The Gospel: Good News We Need

The good news: God made you in His image, dearly loves you, wants you to be reconciled to Him, to live a life of spiritual peace and joy, and to be saved eternally. 

The bad news: If you need to be reconciled, and saved, that means the state of man is alienation, loss, and condemnation. This is the result of sin. 

Back to the good news. Jesus is the cure for sin and the only way back to God. He made our reconciliation with God—and with others—His business. To do this, He made Himself the sacrifice for our sin. Through belief in Him, repentance of sin, baptism to wash away sin, and faithfulness to Him, salvation is promised. 

Today, If You Hear His Voice…

Nearly two thousand years ago, the writer of the book of Hebrews implored his readers to listen to God’s voice today, “lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12) This message is nearly 2,000 years old. The writer was quoting Psalm. 95:7,8, a text nearly a thousand years old in his day, saying “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS“ (Heb. 3:,7)

For over 3,000 years, God has been pleading with people to listen to Him and not reject His call. These texts emphasize “Today.” Hear, listen, give heed: “Today.” Gods’ voice still speaks the same thing: “Hear Him today.” Tomorrow we don’t know what our situation will be, if we will be in the mood or mind to listen, or if we’ll even have the ability. 

Does hearing God’s word convict you, causing guilt and shame? That’s  His call to repentance. Does His word stir up anger? That’s truth striking a soft spot in your heart that you’re fighting against. These are all good and gracious acts of God to move you away from sin by causing repentance. Hear His voice. Don’t harden your heart anymore. 

Make today the day you turn your heart back to Him. While it’s today, it’s never too late. Paul told the Corinthians, “We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain…behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Cor. 6:1,2). 

As the Hebrew writer exhorted: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking” (Heb. 12:25).

Forgiveness Makes Us Joyful

Sin weighed down and torn up David’s soul. In Psalm 32. he told the joyful story salvation, shouting the blessedness of forgiveness. 

1    How joyful [blessed] is the one

    whose transgression is forgiven,

    whose sin is covered!

2     How joyful [blessed] is a person whom

    the Lord does not charge with iniquity

    and in whose spirit is no deceit!

Forgiveness makes the soul sing. This is in terrible contrast to what sin does to us. 

3     When I kept silent, my bones became brittle

    from my groaning all day long.

4     For day and night your hand was heavy on me;

    my strength was drained

    as in the summer’s heat.

Forgiveness makes the soul sing because sin crushes it. Sin grinds us up making us weary like the worst, driest, hottest day of summer. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. David continued: 

5     Then I acknowledged my sin to you

    and did not conceal my iniquity.

    I said,“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

    and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The blessedness of forgiveness comes after we confess our sin. Denying our sin before God leaves us outside His shelter, under the oppression of guilt and sin. So let us confess and seek for God.  

6     Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately.

    When great floodwaters come,

    they will not reach him.

7    You are my hiding place;

    you protect me from trouble.

    You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul quoted this psalm to explain salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. God “Justifies the ungodly, [and] his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: ‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.’” (Romans 4:5-7) 

In Christ, we are forgiven and our faith in Him is counted as righteousness. Like David, this forgiveness makes the soul of all believers sing.

The Epic Story

The Bible tells the truest, most amazing and dramatic story ever conceived—much grander than the imaginings of the comic book universes and the large-scale sci-fi and fantasy worlds that move so many today—the stirring story of the Bible isn’t just based on reality, it’s the true story of reality and our part in it. 

Beginning in the ancient days, the Bible tells the creation and fall of humanity, our subjection to mortality, universal corruption, and judgment by flood, the salvation of one family on a boat. Then the call of one man to follow God, and the great nation, led by prophets, and priests, and kings that came from Him. These are the great stories in the Bible. 

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong…(men of whom the world was not worthy)…And all these, having gained approval through their faith…” (Hebrews 11:32ff)

Then an even greater part of the story began, the story of Jesus. God in the flesh, Emmanuel—God with us, born of a virgin, sinless lamb of God, who died for our sins, rose from the dead, offering forgiveness to those who believe in Him and repent, and making all who did so to be His own family. 

So we tell the great story of what God did—and is still doing—for us.  

The Greatest Story Ever Told

In the mid-1960s, Hollywood gave the gospel its full cinematic treatment complete with an all-star cast, thousands of extras, and stunning scenery shot in ultra-widescreen “Cinerama” on large format 70mm film complete with multi-track sound. Over 6 million feet of film were used to make a 4:20 film. Ultimately edited down to just 2:17, the movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was a massive commercial failure. But God’s word has never needed tinsel-town and the silver screen to tell its story. 

