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APRIL 2016

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What Compassions are New Every Morning?

 

Lamentations 3:21-23  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

 

This Morning

I got up refreshed after a good night's sleep this morning.  That doesn't always happen.  Some times I have trouble falling asleep and sometimes I have trouble staying asleep.  But last night was a good night and when I got up refreshed, I thanked God for his compassions that fail not, that are new every morning.

 

Now I suppose that there are a lot of compassions that fail not and that are new every morning for which we should be thanking God.  But I think that the act of waking up is a miracle in itself.  I have often asked myself, “What really causes me to sleep? And what really sustains me through the night and wakes me up in the morning?”  I seldom wake up with an alarm clock even when I know I have to get up earlier than usual.  My internal alarm clock seems to be set somehow and I usually wake up several minutes before the alarm goes off.  What causes that?  I know that there is likely a scientific explanation for all of this.  But since the God I worship is the creator God, I am convinced that God has programmed me in ways that I don't fully understand.

 

Miracles for which we Should be Thankful

I don't understand what keeps my heart beating, what causes me to take the next breath, what consciousness is and what allows me to think,  Again, science tries to explain these things but these principles were working in the lives of humans and animals long before science had anything to say about them.  We are living miracles.  The earth and all of its inhabitants and ecosystems are living miracles.  Surely we need to thank God for allowing us to be part of this miraculous creation, and we need to thank Him for allowing us us to personally experience His sustaining grace every morning,

 

Of course not everyone believes as I do that there is a Creator God who has a personal interest in every one of us.  I believe that every name of every person born into this world is known to God and He has written those names in His book long before we were ever born.  He knew what our parents would name us.   He does, however, blot the names of those who reject Him out of that book; but not until He has tried repeatedly to obtain their love and trust.  One way He does that is by getting us up every morning.  The patience and love of God is beyond understanding because he sustains the lives of those who do not believe in Him just as He sustains the lives of those who do.  He does not lose patience as I would but He provides rain for the “just and for the unjust.”  See Matthew 5:45.

 

I Marvel at the Grace of God

Why didn't the Lord Jesus call those twelve legions of angels and destroy the world when He was being betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane by one who claimed to be a disciple and friend?   Because the Lord had come to save and not to destroy.  John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  Why does the Lord get us up every morning?  Because He wants us to understand that He is good and the sustainer of life.  He wants us all to trust Him and to worship Him.  Why hasn't He come again? It is because there is still someone, perhaps someone reading this meditation, that He still wants to save.  2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (to come again), as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

 

The Objections

It is popular today to say that there is no god.  I personally think that is a self-centered foolish position and my only response to that is the answer of King David who said in Psalms 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart,'There is no God.'" Logically there is nothing to gain and everything to lose when we take that position.  However I do understand why there are people who take the position that there has to be a creator God who sustains us and gets us up every morning, but that they really don't know how to know who that Living and True God is. 

 

When that objection is raised, I just suggest reading the Bible, particularly the New Testament and particularly the Gospel of John or the book of Romans.  There is just something about the Bible that is different from reading other books.  If one reads and asks the Lord to answer any honest objections that we have, I believe that there is a real Holy Spirit Who will guide us into all truth.  I suppose I could spend a lot of time explaining why I trust the Bible and the Lord Jesus but I will never convince anyone that the Lord Jesus was God made known in the flesh and that He is trustworthy.  I will never be able to convince anyone that He is the only God and that other gods are man-made and cannot save.  But one of the reasons I am glad that I have been convinced that the Lord Jesus is my creator God and my sustainer of life is that I like a God who will die for me rather than requiring me to doe for Him in order to be saved. 

Meditation for the week of April 3, 2016

Loving the Lost!

 

Luke 12:4-5  "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

 

Please be Patient!

Recently, I was at a Bible Study where those of us who are “believers” were admonished to share our faith. We were told that if we loved the unsaved we had a responsibility to tell them that sinners need to be saved and that they can be saved through trust in the Lord Jesus.  But I walked away and asked myself, “What are we telling the unsaved that they need to be saved FROM?  Yes I know that I have ended a sentence with a preposition, but I don't know how else to say this.   Again, I say, why do we need to be saved and from what do we need to be saved?  We were told to emphasize the sin question.  I agreed with that.  But I noticed that we “share,” we don't preach anymore, which is the word the Bible uses most of the time.  We talk about sin, but we hesitate to use the term HELL.  Frankly, I confess, I am one of those. I like to make the Gospel attractive and acceptable,   I don't like the concept of hell, I wish that hell didn't exist, and I am afraid of offending good friends by speaking about hell.  If you are one of my friends that rebel at the word “hell” please be patient and hear me out. I feel I must speak on this topic since I do believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit with regard to the writing of these meditations; and after being at the Bible Study, my normal regular reading for that day included the verse I have quoted above.

 

Who Has Authority to Cast into Hell?

