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AUGUST 2013

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That Troublesome ALL!

 

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Some days a person hates to turn on the news because the moment we do we are bombarded with sin and its justification. The heart of man has not changed since the fall of Adam. But things that used to remain private sell a lot of cereal on the news channels and these things are now made public. So why watch the news, you might rightly ask? Because as an evangelist, I feel the need to know what is going on in the world and not to live an isolated life. I want to be able to relate to people who need to know that there is a solution to sin. That solution is not mentioned in the news. The solution is found in the Bible. The Bible is not the cause of our problems, the Bible contains the solution. That solution is THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

But what I have been meditating on is how easy it is for us as Christians to be proud that we donít commit "certain sins." We tend to rank sin into those that are really, really, really bad, those that are kind of bad, and those that we commit which are of course not so bad really. In all fairness, the Bible does tend to rank the sins of society and the sins of believers. Romans one describes societies that have turned away from God and that have "debased minds." The end result is for those societies to be involved in unbridled sin. 1 Corinthians 5 mentions six sins that must be judged by the church if unbelievers are characterized by these sins. But this verse in Romans 3:23 moves us from sin that affects society and sins that affect the church to sins that affect us. There is something really convicting about that word ALL.

I have been reading through the Psalms and I have noticed how David in particular praises the Lord and how he sees himself as "poor and needy". See Psalm 68:19, 70:5. I suppose I may have missed a passage where David exalts himself, but the general thrust of his Psalms is to exalt the Lord who saves him and meets his needs. David was a worshiper of Jehovah from his youth. In Psalm 71:5 he says, "For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth." I am sure that the genuine faith of David was the reason why the Lord chose him to lead the nation of Israel. But David sinned and he sinned grievously. I have wondered if this sin and its forgiveness by God wasnít one of the reasons that David was such a sweet Psalmist (2 Samuel 23:1). He had learned by experience that his heart had the same sin problem as the hearts of the people he ruled.

So what is the solution for this sin problem? How do we keep from having it depress and discourage us? If we look at our society, it is discouraging. If we look at our own hearts we are confronted with that ALL in our verse and that is discouraging. But if we look to the Lord, now that is a look that not only saves but encourages. Isaiah says in chapter 45:22 "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." I believe David kept his spiritual eyes focused on the Lord and on all the benefits that the Lord had heaped on him. When we look at the Lord we donít see sin, we see the sinless One that the writer of Hebrews tells us is our High Priest: For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26). Peter says that He "committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22)." Yes, there is beauty to be found in Him.

I intend to keep watching the news although I am not going to watch all the news commentary. One of the reasons that I will watch it is that it makes the Lord and His solution so much more encouraging and beautiful by contrast. The news is constantly bombarding us with those who are critical and with those who laying guilt trips on us if we donít see things their way. But the Lord came not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). He calls sin "sin" but the Lord is the answer to that problem of ALL.

And that is truly encouraging!

 

Meditation for the week of August 4, 2013

The Art of Bible Banging!

 

Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, "It is written, ĎMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.í "

 

The Lord had been fasting for forty days and forty nights. Luke says that he ate nothing during this fast. Both Luke and Matthew said he was hungry. Satan, the adversary, tells the Lord that he should command the stones to become bread. The verse we are meditating on is the Lordís answer. We do need physical food, but the spiritual food that comes from the Word of God is more important. Would it have been wrong for the Lord to use His power to make bread out of stones? Apparently. it would have been wrong. I take it that the Spirit had not yet directed the Lord to eat. And when he did eat, He would have eaten food provided in the normal way since His miracles were not self-serving. But what the Lord makes us realize is that the Word of God in itís entirely is food for our souls. That food is more important than food for our bodies. But what has caused me to stop and think is that word EVERY.

How important is EVERY word in the Bible to us? Do we pick and choose what we want to accept and believe? I understand that we must "rightly divide" or properly interpret the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). But all of the Word of God as found in our Bibles is important. We read:

The Word is alive and it sorts things out.

Hebrews 4:12 says, " For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

The Word of God is divinely inspired and it should speak to us whatever our needs are.

2Timiothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"

The Word of God is permanent and its message simply does not change.

1Pe 1:24-5 says, "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, the word of the LORD endures forever."

The Word of God produces faith in the Lord.

Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Because of the importance of the Word of God, I am one of those preachers that people call "Bible Bangers." I think the Word of God is more important than anything I can say about it. That is why I always start these meditations with a Bible verse. When I preach the Gospel to the unsaved or when I teach or preach to those who profess faith in Christ, I always like to explain Scripture. There are some today who tell people what the Bible says and they often to do it quite well, but they seem to be reluctant to actually read from the Bible to show that their messages are Scriptural. I think that is a mistake.

We had a well-known and very effective evangelist in our area who was reached and saved through a neighbor whose life spoke to him. He then began to ask that neighbor questions about Spiritual things. That neighbor did not have a Bible degree but he had a Bible that he read. His answer to the questions that he was asked always began with him pulling a Bible out of his pocket and saying, "Letís see what the Bible says about that." He was a "Bible Banger" and because the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God, the man was saved and became an evangelist.

Yes, the Bible is different from other books. Every Word is precious and powerful. The Lord was not afraid to quote it to Satan. He knew the value of "Bible Banging." He knew the Word, He applied the Word and He quoted the Word.

May we who trust in the Lord, learn the "Art of Bible Banging."

 

Meditation for the week of August 11, 2013

Is that so Hard? Really!

 

Psalm 107:31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

 

Four times over the writer of this Psalm repeats this desire of his heart. We do not know for sure who wrote the Psalm, but we do know that whoever wrote it did in fact love the Lord. I have been meditating on this Psalm and I wonder why it is so hard for us to do what the Psalmist asks. To me it is obvious that men do not generally give thanks or praise to the Lord for His goodness or else the Psalmist wouldnít have written in this way. There are a number of reasons why people do not give thanks to the Lord. I would like to look at a few that I have encountered.

