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AUGUST 2008

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Lamentations 1:12

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like my sorrow, Which has been brought on me, Which the LORD has inflicted In the day of His fierce anger.

 

Years ago I was traveling a freeway on a nice Saturday afternoon. The speed limit had recently been raised from 55 to 65 miles per hour and the traffic was moving right along on that interstate highway. All of a sudden the traffic came to a halt. After idling the car for a while I finally tuned it off and got out of the car to talk to others who were also getting out of their cars. Nobody knew why we were stopped. Pretty soon we heard cars ahead of us starting their engines and it wasn't long before we started creeping along. We got to a bridge where there had been an accident with a motorcycle. The person on the cycle was no longer there but the mangled cycle still lay on the shoulder. After passing that scene the traffic stayed slow for about 10 miles and then we were all back to our original speeds, sailing along at about five miles an hour over the posted speed limit. I thought, "How soon we forget." The accident made people think for about ten miles and then it was back to business as usual.

Jeremiah felt that way about the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been a glorious city. It was where the temple was and where the Lord had placed His name. It was the city where King David and his son King Solomon lived while they ruled the undivided kingdom of Israel. It was a city to be envied. But the Israelites had turned their back upon God and now God had turned his back on Jerusalem. It had been destroyed by the Babylonians. You can read about what happened in 2 Kings 25 :8-11.

Jeremiah who wrote the book of Lamentations is concerned that people will pass by the destroyed city and will not realize that this happened to the city because of its rebellion against God. When disaster strikes it often speaks to us at the time and makes us think about our relationship with God. As time passes, however, it is easy to forget what happened, and it is possible to turn a deaf ear to the voice of God that has spoken in the disaster.

Two thousand years ago, more or less, a great injustice was done to an innocent victim outside the city gates of Jerusalem. A man who claimed to be the Son of God and who had done no wrong but instead had done a lot of good was crucified as though he were a common criminal. This person is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that He is the Son of God because death could not hold him in its grip. Over 500 people were witnesses to the fact that He was alive after He had died according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6. People went by the cross and smote their breasts because of the injustice that was being done (Luke 23:48). But what does the cross mean to us now? Because of the passing of time, it is possible for that fateful day when the Lord died for our sins to lose its importance and to lose its impact on our relationship with God..

Just as the destruction of Jerusalem should remind the nations that God really does rule, so the cross of Christ should remind us that God really does judge sin. We can either accept the substitutionary death of Christ as payment for our sins or we can pay for them ourselves throughout eternity. But surely, the events that took place at Calvary should speak to us today just as much as when the events occurred. But I am afraid that the question Jeremiah asked about the destruction of Jerusalem should be asked today with regard to the cross.

Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by? We are all passing by the cross, and hopefully it causes those of us who are saved to worship. It should cause those who are not saved to fear God and to flee to Him for salvation.

The value of the cross and the value of the Lord who died on it should never be forgotten or diminished because of the passage of time.

Meditation for the week of August 3, 2008

Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

 

The narrow way is the way that God says is right in the Bible. The broad way is the way that seems right to a person (Proverbs 14:12), and is often the popular way. The narrow way to heaven is through faith in Christ alone. The broad way is any other way that makes sense to a person. After we are saved, following the Lord's instructions as to what pleases Him is often considered by many to be narrow, but that narrow way is the path of blessing.

Years ago I was asked to go visit a family by one of my friends who had met the people through door-to-door work. He told me that they were interested in the Gospel and that they had some questions that he thought I could answer. When I got there, the man of the house starting asking me questions. It was obvious that they were antagonistic questions and not the kind of questions that a person who was really interested in the Gospel would probably ask. As I tried to answer some of his questions, all of a sudden he got mad and said, "You preachers don't believe your own Bibles." Of course, he was a little more descriptive than that. He took a round house swing at me and pushed me out of his house. Fortunately, he only grazed me with his fist, but he certainly left an impression on me. I figured out later that he considered me to be the "preacher" while my friend was just an ordinary person to him. He made it clear that he didn't trust "preachers."

I would like to believe that this fellow had treated me unfairly, yet the longer I preach, the more I understand his frustration. We are taught that the Bible does not change, that God does not change and that the way of salvation does not change. Then we are told that everything must change if we are going to keep our young people and meet the needs of parents who are raising children. I understand why methods should change but I don't understand how basic Biblical doctrine can change. I believe that this has become a great hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel because any one with a good mind reading the Bible will know that we Christians are picking and choosing what we want to believe today. I have been told that we need to believe the essentials and that the nonessentials should not be an issue. The difficulty is, I never dealt with nonessentials when I was raising my children. I had too many essentials to waste my time on nonessentials. I suspect that if the Lord said something, it was essential as far as His children are concerned as well.

