said, “God gave me this voice and He’s going to have to listen to it!” God is pleased with song and especially ones that give “glory to His name.” The Psalms have many places where we are admonished to sing.
The third verb is “make.” But it is not just make anything, but “make His praise glorious.” This is an interesting Hebrew word. The basic meaning of “to make” is to “put something somewhere.” And what does this Psalm tell us to put somewhere? We are to put our praise for Him in a glorious way.
We will (God willing) look into this some more next time.
We have been engaged, for the past few weeks, in Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians found in Eph. 1:16-20. This is not his only prayer for this church group. We find a second prayer in chapter 3, verses14 through 19. In the book of Romans Paul offers two short prayers for that church in 15:5-6 and 13. He offers two short prayers for the Philippians in 1:3-4 and 9-11. For the Colossians, he offers a prayer in 1:9-14. In both letters to the Thessalonians there are prayers: 1 Thes. 3:12-13 & 5:23 and 2 Thes. 1:11-12 & 2:16-17.
Why do I mention them? I think it is instructive to read the things that Paul thought were important for the churches. In my own prayer life I will usually pray for the physical and emotional needs of a friend or brother (health, finances or mental wellbeing), but I tend to forget the spiritual needs which are perhaps of greater importance.
We all have needs and wants. In our congregation we have a prayer book that is passed around during our worship service so that requests for prayers may be written down. Toward the end of services the written requests are read aloud and a prayer is offered for them. Most often the prayer requests mention family members, acquaintances, co-workers and members of the congregation. The concerns mentioned are most often physical. It is the physical realm of which we are most aware and so it is there that we usually focus our time and efforts. But, is it not in the spiritual realm of our lives that things are of utmost importance? Yes – one’s need to “walk worthy of the calling we have received” (Eph. 4:1) so as to serve God in our lives, must come before the physical requests we have.
And what about ourselves? Do we remember to pray for ourselves?
Do we need spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, better knowledge of the path God wants us to walk or an understanding of God’s word? Or how about the joy and peace in our lives to overflow with love for God and for our neighbor. Do we find ourselves getting angry, offended, or filled with pride and vanity? It is hard to pray for someone else if we are in a bad mood or filled with vanity.
Perhaps I have mentioned this before but I liken it to the speech the stewardess gives before each and every flight: “In case of a loss of oxygen in the cabin, a mask will drop from the compartment above you. Make sure you place the mask on yourself first so that you may be able to help a child or neighbor with theirs.” I suppose it should be obvious, but if we are struggling with a lack of oxygen, we are no good to ourselves or others. And so it is in the spiritual realm. We need to be in a good relationship with our heavenly Father so as to better help a friend who needs us to pray for them.
I have given you many references to Paul’s prayers. I encourage you to get your bible and read all of them. Perhaps in your on-going reading, you may find other prayers that Paul or Peter or one of the other writers in the bible used. I find these prayers very uplifting. And that is good news.
“That you may know … the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints;” this is where we ended our discussion of Paul’s prayer to the Ephesian church in our last article. Do you understand the riches that may be yours as one of God’s called out ones? First of all, God owns all things. Psalm 24 verse 1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” That is a good start, but, in reality, God is creator over the entire universe – over all things visible and invisible and He owns it all!
In Matthew 25:31-36, Jesus tells us a parable concerning His kingdom. In it He separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep (on His right) have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked and visited the sick. (I believe we are familiar with this parable.) The point of this is that the sheep are told, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Let me state it this way, the riches of His glorious inheritance is the kingdom of God!! This is why, in Matthew 6:33, we are told, “seek first the kingdom and its righteousness and all things will be given to you.”
God is working with us today in order to prepare us for this inheritance. In another scripture, Jesus tells us that, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father of mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). Let me ask you something: how long is eternal life? And again, how big is God’s kingdom? What kind of work does God have for us to do?
In Isaiah 9:6-7, in speaking of our Savior, Isaiah says, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given … and of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne … with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” In Luke 19:17 Jesus says, “Because you have been trustworthy in a small matter, take charge of ten cities.” This parable concerns us, His servants.
Friends, there is much more to say concerning our inheritance, but let us move on to the third petition of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church; “That you may know … His incomparably great power for us who believe.” At this, Paul goes on to describe this great power: “That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” I don’t know about you but I am completely blown away when I consider that God can take a lifeless piece of flesh, the synapsis in the brain have ceased, the body has grown cold, no blood is flowing because the heart has stopped and yet by the word of His mouth, life enters the body and resurrection occurs. This is His incredibly great power for us who believe. A new body, one that is indestructible, that will inherit His kingdom, a kingdom that will exist forever; this is the hope to which He has called us and to which Paul desires that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened!
Good news indeed!!!
Bill Rollins resides in Elk Horn, IA, with his wife, Sally, and has pastored the Church of God of Omaha, NE for more than 35 years.