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APRIL 2006

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Joshua 24:31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.

 

We are told that one of the reasons for studying history is to avoid the mistakes that have been made in the past. Israel needed a lesson in history after those who had experienced Jehovah’s miraculous love in delivering them from Egypt and bringing them into the promised land were gone. A new generation arose who had not personally experienced “what the Lord had done for Israel.” They began worshipping like the people around them worshipped. God hated this worship because it was not the worship of Him but of idols (imaginary Gods). Israel was to stamp out this kind of worship and was to be an example of faithfulness. Instead they were being evangelized instead of being the evangelists.

We are told that it takes three generations before a spiritual revival loses its impact on the descendents of those involved in the revival. These verses seem to indicate that Israel’s departure occurred in the third generation.

Revivals usually start with people getting back to the “Word of God”. Josiah’s revival started with the people finding the “Bible” that had been lost in the temple (2 Chronicles 34). The protestant revivals that occurred 500 years ago were largely associated with the printing press and translating the Bible into a language that people could read. Revivals in the 1800’s occurred when those who were good church-going people started having “Bible Studies” and realized that the doctrine of the church differed from the doctrine of the Bible. Faith still comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Revivals are usually associated with people who have a concern for proper Bible interpretation and who then go to the Bible for their guidance and instruction.

Revivals cause us to love the Lord, to love His Word, to love one another and to love the unsaved. Revivals are characterized by loyalty and obedience to the Lord. Revivals bring joy and strength into our Spiritual lives. Revivals cause us to be selfless rather than selfish. Revivals sometimes create martyrs and sometimes martyrs create revivals. That is not the easy path nor is it the popular path, but it is the right path.

I do not believe that we should practice things in the church just because our forefathers practiced them. That is the error of Pharisees who were more concerned with their traditions than they were with doing what the Lord really wanted. But neither do I believe that we should cease practicing Spiritual principles that were practiced in the past in order to make things work today. I think it takes wisdom to keep what is right and to change what is often just traditional. Things that cannot be changed include the Gospel. The way it is presented can be changed but the message is eternal and unchangeable. In addition, the church is the Lord’s and not ours. When we change it to meet our needs, we have an organization that we are building rather than a living organism that the Lord is building (Matthew 16:18).

I believe that the people of every generation have to develop their own God-given convictions. To do this, we need the perspective of those who have been faithful before us. We need confidence in the Word of God to make sure our convictions are not just traditions. I am convinced that many of us have lost the perspective of history today as we argue about the things that are essential and the things that are nonessential. My conviction is that if it is in the Bible, and if it is clearly presented as truth for the day of grace that we live in, then it is essential. I want the perspective of history and the help of friends to make sure that I do not sell out to a religious system from which we are to be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). I don’t want to be part of the third generation.

 

Meditation for the week of April 2, 2006

Matthew15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

I am so glad that the Lord asked “why?” I know that He knew the answer before He asked the question and that the answer was that He was being forsaken so we could be saved. We who trust in Him will never have to be forsaken. But by asking “why”, He has given us permission to ask “why“ as well.

I have been involved in two strong universities in my life time. In one, if you sat in the student activity center and listened to the conversations, people were constantly asking, “why”. In the other people were constantly asking, “how”. The “how“ university taught people how to do things. These students wanted the answers to the problems and were not too concerned with why the answers were the answers. In the “why“ university, the students wanted to know why the answers were the answers. When we ask, “why” we are reasoning. When we ask, “how”, we are doing. Both have their place, but I have always been a “why” person.

Sometimes Biblical teachers give me the feeling that if I ask God “why“, I am not trusting Him. Sometimes I ask why He has put me in circumstances that I don’t understand. Other times I ask why he has given me Biblical instructions that seem to run counter to common sense. But I believe that the Lord tells us it is all right to ask “why” so long as we do it with a submissive spirit.

Sometimes when we ask the Lord “why“, He says we don’t need to know why. We just need to trust Him. In Proverbs 3:6 we are reminded, “ In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Sometimes He says, “Because it is good for you.” In Hebrews 12:11, He says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

Sometimes He says, “Because it will glorify or honor me.” In Matthew 5:16, the Lord says, “ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

So whether we are passing through circumstances we don’t understand or whether we are reading instructions for honoring the Lord in the Bible that we don’t understand, I believe it is all right and even a good thing to ask “why?” However, when we don’t fully understand the “why“, blessing still comes with trusting God to know and to do what is best for us. We still need to be obedient to the Lord’s “how” even when we don’t fully understand His “why“.

