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AUGUST 2016

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Precious Promises

2 Peter 1:1-4  Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

The Divine Nature

The Lord is not like our present day politicians.  He makes promises that we can depend upon.  These promises are precious.  Those who believe God's promises, particularly as they relate to forgiveness of sins, obtain a new or divine nature.  This divine nature and these precious promises are available to all who have obtained precious faith.  This is really good news in a day of so much delusion and confusion.

 

Some of the Exceeding Great and Precious Promises

 

1 Peter 5:7  Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

We say, “If all else fails, I will just have to trust the Lord.”  We shouldn’t have to wait until all else fails to trust the Lord.  The Lord cares concerning each of His own personally.  He wants to be involved in our lives.

 

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This verse is usually generalized to say that the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us in any circumstance.  If we are sick, He will not forsake us.  If we are going through family problems, He will not forsake us.  If we are true believers, I am sure that it is true that He is always with us, even when the outcome to our problems is not to our liking.  However, the verse really has to do with the problems of our earthly needs.  We need to be content with what the Lord provides and the Lord will provide enough.  The Lord tells us in the sermon on the mount that He takes care of sparrows, he clothes flowers and he will take care of us. See Matthew 6:25-34.

 

Galatians 6:9  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Don’t give up.  We all get discouraged at times.  We all feel that our work is unappreciated, that our accomplishments are negligible and that there is no point in continuing to “do good.”  Of course, the alternative is “doing bad.”  And that is a black hole into which we certainly don't want to fall.  But the Lord says we will reap if we faint not.  So we need to keep planting and watering. 

 

Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."

There are three conditions in these verses that must be met if we are going to know that the Lord is with us (at the end of the age).  First, we must make disciples.  Second, we baptize.  Third, we teach them all things.  We make disciples before we baptize and teach them all things. Making a disciple means that we teach the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and that we teach the need to be born again.  We need to consider baptism a requirement for Christian testimony. Only one who has become a disciple should be baptized, but everyone who claims to be a disciple should show that by being baptized which means that they should be immersed.  Baptism represents a burial and a resurrection.  The water is a picture of the grave.   Baptism cannot be considered optional if we want the promise that the Lord is with us.  We don't need to be baptized to go to heaven, but who would want to go to heaven unbaptized? 

 

John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

This promise is as secure as John 3: 16 even though  Peter reminds us, ‘’Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Peter 3:3-4).”  Don't listen to the scoffers.  The Lord is coming for His own.  It may be today.  

  Meditation for the week of August 7, 2016

There is Rest and Then there is Rest!
 

Psalms 116:7  Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

 

Rest, What is it?

Most of us probably think of a good night's sleep when we think of resting.  Resting in this passage could mean a number of things but it seems to be primarily a ceasing from worry and anxiety.  This Psalmist may have had a physical ailment from which the Lord delivered him.  However, it is easy to apply this psalm to our spiritual condition.  I notice that the Psalmist must have been at peace and then became anxious and then returned to a state of peace.  I suspect that the last condition was much better than the first.  Often when we are at peace it is because we are ignorant of our real condition.  For example, we may feel that we are healthy when we are not.  Then the doctor finds something wrong and we go into a panic.  We are anxious.  Then if we find the cure, we relax again. 

 

It is much the same way when we are considering our relationship with God.  Most people do not know that they are sick as far as God is concerned.  Sin has caused the sickness and even though we know that ultimately we are going to die, we don't worry about it because we are sure that we are healthy right now.  Death seems to be a distant problem.  We are at ease even though we shouldn't be.  Then when we hear the Gospel and find out that sinners will be judged for their sin unless it is forgiven, we get anxious.  We wonder how we can get right with God.  We call this being awakened to our condition.  It causes us to be troubled which is why the Psalmist says he found trouble and sorrow.  Then when we hear and understand and believe the good news that Christ died for sinners, we get peace or rest again.  But this rest is real.  This rest is based on the cure for sin.  This rest is found in Christ.  This rest is so sweet because it doesn't depend on our “doing.” It is obtained by trusting in what Christ has done for us.

 

Rest, Why do we Need it?

No one can be truly healthy unless they get the rest that they need.  Sleep and rest allows our bodies to heal.  It also allows our minds to “unwind.”  Many of people have sleep apnea that keeps them from reaching what is called “rem” sleep where our minds seem to deprogram and where we feel rested in the morning.

