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AUGUST 2017

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Has the Manna become Stale?

 

Exodus 16:31  And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Numbers 11:6-8  But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.  And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.

Numbers 21:5  And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread."

John 6:49-51  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

 

Manna

Manna was a miraculous food provided to sustain the children of Israel on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Likely they ate some meat and had some milk from the flocks that were with them as well, particularly on the feast days.   But their staple every day was manna.  It started out tasting good, but by the end of their journey, they were tired of it.  You will notice that at first it tasted like honey, then like oil, and then it was light bread that had grown distasteful to them.

 

Manna speaks of Christ.  He is the living bread which came down from heaven.  Eating the living bread (which in the context of John chapter 6 speaks of appropriating by faith the work and person of Christ) gives eternal life.  One would think that we as Christians would never tire of hearing about Christ and His love and sacrifice.  But we are living in a day when the basic truths of the Gospel have become stale.  We are more interested in telling people how to live than we are in telling them about the Savior that we say we love.  We are more interested in “fun” than we are in the solemn preaching about “sin” and salvation through the “Son.”  We are told that the preaching of the Gospel is “boring," and yet you can't preach the Gospel without preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.  (See Ephesians 3:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:23).

 

The Ephesian Church

This congregation was likely established in the late 50's.  They were doing well when Paul wrote to them in the early 60's but by the end of the first century they had “left their first love” (Revelation 2:4).  Their first love had to have been Christ.  Preaching Him, worshiping Him and serving Him had to have been their early motivation.  But within 30 to 40 years, the manna had become stale.  They had good works, but they had lost their way.  They were warned that unless that got re-centered on their first love, the Lord would remove them as a testimony in their locality. 

 

We Need Balance

I realize that we need good teaching.  We who are saved need to know what pleases the Lord.  But a good presentation of the Gospel provides good teaching about the manna from heaven. And that is teaching that we all need.  It reminds Christians of their great sin and of God's great love.  It challenges the unsaved to think about their eternal destinies.  We can get all theological about what an assembly meeting is and what it should contain and who should be benefited.  But if, in a meeting that is primarily for Christians, we have those who are not saved shouldn’t we take that opportunity to preach the sweet strains of the saving Gospel to them?  If we don’t do that how can we say that we love the unsaved?  How can we say that we love the Lord?  How can we say that we are still thrilled with the Lord who died to save us?  How can we say that we really believe that the unsaved die and go to a place of eternal conscious punishment?

 

Let's not Let the Gospel become Stale

The Gospel never became stale to Paul.  In his last epistle to his friend Timothy he says, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2 Timothy 1:12).”  Paul was about to be martyred.  He says that the time of his departure was at hand.  The light that Paul saw on the Damascus Road had gotten brighter every time he told how he was reached and saved and that light was giving him courage at the end of his earthly journey.  He loved to tell the story of his conversion.  It never got old and boring.  May Christ and the Gospel and the story of our conversion never grow stale in our lives.

 

 

Meditation for the week of August 6, 2017

Are we really Happy or Blessed?

Matthew 5:3-12

(3)  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(4)  Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

(5)  Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

(6)  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

(7)  Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

(8)  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

(9)  Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

(10)  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(11)  "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

(12)  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

I am a people watcher.  I like to go to places where people congregate and observe the people   I really believe that God wants people to be happy or blessed.  So I like it when it seems that people I am observing are happy.  But sometimes what we see is deceiving and while people seem happy on the outside, they may be hurting on the inside.  Likely many of the people I see are looking for happiness, but they are looking for it in ways that are destructive  I believe that God wants to give us true and lasting  blessing or happiness.

 

What is happiness and where is it found?

In the Bible the words happy and blessed seem to be linked.  In the beatitudes above, each word blessed has been changed to happy in some of the more modern translations of the Bible.  As I read these beatitudes, they seem completely opposed to what most of us believe brings happiness today.  Just reread the beatitudes and substitute happy for the word blessed and then see if that is the thing that brings happiness in your life.  Aren't all of these things completely contrary to what we are taught will make us happy?  I realize that the beatitudes are looking at eternal rewards, but I believe they indicate that it is possible to be happy right now.  But we must meet the conditions of each promised blessing.

 

Happiness is sometimes associated with success.   When I was in school, I was always happy when I got A's on exams.  I was happy when I passed the CPA exam.  Many of us think that happiness involves “getting ahead.”  Many of us want honor and authority.  Achievements in this world do make us happy for a while.  But does that happiness last?  Do those achievements really bring lasting satisfaction?

