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 calendar has just flipped another year for us, and again I ponder the passage of time. It is something that is unstoppable for us humans. It is just one of many things that has been ordained by God Himself. Speaking of God ordaining things, I must wonder just what there may be that God has not ordained. Do you consider God to be in charge of the universe? I do. He is the creator and the sustainer of all things. In the beginning of the Bible, the book of Genesis, God tells us that at the end of each day of creation, He pronounced it as good. And that at the end of the sixth day we read, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”
Soon after, in Chapter 3 of Genesis we see that man (i.e. Adam and Eve) couldn’t keep one commandment. Yes, He has graciously given us 10 commandments, but to Adam and Eve He only brought forth one: “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They failed the test and that was not good! I believe we know the rest of the story. They chose to take upon themselves the knowledge of what was good and what was evil. And so without God’s guidance in navigation, things went downhill from there. At this point in scripture God puts the Bible on “fast forward” and takes us about 1,650 years in two chapters and so we come to Noah’s day. Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth and His heart was filled with pain.” My friends, this was not good news. God grieved and His heart was filled with pain! These are strong words that are used for God’s emotions. Have you ever grieved? It is not a pleasurable time. Has your heart ever been filled with pain? Same comment!
Some have wondered how a good God could allow bad things to happen. Let me state right here that the bad things that happen on this earth grieve God and fill His heart with pain. His hand is not here to stop an inebriated person’s car from starting and eventually killing an innocent bystander. But I believe His heart grieves.
I can answer this seeming dilemma in one word; freedom! Adam and Eve chose a certain path and it was not a path of freedom but slavery. And yet God (who “changes not”) still allows us the freedom to go out and get drunk and try to drive home.
But God has now, once again, given us His true freedom through His Son Jesus Christ. In Him we are free. Free to not sin. Free to love Him. Free to walk before Him in true righteousness and holiness. We all know that freedom is not free and Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He paid the ultimate penalty for us so that we may once again be truly free.
And friends and brethren, that is good news.
Here is a word right out of the heading, “good.” Just what is good? Do you think of yourself as good? Do you know anyone of your friends or acquaintances who you might label as good? How do you define good? What might be the qualities of someone who is good?
In the Garden of Eden, God told His “first children,” that they must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. So, just because God labeled something as “good,” it didn’t mean that man should desire it. What God was really saying is that He, the Creator, was the one to define what was good and evil. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) In the account of the Garden of Eden, Eve sees that “the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” I guess this means that everything man sees in this world that seems good, pleasing and desirable, is not necessarily so.
One of the things about which we must be careful is labeling ourselves and others as good. Mark 10:17 has this episode, “As Jesus on His way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before Him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good except God alone.’” Hmmmm! The only human to live a perfectly righteous life took umbrage at being called good! I guess it might be presumptuous on our part to call anyone here on Earth good.
Let’s dig a little deeper. In the book of Romans, Paul opens up a barrage of scriptures that should set us back on our heels a little. Chapter 3, 10 - 18 he quotes from several places Psalms and Isaiah to let us know that, “there is no one righteous, not even one ... there is no one who is good, not even one ... etc.”
While Sally and I were visiting relatives over Thanksgiving, someone gave me a book to read titled, “Good or God?” by John Bevere. The premise of the book, as Bevere states “is one simple question, is good enough?” He goes on to ask the question, “ If good is so obvious, why does Hebrews 5:14 say that we must have discernment to recognize it?” Hebrews 5:14, “ ... but solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” I really think that this is the whole concept of what constitutes “good” must be handled correctly. Eve thought that if it looked good, smelled good, and tasted good; it must be good. But God sees things differently! And so, if we really want to understand what “good” is, we must consult the instruction manual of the author of all things “good.” We know that manual as the Bible! And it tells us about the “good news” of the Kingdom.
We’ll talk some more about this next time.
Last week I mentioned several scriptures that talked about seeking the face of God. So I ask the question: what does it mean to seek the face of God? There are three significant words in this phrase: “seek, face and God.” The last of these words “God” is, I hope, familiar to all of us. God is the creator, the sustainer and the one who gives life. He is life itself. He says His name is Yahoveh, which means, “I am that I am,” in other words, “the self existent one.” Okay, so far so good!
The next to last word “face” is a very important word.
We know in English (in our society) what is located at the front of one’s head is one’s face. When we meet someone, the fist thing we normally look at is their face. So if you were to ask me, “Where are you going?” and I answered, “I am going downtown to seek my wife’s face,” you would look at me with great curiosity! But not so with the ancient Hebrews. This statement would have been appropriate.
The word “face” or “paniym” (pronounced paw-neem in Hebrew) connotes much more than the front of one’s head. In many contexts it means the visible portion of a thing; such as in Genesis 1:2, “The spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters.” But in the context of a person it most often signifies the person himself. And this is how we may view the statement, “Seek the face of God.” It is the person of God that we must seek.
