The Apple Of God's Eye

February 23, 2011

Everyone Needs A Boss

afdr.ab.ca

It’s not generally known, but in the center of the Vatican there is a tiny private garden used by the pope when he feels like refreshing his mind and being alone with his thoughts. There’s a gardener there named Guiseppe who has been taking care of that area for more than 40 years.

One day Guiseppe was working in the garden when he noticed on the far side a bush begin to shake and shimmer as the light hit it. The whole bush seemed to dance and move. Guiseppe became afraid and ran to a telephone to call the cardinal.

“Cardinalli, Cardinalli, God’s in the bushes!”

And the cardinal responded about the way you would expect. He thought Guiseppe had been standing in the sun a little too long, or maybe he was getting a little senile. So he said, “No, Guiseppe, that’s not so.”

But Guiseppe says, “Cardinalli, look outa your Window.”

So the cardinal says, ”All right.” He walks over and sees the bush shimmering and shaking boldly and brightly. And he comes back and tells him, “You’re right, Guiseppe. You’re right!”

Then Guiseppe says, “Cardinalli, what should I do? What should I do?”.

“Id better call the Papa,” says the cardinal. So he telephones the pope. Meanwhile, Guiseppe is cringing down in his telephone booth. Down in the comer, he can barely see the light shining through, blinding everything around. Finally his phone rings again, and the cardinal says, “Guiseppe, I justa talked to the Papa.”

And Guiseppe says, “Well, what did he say?”

“The Papa say,” came the reply, “looka busy.”

When the boss is around, everyone tries harder, everybody “looka busy.”

Everybody has a boss

But who needs a boss? Do you? Judging by the fact that everybody has a boss, evidently everybody must need a boss, right up to and including Jesus Christ Himself. He has a boss. The Father is clearly in charge and the Father is the only one in the entire universe who does not have a boss. (more…)

February 7, 2011

The Mark of A Great Mind

The Plain Truth, October 1983

Do you know what the mark of greatness is?

Who hasn’t been insulted at some time? Or threatened or falsely accused?

Perhaps we experience situations where individuals are rude or abusive to us, lacking tact or consideration in what they say or do. Perhaps on crowded roads or highways inconsiderate persons suddenly swerve in front of us.

How do we respond to such irritating situations?

Many respond with an impulsive burst of rage or anger: “He can’t do that to me! I’ll show him … !” Then suddenly, a nasty verbal exchange, or worse, a serious accident or injury is generated.

The news media are filled with accounts of human tragedy caused by lack of emotional control under unpleasant situations. Many family and personal problems, costly work mishaps and even senseless killings result.

Harmful Emotional Habits

All of us from time to time face the need to learn control of our emotions under difficult circumstances. Such control is the mark of a great mind.

The Bible repeatedly admonishes us to be slow to anger. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient.” “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” “He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city” (Prov. 14:17, 29; 16:32, RSV).

Slow to anger? Patient and controlling thoughts and emotions under duress? How do we achieve these qualities of character? What values, understanding and attitudes produce them?

The Bible reveals there is a right time and place for anger (Eph. 4:26). But how do we control our temper when confronted with someone’s insults or rudeness or lack of consideration? How can we control emotions under trying personal difficulties so we don’t descend into the pit of resentment, bitterness or depression’?

What we need is the right spiritual perspective, attitude and power of mind! What we need is a positive and loving perspective about today’s confused world and the people in it. We need a right perspective about personal problems and difficulties that will enable us to cope with them in a beneficial way. (more…)

October 19, 2009

Seven Supplements That Comprise Living Faith: Do You Know Them?

The apostle James devoted practically his whole epistle to the subject of faith — living faith, faith that always produces fruit. But he also revealed a much neglected truth that holds the key to living faith. He wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

While the epistle of James deals primarily with faith, the two epistles Peter wrote put the accent on hope; as for the apostle John, he, in his three letters, expounded on what love is.

These three virtues combined — faith, hope and love — reveal to us the works of faith.

Interestingly enough, the apostle Peter groups these works in three simple verses, as he writes: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (II Pet. 1:5-7).

