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
God has a name! Of course, that is quite obvious. But do you know what it is? Perhaps we should take our time in considering our answer, because one of the Ten Commandments deals exclusively with God’s name. Commandment number 3: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” I suppose many of us would consider that to be the extent of the commandment but there is more; “… for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)
If you consider each of the Ten, you will find that this is the only one to which God attaches a warning. So I guess we should take into consideration that God’s name is very important. So what is His name?
Hey! What’s our hurry!! Let’s first muse upon what it means to take something “in vain.” The word “vain” has several nuances of meaning in the Bible; it can mean deceit, malice, falsity or emptiness. And each one of these could be used in conjunction with the Third Commandment. But let us first ask the question, what does it mean to “take” something in vain, especially to take the name of God in a deceitful, false or empty way?
If it is raining out and I “take” my raincoat, what I mean is that I will wear it or put it on. My wife might tell me to “take” an umbrella so as to use it. If I must go to the store I will “take” the car; it is a conveyance that I will use. Have you ever taken the name of God? This goes way beyond just speaking the word for His name. Most times today, when a man and woman get married, the wife “takes” the last name of her husband (this custom is very related to what we are talking about – it is a Biblical consideration for the bride of Christ taking upon herself the name of her husband).
Yes, when we enter into covenant with God and accept the sacrifice of His Son for our sins, we enter into a strong relationship with Jesus. When we do as Peter told the crowd in Acts 2:38, to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” we actually take upon us a great responsibility to honor and obey Him. And we take upon us the name of God!!! This is a marriage covenant we enter into and we are betrothed to the one who loves us and died for us.
The actual name of God becomes a delicate subject. In Hebrew His name is made up of just 4 letters. The letters are: “Yod, Hey, Vaw, Hey.” In English we would write “YHVH” and the pronunciation is much debated for there are no vowels. Yehovah or Yahwah are perhaps the more common way of saying this name. We see this name in the book of Exodus when God confronts Moses from the burning bush and gives to him his commission. Moses asks what God’s name is and God answers, “My name is, ‘I AM WHO I AM’” or “I AM THAT I AM”. This name, when brought into English is best translated as “The Eternal One” the one who is self-existent.
As always we run out of space just when it is starting to get good.
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.
The covenant that a man and woman make with each other as they take their vows before two witnesses is typically called a marriage covenant. This is, for all intents and purposes, a covenant of “relationship.” The two parties vow to love and honor each other, forsaking all others in faithfulness and to do so “as long as you both shall live.”
This event with these words binds the two together in holy matrimony so that a new beginning in their relationship can take place. For although the two may have known each other for quite some time, the vows and commitments made on that day allow the two to start to build a relationship unlike any other found between two human beings.
The Bible teaches that the church (i.e. the called out ones) will become the bride of Jesus Christ the Savior. We began considering this topic a couple of months ago and it is now time to ask the question of all of you reading this article; are you, as a child of God, as one who seeks a relationship with your Redeemer, ready to make a commitment to Him, to love and honor Him, forsaking all others and being faithful to Him in all of your ways?
This truly is serious stuff!! To make a commitment to God is indeed the most serious decision one will ever make in their lifetime. It is more than choosing a life time partner in marriage.
“Wait a minute, Bill; this is just supposed to be a nice little article filled with good news – what is all this about a most serious decision? Can’t I just live my life and dabble in the idea of Christianity at my own convenience?” Perhaps we should ask God the Father and His Son about this.
Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Does that fit your lifestyle? Or how about Jesus putting a prerequisite on discipleship in Luke 14:33, “… any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
And then there is Paul; a man who would give up everything so as to be found preaching the gospel. Here is what he says in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Now this was a man who was serious about his relationship with Christ!!
Paul goes on to say in Philippians, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Are you married? What is there that you wouldn’t do for your spouse? Sometimes God asks for difficult things to see if we are serious in our devotion to Him.
In our previous article, we were discussing the importance of making a covenant with God. God, indeed, takes covenant making very seriously.
