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APRIL 2018

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Oh, Believe it!


Rom 3:3-4  For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?    Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND MAY OVERCOME WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."


The Importance of being Right!

Some people are saying that if I am wrong about God, I have wasted my life.  They are saying that if you who do not believe in the Lord Jesus are wrong about God you have wasted your eternity.  They are wrong.  If I am wrong about God, I have lost nothing.  I have still been able to enjoy a life that was better than the one I would have had, had I not believed in God.  Belief in God has made me accountable.  It gave me a conscience about sin.  It gave me sympathy for those less fortunate than I. It caused me to spend my money carefully.  It caused me to live a more healthy life style. It gave me something to look forward to after I die.  It gave me hope.  I haven't lost anything if I should be wrong but for those who reject the Living and True God, they have lost their souls for eternity.  Now I realize that in a sense I have oversimplified because belief in my God has kept me from believing in what I consider to be false Gods.  I don't want to be wrong on that score which is why I have spent years studying the internal proofs that the Bible is the book that tells us who wins in the end.  Those internal proofs are the prophesies that have already been fulfilled when the Lord came the first time and the things the Bible says about the way I think and act that no one but the Living and True God could really know.  Fulfilled prophecies connected with the nation of Israel also give us reason to believe that the Bible is the Word of God.


The Resurrection

Many people do not believe in the Lord Jesus because they say that they cannot believe in the resurrecton of the Lord.  They say that resurrections have never happened.  Some of these same people believe in reincarnation based on the cycles of the seasons of nature.  After all, every year things go dormant or appear to be dead in the winter and come back to life in the spring.  That is particularly true in the areas where winter involves weather that is below freezing.  However, the Bible says that the Lord was raised from the dead and there is no proof of reincarnation when it comes to the lives of humans.  The Old Testament prophesied that the Lord would be raised, the Gospel writers record it, the epistles explain it and in 1 Corinthians 15, we find there were over 500 witnesses that saw the risen Lord "at once."  His tomb is empty.  Angels said He is alive.  Because He lives, I have confidence that should I die before the Lord comes, that I too will be raised from the dead. I also have confidence that when I trust Him, He will take me to heaven.  I have confidence that I have joined the winning team in this battle for souls.


Eternal Conscious Punishment

I understand that there are many reasons why people, many of them good people, have rejected the God I love.  One of those reasons has to do with eternal conscious punishment.  Can a good God really put people who reject Him and His Son in a place of torment for all eternity?  Now if I were God I wouldn't do that even though I might want to.  We would like to think we are more civilized than that.  Yet we do believe in retribution and "justice" when people harm us or others.  My God says that sin is so repugnant to Him that it does deserve eternal conscious punishment.  However, He also says His love for us is such that He wants to spare us from the consequences of our sin.  That is why He sent His Son to the cross to die--the just One for us the unjust (1 Peter 3:18).  He does not ignore guilt, but He has found a way for us to be forgiven and for justice to be served. 


The one sin God will not forgive is the rejection of Him and His love which is the rejection of the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for us.  Just because people do not want to believe in eternal conscious punishment does not change the reality of that place.  Everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, not for mankind (Matthew 25:41).  However, those who choose Satan's lie over the love of God will get to spend eternity in that place with the Devil.  I am convinced He will be mocking those who rejected the Lord.  He does not love, He hates.  He lies.  He murders. 


I believe that should I be wrong (and I am not), I will have had a better life than I would have had without my confidence in what others would like to be believe is a fiction.  But if I am right and you reject the love of God, if you think God is being unfair to punish people who reject Him, if you believe Satan's lies, then you will have lost your soul for eternity and you will have only yourself to blame.


There is a song that I like that goes something like this:


There's a story ever new, it is wonderful and true

And the best thing you can do is believe it!

It will calm your troubled breast and will give you peace and rest,

It's of all the news the best, O believe it!


Meditation for the week of April 1, 1018

Do you Want to see Water turned to Wine?


