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
For God so loved His creation that He gave His only begotten Son; you and I are a part of that creation. It was for us that Jesus died. And so begins the story of the Gospel. But that story did not begin some 2000 years ago with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth; that story began from the creation of the world.
Our God had known from the beginning of time that mankind would need a Savior, and so His plan was set in motion. In his first letter Peter makes this statement, “The precious blood of the Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19). People like to ask the question as to what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned. But this is not a profitable question. The reality is that they did sin, and so for about 6000 years mankind has had to suffer the consequences.
God knew their frame and their abilities. He knew the adversary, Satan, would be a more than formidable opponent.
But what about this gospel, this good news that began before the world began? I suppose we might understand that the good news we are considering started with creation: for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth the sea and all that is in them and on the seventh day He rested.
Approximately 4000 years later the Savior, the Son of God, was born of a virgin into some very humble beginnings. At the age of about 30 Jesus began His ministry with His baptism by John and then went to Galilee. Luke puts it this way: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised Him. He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.’”
Yes, this section of scripture from Isaiah 61:1 was His mission statement. What happened next is best told by Mathew: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matt.4:23) These things He continued to do for three and a half years. We know that His life was taken at the time of Passover and if we back up those three and a half years we come to the fall of approximately 27 A.D. This was the second phase of God’s good news. Many people heard the gospel and news of Him spread quickly.
We shall visit about the third and fourth phase of this gospel in the future, God willing.
Yes! There is Good News!
by Bill Rollins
Sometimes, friends and brethren, as I sit to write another article, I am overwhelmed by the width, the depth, the length and, oh yes, the vastness, of the number of topics we might pursue when considering these articles. In many ways, God’s word is infinite. I am convinced that no human being could ever exhaust the study of the things our Father has for us in His word. So let’s just pick up the thread we have already started.
In our previous article I mentioned that Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (See Isa. 29:13 and Matt. 15:7-9) In this quote, Jesus was railing against the Pharisees and teachers of the law, but I must ask the question, does this apply to us today?
Each and every one of us must answer this question for ourselves. Growing up in a rather large metropolitan area on the eastern seaboard, I was taught to accept those things that were imparted to me in my religious studies. Sometime later I was challenged by a teacher to question the ideas that had been drilled into me. I started to see some major incongruities and hypocrisies in those things I had been taught. I fled from religion but still kept a loose understanding of God in my heart.
It was about 7 years later that I felt like God was drawing me back to Him. I fought that feeling, that calling of God, for another 2 years. God was patient! God was persistent! I had to look into His word for myself and in that word, I found so many wonderful things that I had no recourse but to answer His call. I will be very honest with you, in that day I wanted nothing else but a true and close relationship with my Heavenly Father and with His Son. I have not changed my mind.
I believe that the 27th Psalm might say it best. This Psalm was written by King David and he was known to be ‘a man after God’s own heart’. Here is what David wrote in verse 7&8, “Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, O LORD, I will seek.”
David put it this way in Psalm 24:5-6, “He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God His Savior; for such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.”
How about you? Have you ever considered it your life’s goal to seek the face of God and so find a close and personal relationship with Him? The word ‘seek’ in the previous scripture literally means to ‘beat a path toward’!! I think we understand what it means to beat a path toward something. If we walk through tall grass to get to the barn only once, we merely disturb the grass. But if we go back to that barn through that tall grass again and again and again, we begin to beat a path through the grass. And my friends, so it is with God and with His Son. Never be satisfied with a so-so relationship. Beat a true and everlasting path to Him; oh what joy that will bring! Seek His face.
Bill Rollins 12-10-2021
Many of us reading this article would perhaps call ourselves ‘Christians’. And if we are truly following our Savior Jesus Christ, we would be correct in calling ourselves this.
It is in the book of Acts that we first find the term ‘Christian’. In chapter 11 verse 25-26 we read this, “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul (aka Paul), and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” As an historical note, Antioch is in, what we know of today as, Syria. It is about 350 miles north of Jerusalem and was considered to be Paul’s home base. He either began or ended all of his missionary journeys there. Antioch was the third leading city in the Roman Empire - just behind Rome and Alexandria.
Being called a Christian in this hugely pagan city of Antioch was not necessarily a compliment. Most commentators believe this designation to be a derogatory term. In some areas of the Roman Empire the disciples were called ‘the followers of the Way’ or simply ‘a sect of the Jews.’
And so today, being called a Christian is more and more becoming a thing that brings persecution in many parts of the world. Even here in the USA the term Christian is being looked down on and if we are honest, we can see the seeds of persecution being planted.
So, are you calling yourself a Christian? How deep is your conviction? In John 15:20 Jesus says, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also .... They will treat you this way because of my name.” In Matthew 10:22 we read, “All men will hate you because of me.”