There are many things that the Bible teaches about personal morality and about the way a local church should function that are being set aside today. I keep asking myself, "Just what are my boundaries? Do I have convictions or do I just have preferences about these things? Where is that line that I will not cross?" When some of us question present day practices we are considered legalistic. However, I feel judged by those who consider themselves accepting and liberal when I suggest that God knew what He wanted and that Biblical principles have not changed.

When we look at the local church today, the Lord says it is his temple. That means it is a place where God dwells and the way it functions is important to Him. 1 Corinthians 3:17 says, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." He seems to be saying that we need to be careful with church doctrine and practice because the church is sacred to the Lord. I personally do not want to help destroy what is precious to God.

It is one thing to be disobedient in areas where we have not been taught the truth. It is another thing to know what the Bible teaches and to say that those things are no longer essential when it comes to being obedient to the Lord.

While it may be considered narrow to walk the narrow way that God has laid out in the Bible. I would hate to think that someone might be stumbled because I act like I don't really believe what the Bible says.

 

Meditation for the week of August 10, 2008

Walking in the flesh vs. Walking in the spirit

Romans 7:24-25

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

Tell two year olds not to touch a hot stove and they will probably touch it once to find out why they were told no! Tell a teenager to take out the garbage and they will likely "forget" because nobody likes to be told what to do. Tell Eve not to eat just one piece of fruit out of all the fruit trees in the Garden of Eden and she will be tempted to do it when Satan tells her that God is really cheating her by not letting her eat that fruit. She was told she could be like God and would understand what was good and what was bad. She would be able to make her own decisions, she wouldn't need God to tell her what was right and what was wrong.

Because we don't like to be told what to do, and because we tend to obsess on the things we are not supposed to do, the law always condemns. It doesn't save. Paul tells us in Romans 7 that the law is good, it is just that we are powerless to keep it. Whenever we get occupied with the things we are not supposed to do or the things we should do that we don't do, we operate in the clenched teeth mode of Christianity. We clench our teeth and try to be all that the law says we should be but the law not only tempts us to do wrong, it gives us no power to do right. So what is the solution?

Paul says the solution is occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 7 is the conflict of a person who tries to please God by keeping the moral law of the old testament. Chapter 8 is the victory of the person who who walks "in the spirit". First, we are reminded that if we are "walking in the Spirit" we are not condemned. According to verse 9, we began walking in the Spirit the moment we let the Spirit introduce us to Christ through the Word of God and we trusted Him. Verse 2 says that those who are walking in the Spirit are free from the principle of sin and death. The Spirit motivates us to live the victorious life because it keeps us occupied with the blessings we have in Christ. One of these blessings is hope. A person living in the flesh has no hope because they have nothing better than their present life to look forward to in the future. But a Christian has a secure future with Christ and they have been called, justified and glorified. We are being changed into the image of Christ. According to verse 28, all the things that the Spirit does in this chapter work together for good to those who love God.

Living under the do's and don'ts of the law will defeat us because we will be walking or living according to the flesh which has no power over sin. The flesh is subject to temptation and is weak. But if we live according to the Spirit we will be victorious because we will be occupied with the Lord instead of with ourselves. Instead of thinking about what we can't do and what we have to do we will be occupied with what we get to do because of what the Lord has done for us. Our motivating force will be based on the fact that we are loved by God and that nothing and nobody can destroy the love that God has for us.

When we are walking in the flesh by trying to keep the law we are always wondering if we have done enough to please the Lord. When we walk in the Spirit, we have the security of knowing that it is not our doing that counts but God's love. And that was expressed by what He did for us when He gave His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.. What we do for the Lord is simply an act of thanksgiving because the Spirit of God keeps us reminded that no matter how bad we foul things up, we will never be separated from the love of God.

Walking in the Spirit keeps us occupied with our blessings. Walking in the flesh keeps us occupied with our weaknesses under the law. I would rather be occupied with my blessings.

Meditation for the week of August 17, 2008

Competing according to the rules

2 Timothy 2:5

And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

 

Some of us have been marveling at the dedication, ability and determination that have been evident in the Olympic Games in China the past couple of weeks. The skill levels are so high, the coaching is so good, and the athletes are so well trained that very little distinguishes a winner from a loser. But a winner gets a gold medal and a loser doesn't. So what must it be like when an athlete that has been given the gold medal has it taken away because he or she has violated the "rules"? This has happened to a number of athletes over the years.

We don't like to think about rules in our relationship with the Lord today. But I am convinced that there will be no gold medal at the end of our journey down here, unless we know and abide by His "rules." We know that our salvation is a gift but as servants of the Lord there will be rewards for faithfulness when we meet the Lord. Rules are said to make us legalistic. I am personally against autocratic leadership which can be legalistic, and I am personally against making rules where the Lord has not made them. However, the Lord has rules and when we violate them we hurt ourselves and we hurt those around us. Most of all we hurt the Lord. If we believe that Jesus should be both Lord and Saviour, then we must believe that the Lord has rules.