John 2:5  His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."


Does the Lord Speak to us Today?

The Lord spoke to Joseph, Daniel, and Job through dreams.  He spoke to Kings through prophets.  He speaks to us today thought His Son.  The writer of Hebrews tell us, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Hebrews 1: 1-2).”  But just how does He speak to us in 2018?


We know that He speaks to us through His Word,  the Bible.  We also knows He speaks to us through counselors, conscience, circumstances and perhaps in other ways.  But when He speaks He always guides us in a way that is consistent with the principles properly interpreted in the Bible.  For example, He tells us in no uncertain terms that we need to have faith in the Lord to become children of God and to have our sins forgiven.  In Acts 13:39, Paul says, “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”


There are Direct commands and then there are Principles

We have already seen that we are told to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus.  The Lord preached it and Paul preached it and Peter preached it.  Our relationship with God starts there.  Then we are told to be baptized.  The Lord commanded it, and the disciples practiced it.  Baptism identifies us with Christ.  It tells the world that we have changed our minds about the hindrances that have kept us from believing and have put simple trusting faith in the Lord Himself.  I do not believe that the Lord can clearly speak about the particular way we are to serve Him after we are saved, until we are willing to submit to the clear command about being baptized.  Blessing is always associated with obedience.  Faith saves but obedience brings joy and fellowship and just may allow us to experience miracles as the servants did in this first public miracle of the Lord. 


Many people tell me about things that the Lord has said to them that I know are contrary to the principles laid down in the Scriptures.  While we might argue about Old Testament principles and how they apply today, we can pretty much take the things written in the epistles at face value since they were written to Christians just like us.  Principles dealing with church gatherings, the headship or leadership issues of our day, the matters of separation from unbelievers with regard to worship and social practices--these things are all clearly laid out in the epistles.  Doing some of these things will not make sense, but they will make the Lord happy and when the Lord is happy,  we will be happy.


Sometimes The Lord tells us to Do things that make no Sense

I can just imagine the plight of the servants in our story.  They should have provided enough wine for the feast but they apparently did not get a large enough delivery from the local Walmart.  Now they are in a bad spot but Mary, the mother of the Lord, knew the solution.  After all she had raised the Lord and this story tends to make us think she had seen some miraculous things before now.  Her comments are simple. " Whatever He says to you do it."  Now we have a tendency to try to confuse the issue by saying, “that won't work.”  Or we say we will do it only to make some sort of excuse for not doing it.  Maybe we trying to accomplish the same thing the Lord wants but in a little more "sensible way".  But they did what the Lord said to do.  If the Lord wasn't Who He claimed to be, they were going to be taking water to the master of this wedding feast.  I don't think He would have been happy with them.  So whether they had faith to start with or not, they could either be reprimanded for running out of wine, or they could do what the Lord said.  If He didn't have the power Mary seemed to think He had, they would be taking water to the Master of the feast.  But lo and behold, they took good wine to the Master of the feast.  The best wine was kept until last and, yes, this was real wine.  The Lord blessed the servants, and those at the feast.  He proved that He had power over creation.  It usually takes some time to turn grape juice into wine, but He turned water into wine.


What Can We Learn?

Doing what the Lord asks us to do will always bless us and we may see miracles.  But we need to make sure that the Lord is speaking and that we aren't listening to voices that are carnal or perhaps to voices that are the deceitful whisper of Satan.  The Lord spoke in the Garden of Eden and Satan spoke as well.  We have the sin problem today because Eve listened to the wrong voice.  We also know that when the Lord tells us to do something it doesn't always make logical sense, but we will always be blessed if we are willing to do what He asks.  And we can see that the Lord often tests our faith so that He can give us something better than we expected.  The good wine was left until last.  When we think of this life, it may be nice and we may have it good.  But if we trust the Lord, the best wine is just over the hill on the other side.  Earth will never compare to the good wine reserved for us in heaven. 