Whoa Bill, I thought this article was about good news!!!” And it is, so let’s read on concerning some of these passages. In Luke 6:22 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
The disciples remembered these words of their Master when in the book of Acts chapter 5, we read that they were thrown in prison and flogged for the name of Jesus Christ. “The Apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5:41-42)
But you and I must be careful because in Matthew 15:7 we read these words of Jesus, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’.”
We’ll talk more on this next time.
As a slight refresher, let me mention that we have been talking about God’s statement through the prophet Isaiah, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa. 43:18-19) And in our previous article we ended with the prophet Joel telling us that God would pour out His Spirit upon all people (Joel 2:28-29).
We also talked about Jesus equating the giving of the Holy Spirit with “rivers of living water”. And yes, this giving of the Holy Spirit is to be considered a ‘new thing’. But one thing that was never fully understood in ancient times, was that the Spirit of God was to be ‘poured out on all people’!! This is why when Jesus is found speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:7-26, the disciples were surprised that He was speaking with her. The woman herself was surprised that Jesus was talking with her; she said “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman .... For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
This is also why in Acts 10 Peter had to be compelled by the Spirit to go with some men to the gentile centurion’s house to teach Cornelius and his family concerning the gospel. And when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those who heard his message the Jews who accompanied Peter were astonished that these gentiles were included in God’s gift. (Acts 10:44-45)
Oh, my!! “And of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33). God had plans for His ever expanding kingdom when He gave the blessing to His servant Abraham “And in you all families of the earth shall be blessed”. According to Paul, Abraham understood this. Check this out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, chapter 3:6-9.
“Consider Abraham, ‘he believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Abraham was but one man and yet we read this in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews verse 12, “Therefore from one man (Abraham) and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
If you are looking for some good news, it does not get any better than this: to understand God’s love and mercy to every nation under heaven. God promised a ‘new thing’ and had it proclaimed throughout the Old Testament. We have seen it in Isaiah and in Joel; it is found in Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, in Ezekiel and,
yes, even in the book of Genesis!God is our creator, sustainer, our provider; He has plans for all His children and like any good parent, He wants, even desires, for us to succeed.
What an awesome God we serve.
Yes! There is Good News!
original post date: 11-1-21
In our previous article I initiated a couple of ideas that somehow seemed divergent. I first mentioned that through Isaiah, God said He was doing a new thing; I then took us all the way back to Abraham to consider the sevenfold blessing that God gave to Abraham. Does this ‘new thing’ involve Abraham?
The blessing he received that ‘all families of the earth will be blessed’ through him was a statement that prophesied a Savior who would come from the lineage of Abraham. In other words (as Paul put it), ‘God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all
the nations be blessed.’ This Savior, from the lineage of Abraham is, of course Jesus Christ. But that’s not really a new thing is it?
Let’s check back in with Isaiah (where we started this
whole discussion), “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” So this ‘new thing’ has to do with water? Isaiah goes on to say “The wild animals will honor me ... because I provide water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isa. 43:19-21)
Water is not a ‘new thing’ so what is God trying to show us here? In John Chapter 7 we find Jesus attending the Feast of Tabernacles. John (in verse 14) tells us that He did not go up to the temple courts to teach until halfway through the feast. And then in verse 37 John writes 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.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” We, who live in the United States today, tend to take water for granted. A twist of the faucet handle and we have an abundant supply of water. Water was precious in the ancient Middle East and so Jesus uses it as a metaphor for the precious Holy Spirit! Could this be the ‘new thing’ Isaiah was talking about?
Well in a way, yes; but it goes much further than that. Remember what the blessing to Abraham was? ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ You see, God’s kingdom was prophesied to increase without end. In Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Jesus Christ (Is. 9:7) we read this, “And of the increase of His government and
peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom.” The rulership of Jesus Christ will increase in number and remain forever.
Joel put it this way, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions.
Please stay tuned we are just getting started!!
YES, THERE IS GOOD NEWS!
by Bill Rollins
original post date: Oct 7, 2021
The first thought I have today, in the realm of good news, is that we once again have a community newspaper to enjoy!! Thank you Linda Goos for the many years you labored to produce the weekly Danish Villages News. And now we have a new beginning.
The concept of something new causes me to think of a verse in scripture, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa. 43:18-19) What is this new thing that God says He is doing?
In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon says that there is “Nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). What shall we make of these two verses? Maybe we should take a closer look?
I believe the problem here can be solved by noting Solomon’s words, “under the sun”! This phrase is used by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes some 29 times and it appears to be his catch phrase for the place where mankind resides without God. It concerns the things mankind does without any use for God in their lives. In chapter 1 verse 14 Solomon says, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Let me state emphatically here that nothing God does or has His hand in is meaningless or a chasing after wind. We’ll talk about this enigmatic book of Solomon’s in a future article. But for today, let’s consider the new thing God is doing.