God is in heaven and we are on earth. He owes us nothing and yet gives us everything we need for life and for salvation. He does not have to tell us everything. He did not even allow the Lord when He was on earth to know the time of His own return (Mark 13:32). I believe that it is appropriate to ask “why” but we cannot demand to fully understand the ways of God before we trust Him and before we obey Him.

Meditation for the week of April 9, 2006

Luke 8:52-54 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn (or ridiculed Him), knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.

 

The resurrection of the Lord is a cornerstone truth of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 we find that there are three prominent truths in Paul’s Gospel preaching. One was that Christ died for our sins. The second truth is that He was buried. The burial proved that the disciples, that Pilate, that the soldiers who were set as a guard around the tomb, that the women who came to anoint Him on Sunday morning and that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were all convinced that the Lord had died. The third truth is that Christ was raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures. Paul says in this chapter that if we don’t believe in the resurrection, then we have nothing to believe in, and we who are believers are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). Martyrs then wasted their lives since there would be nothing to look forward to after death. But this chapter proves that Christ did rise and that there are a multitude of witnesses to prove it.

Why is it then, that the Lord’s ability to raise the dead is so hard to accept? In John 11, He waited until Lazarus was dead, buried and stinking before He came to His friend’s grave. Martha, Mary and the Jews all believed that He could have kept Lazarus from dying, but it never crossed their minds that He could raise Lazarus from the dead. Thank goodness, that didn’t stop the Lord from doing it!

Sadducees were a Jewish religious sect that didn’t believe in the resurrection. That is why they were sad you see. So in Matthew 22, the Sadducees ask about a situation where a woman had a husband who died leaving her no children. According to the old testament, a brother was to marry this woman and provide the first brother with children who could pass on his name and who could manage his inheritance. This woman went through seven brothers without having children by any of them. So the Sadducees wanted to know whose wife this black widow would be in the resurrection. Seems like she must have fed them all poison mushrooms or something but the Lord never dealt with that issue. He just showed the Sadducees that marriage is for now and not for then. Just because they didn’t believe in the resurrection didn’t mean that there was no resurrection.

In this passage, again, the Lord is laughed at when He suggests that the girl is sleeping. Now I don’t know if this proves that children under the age of 12 (verse 42), are safe and will be in heaven because they have not rejected the Lord (John 3:18), or if this girl was actually a disciple of Christ. But this terminology is used of those who are Christians and have died. The body is sleeping until it is awakened and raised at the resurrection. Most of us enjoy sleep so this is a comforting way to look at death. This girl was both dead physically and sleeping as far as the Lord was concerned.

I can assure you that I have never seen a resurrection. But I believe that those who die believing in Christ will be part of the resurrection of life (Revelation 20:4-5). However, those who have rejected Christ will also be raised one thousand years later at the resurrection of damnation (see John 5:29).

We may find it hard to believe that the Lord is going to raise the dead. But it is going to happen whether we believe it or not. Those who do not believe it will no longer laugh at Him, but He will laugh at them. Proverbs 1:26 refers to wisdom which pictures Christ. Wisdom says, “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” The wise person recognizes that since God has the power of life and death, it would be wise to turn from sin and skepticism and trust what God says. Believing in this truth gives us a reason for living and prepares us for dying.

Meditation for the week of April 16, 2006

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

 

An eleven-year-old boy with down syndrome was an inspiration to me recently. I was a visitor at a congregation where this boy and his family worship. When he saw me, he decided to be my friend whether I liked it or not, and I found out that I liked it. During the break between meetings, snacks were served. He went over and picked up one of the snacks with his bare hands and came over and handed it to me. I, of course, ate it, germs and all. Since I am now writing this, he obviously didn’t harm me. He sat beside me, he found the hymn book we were using and handed it to me. He hugged me and he kissed my hand. I held his hand all during one of the meetings and one of the ladies in the meeting showed me that she had taken a picture of our hands clasped with her digital camera during the meeting. I then had to have my picture taken with my friend. Now that boy just wouldn’t take no for an answer, and it was wonderful.