The Lord in the previous chapter had criticized the religious rulers and now they were “out to get Him!”  But the Lord says not to worry about the Pharisees but rather be concerned about One who can not only kill but can cast into hell.  I am confident He is talking about Himself.  Satan wants us to end up in hell, but only the Lord has the authority to put us there.  This word for hell is not the word for the unseen state or the grave.  It is the word for a garbage dump south of Jerusalem called Gehenna where a fire burned at all times.  The term is used metaphorically in the Bible for everlasting destruction.  The Lord spoke more about this place than the writers of the epistles did.  But they used different terms to teach the same thing.  Paul tends to use the term perdition which means to perish or to be destroyed.  The term usually refers to eternal destruction without explaining what is involved.  Reading the book of the Revelation makes it clear that the Lake of Fire, which is likely what Gehenna fire is picturing, is the final destination of those who reject the Gospel (Revelation 20:13-15). This is what Paul's eternal destruction is all about.  Eternal destruction is not a loss of “being” or existence but it is a loss of well-being.  Eternal destruction is the eternal conscious punishment of the unbeliever in Gehenna fire who has rejected Christ.

 

There seems to be a distinction in the Bible between the unseen state of unbelievers who die now verses their final destination which is the hell to which the Lord is referring.  But as I understand the Bible, dying without trusting Christ will consign the unbeliever to a place of torment even now as we see in Luke 16:24.  Some would say the whole concept of hell or hades or the unseen state in Luke 16 is metaphorical and is not real.  But if the Lord uses a metaphor to explain what happens to the unsaved after they die, what must the real thing be like?  He obviously uses a metaphor when referring to Gehenna fire which ultimately stands for the Lake of Fire which is the unbeliever's final destination.   I assume He would use a metaphor because understanding the real thing is so difficult.  I hope (and believe) that at least Luke 16:24 and ultimately Revelation 20:15 are not metaphors.  But even if they are, that does not solve the problem.  It would be terrible to end up suffering for eternity in the real thing which certainly would be worse than the picture being used to describe that real thing.

 

Can the Warning Be Done in a Loving Way?

Yes it can!  It would be unloving not to tell people what the warning signs of cancer or heart attack or stroke are.  Hopefully, the warning signs will be seen early enough so that the doctors can “save” the person who is sick.  We believers have a solution for the sickness called “sin.”   It works 100 percent of the time.  John 5:24 summarizes this cure.  The Lord says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

 

I am a believer today because I believed the Bible when it talked about hell.  Frankly, I was afraid of going there.  Some of you may accuse me of trying to “scare you into believing.”  I would take your criticism as a compliment.  Eternal conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire (Hell or Gehenna fire) is something to fear.  But take courage.  The Lord did not come to condemn, He came to save.  John 3:17says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  It would be unloving not to warn those I love about something that is so much a part of the Gospel and in which I so firmly believe.  

Meditation for the week of April 10, 2016

God Uses the Unqualified

 

Judges 6:13  Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."

 

Who Forsook Whom?

The children of Israel had once again done evil in the sight of the Lord and were now in bondage to the Midianites.  But the Lord had his eye on a man who could deliver the children of Israel.  This man didn't see himself as a Savior.  He didn't think his ancestry gave him any special power, rights or privilege.  His own father had an altar to Baal.  He didn't think he was qualified to deliver the children of Israel from the bondage of the Midianites.  However, God saw it differently.

 

At the beginning of this story, Gideon is found threshing wheat and hiding it from the Midianites.  He was doing what he could.  While he was threshing, he was also wondering where the God was that had done such miracles for Israel in the past.  When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, it didn't appear to him like “the Lord was with Israel.”  He thought they had been completely forsaken.  But the Lord had not forsaken them, they had forsaken Him.  Now the Lord wanted a man to deliver them and He was choosing a man who thought himself to be totally unqualified.

 

God Wants Israel to Know that He is their Savior rather than some Man

Gideon was a typical Jew and needed a sign to know that God was speaking to him.  So the Angel of the Lord brought fire out of a rock and consumed Gideon's sacrifice in a most miraculous way.  But Gideon also needed another sign.  So he asked God to have a fleece on the threshing floor get wet during the night while the threshing floor remained dry. God did this for him. But then he must have realized that someone could have poured water on the fleece so he asked for a second sign.  He wanted the fleece to be dry and the threshing floor wet.  The Lord obliged and did what he asked.  Gideon also needed to cleanse himself from Baal worship even though that meant destroying his father's idol.  This is probably what the Lord means in the New Testament when He says a disciple must hate his father and mother, that is, family cannot be more important than obeying the Lord.

 

Gideon is now Ready (Almost)

So now Gideon and his army are ready to go.  But the army is too large even though it was only 32,000 men.  So first those who are afraid are sent home.  I would have been in that bunch of 22, 000.  They had underestimated God.  But then the Lord wanted to know how they would drink out of water that was available to them.  Some got down on their knees and put their mouths in the water.  Others brought the water up to their mouths with their hands and lapped it.  Those who got down on their knees to drink couldn't keep their eye on the enemy while drinking.  9700 men underestimated the enemy. Those who lapped could keep their eye on the enemy.  That left 300 who knew the power of God, but they also knew the power of the enemy.  But Gideon still needed more encouragement.