I would like to take us all the way back to the days of Abraham. You see, there was a promise made to him in Genesis 12 that gives us a clue: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I see here a seven-fold blessing given to Abraham. In many ways, this man Abraham began the lineage of the one we call Jesus Christ.
Some people consider the nation of Israel to be the chosen of God; many consider the Jews to be the chosen; but really the story of those chosen of God begins with Abraham long before the nation of Israel existed! And even the Gospel of Matthew sheds some light upon this by beginning with these words, “Thebook of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
But why would we be looking all the way back to Abraham to understand this ‘new thing’ that God is doing? Well, that is a long and interesting story, but ones that is integral to our desire for Good News.
Hope you’re here next week – it is good to be back!
In our previous article I mentioned that we can trust God to take care of us in troublesome times and I said that His protection is, indeed, good news. But some are wondering if this worldwide pandemic is perhaps of God’s doing. After all, the bible does talk about pestilence and plague sent by the hand of God. Could this be His chastisement?
The book of Deuteronomy is, in my opinion, a book apropos for our time. In chapter 28 we read about the blessings and curses of God: ‘His blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.’ A casual reader might say that this portion of the bible is for Israel and not for us – but I believe God said the bible is written for ‘His people!!' We, in the United States, like to claim God is for us. We even put on our money, “In God We Trust,” and I do not think that God takes that lightly. So in Deuteronomy 28:15 we read, “If you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field.”
The rest of the chapter is difficult reading for its blunt description of the curses, but it is well worth the effort so that we may see God is a God of justice. Remember, you cannot have God’s mercy without His justice.
If we like to claim that God is the one who has blessed the USA until we are the richest nation ever to exist on the face of the earth, then we should understand that our disobedience will bring the opposite effect. Could this be happening? I am not one of His prophets, and I am not qualified to make that call.
But I will say this; Christianity has been in decline for the past 100 years. The number of people who claim that they follow Christ has taken a steep drop. But that’s not the half of it! Those who claim to be Christians have been striving to water down the message of our Savior and of His Father until it would be unrecognizable to a first century Christian. My friends and Brethren we find ourselves in very shallow waters these days. And again, I do not believe God takes that lightly.
So let me put it this way, the good news is that our relationship with the Eternal God is not a group endeavor. God calls individuals, one by one, into His family and He is building a family! Our repentance before our God is a personal thing; remember, “God’s kindness leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) Some people have been calling for a revival. Revivals have happened in this nation before. And the thing about revival is they also are very personal. They begin with you and they begin with me.
A revival within your heart is not a political entity, it is a spiritual one. The reality is that Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” What are you going to do with that? Where are you going to invest your time for the next several weeks while we have turmoil in our land? Prayer, repentance and seeking God will do us all the most good. If a sparrow does not fall to the ground without His notice, do you think a global pandemic is not in His vision? I believe we know what we need to do!
My brothers, sisters and friends, there is so much to talk about today. So much of what is happening around us these days is quite unprecedented. There are very few among us who remember the upheavals and turmoil of the Second World War. Those were times of sacrifice and changes, and I was not one who lived through them. What’s a citizen to do? The things we read about and watch on TV concerning this health crisis have the potential to change the way that society operates. And my question to you is, “Is this good news?”
Well, you will notice that I haven’t changed the title of this article – so yes, there is good news.
I have a scripture that helps me in times of trouble and turmoil, and I would like to share it with you for your use and comfort. It is a short, simple and to the point instruction, found in Psalms 46:10 and it reads like this, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”
Now obviously that is only one line in a Psalm of 11 verses, but I bring it forth to help us understand who is in charge of all things – GOD!! Do you comprehend that? Allow me to say it again; GOD is in charge of all things! There are several places in the bible where we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom.” They are found in Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10. It is God that we are to fear and not the things of this world. It is God whom we should revere and worship and bow down before.
Let’s go back and take a look at Psalm 46. It begins this way, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
This first verse in the Psalm begins with the word ‘God’ and gives us insight into His character. Verse 2 continues: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, thought its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” This portion of the Psalm
reminds us that there is nothing on this earth that should cause us to fear anything but God Himself.
Isaiah has something to say concerning this topic (chapter 41:10), “Do not fear, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” In verse 13 he says, “For I am the LORD your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”
So has all this talk about Covid 19 (coronavirus) have you worried, concerned, depressed or in fear? The outcome of it is in the hands of a great Creator God who rules, not just over us and our planet, but over the entirety of the universe. How big is God? I am reminded of a contemporary song, “Our God is an awesome God!” He promises to take hold of your hand – He is your Father. He cares for His
children; are you one of them? Have you ever thought of taking your right hand and lifting it up in the air and inviting God to take hold of it? Just find a quiet place, come alone before God, get down on your knees, lift up your right hand and feel the strength of a mighty and awesome God!! He is a God of comfort and love. Take precautions, but trust in God.
