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
We are approaching Thanksgiving Day and perhaps this article is in your hands as we anticipate that special day. I feel that maybe we should consider what it means to be thankful.
Someone gives you a gift and you say, “thank you.” OK, fair enough, is that statement just a reaction or do you truly feel gratitude? Growing up, I was told that it is polite to say thank you for the things people may present as gifts. Even if I didn’t care for the gift, Mother told me to write a thank you note and express some positive sentiment. That isn’t always the case anymore. Perhaps children are not taught the societal norms these days.
But we have a day coming up that has been designated by our federal government as a day to give thanks. Now that is curious. Our Government, which tries to teach us that we mustn’t be too religious when out in public, actually has assigned a day in the year to give thanks. So to whom do they expect us to be thankful, if not to God the giver of every good and perfect gift?! Sounds as though our forefathers had it in mind to set aside a day to give thanks to the true God!
Do you know something? Not every gift given to our friends and relatives is a meaningful one. But the reality is, it is not always about the giver or the receiver; it is about the thought behind the gift. Lying behind every gift we have received is a sacrifice, a sacrifice of time and or money (well yes, money is related to time). And so we appreciate the thought, time and money spent. I am sure you are all with me on this, so let’s talk about this day approaching.
In the scriptures it says that, the earth and all that is in it belongs to the LORD (Psm. 24:1). So who are you going to thank? Do you have land to farm on? God lets you use His land. Do you have a nice house to live in? God grew the trees, etc. to make it possible to build that house. Do you sit down to a splendid meal on this particular day? God caused the food to grow and He created the turkey for our appetites. Everything we have has been given to us by our Creator!!
But oh, there is one more thing! Earlier I mentioned that lying behind every gift we have received is a sacrifice. God’s sacrifice for us is so much more than mere time or money. So let me suggest something we should be thankful for this upcoming day of giving thanks. Jesus, just hours before He was to give of Himself as a pure and perfect sacrifice, knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” The bible says He prayed this three times. (You will find this episode in Matthew 26:36-56.)
But something else He said should catch our attention. When faced with those who would arrest Him and Peter drew his sword to start the battle, Jesus told Peter to put away the sword because, “I can call upon my Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels.” At that point in time the 72,000 angels, if called for, would have done more than stop the threat of arrest. They would have destroyed the world. This world, and all that is in it, is nothing without the Son of God as its Savior and we can truly give thanks that “He laid down His life for His friends!!!" What a friend we have in Jesus!
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
God has given to us many things. Actually, God has given to us all things. In our previous article I began to look at these things, the gifts that God has bestowed upon us. I began by considering the gift of His word and all that we may learn from the scriptures, and just today I was writing a letter to a good friend who expressed to me that he was afraid to make a commitment to God because he did not want to fail. He did not want to break a promise to God. Have you ever felt this way? I have.
May I share with you a snippet from that letter: “You mention that you have delayed in seeking baptism because you are afraid of betraying this promise and walking away from God. I also had this fear. It is a reasonable reaction to the call of God. One of my true shortcomings as a person (in my former life) was to walk away from promises that I had made and I knew that I could never think of doing that to God. But in the past 40 years I have realized that He makes it very difficult for us to walk away. Not because He restrains us or shackles us, but because of His love for us. And His love is so special and His presence in our life so wonderful, we just want more and more of whom He is. His Holy Spirit does restrain us, but it’s a restraint from doing those things that will harm our relationship with God; we can ignore those chastisements from the Spirit, but His love for us compels us to turn to Him again and again; it is a beautiful thing to experience.”
The answer to my friend’s query is that the gift of God’s love is perfect in its expression, and so it should be perfect in our reception. Yes, it has been my experience that God’s love is a tying bond that does not let us go. How wonderful it is to be loved by the One who has given us life itself. This, indeed, is one of the great gifts of God – His love. “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The expression of His love took the form of the saving grace of His Son.
When I think of the many ways God shows us His love, I have a hard time putting the word “greatest” on any one of them. There is a Psalm that drives home the point of the never ending love of our God – it is Psalm 37. In it, the Psalmist tells us 26 times that “His love endures forever.” In all ways and at all times God’s love is ours if we will accept it and so return it back to Him. Don’t ever be afraid to make a commitment to the God who loves you so.
Some have said that God, in the Old Testament, is a harsh God. But as I read it, His love for His people Israel is beyond compare. And so it is today – God’s love for His people, the Church, is beyond our comprehension. Let me say it again, “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
God’s love will never let us go.