Do you actually understand the full meaning of these words? Peter mentions seven supplements — seven important works — that are to be added to faith. These seven works make our faith a living faith, not a dead one.

In any language, words are used to express ideas, but they often have different connotations in people’s minds. God expresses His ideas through the Bible. We must therefore grasp the spiritual intent of His words to fully understand the Bible’s meaning.

Virtue

Peter wrote, under God’s inspiration, that the first supplement to faith — the first of the required works — is virtue.

In the original Greek, this word appears four times in the New Testament, but it is not always translated “virtue” in the various English versions. Some translate it as “excellence,” “strength,” “right conduct” or even “wonderful deeds.”

In essence you must conduct yourself according to God’s way in order to have living faith. You must show courage and strength, and you must excel in your task.

Peter also wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Pet. 2:9). Here the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated as “virtue” is rendered “praises.”

Interesting, isn’t it? The words “praise” and “wonderful deeds” (Revised Standard Version) are used as equivalents of the Greek word elsewhere translated “virtue.”

Therefore, to have living faith (remember, “Faith without works is dead” — James 2:26), you must produce “wonderful deeds” or have a “praiseworthy conduct” in God’s sight. That’s what God wants you to do.

Knowledge

Let us now examine the second work that must be added to your faith to make it live. Peter states, “And beside this, giving all diligence. add … to virtue knowledge” (II Pet. 1:5).

Why should knowledge come right after virtue? The answer is obvious: to enable us to rightly determine just what are good and praiseworthy deeds. That knowledge only comes from God.

Consequently, you need to study the Bible and learn what God wants you to do. Your deeds must be evaluated by His standards and not your human standards. Without divine revelation, you cannot have this essential knowledge.

Today humanity as a whole has much knowledge of material things, but is lamentably ignorant of spiritual truths. Men can send highly sophisticated spacecraft into space and take remarkable pictures of the planets. Astronauts can set foot on the moon and return to earth safely.

Nevertheless, that kind of knowledge, however awe-inspiring, does not produce living faith. It cannot save a person. Your faith must be supplemented with the knowledge of God’s will and His ways.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” says your Creator. “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6).

The prophet Micah clearly shows what is the true knowledge that needs to be added to your faith: “He [God] hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Mic. 6:8).

Simple and beautiful words, provided you grasp their spiritual intent. To do justly is to live by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth; to love mercy is to be good to your neighbor — to love him as you love yourself; to walk humbly with God is to do His will, and to have no other gods before Him.

Unfortunately, ever since the beginning, the world has rejected this knowledge.

Temperance

After supplementing your faith with virtue and knowledge, you must exercise temperance or self-control. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add … to knowledge temperance” (II Pet. 1:5-6).

Of what value can knowledge be if you don’t put it to use — or if you lack self-control? More often than not, people know what they are supposed to do, but they lack the character to do it.

Misuse of anything leads to sin. For instance, there’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking. But too much eating and drinking can be sin.

Do you now see why God wants you to add to your faith — as a working part of it — self-control? You must learn to resist temptation, to stop before you come anywhere near breaking God’s law.

The best and surest way to resist temptation is to get closer to God, but you can only get closer to Him by doing His will. That’s having self-control or temperance.

God’s Spirit in you will give you all the help you need, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Patience

To virtue, which is good conduct or praiseworthy deeds, you must add godly knowledge; to knowledge, self-control or temperance in order to resist evil; and to self-control, steadfastness or patience (II Pet. 1:6).

Patience is one of the most important — and one of the hardest — things to practice. Without it you cannot grow in grace and knowledge, practice virtue, acquire knowledge or exercise self-control.

That’s why the apostle James wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:2).

To one degree or another we all lack patience. We often get upset and irritated when others don’t do what they are supposed to do, but we are very tolerant with ourselves.

How grateful we should all be to God that He does not lose patience as we do!

To have patience is to set your ideas, your goals, your mind on positive things — with faith — all the time. Patience never gives up, no matter what. It enables you to remember that God loves you and that He always knows what’s best for you.