We were looking into the covenant that ancient Israel made with God in the wilderness of Sinai after He brought them out of bondage to the Egyptians. After meeting with God in Exodus 19 and then having the Ten Commandments spoken to them in chapter 20, Moses becomes the intermediary and relays the terms of the covenant to Israel in chapters 21 through 23. In these chapters we find such laws as idolatry, servitude, assault and battery, kidnapping, murder, protection of property, social responsibility, false witnessing, denial of justice in court, keeping the Sabbath, keeping the annual festivals and, finally, trusting in God to establish them in the promised land.
Most of these are laws that any civilized nation would desire to have in order to have an orderly society. Israel had just come out of bondage to an oppressive government. There was so much for them to learn. One of the wonderful things God was giving them was the blessing of a day off from labor – the Sabbath! In Egypt, they would have had to work seven days a week without any time off. What a gift this Sabbath rest was for them.
In chapter 24:3 we read, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the instructions. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
The making of this covenant would be sealed and ratified by the parties with the presentation of a sacrifice of a burnt offering. Interesting enough, the blood of these sacrifices would be the agent used finalizing the deal.
And then Moses did this, “Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Do the words Moses used in this ceremony ring a bell with you?
Some 1600 years later in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem Jesus had His disciples gathered together for what would be His final Passover with them. “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it He broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.’” (Mark 14:22-24)
Moses was rehearsing an event that would have everlasting effects upon the entirety of the world. Moses words were a harbinger of what was to come. Just as the first Passover in Egypt, where the blood of a lamb brought salvation to Israel, was truly a rehearsal for the salvation of all of mankind in that upper room, hours before Jesus Christ would shed His blood and place His signature on the new covenant God was making through His Son. Are we to take that covenant seriously? Did God take that covenant seriously? Jesus ratified that covenant with His blood – how are we to ratify it?
More to come!!
t seems to me that there are many people who consider themselves Christians and yet they do not take this notion seriously. Let me suggest to you that God does take it seriously – very seriously!! Let us take a look at one example from the Bible.
When we read through the history of Israel, we find that they were a rebellious lot. And yet God, in His mercy and compassion continued to work with them. Why? Because they had entered into a covenant with God. I am sure you remember the story of how God brought the children of Israel out of bondage to Egypt. They
came through the Red Sea and into the wilderness and settled for a while near Mount Sinai. In Exodus 19:4-6 we read this, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Moses went down the mountain and told the people what God had said. Their response; “We will do everything the LORD has said.” God took this answer seriously – the people did not. It did not take them long to rebel against God. In short, Moses went up the mountain, spent 40 days with the LORD and when he came back down with the two tablets of stone (the 10 commandments) he found the people were in the midst of an orgy, worshiping an image of a golden calf.
Oh, they called the calf by the correct name of God, “Yahovah” and they applied to it the miracles they saw in coming out of Egypt.
But they had quickly forgotten the second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself and idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” God was not pleased!!
But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to Mount Sinai before Moses received the 10 Commandments. (Ex. 19:10-25) The people were to consecrate themselves and on the third day they were to stand before the mountain. God would signal for them to meet with Him, “Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.” And so on that morning there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud and a very loud trumpet blast – the people trembled. The sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder and even the mountain trembled.
God then gave to His people the Ten Commandments verbally. The voice of God frightened the people to where they thought they would die. They desired that Moses be their intermediary and so Moses approached God. We find in Exodus chapters 20 through 23 a very concise but complete list of laws that God gave to Israel as a precious gift and then in chapter 24 we read about the confirmation of this covenant. Verse 3: “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and His laws. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.’ And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD."
It is quite interesting to read what Moses did next but we will have to wait till next time. May the good news of God’s law enlighten you all.
Romans 2:4: “Do you show contempt for the riches of His goodness, tolerance and patience, not knowing that God’s goodness leads you to repentance?” In our previous article, I made a bold statement: I said we might be showing contempt for God by not understanding our need for repentance when compared to the goodness of God.