The first word in this phrase is very interesting: “seek.” In the three scriptures I quoted in last week’s article (1Ch 16:11, 2Ch 7:14, and Ps 105:4), the word “seek” has a very peculiar meaning. The Hebrew word is “darash” and it means, “to tread or tromp something.” I’m sure that most of us have walked from here to there in tall grass. If we travel a path once, we can look back and see where we have disturbed the grass and identify where we have trod. The next day, however, the wind and sun will have erased our path. But if we walk from here to there several times a day, and do so every day for a month, we have trod down the grass and we will still see a well-defined path.
And so it is with our seeking God! We must travel the path to our God again and again. We come to God, our provider, and thank Him for the provisions of shelter, warmth, clothing, friends, etc.
I believe you get the point. Ps 105:4, “Seek the Lord, and His strength; seek His face evermore.” The blessings we receive when in His presence are indeed“good news.”
Until next time ...
So, we’ve had a short break from the previous article! The last thing I had to say in that article was, “Our Father delights to teach those of us who are interested in the things He has to say.” The one thing I know, unequivocally, about that statement is that our Father really does want to teach us. The thing I do not know is this: Are you interested in the things He has to say?
Let’s take a look at something. In the book of Galatians, Paul seems to suggest that those belong to Jesus Christ are to be considered as “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). And I would like to take the Apostle Paul at his word. So, I find it acceptable to learn about the nation of Israel, from the Old Testament, and utilize them as a historical lesson. In other words, I have a template for my life as a Christian in the triumphs and tragedies that the ancient nation of Israel experienced. I can take the admonitions, the corrections, the training and the blessings from God toward them and have applications for my life.
So far so good! Let’s turn back to the book of Deuteronomy 10:12 where we find this written, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’S commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” God says that doing these things are for my own good! So if I do these 5 things: fear God, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him and observe His laws; good from God will come my way.
Let me ask the above question once again, “Are you interested in the things He has to say?” Are you interested enough to pursue the things He tells us to do? Do you strive to seek God with all your heart?
In several scriptures in the Old Testament, God admonishes us to seek His face: 1Ch 16:11, Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually; 2Ch 7:14, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pay, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land: Ps 105:4, Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
In other scriptures He asks us to seek Him with all of our heart: Ps 119:10, Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with their whole heart; Ps 119:10, With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
There are many more scriptures, but think on these for now and we’ll talk some more about them next time.
Last week I mentioned there are about 1,600 pages in my Bible. I commented on how difficult it can be to comprehend all of the thoughts that God has given to us in His word, yes, nigh unto impossible to apprehend them all! In one sense this is a very good thing, and in another, it can be quite frustrating.
Frustrating - because it can seem like an overwhelming task to even begin studying this huge body of work. Have you ever gone into your garage with the mindset of cleaning up the mess, and when you open the door and actually see the mess, your mind shuts down and you cannot even think of how to begin such a monumental endeavor? If I cannot, in one lifetime, come to understand all the Bible has to teach, why then should I even begin?
But on the other hand, I mentioned that this difficulty is a good thing. Why? There are two reasons. First: The joy that comes with this study is never ending. The scriptures are like unto the ocean. A small child of two or three can be filled with joy just sitting on the edge of the water and play in the four or five inches that come washing up at regular intervals; and the scientist who is writing his PHD thesis can take a mini submarine into the murky depths several miles and study things never before seen by man. In other words, there is something for everyone! Second: This never ending study, gives us a clue as to the depth of understanding that our Heavenly Father possesses. It causes us to bow before such an awesome creator and acknowledge how small we truly are. There is no end to our enjoyment and study of God’s holy word.
But where do we begin?
Well, when you walk into that garage that needs cleaning, you start with something easy. The hammer that is lying on the floor? Just pick it up and hang it on the hook. When you get to that hook, you see the screwdriver on the bench. Place it in the slot for screwdrivers. Under the screwdrivers, there are several dirty rags; place them in the trash. I’m sure you get the point. (And no, I am not coming over to your house to clean the garage!)
Start with something simple. The gospel of Mark is pretty straight forward, easy to read and the shortest of the gospels. Start with it. Then go back and read it again. This time have a notebook handy and jot down questions that come to your mind as you read. These questions you might have can be wonderful spring board to doing a short study of the scriptures. Oh! One thing I neglected to mention, as you open up your Bible, bow your head and ask God to guide you in your reading and your study. These are His words, and He knows all the answers. Our Father delights to teach those of us who are interested in the things He has to say.