 

Recently I talked to a friend who thought he was losing his ability to remember.  He was anxious and was researching his condition on the internet, and I think he had also talked to doctors.  I found out that he was not sleeping well.  I suggested that his memory problems and anxiety would likely go away if he could figure out how to get a good night's sleep.  I haven't talked to him recently to see how he is doing; but even if that is not his whole problem, he will never be really healthy until he starts getting a good night's sleep.  We know that this is a problem for a lot of people because of all the sleep aids that we see in the drug stores.  Tylenol PM might not be a bad thing if it really does help a person sleep.

 

Rest, How do we Get it?

Medications, good dietary habits, and proper exercise may all help in getting a good night’s sleep so that we feel rested.  Some vacations also help us recharge.  Of course some of us come back from our vacations so tired that we need a vacation from our vacations.  Nevertheless, there is nothing quite like feeling relaxed and rested.

 

Spiritually we can fool ourselves into believing we are at peace with God and with our consciences.  That is the rest that needs to be disturbed.  When we hear the Gospel and find out that there is only One God and One mediator between God and man; when we find out that there is only One way to heaven; when we find out that we are lost and useless to God without the faith that saves because of our sin; then we become anxious.  The Bible calls this conviction.  John 16:7-11 tells us about the work of the Holy Spirit in this regard, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I (the Lord Jesus) go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they do not believe in Me;  of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

 

Then as we hear the Gospel which tells us that Christ died for sinners, when we hear that the work that saves was finished on the cross, when we hear that trusting the Word of God and thus trusting Christ saves, a burden rolls away.  It is the burden of sin.  And we find true rest and peace.  Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Notice it is those who have been convicted (who labor and are heavy laden) who are invited to come and who get this rest.

 

Conclusion

We could well ask ourselves, are we at peace because we are ignorant and in unbelief?  Or have we been awakened, and have we found true peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

Meditation for the week of August 14, 2016

Fellowship is Precious

 

1 Corinthians 1:9  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Faithful or Trustworthy

The Corinthians had problems.  They were believers. They had been called into the fellowship of the the Lord Jesus Christ whom they and Paul called Lord.  But they were immature, divided, and filing lawsuits one against another.  They were tolerating immorality.  They were not separating from the sin or the sinners in Corinth which was bad even by the standards of the world in which they lived.  Some were being so bold in their testimony as to eat things offered to idols because they now knew that the idol was a fiction created by man; and yet they weren't considering that that their actions could harm others who thought that by eating they were actually worshiping those idols.  These Christians were getting drunk at the Lord's table.  Obviously, these Christians were not enjoying the fellowship into which they were called.

 

Fellowship is Partnership

Fellowship is a precious thing. It involves being like-minded and working together.  It is participating in the same projects and goals.  It is agreement.  Whenever there are problems and divisions among Christians, someone is out of fellowship with the Lord.  1 John 1:3 says, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  When our vertical fellowship (that is, our fellowship with the Father) is right, then our horizontal fellowship (that is, our fellowship with one another) will be right.  Because the Corinthians were having trouble with the horizontal aspect of fellowship, their real problem was with their vertical relationship with God.  I think that is why the climax of the epistle is chapter 15, where the Gospel is clearly spelled out (to Christians mind you) and where they are reminded of the power of the resurrection and of the promise of the Lord's return.  It is in Chapter 15 that Paul reminds them of victory.  In 1 Corinthians 15:57, Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Because of that victory, he encourages them to keep on keeping on. The next verse says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

 

Christians are to Continue in Fellowship

One of the four pillars of the church in Acts 2:42 is fellowship.  I really don't think Luke was writing about a half hour for coffee and cookies between meetings although that is one way of expressing our friendship.  But fellowship involves every aspect of the church and of the work of the Lord.  Fellowship should be expressed by our unity at the Lord's Table as we remember the Lord. 

 

Fellowship is expressed by the gift of helps.  We may not have the ability to do something ourselves, but we can sure encourage and help others that do.  We can help missionaries on the front-lines by praying for them and by our financial support.  That support may come through congregations, but many times it comes through individuals who see a need that the church they are attending does not.   Since the Gospel is free, missionaries should not charge those to whom they are preaching the Gospel; but those back home can make sure that they are able to eat and to keep a roof over their heads while they minister to those who have not heard the Gospel.  Paul appreciated the help of Phillipi in that regard.  He mentions that once and again that assembly had come to his rescue (Philippians 4:16).  In the first chapter he calls their help fellowship in the Gospel (verse 5).  Even the Lord was supported by those who believed in him and in many cases that was by women.  (See Luke 8:3).