What is it that you desire to have from God? Has He not already given you all things? Paul puts it this way in the book of Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” In other words, the sacrifice of the Son of God to save us from our sins and to redeem us unto salvation and life eternal is the greatest gift that God the Father could have ever given to mankind. So, if He gave us the greatest gift, why wouldn’t He also give us every lesser gift?
In his letter to the Church in Ephesus, Paul says it this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” And if you don’t believe Paul, Peter says in his second letter, 2 Peter1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and goodness.”
So, what is it that you desire to have from God? If it is just for this physical life that you exist, consider that God has blessed you with everything you need to survive – air to breathe, water and food to sustain you, and a body more miraculous than any machine that can be built by man and the five senses with which to experience and learn about this world – yes, even more, the universe. He has placed us in an awesome setting.
But you and I want more. We want a spiritual life that reaches unto the heavenly realms. And guess what? God has blessed us there also!! But there are so few of us (yes, even us Christians) who will accept and use these gifts, these free gifts from our Father in heaven.
What gifts do we have? Well let’s start with an obvious one – the Bible. God did not just plop us down here on earth to fend for ourselves. We are His children and we need help to guide us on our way. But again, how many of us accept this gift of His word and use it to help us. The Bible is a fulfillment of Peter’s statement that He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Do you want to live a better physical life on this planet? The book of Proverbs is for you. In it are found practical statements on how to attain wisdom, discipline, understanding, prudence, knowledge, discretion and discernment. You can learn how to manage your finances, manage your speech, manage your work ethic – how to control your temper, how to teach your children and even how to listen to your elders and be taught by them. It truly is an incredible book.
But, do you know what I desire from my Heavenly Father? Knowing all that I have already mentioned, I desire to draw nearer to Him in a one to one relationship that goes far beyond anything that I can attain to here on earth!! I desire a close relationship with God. And if you are following me from our previous article, let me simply say that I know of no better way to achieve that perfect and sustaining relationship then to keep the appointed times of my God. It is during these times of putting the world at arm’s length, getting out of my day to day routine and spending time with my Father and with others who feel as I do, that my relationship with Him grows. And because these special times come around each year, I develop a closeness that could not be found at any other time. The festivals are times of real spiritual growth, especially the Feast of Tabernacles!
There is still more to come.
We have been on the topic of covenants these past few weeks and so I would like to turn our attention to something that Sally and I participate in each and every year. It has to do with “covenant relationships.” On October 14th we attended the Feast of Tabernacles at the Kentucky state resort, Land Between the Lakes. This is an eight day festival wherein God’s people join together to worship, honor and fellowship with the Eternal God of Heaven. There are about 200 different sites around the world where one might attend.
This is something that is extremely important to us, and I would like to share with all of you reading these articles, some information concerning this feast.
In Leviticus 23:2 we read, “These are my appointed feast, the appointed feast of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” It is quite interesting that God calls them appointments! He says they are His appointed feasts – indeed they belong to Him. God told ancient Israel that He desired to meet with His people and so, basically He set up appointments for them to keep. When we have an appointment with a doctor, hairdresser, dentist or lawyer we strive to keep that appointment – we do not show up at any time we desire. How much more important is it for God’s people to show up at the appointed times He has made?
You can read chapter 23 of Leviticus and see that there are seven holy Sabbath assemblies. Each of them is a time to meet with our Heavenly Father. But the one that we just kept is perhaps the most wonderful and meaningful of all. We read of it in this same 23rd chapter, verses 33 through 43. Allow me to highlight a few thoughts from these scriptures. “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. The first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.” This festival is broken down into two events. The first is a seven day period of rejoicing and worship with the first day being a day of rest from working and then the eight day is a special day (often called the last and great day of the feast) also a day of ceasing from work.
The ordinance that God brings with these days is that the worshipers are to stay in temporary dwellings. Today, those who keep the feast stay in cabins, lodges, homes and some set up tents and RVs to camp. Why do we do this? The simple answer is that my family and I are Christians. But that needs some explanation doesn’t it? By definition a Christian is one who follows after our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself tells us to follow after Him and do the things He does. Very simply then, let me say that I have seen many people wearing wrist bands that say, “What would Jesus do?” I assume that they are advocating we should do as He does – and so what did He do in regards to the feast of Tabernacles?
The entirety of John chapter 7 tells us about how Jesus kept this festival. I’ll let you read it for yourself. But in verse 37 it tells us this, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
There is still more to come.
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.