Until next time ,,,
There are so many ideas and thoughts written into the Bible that it can be difficult to comprehend them all. In my Bible, there are more than 1,600 pages filled with the words of our Heavenly Father. He caused His servants, by the power of his Holy Spirit, to record onto parchment all that we have in our Bibles. Moses, David, Isaiah, Samuel, Matthew, Paul, John, (etc), were all instruments of God’s desire to give to you, and to me, His instruction.
I have had many people come to me and ask, how they might break up scriptures into 365 separate sections so as to read the Bible in one year. For your information, there are websites that preform this task for you. You can also buy a Bible that is structured so that there are 365 portions for reading. I do recommend that people read the Bible in one year. It is a task that calls for discipline, and structure, within a person’s life. And as I have pointed out in the past, the word “discipline” has the same root form as the word “disciple.” If we are to become disciples of Jesus Christ (and we called to do just that) we must recognize that discipline is part and parcel of our effort. Over the past thirty-something articles that have appeared in the paper under the “Yes, There is Good News,” we have had a fair amount of interesting topics. But the most important topic that could ever be covered would have to do with urging you to pick up your Bible and read it. Jesus Himself tells us that these are the “words of life.”cI have more people come to me and tell me they have never read the Bible, and yet they claim to be Christian! Really? That would be like me saying I have a relationship with my wife, but I never let her talk to me. That would ludicrous. I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father, but I never let Him talk to me? God speaks to us through His word. We can pick up the books written by Moses, David, (etc) and read the words, “the word of the Lord came to me ...” “Thus declares the sovereign Lord,” “ Thus declares the Lord whose name is God Almighty.” In the New Testament we find the authors quoting from the Old Testament, saying, “This is what the Lord says through his prophet ...”
All the authors of the New testament knew exactly what the Old Testament had to say. They were familiar with it. They read it. They desired a deep relationship with God, and experienced the joy of His closeness. The knew the words of life as were written by the prophets of old, and wrote words of life to expound and teach us about the good news of our Savior who has come, and who will come again.
Oh, my friends and brethren - there is so much more!
The scripture says that God “Causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”(Matthew 5:45) I guess this is somewhat obvious considering there are many out there who do not believe in God, and yet their fields produce crops in abundance. They have food enough to eat. Perhaps as humans who inhabit our planet, this might seem somewhat counter intuitive. But God lets us know that He is not as we are! “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:9) I believe that says it quite nicely!
God is God. He is perfect. And so God says to us, “I have set a high bar for you to attain to.” It is not easy to love your enemies, and to pray for them. Be perfect as God is perfect. God knows what he is talking about. There is another place where God talks about wanting to attain perfection - it is found in Matthew 19, where a rich young man wanted to know what he must do to attain eternal life. Jesus, understanding the man and knowing where his heart was, told him to obey the commandments. The man acknowledged he had kept them and wish to know where he lacked. Jesus told him directly, “If you want to be perfect, go sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” Basically Jesus told the man to separate himself from all that was important to him. And so the man went away sad, because he had great wealth.
I believe we all know there isn’t anything we can do to get eternal life; it is the free gift form God for those who believe. So what was Jesus getting at by telling this man these things?
I think Jesus was telling the man that he believed in his wealth more than he believed in God. The man had ‘good news” staring him in the face, literally, the good news of eternal life. But all he could see was his fortune.
Is there something sitting before your eyes that keeps you from seeing your Savior? Or perhaps some wealth you are having a hard time parting with?
There is a song I enjoy seeing where in the chorus says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the thing of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Try doing that, and perfection may be just around the corner. Jesus bids you to come to Him.
Until next time
There are some times in these articles that I write about God blessing us and how that is “good news.” There are other times when I write about how we should bless God. Just last week I ended asking the question, “Will you be a blessing to your heavenly Father?”
Can we bless our Heavenly Father? Will He be blessed by us? And if we can, will that blessing of ours turn out to be something we might call “good news?”
In Psalm 103 we read, “Bless the Lord O my soul, all that is in me bless His holy name.” This is how Psalm begins and it ends with the words, “Bless the Lord, O you, His holy angels ... Bless the Lord all His hosts ... Bless the Lord all His works ... Bless the Lord O my soul.” So, in answer to my first question, we can bless God!
The word “bless” comes from the Hebrew word “barak,” which literally means to “bend the knee, to kneel, and by implication to bless God.” It is the very same word that is used back in Genesis 1:27 - 28, “So God created man in His own image ... male and female He created them ... and God blessed them ...”
When God started to work with Abram (later called Abraham) in Genesis 12: 2-3, He said, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you ... and all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you.” God is the originator of life and so He is the originator of blessings. But as we saw, these blessings may be reciprocal in that when we are blessed by God, we are to kneel before Him and bless Him with reverence and awe.