Just how do we see our repentance? Some 40 years ago I was brought face to face with the law of God. A good friend and co-worker tried to show me a few things from the word of God. I had never read the bible and knew nothing of what he was trying to tell me. He asked me if I knew that there was something called the Ten Commandments and of course I knew about these ten.
He then asked me if I had ever read them. Well I suppose that in my earlier life as a student in a parochial school for 12 years, I had seen them and well, yes, maybe I had read them. He then proceeded to ask me if I had a bible in my home and if so would I turn to Exodus 20 and read them. Well it turned out that I did have a bible and after finding Exodus 20 I read the Ten Commandments.
I had been taught, in that parochial school, about the commandments of God but when I read them for myself I realized that I had to turn my life around and begin to walk toward the great God and Creator of all things. Yes, my life began to change. However, it took me an additional 2 years, almost to the day, to understand the concept of repentance. Two years of talking to God. Two years of arguing with God. Two years of pushing God away from me. But God was gentle. He was patient. He was kind. He showed His love.
And yet I had never realized the concern that God had for me a sinner.
Somehow He wanted me to be one of His children. I had never been one to join a group. I tried boy scouts but left after a short time. I was asked to visit several service organizations but couldn’t get myself to feel comfortable in joining. But this was different. This was God, the one who ruled the universe, wanting me to be a part of His family – how could I continue to refuse? This was larger than anything I had ever encountered.
I talked to my friend and co-worker and told him of my thoughts. I asked him to tell me what I should do with this new revelation of mine. He went to the scriptures and showed me Acts chapter 2. You see, there was a group of “religious” people who had gathered to hear the Apostle Peter deliver a message and that message “cut them to the heart.” Peter spoke of the prophet Joel and how he had prophesied that God was going to pour out His Spirit on all people. He told them of this Jesus of Nazareth who performed many miracles. He told them that this Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. And then he said this, “Therefore let all the house of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Their response? “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter was quick with the reply, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Pretty simple? Maybe; but quite amazing.
I needed to hear that and so I responded!!
Yes! There is Good News!
by Bill Rollins
original post date: September 21, 2019
There are so many things that will lead us to the goodness of God and this
understanding has, for the most part, been our aim these past few years in
these articles. The “good news” of God springs forth from the goodness of God. But let me ask this question: what does the goodness of God lead us to? Once we recognize that God is good and that this is for us “good news,” do we have an obligation set before us to do something?
If I were to say no at this point, the why should I bother write another article? We might as well be as the rich fool in Luke 12:19, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (2:4), “Do you show contempt for the riches of His goodness, tolerance and patience, not knowing that God’s goodness leads you to repentance?” I believe Paul is saying that if we do not understand our need for repentance when compared to God’s goodness, then we are showing contempt toward God! Wow, let’s take a closer look at this; none of us wants to be found in contempt of God. I have heard it said by some, “Well,
I’m really a good person. I do some good things in my life and when hung in the balance they outweigh the bad.”
This is not the attitude we want to have. Isaiah puts it this way, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6) We do not have any true “good works;” God perceives them as filthy!!
Allow me to put it this way: a man stands in a court of law found guilty of brutally beating an elderly woman. His lawyer has shown the judge that the man has done many good things for others in his neighborhood and so the judge says that because his “good acts” outweigh this one bad one he is allowed to go free. WHAT? We would all call this a travesty of justice.
Out God is a God of justice. But because He is good and shows us His goodness each and every day, we also see that He is a God of grace. He calls us to repentance. He desires that we recognize our faults and our sins against His “holy, righteous and good law” (Romans 7:12) and so repent. Repentance is not defined as sorrow for a wrong but is defined as a turning around and away from our transgressions as so turning toward God.
In any rational society (and God is rational) there can be no such thing as mercy and grace without having justice and there can be no such thing as justice without law – no law, no justice; no justice, no need for mercy. God has a system of laws and so a system of justice. He will judge the guilty; i.e. all of us! But God is a gracious God and so will extend His mercy and grace to those who repent – to those who accept they have a sinful nature and turn from it.
For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son, that whoever believes in Him ….
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.