God’s story is always best told by those who believe it most. His inspiration gave us the message. And His providence and the faithfulness of His people have preserved it so that it’s the most readily available book in the most of the world—and the most suppressed in the rest. 

Today we are blessed (maybe cursed?) to live in the information age. We are awash in words, stories, pictures and sound. When every story is available, the effect is to diminish the value of them all. But we still have the most infinitely valuable one of all to tell. 

To those hungry and thirsty, let us tell of the bread and water of life. 

To those lost and struggling with sin, let us tell of the great redeemer.

To those disheartened and weary, let us tell of Him who gives us rest. 

To those lonely and discouraged, let us tell of Emmanuel, God with us. 

To those bereaved and grieving, let us tell of Him who lives again. 

Believers we ask, do we love to tell the story? Are you telling it to others regularly?

 

In The Image Of A Moral God

At some point, some injury or insult, some violation of custom, standard, or law will occur and that will cause us to lose our cool and our righteous indignation will burst forth like a volcano. This is universal. We differ on when happens because of own values and priorities. But everyone’s got that point because we are creatures of moral judgment. We can’t deny it. We really were made that way. 

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). And so He did. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). He made us with a deep moral sense. He made us as makers and keepers of standards, even if we are deeply imperfect at it.

We use this sense every time we praise what we approve and condemn what we don’t—whether audibly, or with a nod, or even with an eye roll. We wrestle within ourselves dealing with our conscience as it “accuses or excuses” us (Rom. 2:15) for what we did or didn’t do. All this reflects the moral nature of God who made us like Him. 

This moral quality gives us the choice to do good or ill. Even though our choices are not always informed, or are diminished and constrained by prior choices and circumstances, they're still our choices that we must reason through and deal with. And we know our decisions often have long-lasting consequences. Let us use the moral reasoning that God gave us for His glory and for our good, choosing the way the prophet Amos said, “Let justice roll down like waters, And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

An Outpost Of Heaven

The Philippians weren’t like the people around them. They were Romans in Macedonia, the rugged area that produced Alexander the Great, in a town named for his father. Located on a Roman military highway connecting Rome to its eastern territories, Philippi was the site of significant fighting in several Roman wars and was strategically important. Home to a large population of Roman veterans, Philippi had special legal status as a Roman colony.

Like any outpost, the Philippians faced constant danger. They might get cut off or surrounded by enemy forces. Their outpost might fall to trickery and subterfuge. Or most insidiously, they might “go native” and become too much like the locals to be of any use to those that sent them.

On his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul preached the gospel in Philippi and baptized those who believed (Acts 16). Paul taught them how believers are to act. “As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel” (CSB, Phil. 1:27). So live honorably, stand firm, and fight as a unit, whether or not I’m there. 

The Christians there needed this kind of discipline because these believers still manned an outpost — but now it was one of heaven’s. They were to hold it in a faithful, worthy and expectant manner, knowing“Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:16,17).

Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims

Oh, how many times can we feel like we don’t belong. This feeling can hit us both often and surprisingly deeply because we have within us a profoundly spiritual longing for a better elsewhere. We can feel it even in our own hometowns, in the communities where we’ve lived in for years, sometimes even in our own homes while surrounded by our family. 

Artists: the poets, authors, movie makers and especially songwriters, so effectively call this to mind that it can become like an aching in our bones. Their mastery of emotion didn’t create this longing in us. They just skillfully remind us of it, tapping into something already deep within us. 

Yes, we deeply yearn for the comforts that home is supposed to provide: peace, security, provision, belonging, acceptance. But even if we had stable and loving childhoods, secure and prosperous upbringings—or if we’re now the ones striving to give that to others—we know deep within us, that this can’t it. This can't be all. And yet how many of us are successful at even providing that? There must be more. We want, we need, more. There must be more. 

We’ve been wanderers since God drove Adam and Eve out of His presence and from His garden due to their sins, and we’ve been sinfully and selfishly ruining every place we’ve been since. 

Only in God, through Christ, can we find that which we truly lack. Jesus invites us saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Yes, “YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS” (Matt. 11:28,29). So in Christ, we can sing both “This World Is Not My Home” and “Anywhere Is Home” and be correct in each.

Enough Crowns For All

There are shortages in every earthly thing. Economic reality places limits on all resources. Even time, attention and concern are limited. Solomon lamented, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” (Eccl 1:14,15)

But in the realm of heaven and its economy, there will be no shortages of any kind—not even of precious things like crowns. While few on earth get to wear a crown, the apostle Paul, though he was nearing death, looked forward to brighter days, saying, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). 

