God is So Good

When God created everything in the beginning, every day of His creative week of work was found to be “good” (Gen. 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21). When God finished the creation it was all “very good” (Gen. 1:31). In every way since that time, the Lord has continued to be good and to do good for us:

1) God is good in His faithfulness: One of the prominent themes of the Bible is that God holds true to His love and interest in us, even though we and all before us have a well-documented record of disappointing Him. David called for us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

2) God is good in His favor: If every truly quality and pleasant thing about life on earth should be traced to its origin, we would find God’s love and care behind it. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).  Like His creation, God’s gifts are always good and perfect; no exceptions (see Rom. 8:28).

3) God is good in His forgiveness: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5; see Rom. 2:4).

Twelve Subjects for Judgment Day

A sobering fact presented in Scripture is that all of us will one day stand before Christ to be judged for eternity.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31, all Scripture taken from NKJV)

In what areas of life will we be judged? Consider a dozen ways the Bible says the Lord will assess us in this crucial test:

1. How we treat others.

Rom. 14:10 – “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

2. How we talk.

Matt. 12:36-37 – “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

3. How we use our abilities.

2 Cor. 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 

4. How we use our money.

James 5:3 – “Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”

 5. How we use our time.

1 Thes. 5:6 – “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 

6. How we endure hardship for Jesus.

2 Cor. 4:17- “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” 

7. How we pursue God’s plan for our lives.

Philip. 2:16 – “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” 

8. How we have conquered who we used to be.

1 Cor. 9:27 – “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

9. How much we share the message of Christ.

1 Thes. 2:19-20 – “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”

10. How we handle temptation.

Rev. 2:10 – “Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

11. How we feel about the Lord’s return.

2 Tim. 4:8 – “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 

12. How faithful we are to the Gospel.

2 Thes. 1:8 – “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”

The Amazing Miracles of Jesus

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was the extensive number of supernatural works He carried out. However, the Bible only recounts a few of these: “there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 NKJV). The Gospel Accounts contain approximately 33 specific instances in which Jesus performed feats or produced effects that transcended the known laws of nature. When we compare the miracles of Jesus – from the first one where He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) to His final one, the restoring of Malchus’ severed ear (Luke 22:50-51) – we can detect at least five striking characteristics:

COMPLEXITY: All kinds of subjects were addressed in Jesus’ works, including miraculous healing (Matt. 8:3, 13, 15), casting out demons (Matt. 8:16, 32) and supernatural control of forces of nature (Matt. 8:26).  He raised the dead (Matt. 9:18-25). Sometimes these are summarized in sweeping statements, for example: “He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1:34).

COMPLETENESS: No one – not even Jesus’ critics – had any doubts the He performed miracles. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:47-48; cf. Matt. 12:24-30). The miracles of Jesus were observable, verifiable, flawless and immediate. They were not through sleight of hand or some type of trickery, but were actual, historical supernatural events. 

CONSERVATIVE: Jesus was never wasteful with His ability or blessings. Consistent with the principle of parsimony (detesting unnecessary use of money), Jesus first used whatever resources were available, natural and human before using any divine power: available water was turned into wine (John 2:6-8); food on hand was used to feed a huge crowd (John 6:4-11); baskets of leftovers were gathered (John 6:12-14); and bystanders rolled away Lazarus’ burial stone (John 11:39).

◆ COMPASSIONATE: Jesus performed miracles with a desire to show real love to those who were in distress (Matt. 9:35-36; 14:14; Mark 5:19). It wasn’t to make Himself wealthy, because He taught His followers: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Keep in mind, though, that He did not heal every illness of every sick person on earth. Neither did the apostles (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 2:25-30; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20).

◆ COMPELLING: His followers were convinced of His deity: “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Nevertheless, many resisted: “although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him” (John 12:37; cf. Luke 16:27-31).

God Keeps His Promises

Scripture is permeated with reminders that God is faithful. Notice this theme in the following ten texts:

Genesis 9:13-16 (NKJV): “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Exodus 2:23-25: “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-9: “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”

Joshua 23:15: “Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.”

1 Kings 8:22-24: “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.”

Psalm 89:1-2: “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”

Psalm 121:1-4: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

Heb. 6:13-19: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,”

2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”

Revelation 21:5: “Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Overcoming Disadvantages

It would be easy to look at what others have, and then to focus on what we don’t have, and to get down on ourselves. We might be tempted to think that something isn’t worth the effort because of how it might be more difficult for us that it is for someone else. 

In the updated version of the book Cradles of Eminence, a common trait of over 700 famous men and women who had a significant impact in their fields of work is that they had to overcome some type of disadvantage.

