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True Faith: Welcome Home!

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By David Binkley, Sr.

"So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a great way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20 NIV)

Only a few days ago, we arrived home late at night to the airport in Orlando. We had hoped and prayed for an earlier arrival, but due to extreme weather conditions and other factors, our plane sat on the runway in New York lined up with many other planes. There is no reason to complain about this, just to mention a fact. We enjoyed visiting with fellow passengers in the air-conditioned cabin. Since we arrived in Orlando around midnight, we prayed that we would have a safe drive home to Cedar Key. Thank God, everything went smoothly and we crossed the number four bridge around 2:00 in the morning. Later that day, we had many errands to run around town and we encountered many local people who came up to us with a hug and a friendly "welcome home." When our congregation gathered for worship this past Sunday, many more people approached us with more hugs and those sweet sounding words - "welcome home." One brother, who told how much he missed us, also admonished us that he hoped we would not be gone for 4 weeks again.

Today, I had to make a run down to the Historical Society to take Galina something important that she left at home. As I got out of the car, here comes Clark walking up the sidewalk after picking up the morning mail at the Post Office. He had the most sincere welcome home remarks and urged me to convey those feelings to Galina as well. He was most interested in some details of our mission trip to Russia. I shared with him some of the joys and some of the difficult moments that we often encounter in our work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I told him of how Galina was moved to tears when we came to the Passport Control desk in New York. We had been dealing with so many impolite and downright rude people in other countries. The man who asked to see our passports looked thoughtfully at all the stamps and visas, then with a big smile said to Galina, "Welcome Home." Like Galina, this agent was himself a U.S. citizen who previously lived in another repressive country. We felt good again to be home in the USA with satisfaction about our work of telling people the Good News that our great and loving God wants all people to be saved. Have you considered God lately?

Believers in God understand that God is always good in every sense of the meaning of good. Unbelievers cannot possibly understand the teachings of the Bible about the goodness of God until they believe the Bible is God's word. If you are willing to accept God's word as the revelation to man of God's absolute truth, then you will come to know God's amazing qualities.The Bible declares that God is certainly powerful beyond human comprehension. He created the entire material world, (Genesis 1) and can create any other universe at His pleasure. The omnipotence of God does not mean that He is some tyrannical dictator just watching and waiting to see if we do something wrong and then thump us with His finger.

We learn in the word of God about his goodness. "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." (Psalm 86:5 NIV) Many traits describe the goodness of God. Jesus referred to the Father in Heaven as perfect. (Matthew 5:48) In addition to being perfect, God is holy, righteous and just. He is the complete description of wisdom, love, kindness, grace, mercy, and every other quality that can be described as good.Whenever we consider the righteousness of God, we understand that God presents us with the highest standard of morality and human conduct. There is no standard higher or better in any respect than what God gives us in His word. God always cleaves to what is right and just. Moreover, God demands that people live up to his perfect standard of goodness.

The justice of God demands that He acknowledges and rewards goodness, and rewards evildoers according to the evil deeds. When Moses had finished chiseling out the two stone tablets with the law written upon them, God made known His righteous and just characteristics: "The LORD, The LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished." (Exodus 34 NIV)God will surely carry out His punishment of those who live in disobedience toward His divine will and purpose for our lives. The Bible even speaks of this punishment of evil as part of His righteousness: "He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth." (Psalm 96 NIV) "In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong." (Nehemiah 9 NIV)

When we read about the judgment and punishment that God brings upon evildoers, we understand from the scriptures that this is never intended as a means of destroying the person, but rather to bring the person back to God. Punishment is meant to correct, so that people will turn from sin and do the right thing. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11 NIV) Some punishment is given so that we will grow even stronger in our faith.

The final judgment of God will come upon all those who do not turn from their evil ways. Sinners who refuse to listen to God can live in expectation of his wrath. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) The most wonderful way in which we see the goodness of God expressed is when we come to understand His grace. Instead of giving out punishment to us when we are deserving of it, God shows the full extent of his love: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:4-7 NIV)You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ which meets at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write to me with any questions or comments at P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or dgbinkley@aol.com. Or you may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Check out our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.