In a similar way, the book of James (1:12) tells us, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

For those who love the Lord, heaven has crowns for all: a crown of righteousness, a crown of life. And for this victory crown, my getting one, or your getting one, will not crowd anyone else out or take their crown away. These awards are not presented on a medal stand for only a few who have beaten out and conquered their rivals, or who have bested their friends, so they can get a reward that few are able to obtain. 

Indeed, there’s no need of, nor any place for, rivalry and competition—rather think of these as being given at a family gathering where our loving Father has made room and reward for all.

Yes, For Our Sake It Was Written

“You shall not muzzle the ox when he is threshing.” God taught that the working animal gets to eat while it’s working to bring in your harvest. Does that sound like such an important thing that it should be in both the Old and New Testaments? Well, it is. 

In the Old Testament, this teaching is right after the instruction to not degrade or humiliate a guilty brother in his punishment (Deut. 25:1-4). 

In the New Testament, it's quoted in a lesson about paying those who do spiritual work:  

“For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops” (1 Cor. 9:9,10).

We know that how you treat animals is a good indicator of how you’ll treat people. God is somewhat concerned for the animals—after all, not one falls to the ground without His knowledge (Matt. 10:20)—but what He really cares about is people. 

He wants you to learn to share the same concern. In this case, the lesson is everyone gets to eat, the plowman, the thresher and the oxen too. The apostle then applied it to teachers as well. But, beyond that, apply the lesson of universal concern universally—love your neighbor. 

All of them. 

Always.

Lest Your Brother Be Degraded In Your Eyes

Because of the Law of Moses, the Jews had a number of peculiar customs. One such custom dealt with criminal punishment: the guilty couldn’t be lashed more than forty times. To make sure they didn’t go over this, ancient Jews would always do one less, no matter how guilty the offender. The apostle Paul referred to this in 2 Cor. 11:24, saying, “I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes,” also translated as “forty stripes save one.”

Humane treatment of the guilty was directly from the law of God. In Deuteronomy 25:3, after the judge finds a man guilty, “He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.”

All believers should give serious thought to whether our society properly considers this principle today regarding the guilty. But even if the worldly treat others oppressively and with contempt, those instructed by the law of God must not. 

Since the Law of Moses protected even the guilty from degradation and humiliation in their brethren’s eyes, how much more should the gracious law of Christ teach us to generously treat each another? D

Does this only apply to those guilty of breaking laws? Does it not also apply to those who have crossed us, disappointed us, or that we might for some reason view as beneath us? There is no place in the gospel system for humiliating and degrading treatment of anyone, guilty or not.

“They All Began To Make Excuses”

Jesus told of people who received an invitation to a great feast—but no one came. Instead, they “all began to make excuses” saying, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it,” or “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out.” Or even, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come” (Luke 14:18-20).

Those all seem like decent enough reasons to me. But whom am I to judge? As the apostle Paul taught, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4). The excuse makers all fell even if I might have thought myself generous by not condemning them. 

The Lord alone can condemn or justify while we cannot because “the Lord weighs the hearts” (Prov. 21:2 and 24:12). Only He is able to “judge the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12) 

There is only one heart that I can fully judge: my own. I often don't like what I find when I look at it fully and truly. It is really easy to then project and figure that other folks must be in the same sorry shape is me—and uncharitably, I decide that most of them must be even worse. But that is conjecture, not knowledge, and certainly not righteous judgment. 

So on that day when all around “begin to make excuse,” I must make sure that I'm not doing it too. This alone is what I can control. And may I repent and ask the Lord to forgive me for when I have made excuses and may He keep me from doing it again.

Two Funerals

For me, each of the last two weeks has begun with a funeral. Both were for people at the younger end of middle age. Often, the younger the deceased, the larger the funeral. Yet these funerals had quite different turnouts. One was sparsely attended, the other, standing room only. 

Both funerals show the truth of scripture, “Not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself” (Rom. 14:7). Everyone’s life and death touches others. One funeral commemorated a life of service and continual and tireless work for others. The other marked the end of a life much more solitary, diminished by alcohol and a spotty work ethic.

Surely you already know which of these funerals had a packed house with numerous eulogies and tributes. We would all do well to live doing the things of faith, family, and service. These are the things that make for fond remembrance when we’re gone. 

For Christians though, life if not just about our connections with others—it’s that, but it’s so very much more. The apostle Paul’s instruction in Romans continued, “for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). We must always make “for the Lord” the foremost connection.