Throughout history, all the people of God and every disciple of Christ had to learn to be patient. true Christians must not forget that God’s timing is always best, and that our faith is strengthened when we patiently wait on Him.

Godliness

Just what is godliness (II Pet. 1:6)? How does the Bible define it?

To be godly is to have a godlike attitude. You must learn to gradually think like God and behave like Him. God commands you to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2).

Indeed, you have to endeavor to be godly and respectful in every way — to think and act as God does — to be patient and kind as He is. Unfortunately, the much misunderstood words pious or piousness have been substituted for godliness in some English versions of the Bible, and people are confused.

Godliness is synonymous with true Christianity or true religion. In fact, in the Revised Standard Version, this is how the same Greek word has been translated in I Timothy 2:10: “But by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion [godliness].”

As you can see, to practice godliness is to have godlike religion — the true religion. Faith without godliness is dead.

Kindness

The “brotherly kindness” mentioned in this verse is translated from the Greek word philadelphia, which literally means “brotherly love.” This love is one of the works of your living faith. Philia love is the love of friendship—brotherly love—love of parent, or child. Strong’s Concordance says it means “to have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling).”

Though philia and agape are related in many ways, there is a fundamental and distinct difference between the two. Man can express philia love, but not agape. Philia love is prompted by a sense of emotion. God’s love is not an emotion. The simple difference is this: All men can express philia whereas agape love is attained by choice. God made us free moral agents. He gave us minds to direct our actions. For right actions, we must submit to His law of love by choice. Doing so will bring us happiness. But it also requires that we go against what is normal or natural for the carnal man.

All men were created with a natural love toward self. Remember, we are commanded to love neighbor as self. Philia love can be an unselfish, outflowing love, but only when combined with the agape love God gives you.

But for the most part, philia love is something man, without God’s Spirit can express, because it revolves around self. It means “fraternal affection, brotherly love”; in other words, the natural affection you have for those who relate to you in a special way.

Love

The final supplement — the seventh work — to living faith that Peter lists is charity, or the love of God (II Pet. 1:7). God’s love is concerned about that neighbor who is the absolute farthest away from any kind of natural, brotherly affection. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This kind of love is much more than just a natural affection you might have for those closely related to you. It is more than philia.

Do you really love everyone, including your enemies? Don’t you sometimes criticize others, see the evil in them, overlook their good deeds? Don’t you judge them instead of being a light to them?

Without question, there is much wrong in the world, and you, as a Christian, should not be a part of it, nor should you judge it. The whole world today desperately needs God’s Kingdom to come. Christ didn’t only die for His true followers. He died for every single human being.

Conclusion

Examine your heart. Is your faith truly supplemented with the seven works the apostle Peter mentions in this section of his second epistle?

In concluding this section, Peter wrote, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things [if you practice these works of faith], ye shall never fall” (II Pet. 1:10).

What a tremendous promise! If you have living faith — faith supplemented with these seven works — you will never, never fall. You will never give up. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (verse 11).

That’s your precious, ultimate reward. Let your faith be truly supplemented with the works of the Holy Spirit!

Research Source: The Good News, February 1982

April 1, 2009

How Leaven Pictures Sin — An Important Reminder

The apostles were jolted! First, the sound of a violent windstorm filled the house where they were meeting. Then, almost before they had time to think, glowing flames of fire began leaping upon them. God’s Holy Spirit had entered them, and the power of that Spirit was far greater than the forces of nature they had witnessed.

To their amazement, they could now speak words they had not spoken before. Quickly the news spread — here were men who could speak many languages. Thousands speaking different languages eagerly gathered to hear the apostles. What they heard shocked them. Many were deeply convicted by their guilt in the death of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

A mighty urge to do something stirred within them, and they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” The reply echoed loud and clear: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Those early Christian converts began something that God’s true Church still practices — baptism for the forgiveness of sin. But how, exactly, should a true Christian deal with sin, both before and after baptism? This question brings us to our subject, the Days of Unleavened Bread.