Meditation for the week of April 8, 2018

The Futility of Life


Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a

year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  (James 4:13-14)


Those were the Days, My Friend!

Life seems so long and promising when we are young.  As we get older our perspective may change.  I remember the chorus of a song that was popular when I was younger.  It went something like this:


Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose, we'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way
La la la la la la, La la la la la la
Those were the days
Oh yes, those were the days


Biblically I don't know of very many people who reached old age and thought that life had been all that they wanted it to be.  Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage" (Genesis 47:9).


Solomon who was wise and “had it all” said,  "As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, And why was I then more wise?" Then I said in my heart, "This also is vanity." For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind" (Ecclesiastes 2:15-17).


What will our funerals be Like?

My wife and I spent the winter months in Georgia this year.  When we got home, we found out that one of our neighbors, whom we had been talking to from time to time during our trip, had been taken to hospice.  When I called his wife to see if I could go visit him, she said he had died that morning.  She told me he had been cremated and they were making arrangements for his memorial service.  I have been to several memorial services where the body was cremated but usually they just show pictures of the departed loved one.  I don't remember very many where the ashes were placed in a little box and where the church ceremony was carried out as though the body were there in a casket. 


Two things struck me.  The first was that no matter how loved this man was and no matter what he had accomplished in life, he really had been reduced to a small pile of ashes.  His life which was no doubt a productive one didn't amount to a whole lot after he died.  Solomon seemed to understand that.   All that was left of my neighbor were our memories of him. 


The second thing that struck me was that we believe what we want to believe whether it makes logical sense or not.  If we are going to claim to be Christ followers, shouldn't we know what the Bible says?  Shouldn't we let the Lord tell us what pleases Him rather than having us tell Him how we think He should want to be pleased?  The church that had the memorial service made it appear that the church and it's ordinances were what made it possible for this man to be in heaven.  Of course that grieved me because that means that the church determines our eternal destinies.  This church thinks that they produced the Bible and I believe that the Bible produced the true church.  Because they produced the Bible, they have the right to change it when it suits them.  And according to them he was made a child of God by baptism.  My Bible says we are made a child of God by personal faith in the Lord.


Did my friend go to heaven?  I hope so, but if he did, it was because of a time when he came to trust in the Lord.  It was not because of his church or their ceremonies.  Most people will say before a person dies that no one can know for sure that they will go to heaven when they die.  I say that we should know based on the instructions in God's word whether we have had our sins forgiven before we die.  After we die, there is nothing that can be done to change eternal destinies.  At that point maybe we need to be honest and admit that we don't know what people really believe and trust and just leave where they stand with God alone.


Faith, Hope, Charity

Paul says that the pillars of Christianity are faith, hope and charity.  Faith is not just a feeling, it is confidence in a person or confidence in the promises of a person that we trust.  My confidence is in the promise that Christ paid the penalty that I deserved because of my sin and that by believing that I go free.  Because of my faith,  I have something to look forward to even when life seems pointless and the Bible calls that hope.  But what about this charity or self-sacrificing love?  It was that kind of love that Christ had for me and that is the kind of love that we should have for our “neighbors” whether they be Samaritans or whether they be Gentiles or Jews.  The color of their skin should not affect our charity.  We should have charity for people of all cultures even though we might not agree with all of their lifestyles and beliefs.  This faith, hope and charity, is what prepares us for the day when we too will be in one of those boxes—whether the box be big or small.  It is faith in Christ that gives life purpose and prepares us for the life to come.  My confidence is not in a church, my confidence is in Christ and His Word.


Really, all is not futile even if it seems that way some days.  All is not vanity and chasing after the wind.  Of course, I am speaking to those who claim to be Christ followers.  Those who have been raised to believe in other gods or in no God at all will not understand what I am saying, but I wish that they did.  They too are going to end up in a box. The box may be big or it may be small. But what did their lives amount to if they have no secure eternity in their future?