 

The Enemy knows More about God than the Believer Does at Times

The Lord sent Gideon down into the camp of the Midianites to hear the dream of one in the camp. He hears a man tell a dream to his companion and the companion tells the man the interpretation which Gideon hears.  The Lord has revealed to the enemy that Gideon is about to destroy them.  Now Gideon is finally ready.  Isn't it nice to know that when the Lord wants to use us, He doesn't give up on us, even when we continue to question His power and ability?

 

A Unique Battle Plan

Gideon arms his 300 men chosen by God with a trumpet in their right hand and a torch in a pticher in their left hands.  That didn't leave much room for a sword or a spear.  As a matter of fact, holding up a trumpet and pitcher just might look like a person on a cross.  When they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, the whole army of the Midianites became confused and they fought each other and then fled.  Obviously, the victory was not Gideon's but the Lord's.

 

Is there Application to Us?

We could probably win a lot of battles as Christians if we would allow the Lord to do the fighting.  The trumpets would speak of preaching and warning.  The pitchers would speak of true believers who are broken so that the light of the Gospel can be seen in their lives. If we need encouragement to do what the Lord asks us to do, the Lord will give it so long as we are not testing Him but testing whether we are truly understanding His will.  And we need to remember that the enemy is not dumb.  The enemy knows that the Lord wins.  That should give us confidence to preach grace and truth and to show that grace and truth through lives that have been broken so that the light of the Lord can shine through. 

 

The Lord has been and will be victorious. 

 

Meditation for the week of April 17, 2016

Blindness is Hereditary!

 

Genesis 48:10  Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them.

 

Blindness is a physical infirmity but it is also a spiritual infirmity. 

I have often wondered what it would be like to be blind.  I have had friends who were blind and they seemed to be able to “see” in some ways better than their friends who could actually see.  However, there are some things that they cannot do.  I never rode in a car where one of them was driving.

 

People who are blind depend on their other senses and those senses become very sensitive.  Israel (Jacob) was blind at the end of his life but he seemed to understand where his two grandsons were standing when he went to bless them.  He may have known that custom would have placed the older grandson where he could be reached with his right hand and the younger would be where he could be reached with his left hand.  In the Bible the right hand was a place of power.  The oldest should have been blessed by Jacob's right hand since the oldest usually got a “double portion” of the father's inheritance.  He usually took over as the family leader.  That was not always true of course.  In Joseph's case, Reuben was the firstborn and should have gotten a double portion of Israel's inheritance but he had lost that position due to his immorality (Genesis 35:23-24).  But that double portion was being given to Joseph and to his two sons.  In the book of Genesis, which is the book of beginnings, the first born is often set aside and a later child is given the blessing since the New Testament principle of the new birth is being pictured for us long before it was formally taught.  What we are by nature (our first birth) is not acceptable to God, it is what we are when we are born again or born of the spirit that makes us acceptable to God (John 3:6).  So while Jacob was blind physically, he apparently was not blind spiritually.

 

Blindness can lead to tragedy!

Some people make grave mistakes because they are blind.  When Isaac (Jacob's father) went to bless his sons at the end of his life, he made his decisions based on “feelings”.  In Genesis 27, he had planned to bless Esau but Jacob (the supplanter) followed his mother's instructions and used the skins of goats to make it appear he was hairy like his brother Esau.  Jacob succeeded in deceiving his father and got the blessing Isaac had intended for Esau.  Again, while the boys were twins, Esau was the firstborn and would normally have received the blessing of the firstborn.  Isaac was deceived because he was blind and depended on his feelings.  He should have asked someone to confirm the identity of this person who talked like Jacob but smelled and felt like Esau.  Many people today who are blind spiritually are making decisions based on feelings rather than on the instructions of Scripture.  They too are being deceived by their feelings.

 

Blindness was hereditary.  Isaac had the problem and now Jacob, his son, has the problem.  But spiritually we all have the problem.  When the Lord was trying to explain to his disciples on his last trip to Jerusalem that He was going to be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and that He was going to be scourged and killed and the third day He would rise again, they couldn't understand Him.  What He said was pretty plain but it didn't fit with their understanding of what was supposed to happen.  The Lord couldn't “confuse them with the facts” because their minds were already made up.   So we read, “they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken (Luke 18:34).”  We find that at the end of the church age, those who consider themselves to be part of the church will have the same problem.  We read, “you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  (Revelation 3:17).”  The problem is that those who are blind no longer know that they are blind.

 

Hereditary blindness is also the problem of those who have never trusted the Lord.  Paul says, they are blinded by the God of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).  But again, most of those who are blind, think they see and have understanding.  They know the wisdom of this world, but they don't know the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17).

 

Only the Lord can cure blindness

Blindness is a problem that only the Lord can cure so that we see clearly.  Maturity doesn't necessarily help us see more clearly.  In fact, as we grow older, our eyes may grow dimmer.  We may actually not “see” as well as we did when we were younger.  Many Christians have given themselves over to the wisdom of this world and no longer see clearly.  If we are unsaved and if we are rejecting the truth of Scripture, Satan surely must be happy.  He has done the work that He intends to do.  He has blinded the minds of those who believe not.  What a tragedy!  The cure is found in letting God tell us what is right, rather than in us telling God!

 Meditation for the week of April 24, 2016