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).

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).

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). 

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).

The Three “Bears”

  1. We should bear each other’s burdens“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
  2. We must bear our own burdens“For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal.6:5).
  3. Jesus will help us with our burdens “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Great Thoughts about God

In the opening chapter of his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer observed: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.” 

Our thoughts of God are significant. Paul wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). David wrote: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

While the Bible does not set out to prove God’s existence, it provides concrete reasons which lead to the undeniable conclusion He exists. God is expecting us to use our senses and our sense and deduce this. We may not be able to know everything (which is what atheists claim), but (unlike agnostics) we can be certain of enough items to understand God is real. Here are four convincing reasons:

1.  THE COSMOLOGICAL REASON: Every cause has an effect, so there must be an uncaused, first cause of all finite beings and things, and this is God. “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Rom. 1:19-20).

2.  THE MORAL REASON: All people have a moral impulse, which calls for justice or reward that is not always experienced in this lifetime. Therefore, an eternal, spiritual world exists, and an eternal, spiritual being controls the rewards and punishments. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

3.  The ONTOLOGICAL REASON: We can deduce that God is real because mankind has an idea of an infinite, perfect divine being, who has no superior. “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? 24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:23-24).

4.  THE TELEOLOGICAL REASON: There is an observable order or design in the universe that cannot be explained by the object itself.  Therefore, there is an intelligent being who provided this order, and that Being is God. The law, order and design of the universe is evidence of a divine Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1; see also Job 12:7-10; Isa. 40:21-26; Rom. 1:20-21). God has a design for you and me, too: to love Him and serve Him (Eccl. 12:13-14).

Six Methods for Time-Effective Bible Study

If you’re interested in getting the most out of the time you have available to read the Bible, here are a half-dozen ideas you can try:

The Basic Approach: Try the old school method: Read the Bible through a chapter at a time. Begin in Genesis (or Matthew) and finish in Revelation.

The Alternative Approach: Use a translation other than the one you regularly use, and read through the Bible. If you usually use the King James Version, give the American Standard or New King James editions a try. The differences in expressions will be more noticeable, and will help you see more shades of meaning in a text.

Get Smart: Use your smartphone, desktop or laptop and  download a Bible-reading app. YouVersion, Olive Tree and Blue Letter Bible are popular options.

Listen Up: Find the Bible on CD – or cassette – and spend time listening to Scripture being read. You can also find it for smartphones or tablets on Audible or other online sources.

Book by Book: Select a Bible book and read it through more than once. You’ll see new features by re-reading it.

Keep Up with Class: Get involved in a regular Bible class and follow the Bible texts assigned for each  class. You’ll get the added bonus of being ready to participate or field questions about the text, and will feel better prepared to discuss the material.

More info on effective Bible Study is in our YouTube video: Three Keys for Profitable Bible Study (II Tim. 2:15).