Meditation for the week of April 15, 2018

Right Thinking


All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)


We are all like Sheep

We would like to think we are all leaders but the Bible is clear that at least initially we are all followers and we follow the wrong person.  We follow the leadership of a subtle enemy who wants to destroy us.  He doesn't appear to be an enemy.  He often appears to be very attractive like Absalom was in the Old Testament.  He will tell us what we want to hear, he will flatter us, he will kiss us (tell us how much he cares) and when we listen to his lies, he will destroy us. We need to be delivered from the lies of Satan.


Critical Thinking

I had an interesting discussion with a college professor recently who teaches political science.  We agreed that public education generally does not teach people to think critically.  When I taught at the college level, many students didn't care about how we got problems solved, they just wanted the formula for finding the answer. They weren't trying to think critically.


Some people think that they are finding the right answers to life's questions by belonging to particular groups. They join churches and clubs and become members of political parties.  Often they become so loyal to those associations that they do not realize that they are being led like sheep to support things that are wicked and immoral. They are not thinking critically.  They are doing what they are doing because they want to "fit in."   It is one thing to be unsaved and to follow a leader blindly, but Christians have the Holy Spirit and a good Book to guide them.  We need to set the standard when it comes to critical thinking and when it comes to following the right leader.


When I go to Bible studies, many people tend to study somebody's study guide.  I find that when we do that often we are more concerned with figuring out what the author of the study guide thought the passage meant than we are with trying to figure out what the Lord meant.  Instead of teaching tools for good study habits, we teach the conclusions of an author that we respect.  As a result, we have many varied opinions on many things.  I have found that many people are no longer concerned with the doctrine of the new birth even though the Bible says we must be born again.  I have also found out that there are many opinions about what a scriptural baptism is and means.  Some seem to think that the how and why of baptism simply doesn't matter so long as one is saved.  But if one is saved, shouldn't the Lord's teaching on the subject of baptism matter?


Sometimes we Forget Who is Really in Charge

As we come to the end of the period of the judges in the Old Testament, we find everyone did that which was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).  This led to a Levite hiring himself out to be a priest in the house of one who had made an idol for his family to worship. Idols were wrong.  God appointed priests, not men.  A priest was supported by God through tithes and offerings but this man was willing to hire out for a position that was not found in the instruction Book. The Levite left that house to be a priest for the tribe of Dan (supposedly he obtained a more successful ministry).  The tribe of Dan became idolaters because of that idol. They had left the instructions of God and were following their own desires.  In addition, the whole tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out by their own countrymen because of the immorality that developed when everyone did that which was right in their own eyes.  Like sheep they had gone astray. They were no longer thinking critically or right.


When we do what is right in our own eyes (when we make our own decisions) as the Israelites did, who are we really following?  Normally, we are following the deceitfulness of Satan.  The Bible says that we don't think like God thinks and we need to seek Him.  We may not like what He tells us but we will find out that the pleasing Him requires us to trust Him.  We can either be like the Israelites who turned away from the Lord and suffered because of that or we can do what the Lord asks us to do the way He asks us to do it and be blessed.  Isaiah says,  '"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,"  says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9)." 


Let's get back to the basics and do what God says pleases Him rather than what the religious and secular world says works.  As Christians let us remember that yoking with unbelievers in business, marriage, politics and in our social lives will cause us to think like unbelievers.  It will not cause unbelievers to think like Christ.  The Lord is clear that we are not to do this (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).    When we get to the “other side,” we surely want to hear those words,  “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord (Matthew 25:23).”


Let's make sure that as sheep we are not going astray..



Meditation for the week of April 22, 2018

Faith and Works or Faith alone or Works alone?