Last week Rick Warren interviewed Barak Obama and John McCain at Saddleback Church. Apparently, there were a number of places where those in the know feel the candidates mislead the American people, but what hurt is that Rick Warren, a prominent leader in Christian circles, also mislead the American people. It appears that he violated the rule that he needed to be totally transparent with regard to the "rules" of the forum.

He said that there had been a coin toss and that Barak had been chosen to go first based on that coin toss. Most coin tosses are done in the presence of those who win or lose. This coin toss was done a month or so earlier when the candidates were not present according to Rick Warren when asked about it later. (See the CNN transcript of the Larry King interview on August 18, 2008). Since this wasn't a debate but really two back-to-back interviews, Rick told us that John was in a "cone of silence" while the interview with Barak was going on. However, Rick did not know that John McCain was in a "cone of silence" during the interview. In fact he knew John McCain was not in the building when he said he had expected him to be there. Now of course it can't be proved that McCain seemed to shine because of he had prior knowledge of the questions, nor can it be proved that he is clairvoyant even though he answered questions that were going to be asked before they were asked. But it can be proved that Rick Warren did not know for sure that John McCain was in a "cone of silence." He now says using that term was a joke. (See the Hannity & Colmes interview on Fox News on August 19, 2008). I listened to Rick Warren tell us at least twice that John McCain was in a "cone of silence" and it didn't seem like a joke to me. By asking John McCain how he liked the "cone of silence" at the beginning of his interview with him, he allowed McCain to give the impression he was there when he was actually in a motorcade at least some of the time. Rick Warren did the Lord a great disservice by telling the American people something that he did not know to be true.

Christianity today is becoming so culturally oriented that we have forgotten that the Lord still has rules as to how the kingdom is to be promoted and as to how the hearts of men are to be won. I hear Christians say that new testament Biblical Christianity doesn't work today. They seem to be saying that the Lord's rules are outdated. If the rules have changed, then how do we know that we are still saved only by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus? Has that changed too?

I wonder, how many of us are going to be surprised to find out when we met the Lord that we had great success down here but that we will have no gold medal up there because we ignored the "rules."

 

Meditation for the week of August 24, 2008

Who is the best?

 

Romans12:3

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

 

Christians are not supposed to think we are better at what we do than we are. We are to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We are to listen and not speak too quickly (James 1:19). We can't strive or quarrel with those who disagree with us, and when we do disagree we can't be disagreeable (2 Timothy 2:24). How is a person going to win a debate or make a mark for himself in this life with these principles guiding our lives?

We are presently in the middle of a presidential campaign. I have often wondered how those who say they are Christians can even run for the office. I haven't heard any of the candidates tell their audiences that the other candidate is more qualified than they are. But I have heard why each man thinks he is the best man for the job. In addition, many Christians who are not running for office can get very upset and quarrelsome if you don't agree with their position on the budget, health care, and so on. They are sure that they know what is best. I confess, I happen to be one of those people. Obviously, I have trouble following the principles that would make me like Christ.

Self-promotion is one area in life where it seems to some of us that God's way is not the best way. Even those of us who preach the Gospel are affected by this problem. If we preachers really thought others were better than we are, likely others would think that as well and we might not get invited to speak anywhere. We all want to have our little niche today at which we really excel. Then we tend to promote our abilities in that area.

In most cases any success we have in our service as Christians is because we were in the right place at the right time and the Lord in His grace used us. None of us have ever seen a soul saved. We may have been there when they trusted in the Lord but we were only tools that God used. We can't save and we can't develop a formula that saves. What we did last time that worked so well will probably only be confusing the next time we try it. We shouldn't get proud of our ability to "lead people to Christ." Having said that, there are some people who are true evangelists. They can approach people with the Gospel without offending them, and they can reach people that the rest of us can't. When we see someone like that, we should ask them how we can help them instead of asking them to help us.

Some of us think we have a handle on church planting. I find it interesting that church planting is promoted as though it were a gift or a command of the Lord. I read in the Bible that I am supposed to preach the Gospel, teach and baptize the converts which includes teaching them about the new testament church. But I have never seen any place in the Bible where church planting was either a gift that God bestows or a command that the Lord gives. So if the Lord has used us in church planting, we shouldn't think it was because we know what we are doing, However, when we see someone that the Lord is using in a new work, we should ask them how we can help them instead of going to them with the idea of them helping us.

I firmly believe that everything we do should be done with all of our might and to the best of our ability. Sometimes that means finding people to do jobs that we cannot do. No matter how good we may be, there is always someone better. We should be thankful for that and we should help those who are good at what they do. We should not hinder the work of the Lord by thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.

Meditation for the week of August 31, 2008