Some people do not believe that a creator God exists. I am not going to spend time on this because to me it is just as self-evident today that there is a Creator as it was when the Declaration of Independence was written. You will recall that in that document the writers stated, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are CREATED equal." That someone designed this universe is self-evident as far as I am concerned. Who that Creator God is and whether we know Who He is could be logically argued. But it is not logical to say that someone or something as complex as a human could have existed without a Creator.

Some people do not believe that the God of the Old Testament is "good." They point to the genocide required of God for those nations that had turned away from Him to be unjust and cruel. I understand the argument, but all I am going to say about this is that the Old Testament and its system of justice did not make men good or keep them from sin. We live in New Testament times when God is displaying His mercy and His grace. He is displaying His sacrificial love. And the New Testament God that I serve is both merciful and just. I personally believe that judgment did not come in the Old Testament until men had every opportunity to "repent and believe." Of course that does not solve the problem of God destroying the children even though these children died innocent and went to heaven. I am glad that I live in New Testament times where we are not commanded to physically destroy those who reject the Lord.

Others point to the suffering, disease, poverty and war that exists in the world today and they argue that if God is good, He should intervene and do away with these problems. I believe we blame God for sin and its consequences caused by Satan and by those who believe His lies. In addition, to the extent that these problems can be resolved, they are supposed to be resolved by Christians. Christ is seen in people who claim to follow Him and sometimes we do not follow very closely.

I realize that most of us see things through our own experiences and biases. If we look for a reason to criticize God and reject Him, we will find it. Some of the reasons may be excuses rather than reasons; but in some cases, it would be easy for me to understand why certain people in certain circumstances and living in certain countries would question the goodness of the God I serve. All I can say is that while people who call themselves Christians have not always brought joy to my heart, there are many who have. And often it is people who act like Christians who cause us to praise the Lord for His goodness. Paul in Romans 16:13 writes, " Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." Rufus was likely the son of the man who was compelled to bear the Lordís cross after he could no longer do it. Mark 15:21 says, "Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross." Rufus was chosen of the Lord which seems to mean in this case that the Lord saw him and his faith and service as something special. His mother was special to Paul. There is not much said about the mother of Rufus, but enough is said to know that she had "mothered" Paul. No doubt she had caused Paul to rejoice in the Lord more than once. This woman was important in Paulís life and she was important as far as the Lord was concerned. Her name is left on the pages of Scripture so that we can rejoice with Paul in the Lordís goodness because of her.

I have come to the conclusion that the only person who can convince people that the Lord is good and worthy of praise is the Holy Spirit Himself. When people are determined to criticize God, no argument is likely to change their minds. Many of their arguments are understandable, but the arguments do not allow God to be God. These are the arguments of those without faith. But thank God for those who do want to thank the Lord for His goodness, for His wonderful works to the children of men. And thank God for people like Rufusí mother who the Holy Spirit uses to make Godís goodness real and practical.

 

Meditation for the week of August 18, 2013

How Much are we Worth?


1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

 

Who in this life wants to be considered a slave? In 1865, after a bloody Civil War, the 13th Amendment to the constitution was passed making slavery illegal in the United States. Most people want to be free from slavery and yet Christians are called upon to be bond slaves of the Lord Jesus. Why would we want to be bond slaves if we really want freedom? Doesnít the Lord say that He sets us free? In John 8:31 and 32, the Lord says, ďIf you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.Ē In Romans 6, a Christian is set free from sin to become a slave to righteousness. Romans 6:17and 18 says, ďBut God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.Ē

It almost sounds as though we who want freedom have been set free from one bondage to come into another, and we have! When the Lord sets us free in John 8, he makes believers ďSons.Ē Now thatís not so bad, A Son of a King is a Prince and thatís what believers are. Princes and Princesses! But believers also are freed from the old master Sin, to serve the new master Righteousness. Sin is simply a way of describing Satan. Righteousness of course describes Christ. Now who would want to just change masters? I believe anyone would like that change if the old master is cruel and the new master is loving and kind and caring. I believe that in one way or another we all serve one master or the other.

In a sense we believers are voluntary slaves to righteousness because no one is forced to become a believer in Christ. The Holy Spirit convinces, draws, convicts and persuades people to believe on the Lord, but in the final analysis, no one is forced to believe. I believe many people turn away from true discipleship because they simply donít want anyone telling them what to do. They donít realize that we donít live in a vacuum and either Satan is our master or the Lord is. If Satan is our master, at the end of life and often during our short stay here in earth, it will become obvious that he is a cruel task master. But the Lord wants what is best for us and submitting to Him brings blessing both now and in eternity. 

How valuable are we to the Lord? Every person in this world is valuable and the Lord paid the ultimate price to make us His. He didnít bargain to pay the lowest price, He paid the highest price. He paid all. He gave Himself! Some days when I begin to wonder if anything really matters, I think about the price that the Lord paid to make me a Son in His family and to allow me to be freed from Satan so that I can serve Him. And then I think about how He not only delivered me from sin, but He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in me. So now I am His temple as well. The Old Testament temple was big and beautiful and ornate. This temple called my body is short and pudgy and not extremely attractive. But the Lord paid more to have me as His temple than He did to build that Old Testament temple. He calls me His Son and asks me to serve Him. 

I realize that salvation is free, but a little thanksgiving would seem to be in order. Serving Him is the least I can do. Serving Him is not burdensome because of the kind of master that He is. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:29). 

Being the Lordís slave is a privilege. He paid dearly to own me.

 

Meditation for the week of August 25, 2013