Look for the bright side of your situation. A professional woman who had a very stressful job had a plaque hanging on her wall which read:  “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. . . . Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus. . . .” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 14a).

“Never to Die Again”

Several accounts may be found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible of those who were brought back from death, such as: 

  • The widow of Zarapheth’s son (1 Kings 17:22; cf. Heb. 11:35a);
  • The son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:35);
  • Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 9:25);
  • Lazarus (John 11:1-54);
  • The reappearing saints (Matt. 27:50-53);
  • Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43); and
  • Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12). 

All of these would later again experience physical death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was unique: He rose from the grave never to die again:

“And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: I will give you the sure mercies of David.'” – Acts 13:34 (NKJV).

“Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:23-25

After Jesus rose again, He ascended to heaven to be seated at God’s right hand (Mark 16:19).

Jesus is our living Savior!

God’s Retirement Plan

A little plaque displayed in a Christian family’s living room read: “Working for the Lord doesn’t pay much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”  There’s a lot of truth in that observation.  But how does it pay to serve the Lord? Does God reward us materially so that we will serve Him?

The devil challenged God in the book of Job, when he insinuated the main reason people serve God is because He arranges things so His followers have an easier way of life and never experience pain.  Isn’t it odd how the devil uses the absence of evil to speak against God?  In Job 1, the devil’s position was the absence of evil proves how desperate God is for followers, to the point He “pays” them by making life really easy. Today, this is turned around: they say the presence of evil in the world proves the non-existence of God.

God hasn’t promised to make the circumstances of life easier for anyone. Those who live for Christ will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12). The Bible teaches we should welcome adversity, when it arrives, as an opportunity to grow spiritually (see James 1:2). However, God provides benefits in the form of spiritual blessings as we make sacrifices for Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Paul encouraged the Hebrews to live faithfully for Christ, in the same manner they had when it wasn’t financially profitable for them to do so: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:32-34).

The passage says they had compassion on those who had been imprisoned for their faith “and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (v. 34).  “This may refer (1) to the losses which the Hebrews sustained in consequence of their becoming Christians; just as it sometimes now happens even in our own day. ‘When a Jew,’ says Ebrard, ‘shows himself determined to become a Christian, he is disinherited by his relatives; his share of the property is withheld from him; his credit and every source of gain, withdrawn; and he falls into a state of complete destitution.’ This same kind of injustice was extensively practiced in primitive times by both Jews and Gentiles. But (2) it is probable that the Apostle refers here more particularly to the heavy losses of property which the Hebrew Christians had incurred in times of persecution.” (Gospel Advocate Comm.).

We can learn about enduring financial losses and making financial sacrifices, by the way they perceived their setbacks as spiritual investments.  What we use – or lose – in service to God bring a greater return in three ways:

(1) It appraises higher. Heaven is far more valuable (see Matt. 16:26). Unfortunately, “some know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

(2) It last longer. God’s spiritual rewards are “enduring.”  Jesus said no investments in heaven can be lost or destroyed (see Matt. 6:19-21).  “He is not foolish who will give up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.”

(3) It touches deeper. The Lord knows the meaning of real sacrifice, like the woman who anointed him with expensive oil (see Matt. 26:6-13). 

Crying Out to God: Why We Can Believe in Prayer

Prayer requires opening our spirits and minds to God, and speaking to Him genuinely and sincerely. Numerous descriptions can be found in Scripture of the disposition and direction of our prayers:

  • Bowing the knees before the Father (Eph. 3:14)
  • Looking up to God (Psalm 5:3)
  • Lifting up our soul to the Lord (Psalm 25:1)
  • Pouring out our heart to God (Psalm 62:8)
  • Pouring out our soul to the Lord (I Sam. 1:15)
  • Calling upon the Lord (Gen. 12:8)
  • Crying out to God (Psalm 27:7; 34:6)
  • Drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28)
  • Crying to heaven (II Chron. 32:20)
  • Beseeching the Lord (Exodus 32:11)
  • Seeking God (Job 8:5)
  • Seeking the face of the Lord (Psalm 27:8)
  • Making supplication to the Father (Job 8:5; Jer. 36:7).

In order for us to experience the blessings God has in store for us through these types of petitions, we should pray to Him earnestly. James explained: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Consider three realities that can help us pray earnestly to God:

First, His interest in us. God loves us and wants to hear from us. Peter encouraged Christians to “[h]umble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When everyone else has forsaken us, the Lord will stand with us and strengthen us (2 Tim. 4:16-17). David recalled the reassurance of God’s nearness through prayer: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:4-5). The Lord is always only a prayer away.