It was four years ago (March 7th 2016 - to be exact) that this endeavor of writing an article on “good news” began. This article marks the 201st article I have written. Seems like a mile stone of sorts, maybe even an opportunity for celebration!!
But before we start that, I have a question for all of us; have these articles done us any good? What in the world could I mean by that? Well, if my effort in writing and your effort in reading have not had some affect on our lives then we are operating in the realm of vanity. And what is the definition of vanity? Webster’s dictionary says, “Any act that is empty, futile or worthless.” I, for one, am not comfortable operating in that manner and I hope you are not either.
So, perhaps this is confession time! This really has been a fulfilling endeavor for me. I do not just write them only in the hope that you are edified, but I write them in the desire that I, too, learn something – and I have. So let’s move forward with this.
There is much that goes on in this world that might be labeled vanity. In our previous article I wrote, “Satan will take one of God’s truths and place an hundred lies around it. He really does not care which lie we choose; if we bite on any of the “hooks” he has set up, he wins.” This, of course, happens quite often in many religious circles. Satan knows just how to spend his time while getting us to waste our time.
One of the greatest lies that he has put forth is indeed, vanity: that which is empty, futile and worthless. We live in the greatest, most affluent nation the world has ever seen. Our lives revolve around many episodes of vanity. We see something that has great value and yet we treat it as empty and worthless – I might label many things along this line. The Bible is one thing that comes to mind. There is no book on the face of this earth so valuable as God’s word and oft times we let it lie on a shelf collecting dust.
Satan wants us to spend our time with that which is vanity. Take for instance a simple work of fiction, written by a mere human, and we treat it with adoration and recommend it to our friends and loved ones. Oh, I’m not pointing any fingers here for I too have done this. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with reading a good piece of fiction – reading is always stimulating to the mind and will usually increase our outlook and intellect. It may be labeled as entertainment, and we all need some of that. It only becomes problematic when this is the only reading we allow into our lives.
We could go on looking at many areas of our society for the empty things it provides for us but let me ask another question – what is the opposite of empty and worthless? Well, that’s easy; and you say; “that which is full and valuable.” In the Bible, however, the opposite of vanity is “glorious.” On the one hand we have, “Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” And on the other hand we read, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name.” One thing we are told not to do and the other we are urged to do. Vanity verses Glory – it is worth thinking about.
Until next time – consider the good news and give glory to God!!
Sally and I have just purchased a “new to us” vehicle. Oh yes, we now have a car that was built in the 21st century. There are a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ that we have never seen before and so have caused some consternation for us. Thankfully, this car came equipped with a manual that explains, in detail, how the automatic temperature control works; how the CD player works; oh yes, even how
the headlight system works. I say thankfully, because it makes things much easier!
Many things around us today are quite technologically superior to our experience and so we need to understand how they work and how to use them so that we might enjoy the product more fully – the engineers that designed our car, our microwave, our DVD player and yes, even this computer, had the forethought to
supply a manual of operation with the product.
These items I have just mentioned are really quite simple, one might say infinitely more simple than the human beings that God created with Adam and Eve. And so, yes, they (and we) need instruction on how to conduct themselves. God put Adam
in the garden and told him to work the garden and take care of it. Work is part and parcel of living a good and productive life. Work is necessary to sustain the life of an individual – we all need to eat!
They were also commanded, by God, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, in this story of Adam and Eve, we find that they bought into the lie that Satan brought to them. The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan convinced them that it was they and not God who should make the rules.
Have you bought into Satan’s lie? In many ways all of us have accepted this lie and we want to decide how to run our own lives. But you and I have been given a manual to guide us – He has given to us the Bible, the written word of God. It is filled with wisdom.
Things were much simpler back in the days of our first parents. God started them off with only a few instructions and so Satan only had to convince them to accept one lie. They sinned and of course, the rest is history. There are tens of thousands of lies out there today that our Adversary has placed in front of us; harmful lies; lies that lead to death. But God, the creator and designer of mankind, has equipped us with an amazing manual of how we should conduct our lives so as to have an easier life, a safer life and a more Godly life. And yet many
have never read these easy, gentle and Godly words from our Father in heaven.
I have appreciated the many of you who have seen me around town or even stopped me on the street to tell me how you enjoy these articles. My hope and prayer is that they may draw you into a closer relationship with God. But they will never and should never take the place of the words that proceed from the mouth
of God. Good words they are!!
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.