But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)


My Concern

Before I trusted Christ for salvation, I was impressed with how long eternity is and as a result I wanted to be saved for eternity.  Since I have been saved, the matter of eternity has constantly been before me.  Because of that, I earnestly pray for family and friends and contacts that I know.  I want them to be saved FOR ETERNITY.  I am greatly concerned that many people who claim to be Christians are not saved at all.  One of my concerns is that the Bible I read about how Christians should think and act seems to be completely different from what others seem to think the Bible teaches about how Christians should think and act.  While I believe salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, I also believe that a Christian should have been changed by the Gospel.  If Christians act and think in ways that the Lord would not and could not commend, then I have to wonder what kind of faith they have.


The Question

We know that the Bible teaches that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone saves for eternity.  One of the clearest Scriptures on this issue if found in Ephesians 2:8-10:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Now while it is true that we are saved by faith alone and not by works (which in this passage may refer to the works connected with the Old Testament law and ceremonies) we are saved for or unto “GOOD” works.  So can we have faith and not have good works and still be saved?  Or on the other hand,  can we have “good works” without faith in Christ and still be saved?


When we go to our churches today, we may find the preacher making passing references to being saved by faith but most messages have to do with how Christians should live. If we are saved, it is possible to go away from these messages wondering if we are really saved.  If we are not saved, I would think a person might think that it is faith and works but mostly works that really saves.  So which is it?  Are we saved by faith or by works or by faith and works. This is important because salvation is for ETERNITY.


My Conclusion

Having wrestled with this issue for years, this is my conclusion.  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone.  This has to do with our relationship with God .  However, we also have relationships with our fellow human beings.  And what they know about us is determined by how we act.  James says, “But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).”  But we all have some bad works.  We shouldn't but we do.  So where does that leave us?  One day, I realized that the most of the New Testament epistles were written to correct problems.  Sometimes it was immorality, sometimes it was division, sometimes it was false doctrine, sometimes it was laziness. I  then realized that even the saved in the primitive church had problems with living right after they professed to be saved.  So do good works matter?  Yes!  But do they save for eternity?  No!


I believe that the moment we are saved, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  That should give us a conscience about sin.  A person who says he or she is a believer with no conscience about sin is simply not a believer.  However, believers will struggle with what the Bible calls the flesh.  We will still have problems with sin.  What do we do about this?   We will find as believers that the more time we spend trying to live right in our own strength, the less we will enjoy the Lord.  The less we enjoy the Lord, the less Christ like we will be.


If we are saved by faith alone and if we really want to be Christ-like, we need to quit being occupied with our failures and spend time being occupied with the Lord.  It is said that if you have a glass half full of water and if the water (in this case) represents evil or bad habits, we can try to eliminate the problem by pouring out the water.  That will leave the glass empty and it may ultimately get filled with dirt that is worse than the original water.  On the other hand, we can pour sand into the glass until the water is forced out. Oh yes, the sand will stay wet, but that may dry out in time.  In other words, filling our lives with the Lord and with our spiritual blessings will do more to make us Christ-like than trying to get rid of our bad habits IN OUR OWN STRENGTH.  Emptying the glass without replacing the contents will leave us (the glass) feeling empty and vulnerable.   Often being occupied with good will keep us from being occupied with that which is bad. 


Yes, we are saved by faith alone.  Good works without faith in Christ will not save. But works do matter because we want to please the Lord and we want others to know that the Gospel saves for eternity but also blesses us in this life.  If we spend time enjoying Him, maybe we wouldn't have so much trouble enjoying the things that Satan would like to use to destroy us.


Frankly, the Christian world today is often not very Christ-like.   We have people claiming to be Christians who have no love for people who are different from them.  They have no sympathy for the poor.  They are exclusive and not inclusive in their supposed display of love.  Sometimes the Gospel is used as a club to control people.  Since salvation is for eternity, let us make sure we have the kind of faith that saves and not the kind of faith that is self-serving and in many cases cruel.  Let us make sure that we have really come as sinners to a loving Savior who wants us to be with Him for eternity and like Him now.  And where we fail, let us admit it.


Let us make sure that we have faith alone in Christ alone and may that be reflected in our lives.  Because this is serious business.  It is for ETERNITY.



Meditation for the week of April 29, 2018