Sometimes we complain that we don’t have friends. Some say that if we have one or two good friends in a lifetime, we are very fortunate. However, if we don’t have friends, maybe we haven’t been friendly. We just might have to be the first to say, “good morning” instead of complaining that others never speak to us. We might have to reach out to someone in need even if we aren't sure that they “like” us. However, we need to recognize that no matter how friendly we are, some people will not accept us as friends. That hurts!

The Lord Jesus is the only one who is really the “friend that sticks closer than a brother”. He was the good Samaritan who saw us wounded by thieves. (See Luke 10:25-37). He came to where we were when the religious system would not. He FIXED US UP by pouring in oil and wine. He PICKED US UP by putting us on his own “beast” and then He PUT US UP in an inn where we could be cared for until He returns. I suppose the thieves represent what sin and the world does to us. The oil and wine represent the saving power of the Gospel. The Inn represents a congregation that takes care of those who have experienced salvation. The good Samaritan represents the Lord who has gone away but who has promised that He is coming again (John 14:1-3).

The difference between the Lord and my down-syndrome friend is that the Lord WILL take no for an answer. Many people reject the Lord when He extends His friendship and salvation to them. It must be heart-breaking for the Lord to realize that there are some people who will not respond to His love and friendship no matter what He does. My Bible says that there are some serious consequences if we pass from time to eternity without accepting the Lord as our Savior and friend (John 3:36).

I know we call some individuals “down-syndrome” people. But they aren’t. They are “up-syndrome” people and they are smarter than most “normal” people. They have friends because they are friendly. And their example speaks to us of the Lord’s desire to have each of us as His friend. Those who reject Him are the “down-syndrome” people. They lose a friend who wants to love them now during this present time, and they lose their souls for eternity.

 

Meditation for the week of April 23, 2006

1 Samuel 3:19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

 

Samuel seemed to think that every Word that the Lord gave him was precious and important. Because the people of Israel saw his reverence for the Word of God, they recognized that he was a prophet of God. I believe that reverence for the whole Word of God is still the mark of those who truly love the Lord because they have trusted in the Living Word, that is, Christ, through the written Word, that is, the Bible.

Today I hear people tell me that parts of the Bible are not very important. One of my friends said I spent too much time on the need to be born again because it was only found in John chapter 3. He was wrong. The new birth is in John 1:13, John 3, all the way through 1st John, the idea is found in James 1:18 and Peter explains in in 1 Peter 1:23. But even if John 3 were the only place where the Lord had said that the new birth was a must, then wouldn’t the new birth be a must? I think it would.

Have you ever noticed that when you get a letter from someone who is important to you, you tend to read it and re-read it. You might even post it on the refrigerator. If the person is not too important too you, you may just skim the letter. I believe that our attitude toward the Word of God tells us something about how important the Lord is to us.

However, I realize that we need to understand how to interpret the Bible in order to really understand what the Lord is saying to us. We need to understand that the old testament was written to Jews. It is illustrative for us today. The instructions were to an earthly people with earthly promises and an earthly land. The new testament was written to a spiritual people with spiritual promises and a spiritual land. Of course, there are promises and predictions made about the Jewish nation in the new testament. But the new testament is for a new people composed of both Jews and non-Jews who have come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Christ and have trusted Him to put away their sins.

I let the new testament explain the old and not the other way around. I try to read the Bible in its context. The context of the verse, the context of the book the verse is found in and the context of the Bible are all important when interpreting a passage. I consider the epistles (letters) in the new testament to be written by men that had understanding as to how God thought. These letters are the apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42) and are the key to Bible interpretation. Also, if the plain sense makes sense I seek no other sense. I personally will not let any interpretation of the Bible contradict the stand alone truth of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I love the Word of God. It contains the promise that God loves me. It gives me the assurance of eternal life. Everything that the Lord said while here on earth as well as what He has said through those that He inspired to write is important to me. I may not be known as a prophet of God like Samuel was but I hope I am known as one who “lets none of His words fall to the ground.”

 

Meditation for the week of April 30, 2006