So let us live for the Lord, die for the Lord, and die in the Lord. This life of faith will produce in us a life of service for others. The funeral, the eulogies, the memorials, and the hope will take care of themselves.

Legendary

Legendary

In his 1952 book, Mere Christianity, Oxford scholar and theologian C. S. Lewis forcefully argued that you can not simply dismiss Jesus as a great teacher of morality without dealing with Jesus’ claims to be divine. 

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic…or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

In the 1970s, Josh McDowell, a preacher with Campus Crusade For Christ, gave evangelizing sermons which summarized this reasoning as Jesus being: “Lunatic, Liar or Lord.” McDowell preached this alliterative challenge to millions in person and in print.

Believers have long sought to get people to examine what the gospels really say about Jesus and what they record Jesus as saying about Himself. Taking the gospel accounts seriously makes us seriously consider Jesus.

But recent presentations of this line of reasoning have needed to add a new element. Now the reasoning is “Liar, Lunatic, Legend or Lord.” “Legend” has been added to answer the arguments of unbelievers who do not accept the scriptural evidence that Jesus said and did such things. Skeptics cast doubt on the gospel record by a rough treatment of it that no other ancient records are subjected to. The trustworthiness of scripture used to be assumed, and then we could debate its meaning. Now many, even if they agree about what the text says, will argue that the record doesn’t mean much.

If people meant “legendary” to be “famous, remarkable and illustrious” then Jesus is more of it than any other. But skeptics use it to mean “fables, myths or stories” and dismiss Jesus' importance as presented in the gospels. 

C. S. Lewis was a great literary scholar, well trained in myths and fables, stories and legends. He was even a notable author of them. When he turned his scholarly expertise to the scriptures, he concluded: 

As a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing…  (“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, 1972)

As much as the skeptics like to say otherwise, it is not the search for truth, scholarship or reason driving them to reject Jesus. Rather, it is the usual suspects of selfish desire, pride and deception. The devil doesn’t care so much how or why you dismiss Jesus—only that you do.

The Eyes Of The Lord

All things are known and open to the eyes of the Lord. This can be either a chilling realization or the greatest comfort. Amos (9:8) said “the eyes of the Lord GOD [are] on the sinful kingdom” while Moses recorded, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8).

God’s thorough knowledge of us finds all things, good and bad. The Proverbs say, “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths” (5:21) and “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good” (15:3).

God’s full knowledge is often unnerving for the sinful and gives them lots of motivation to deny it. Eliphaz, one of Job’s companions, spoke of those who said: “What does God know? Can He judge through the thick darkness? Clouds are a hiding place for Him, so that He cannot see” (Job. 22:13,14). This is folly. The gospels repeatedly affirm, “For nothing is hidden that shall not become evident, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light” (See Matt. 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17 and 12:2). 

While many think that God’s knowledge is for just for catching out and condemning, there is another greater aspect to this all-seeing vision. But Peter said, quoting the 34th Psalm: “THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER” (1 Pet. 3:12).

As the little know prophet Hanani told king Asa of Judah so long ago, recorded in 2 Chron. 16:9, “The eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Live so that the eyes of the Lord may find and strongly support you.

Dilly Dilly?

If you watched much tv lately, you’ve surely heard the commercial catch-phrase, “Dilly Dilly.” Its gained enough cultural currency that serious pieces have been written to explain its origin and meaning. 

The best explanation I’ve heard is from the actor who portrays the commercials’ lead character, who said, “I don’t know what it means, but I do know it’s one letter away from being ‘silly silly.” That is undeniably true. Who knows whether this will endure like other commercial catchphrases like, “Just Do It,” “Wasssup,” “They’re Great” and “Where’s The Beef?” 

Meanwhile, the beer company sponsoring the ad campaign is soaking up the all the attention—and no, the irony of that observation is not at all lost on me. “Dilly Dilly” is, by itself, harmless playfulness, but the product promoted by it, with its inherent harms, is not. The scripture says: 

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.” (Prov. 23:29-32)

Likely, as the old Persian proverb says, “This too shall pass.” In the future who will much remember or care if we “Dilly-ed” or not? But what God warned about drinking, and other things in His word, these will remain throughout the generations. “BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.” (1 Pet. 1:25) Let His words be the words of our lips and the meditation of our hearts.

Known For What You Do — And What You Don’t

The apostle Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church fully showed this truth. He began by telling the Christians there not be divided, but united in the mind of Christ, saying “…Agree, and [let] there be no divisions among you, but [be of] the same mind and in the same judgment” (1:10).