Second, He inclination toward us. God wants to answer our prayers. He asks us to turn over every care to Him so that He can comfort us with peace (Phil. 4:6-7). John reminded us that the Lord is waiting to respond to our requests: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus assured every disciple: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). 

Third, His integrity with us. The Lord is faithful and will never let us down. The Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. For example, Paul prayed for relief from difficult circumstances, and rather than removing the problem, the Lord gave Him greater strength to cope with it (read 2 Cor. 12:1-10). Similarly, Solomon asked Him for wisdom to be a capable leader ,and the Lord provided this and in addition gave him great prosperity (read 1 Kings 3:5-15). God will exceed our expectations. Paul explained that the Lord “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

What is the church?

“Church” is an integral subject to Christianity. During His earthly ministry, Jesus addressed this topic. He said, “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

The Greek word which is translated church in our New Testament is “ekklesia,” which means “called out.” Let’s consider first what the church/ekklesia is not, then look at what it is. The church is not:

A physical building, made of wood and nails or brick and mortar.  We might use a shorthand “church” to refer to the church building or house – the place where the church meets. But in no sense is the building “the church.”

A state organization. In some countries, the church is the  government-sanctioned religion. Our Constitution discourages this type of approach to religious matters, so those in the United States would likely not have much confusion about this subject.  Jesus emphasized the non-worldly aspect of the church when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

A denominational organization. “Denomination” is used with money to indicate different values, and in a religious setting, it indicates different parts of a larger “church.”  Earl Radmacher, in his work The Nature of the Church, wrote: “People often speak of the various denominations or church, as, for instance, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church; but this use of ekklesia is never found in the Scriptures” (p. 150).

Now let’s look at how “church” is used in the New Testament.

In a general sense, “church” refers to the body of baptized believers over whom Christ reigns as Head and in whom His spirit dwells.  We can follow this definition by carefully reading Acts 2, especially beginning in verse 36 and continuing to the end of the chapter, verse 47: Jesus is Lord (v. 36), those who believe this should be baptized (v. 38), those who are baptized are added to His body (vv. 41, 47), and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which includes salvation from past sin and all its attendant blessings (vv. 38, 47).

“Church” is used in two senses with regard to this group: 

Church is used in a local sense, in which it refers to Christians who assemble and function together in a particular geographic area. Revelation 2 contains letters from Jesus to seven different local churches, each of which is identified as a church at a particular place. Jesus had this in mind in Matt. 18:17, in which a dispute would be resolved among members of a local assembly.

Church is also used to describe the universal, collective group of all Christians wherever they may meet.  Jesus gave Himself for this entity (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). We can be part of it today (I Cor. 12:13).

“Love One Another”

What the world needs – and wants – is real love

The Spirit of Love

The Bible emphasizes that love is an attitude that is expressed in compassionate action. The ancient Greeks used four distinct terms that are translated in English as love:

1. Eros: Sexual attraction. This is physical love or attraction. Our word “erotic” derives from this term. It is not expressly used in the Bible, though it is implied in connection with the intimate relationship between husbands and wives (see, e.g., I Cor. 7:1-6; Eph. 5:22-33).

2. Storge: Social attachment. This refers to the organic bond between family members or a social group. The negative form of this word appears in Romans 1:31 and II Tim. 3:3: “without natural affection.”

3. Phileo: Sentimental affection. It “denotes an inclination prompted by sense and emotion…” (Thayer). The name Philadelphia means “city of brotherly love.” This is the love shown between dear friends, and should be maintained among Christians (Rom. 12:10).

4. Agape: Selfless action. The focus is on a conscious expression of kindness or benefit toward someone, by operation of the will or intellect, simply because it is right.  “Agape” is the highest form of love because it directs its expression from God’s example (John 3:16; I John 3:16, 4:19). Because it is related to the will, it is not dependent on feelings or emotions to generate or regulate it. In a manner of speaking, it is possible to love (agape) someone but not like (storge or phileo) them. This is why Jesus could command His followers to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). 

The Signs of Love

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul uses 15 verbs to describe how someone with agape love will conduct themselves. Rather than being ruled by emotions, which change with the mood of the moment, they are governed by the knowledge of uprightness, and a desire to be and do good even toward those who aren’t appealing or deserving. This love “shows mercy” (Luke 10:25-37).

The Source of Love

Love grows as we deepen our relationship with God: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NKJV).

Paul observed how loving others is the natural product of fellowship with God: “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).

Jesus taught: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).