 

Is happiness a feeling or a condition or both?  Dictionaries use various terms to define happiness.  Some of them say it is a state of contentment or satisfaction.  Some compare happiness to joy.  Often the word pleasure is used.  Some relate happiness to good fortune.  Happiness is likely different things to different people.

 

Scriptural Happiness is not obtained by Natural Means

When the Queen of Sheba observed Solomon's kingdom and reign she realized that his servants and subjects were indeed blessed because they had a righteous, wise king.   I think she thought they were in a state of good fortune and that living in Israel at that time was pleasurable.  While conditions that make us happy change, the attitudes that make us happy don't have to change.  The beatitudes deal with those attitudes. I don't think those attitudes are the attitudes that we are born with naturally.  But they can be cultivated by one who has been born again.  The new birth gives us a new eternal destiny and that has to make us happy.  It gives us a new leader who like Solomon is wise and righteous.  Before we were saved or born again we served Sin or Satan even though we may have thought we were serving God.   After we are saved we serve Righteousness or the Lord.  Paul explains this in Romans 6.  However, if in serving the Lord, we had to take the humble place in society, if we had to put others interests ahead of our own, would that make us truly happy?   And yet, just as I like to see people happy, the Lord likes that as well.  But to obtain His happiness, which is not just a fleeting emotion, we have to unlearn the principles of our society which put self first.  We have to practice the principle of putting others first.

 

Should Happiness be our Goal in Life?

As I write this, I realize that happiness was never a stated objective in our family.  We respected hard work and success in achievements, but I don't ever remember being asked if I was happy.   But in later years, I have found that happiness should be one of our goals.  But we should strive for the happiness found in the beatitudes.  I suspect that many Christians would have to admit that they don't think the principles of the Sermon on the Mount really work.  They think they if they lived by the principles of the Sermon on the Mount that people would walk all over them.  They are right.  They might even nail you to a cross.  And how could that make you happy?  God says it will and the early disciples who were martyred said it did.  Of course that is not the kind of happiness most of us want.

 

I want to be happy and I am sure you do too.  We certainly ought to believe God when He says Christ died for our sins.  And maybe we should believe God when He tells us how to be happy now that we are saved.  I am personally praying for the attitude adjustments in my own life that will lead to true happiness.

 

 

Meditation for the week of August 13, 2017

SO Loved!

 

Rom 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

 

Three Rules to live By

Here we have a threefold statement that should be the guiding principles of all of our lives.  The natural (unsaved) person is not likely to do this, the carnal or immature Christian may have some trouble with this, but the spiritual Christian should be exhibiting the desire to love without play acting, to abhor what is evil, and to cling to what is good. (See 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3.)

 

What is Love?

The Bible tells us that God is love.  We can only understand love when we understand the Lord Jesus Christ who has revealed God to us in a very practical way.  The best example of love is found in John 3:16:  For God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Notice the emphasis on that word love.  God SO LOVED.  This is something that you or I could not or would not normally do naturally.  We love our families, and we love those who are culturally like us. But most of us do not really love those that we perceive as being "different."   But God loved sinners of all colors and kinds and backgrounds.  He accepted Non-Jews (Gentiles) and the hated Samaritans.  Sometimes we sing:  "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.  Jesus loves the children of the world."  And as near as I can tell and read, He loves these children when they grow up as well.  As Christians, do we love them? 

 

What is the Evil that we are to Abhor?

Evil comes from the evil one who is our adversary.  The Lord tells us that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).  So while there are many moral evils, hopefully we can agree that lying and murder are right at the top because they are involved in so many other aspects of immoral behavior.  John tells us that hate and murder are the same.  In 1John 3:15, John says, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  John goes on to say in 1John 4:20, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?"  In other words, one who hates his brother is simply not a Christian. 

 

Now I know that some theologians with a desire to justify their attitudes toward certain segments of our society are going to ask, "Who is my brother?  Is that another Christian?  Or is that a blood brother?  Or is that talking generically about everyone who has been born into this world?"  I think that John was thinking that brother went beyond Jewish brother and Christian brother and blood brother since He was the one who recorded the words that God SO LOVED the WORLD that He gave HIs only begotten Son. 

 

Yes we need to abhor or hate evil but we shouldn't abhor or hate other people that God created in his own image.  And we should tell the truth.  When we say we love someone and our actions speak otherwise, we are lying.  And that hurts.

 

What is Good in this World

Mark 10:18 we have the record of a young ruler who thought he was pretty good coming to the Lord and calling Him good.  “So Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God.'" This young ruler called the Lord good but He didn't think He was God.  The Lord said that there is only one Who is good and that is God.  So if we want to cling to what is good, we have to cling to God and the first step in doing that is to believe Him when He says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  That will give us a desire to be like Christ and to abhor what is evil and to cling to what is good.  Actually, most of us know without asking whether something is good or evil.  God gave us consciences to help us with knowing good and evil.