Christians agreement and faithfulness can only be maintained when we aren’t deceived into thinking that sin, or the influence of sinful people, doesn’t affect us. So Paul warned, “Do not be deceived…the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” and he listed a number of sexual sins and other destructive behaviors that these Christians used to do, but they’d been cleansed of in Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). It was imperative that they no longer do these things. They also needed to know that hanging around the people who still did them was destructive as well. So he said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33).

The apostle was obviously worried some Christians were too close to worldly-mind and poor behaving people. So he reminded them “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23) and “Do not be bound together —unequally yoked - KJV— for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).

How could Christians get so wrapped up in so many sinful things and become entangled with such sinful people? Selfishness and ignorance are usually culprits, so he instructed them about priorities and maturity, saying, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24), and “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; [but] mature” (1 Cor. 14:20)

His Kingdom Is Righteousness, Peace And Joy

Far too often this is a world of unholiness, conflicts, and sorrow. But in this vale of tears, bitterness and despair do not have to be our only lot. In Christ, we can come to a wonderful kingdom that is not “eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:7).

This is not the short-lived worldly joy of fortunate circumstance, the fleeting pleasures of controlling possessions or triumphing over others. Rather here we find the deeper satisfaction for the soul, and we find a place of love and seeking the best for others and “offering prayer with joy…for all” (Phil. 1:4). 

It is a joy “made full” (Jn. 16:24) in Christ and “made complete” (1 Jn. 1:4) in the words and hope of the gospel. 

It is the sublime “joy and peace of believing” that causes us to “abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13). It is the “joy of salvation” (Ps. 51:12) when we turn from sin and back to God.

It is the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6) that we have in spite of every difficulty, even an “overflowing of joy in all our affliction.” (2 Cor. 7:4)

It is the fruit of the Spirit that is accompanied by “love, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23).

Our joy here, great and enduring as it is—as Jesus promised “your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (Jn. 16:22)—is only a  foretaste of what is to come when we are called forward to “enter into the joy of our master,” (Matt. 25:23) when we can, as Jude (vs. 24) promised, “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.”

THIS IS NOT A DRILL

The government’s alert system message to Hawaiians was stark:  

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL

The message had only one fact correct. It wasn’t a drill. It was a mistake. Thirty-eight minutes later, longer than the time it would have taken missiles to arrive from North Korea, a correction was sent. Between those times there were reports of panic and confusion and prayer, with people taking cover in bathrooms and storm drains—and modern folks make fun of the “duck and cover” drills of previous generations. Since the correction, the most common reaction has been anger. 

It usually takes a near-death experience or terminal illness diagnosis to get people to consider their own mortality seriously. We know we will die, but we like to live in denial as long as possible. Yet death is an unyielding reality. The scriptures inform us of this and ask us to prepare for it.As it says in Heb. 9:27: “…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”

Unlike the Hawaiian message, the Bible message is not in error and is one of hope—as it also contains the message of salvation unto eternal life. In 2 Tim. 2:9,10, the apostle Paul speaks of the “…grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus…who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 

True consideration our own mortality is never pleasant, but it so much more bearable, and even fulfilling, when we can look at it through to eye of faith and see at our side Jesus, who conquers death and promises life to us.

Don’t Be Like Israel In The Wilderness

The apostle Paul was trying to call the Corinthians to a holy life in Christ and get them to realize that even though they'd been baptized and had spiritual food and drink (1 Cor. 10:1-4), the sacramental parts of Christianity, by themselves, are not enough to save. They had to really take the holy life and dedication part of Christianity to heart, or else they would be just like the wilderness generation of Israel that was delivered from bondage in Egypt, but the scripture says, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” (1 Cor. 10:5).

The Apostle Paul explained that the reason for that disaster was because of the same type of things that the Corinthian were doing. So he told them, “Don’t crave evil things” (vs. 6), “Don’t be an idolater” (vs. 7), “Don’t be immoral” (vs. 8), “Don’t test and try the Lord’s patience” (vs. 9), and “Don’t grumble” (vs. 10). 

The wilderness generation did every one of those things and suffered the ultimate penalty for it—and too many of the Corinthian Christians were doing the very same thing. (We wouldn’t do those things too, would we?)

So if they thought they could stand before God while living like that, they needed to, “take heed lest they fall” (vs 12). But if they were willing to resist temptation, God would help them greatly, and gave them this promise:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (vs. 13)

Yes, thanks be to God!—Who gives us such help when we seek it.