To understand this Festival and its meaning and application to our lives, let’s go back in history. These days are commanded Because of famine, the descendants of the patriarch Israel ended up in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. There they became slaves (Ex. 1:8-11). Through a series of miracles, God finally released the Israelites from bondage. Among the miracles was the death of the Egyptian firstborn. To protect their own firstborn, the Israelites were required to begin keeping the Festival called Passover (Ex. 12:3-14). For Christians today, this Festival pictures our acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.

Just after the Passover, God instituted another festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread (D.U.B.). This seven-day festival pictured the release of Israel from Egypt (verses 15-17). The D.U.B. were held yearly during Abib, which is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This month corresponds to the time of the Roman calendar months of March and April.

Both the 15th and 21st of Abib, the first and last days of the Feast, are “holy convocations” — days of rest and worship (Lev. 23:6-8). These days are still kept by true Christians today, and will also be kept after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Ezek. 43:2, 7, 45:21). This year (2009) they fall on April 9 and 15.

Leaven symbolizes sin During this Festival, all leaven and leavened foods are to be put out of the home and off the property (Ex. 12:15, 13:7). This includes yeast, baking soda, baking powder — all leavening agents, substances that produce fermentation and cause dough to rise.

The products of leaven are bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies and some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also use leavening agents. Of course, there is nothing sinful about these products themselves. Removing them from our homes is merely a symbolic enactment of removing sin from our lives.

Instead of eating these leavened foods, replace them with unleavened products (Ex. 12:15, 19-20, Lev. 23:6). These include matzos, hardtack and a number of flatbreads. But beware: Some foods that are sold as “kosher for Passover” contain leavening agents. If you are in doubt about whether a product is leavened, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper. If you are still unsure, ask someone experienced or don’t eat it. Remember: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Whenever you eat bread during these days, it should be unleavened.

Far beyond the physical uses of leaven are the significant spiritual meanings. After being jeered at and tempted by the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus said to His own disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). The disciples didn’t know what He meant. Do you? The disciples thought Jesus was talking about physical bread, but He wasn’t. He was talking about the doctrine of the religious authorities, which led people into sin (Matt. 16:11-12, 23:13).

By way of analogy, this leaven of false doctrine has spread through the whole world as a tool of Satan’s deception (Rev. 12:9)! The apostle Paul also used leaven as a symbol for sin. A certain Church member was committing a serious sin and making no progress toward repentance. Paul said this person was like a little leaven that would affect the whole lump — other Church members — with his sinful way of life. The person was put out of the Church. Since Paul wrote to the brethren during the Days of Unleavened Bread, they would have already put out the physical leavening from their homes. Now he encouraged them to put out the leaven of malice and wickedness — sin. He told them to eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth — righteousness (I Cor. 5:1-8).

Sin versus righteousness

When you consider the nature of both leavened and unleavened bread, you can see several spiritual comparisons with sin and righteousness. Let’s notice them:

  • Living in sin is easy; being righteous is hard. Because of its soft texture, leavened bread is easier to eat than unleavened bread. Likewise, going the way of sin is easier than living righteously (Matt. 7:13-14). Obeying God is difficult even for a Christian, because you still have a carnal nature that wants to sin (Rom. 7:14-25). 
  • Sin exalts the self, righteousness builds humility. Leaven puffs bread up. The same is true of sin. It puffs up the sinner — his desire is to exalt himself rather than allow God to rule him (Ps. 10:3). When you choose to live God’s righteous way of life, you abase selfish desires. 
  • Sin’s pleasures are temporary; the benefits of righteousness endure. Leavened bread left out soon becomes hard and moldy. Unleavened bread lasts much longer. Spiritually, the pleasures of sin soon pass away (Job 20:12-16). The end result is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Righteousness, in contrast, brings both temporal and eternal blessings (Deut. 28:1-13, Ps. 15). 
  • Sin spreads easily; righteousness is built slowly. It doesn’t take long for leaven to spread throughout a loaf of bread. This is the way sin is — it spreads rapidly (Gal. 5:9), whereas building right character takes a lifetime. 
  • Sin is based on deceit; truth is the basis for righteousness. What you see is not what you get with a loaf of leavened bread. Air pockets give the impression that there’s more in the loaf than there really is. Sin also appears to be something it isn’t, deceiving the sinner into thinking he is getting something worthwhile when he is only earning the death penalty (Heb. 3:13). With righteousness there is no deceit, only truth (Ps. 119:151, 172).
  • Sin is more prevalent than righteousness. Most people prefer leavened bread because they find its tastes more desirable. Is it really better? Not necessarily — just more common. People are accustomed to it. Spiritually, the same is true. Most people prefer to live in sin. But you must reject sin, and choose to live a righteous life (Deut. 30:19).
  • Sin builds a false image; righteousness builds true character. As you have seen, leavened bread gives a false impression. So does the sinner. He may appear impressive on the outside, but is he? Read Matthew 23:27. True character is based on much more than outward appearance. It involves righteous living based on obedience to God’s Word (I John 2:5). Grow in righteousness 