 

So if we want to show to the world that the Lord has the answer to the divisions and hate in our society. let us ask ourselves, “Are part of the problem or part of the solution?”  If God SO LOVED the world, are we doing the same?

 

 

Meditation for the week of August 20, 2017

God's Awesome Creation

 

Psalms 40:5  Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done.

 

God has done marvelous things.  When He created this world, He said that it was good.  When He got done creating a woman on the sixth day, He stepped back and considered everything that He had done and He said it was VERY good. There are a lot of beautiful things in this world that God created, but even God saw women as that which perfected creation and its beauty.  Likely He was thinking that He had gotten that clay formed just right when He handed Eve to Adam. 

 

One of the beauties of God's creation was seen recently in the total eclipse of the sun.  For two and one-half minutes those who were in the path of totality saw something that was totally awesome.  People who have seen a total eclipse will travel the world (if they can afford it) to see another one.  My wife and I have seen partial eclipses and we didn't get too excited about chasing this total eclipse.  But after hearing the effect that it had on my family and others who did chase it, I wish we had planned a trip to see that two and one half minutes of awesomeness.

 

What is interesting is that the sun is 400 times larger than the moon but the moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun so it just perfectly covers the sun.  If the moon were closer, the sun would not be covered.  If the moon were further away, the corona that everyone wants to see, would be covered.  God knew just where to place the moon in relation to the sun for us to see this exquisite beauty during a full eclipse.

 

Enter Satan

Anything that glorifies God, Satan attacks.  He attacked Eve in the Garden.  He allows humans to destroy this planet with their carelessness and with their “progress.”  Some of the natural wonders of the world have become garbage dumps.  The ocean is being polluted by the nuclear accident in Japan and by the plastic refuse that men throw in it.  We over fish the ocean so that some of God's creation is in danger of extinction.  Satan loves it when he can mar and destroy that which God has made beautiful and awesome.  Even though all people were God's creation and all are loved by God, Satan has put hate and rage and anger and prejudice in the heart of man.  Instead of loving each other as we ought, we find it easy to kill and destroy.  We glorify war.  After all it is big business.  We take resources that could be used to feed people and use those resources to kill people.  Our governments are corrupt.  Many of our leaders are more concerned about re-election than about doing what is right.  Health-care which should be a right has become a privilege.  Instead of that service being provided sacrificially, it has become the means of robbing the poor and giving to the rich.  Satan has turned that which was created good upside down.  Fortunately, Satan has not been able to destroy a good eclipse that the Psalmist says does declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

 

But. . .

Satan effectiveness at convincing men to hate instead of to love, to love war instead of peace, to compete instead of to cooperate, did not catch God by surprise.  He made something else that is beautiful and awesome.    He sent a man into this world to show us what true love and sacrifice and humility is.  This man did not look like a King and when the Jewish people saw Him.  They didn't see any regal beauty in Him.  He came from the wrong family.  He was born in the wrong way.  He came from the wrong town. Those who taught the people the law and how to worship, rejected Him.  They conspired to kill Him because people who had needs were attracted to Him.  He healed, He calmed storms, He raise the dead, and He fed multitudes.   He spent time with Gentiles (non-Jews) and Samaritans.  These were people that were unclean as far as the Jewish leaders were concerned.  He was everything that a person born into this world should be.  But the Jewish leaders didn't care about the good He did, they cared about their own position, their “respect and honor”.  They cared about their power and even Pilate knew that they wanted to crucify the Lord because of their envy.  But this One was willing to die for the sins of the world.  He was willing to pay the penalty that we deserve because of our sins so that all could go free.  But there is one condition.  We must trust Him.   

 

Our leaders want to serve their own interests.  The Lord served our interests.  Our leaders want to do the crucifying.  The Lord was willing to be crucified.  When a person gets a sight of the cross and sees that it was there that God was providing a means of making sinners into saints, then the vision of the cross far exceeds the beauty of a two and one-half minute full eclipse. 

 

The hymn write has penned these words:

Oh the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all, just to think that God loves me. 

Oh the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all, just to think that God loves me.

 

My Plea

Please do not let the ugliness of sinners who hate and destroy, keep you from seeing the beauty of those three dark hours on the cross!   It is wonderful to think the Lord loved me that much (and He love you that much too). 

 

Meditation for the week of August 27, 2017