 

Paying for Services Rendered

Many people justify hiring pastors and paying for them because of 1 Timothy 5:17-18  which says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.  For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE AN OX WHILE IT TREADS OUT THE GRAIN," and, "THE LABORER IS WORTHY OF HIS WAGES."  I am not sure that “double honor” in this passage justifies employment contracts. I think it justifies regular and continuing practical fellowship.  However, one thing I know by personal experience is that fellowship given to support a work by one who is truly partnering with you because the Holy Spirit has moved them to do so is an experience that far surpasses a pay check.

 

Fellowship is wonderful.  When we are in fellowship with the Lord we will be in fellowship with one another.  When we are in fellowship one with another, we will be working together for the furtherance of the Gospel.  This will be expressed in a lot of ways.  One way, however, will be for individuals as well as churches to financially support those who want to keep the Gospel free. 

 

Meditation for the week of August 21, 2016

Does Love Really Make the World Go 'Round?

 

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

On a recent Saturday morning as I pulled out on the highway, I saw a woman and a young boy walking along the side of the road.  They were holding hands.  He was holding a big container of what was likely soda pop from the convenience store not too far away.  Since we live in a manufactured home community and since some of the people who live there are very poor, I assumed these two did not have a car or much money.  But they had each other.  I know that I am making assumptions when I say it looked like a mother was spending quality time with her son; and that she had just bought him something that he wanted, even though it might not have been good for him.  She wasn't forcing him to excel at some sport, she wasn't making him do his homework, she was just spending time with him.  I wondered if this boy realized that he was experiencing one of the most precious things that anyone can experience.  He was experiencing his mother's love.  She was showing that love by just being there with the boy.  I may not know the whole story behind the scene that I witnessed, but I have to admit that seeing that mother walk with that boy while holding his hand, gave me the “warm fuzzies.”   And then I thought of the verse that I have quoted in today's meditation.

 

Different kinds of Love

When our society thinks of love, people usually think of erotic or romantic love.  That kind of love is found in our Bible.   The Song of Solomon is certainly a poem of erotic love.  However, the New Testament does not use the word for erotic love at all.  That kind of love is exciting and attractive, but it can be self-serving and usually does not last.  It has to mature into something more substantial and permanent.  The New Testament does distinguish between charity, a love that is often defined by duty and sacrifice, and the love of friends.  The love of friends is a mutual thing.  Charity may not be mutual.  However, when we show charity to one that we think is unlovable in the sense of a friend, we often find ourselves liking the person to whom we are showing charity.  Often they become our friend.  We use one word to explain all these different facets of love while God has several words helping us to understand the concept of love.

 

Why is Love or Charity the greatest Gift?

There is an ad that I have seen many times that says the world runs on Dunkin.  I think they mean that eating Dunkin Donuts energizes us.  But actually love in its different aspects is what should run the world.  Christians need friends and the fellowship of a church should be the best place to find those friends.  We are admonished in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  We need other Christians friends so that we can encourage (exhort) one another.  Living a Christian life in isolation makes us targets of Satan and can cause us problems with depression and assurance.  We can lose our confidence in the good that the Lord has in store for us.  We may become useless to others.

 

While we need the love of a friend, we also need to experience and show the love of charity.  It is the charity of God that provides salvation for us through the sacrifice of His Son.  We tend to be self-centered in our friendships and in our romantic relationships.  While we do good things for others, it is always with the idea of being happy ourselves.  But when we show charity, we are usually transcending self.  Recently, we have had major flooding in northeast Iowa.  The communities that have been flooded pulled together to save the towns and to help one another.  To me, they were showing Godly charity although many of the people involved were probably friends.  Often it is difficult to distinguish between true charity which is a God-given gift and and the love that we show for a friend.  While charity is given without expectation of return or personal benefit, the person showing the charity always benefits. 

 

Love is certainly Needed!

In a country where the political system and the economic system are based on personal greed, criticism, lies, bullying and cheating, it is certainly a breath of fresh air to see communities coming together to help one another.  It certainly is refreshing to see a mother and a son walking hand in hand down the road.  It is great to know that God SO LOVED the world, that He gave His only Son.  I know someone is going to ask if God loved His Son since we would never allow our sons to suffer like He did if we coult prevent it.  He said He did.  He said in Matthew 3:17, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” Obviously His love for the people in the world is measured by His love for His Son.  To be personal, His love for me is measured by His love for His Son.  His love for you is also measured by His love for His Son.

 

The world does not run on Dunkin'.  The world runs on love.  It really does make the world go 'round.  It is the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly.  Without love, things get really sticky and kind of noisy.  My prayer is that each of us has experienced the love of a friend as well as the charity of God today.

 

Meditation for the week of August 28, 2016