Have you ever been blessed by God, the creator and sustainer of life? The question is really ludicrous. The answer is an emphatic yes! The fact that you have life is the first blessing. The fact that your life is sustained by oxygen, by water, by food in abundance is a blessing that some of us may take for granted. But where should we stop in enumerating the many blessings we receive from our Heavenly Father? We have five senses that connect us with the world around us. We have a super computer the size of a small melon within our skulls that processes all the information our senses feed it. But perhaps most of all, we have “the breath of life” from our God within us which enables us to reason. Yes, of all the creatures on the Earth, we are the only ones who can come to truly know the God who created all things. And in His love for us, He even allows us to try and reason Him away. He does not crush the non-believer. God feeds all His creation. He “so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.: Bless the Lord O my soul.” Amen.
Until next time ...
It has been more than two weeks since I sat down to write the last article. In the space of that time, my wife and I traveled to southern Utah to keep what God calls His “Feast of Booths,” or “Feast of Tabernacles.” No, this was not a vacation for us. This is an assembly of God’s people who desire to worship Him on His schedule. As a point of information, there are some 300 locations where this Feast is held worldwide; St. George, Utah is just the place we chose to assemble. I might write about the “good news of God” in this space, for a long time and never come close to telling of the joy and the “good news” that we experienced in our worshiping God with 200 brethren for those eight days. I had the blessing of being able to speak to the group twice during that time. My messages were titled, “What is God Worth to You?” and “Do You Have Any Zeal?”
So, let me pose that same question here, first; what is God worth to you? Have you ever pondered that question? He is the Creator of all things. He is the One who provides all things. He is so beneficent that He gives good gifts to both the righteous and the unrighteous. The sun shines on the Christian and the non Christian, the Godly and the atheist, the diligent and the slothful. As the song says, “God is good, all the time!”
One of our side trips was to the Zion National Park. I am sure that some of you have visited that awesome park. To travel through that canyon with shear cliffs rising a couple of thousand feet on both sides is pretty awe inspiring. But to see the beauty of the landscape and not recognize the One who created the landscape is to miss out on a great opportunity to really worship God.
What does the word “worship” mean? It is a contraction of two words: “worth-ship.” It is to consciously recognize the worth of God and so revere Him and all that He is. Worship can take place sitting by a rushing stream with mountains all around. It can occur while one sits under a night sky with thousands of stars twinkling overhead. It can happen while one looks out over the rolling hills of Iowa with a seemingly endless stretch of corn and soybeans waiting to be harvested.
I could go on and on and I am sure you could add many more examples of the greatness of our God.
So, is God worthy of your time? Do you greet Him every morning in prayer? Do you say good night to Him every evening before bed? God is good to us and He loves us very much. Are you a parent? If you are, do you enjoy the times when your children sit and just visit with you? For me, those times are a blessing - will you be a blessing to your Heavenly Father? What is God worth to you?
Until next time ...
We finished the previous article by stating that the things in life that are valuable and worthwhile are the things we must work for. My friends and neighbors, the word of God is valuable, the word of God is worthwhile. There is nothing more beautiful than the things our creator wants to speak to us about. I can think of nothing more exciting than to be reading the scriptures and have my Father in Heaven reveal a nugget of truth to me.
Sometimes that piece of the truth is pure joy in my innermost being, but sometimes I am hurt or cut to the heart by it. But just as a loving father must correct his children in ways that seem to hurt, so the Heavenly Father corrects those who are His.
Our God is a faithful God. The scriptures tell us that all His ways are perfect. He alone knows that “big picture,” and all His intentions for us are nothing but good. A beautiful description of this is found in Hebrews 12:10, “our (Earthly) fathers disciplined us for a little while as they though best; God disciplines us for our own good, that we may share His holiness. Wow! I believe we would all accept His discipline in order to have His holiness imparted to us.
But where does this “pure joy” or this “correction” come from? Well, as has been said, it comes from our Heavenly Father. And how does He speak to us about these things? Well, in His word. For us, His word is found in the Bible. In Paul’s comments to his beloved friend Timothy, he states this - “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of ... how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every day work.”
Paul wrote this letter (2 Timothy) around 65 A.D., sometime before he was martyred. At this point in time the only scriptures that Paul could have had in mind were what we all the Old Testament, for none of the New Testament had been written as of yet. But look at what Paul says about these scriptures - they are able to make you wise for salvation. They are useful for teaching, etc. You and I, today, have the amazing ability to purchase a Bible with both of these testaments for a very small price. Perhaps you have a couple of copies in your home now. This access to the Word of God today is abundantly easy and inexpensive. This has not always been so. Several centuries ago, many people had to suffer torture and martyrdom so as to insure future generations (like ours) might have access to the Bible. And we don’t take the time to read it? Shame on us!
There is so much more about this to be said.
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.