What God is showing us through the analogy of leaven and sin, particularly at this time of the Days of Unleavened Bread, is clear: He wants you to escape the clutches of sin and lead a righteous life. But how can you eliminate sin and grow in righteousness? The following “three Rs” — recognize, resist and repent — can help.

  • Recognize sin. Can you recognize sin? Many cannot. Why? Most people overlook God’s simple, clear definition for sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4, Authorized Version). 

Discerning sin is a matter of applying God’s law. At the basis of God’s law are the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17, Deut. 5:6-21). Do you know what the Ten Commandments are? If not, how can you possibly expect to overcome and put sin — spiritual leaven — out of your life? God’s laws are real, working forces that guarantee good results when you are in harmony with them. They were given to be lived and acted upon, not ignored or outrightly rejected!

Beyond the basic commandments, God requires obedience to biblical principles referring to one’s conduct. While some things are not written in the form of a direct command, the underlying principle or spirit of the law is nonetheless just as binding (Matt. 5:17-48, Rom. 13:9)!

Under this category fall aspects of God’s civil laws and statements made by His apostles and patriarchs. Examine yourself, as II Corinthians 13:5 commands, and see how God’s laws expose the “leaven” in your character. Are you REALLY putting God first in EVERYTHING? Are you humbly submitting to His authority? Can you admit when you’re wrong?

  • Resist sin. We have already seen through the analogy of leaven that sin spreads quickly and easily. Therefore you must resist temptation before it turns into sin (Jas. 1:13-15). 

Doing this requires self-control — actively resisting wrong thoughts and replacing them with right thoughts (II Cor.10:4-5): In struggling against sin you may reach a point when you grow so battle weary that darts of self-pity and injustice pierce you. At such times it’s easy to think you’ve done all you can. Don’t be fooled. You can do more (Heb.12:4).

Throughout the Bible we see the number 7 used as a symbol of completeness (Gen. 2:2, Josh. 6:16, Rev. 16:17). In relationship to the Days of Unleavened Bread, the number 7 pictures the complete elimination of sin. You should earnestly strive to eliminate sin from your life (II Tim. 2:19).

  • Repent of sin. Even when you recognize sin and resist it, you will still find yourself falling into sin (I John 1:8). When this happens, what should you do? Strive not to sin, but when you do, seek God’s forgiveness. Upon real repentance — abandoning the wrong way and beginning to live the right way — God promises to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Some would say not to try so hard — to just rely on grace. But what does God say? “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Will you overcome all sins all at once? Absolutely not! Some sins are so deeply and habitually rooted that they may take years to totally overcome. Don’t use that as an excuse to continue, but don’t dismay either. Ask yourself, Am I sinning as often as I once did? Does this sin have as much control over me as it once did? If the answer is no, you’re growing — making progress.

Today the world is in misery because of sin. Yet humanity rejects the very Festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread — that pictures the process that would lead them out of their sins. What about you? Are you going to keep these special days as God has instructed His people to? Will you be learning the many important lessons that the Days of Unleavened Bread are meant to teach you’? If you do work at ridding your life of sin, you will be greatly blessed, now and in the future as a member of God’s Family: “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Prov. 12:28).

 

Source:  The Good News, March 1984, By George M. Kackos

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