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DECEMBER 2002

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Hebrews 13:18

Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

You can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way that person handles money. Sometimes Christians act as though money doesn’t matter, but it does matter. The Lord is concerned about money (not about obtaining it since He owns the cattle on a thousand hills). But He is concerned about whether we as Christians use it and earn it honestly.

A month ago I bought a package from my local phone company that was supposed to provide me more services than I had for less money than I was currently paying. The bill that I got today was $10.00 higher than I was quoted. I called the company, and after going through menu after menu of options, I finally got to a real person who finally admitted he did not understand the bill nor was a supervisor available to help him. Do you suppose that the company knows that most people are going to “give up” if their overcharges are not very high?

A month ago I got a credit card bill with a late charge of $20.00. Knowing the date when I sent the payment and knowing that it should have gotten there at least one day before it was due, I assumed that when I called the company they would tell me that the payment was delayed in the mail. But no, instead the due date given on the bill fell on Saturday but mail received on Saturday (and probably on Friday) didn’t get posted until Monday, after the due date. So they intentionally set a due date many people were going to miss. When I called, the representative immediately dropped the charge. How many people do you suppose paid the $20.00 without complaining?

I am glad I work for an honest boss (the Lord Jesus Christ). Because He is honest we KNOW we have His Word for the fact that believers (those who trust in Him) will be in heaven. He doesn’t mislead us. I feel sorry for people who go to work every day for a corporation that considers business to be business and does whatever it can to make a little extra off of a lot of people. How many times are Christians forced to do things that they would not do if they were running their own businesses? We need to remember that our honesty reflects our character and our character reflects on the Lord who died for us. There may not be much that the world can depend on but they should be able to depend on Christians. If we are working for companies that require us to “cut corners” or mislead people, maybe it is time to look for another opportunity. Thank God for every honest Christian who has a good conscience regardless of whether they work for others or for themselves.

Week of December 1, 2002

2Corinthians 4:18

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal (temporary); but the things which are not seen are eternal (forever).

When I studied economics, we studied long-run decisions and short-run decisions. Decisions that were best for the short-run were not always best for the long-run. If a business charges an exorbitant price today and makes the sale, it has maximized short-run profits. Long-run profits may not be maximized since the business will likely lose customers in the long-run. Likewise, in spiritual matters, we can live life for short-term gratification rather than living for long-term blessing (eternity).

Sometimes in these economics classes, a student wanting to be humorous would say, “Yes, but in the long-run we are all dead!” Of course, that is the point. I have asked myself, how long am I going to live and how long am I going to be dead? The answer is clear even to those who do not believe in God. We are dead a lot longer that we live! In view of that obvious fact, wouldn’t it be wiser to be concerned with the future after death than the future of this short life? I think that is why Paul says in our verse that the things we see now in this life are temporary and the things that we don’t see and accept by faith in God’s Word are permanent or forever.

Many churches today deal with social programs and make Christianity a way of living for today (the short-term approach). Of course, Christianity should help us live our daily lives, but as a society we have gotten away from thinking about eternity. When a person dies, we fix them up to look as though they are sleeping and the reality of death is carefully disguised. Death is unpleasant and it is the last enemy (1Corinthians 15:26.) It introduces us into a never ending future. My Bible says that our future is either going to be paradise with our Savior or eternal judgment with the Devil. Since eternity is so long, I would hate to find out five seconds after dying that I prepared for this short life and neglected preparing for eternity. Having eternal life (the long-term approach) is what encourages believers in the Lord Jesus who are going through trials. The trial is just for a short time but afterwards they can enjoy blessing for eternity. Neglecting to prepare for eternity will surely be a greater mistake than not buying life insurance or car insurance or medical insurance or nursing home insurance, etc. If we need to prepare for time, how much more important is it to prepare for eternity (John 3:36)?

I am getting to an age where a lot of my classmates are dying. My friends have relatives who are dying. Many nights the newspaper has the obituary of someone I knew. One night last week, about half of the obituaries were for people younger than me. When I read the obituaries I wonder if those who died had made long-run decisions and were prepared for eternity.

Week of December 8, 2002

1Timothy 1:2

Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm 68:5

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

Fathers are important. Mothers are important. Families are important. We couldn’t have had the Son of God born as the Son of Man without Mary. The Lord was part of a family whose father was Joseph and whose mother was Mary. That family included other brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55).

Today there is an attack by Satan against the family. Fathers in particular are considered unimportant. They can’t live in the same house as the mother in many states and get welfare, even if the family needs it. The mother decides on whether to carry a baby to term and the father is involved in the decision only in as much as the mother allows him to be. Girls can get abortions without the father of the baby or her parents knowing or being involved.

Is it any wonder that we have trouble telling young people about their “God who is a Father?” Our concept of God is affected by our concept of our fathers. Some have judgmental fathers, some have absentee fathers, and some have permissive fathers. What kind of Father is our God? First of all, He doesn’t like to punish but He will (He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, Joel 2:13). Some Fathers live to punish, our Father would rather be gracious and merciful. Some have a hard time accepting a loving and gracious God because their fathers were not loving and gracious. Some think God should never punish rebellion because their fathers didn’t. We need to remember that an earthly father is marred by sin and does not perfectly reflect the personality of the Father who sent His Son into the world to save sinners. He is a God of love and yet of righteousness. He is a Father of mercy who condemns those who rebel against Him and reject Him. He is a Father of truth but also of grace.

Timothy had a spiritual Father in Paul. I am sure that some of Timothy’s attitude toward God was molded by his attitude toward Paul. Those of us who are spiritual fathers need to project the right image of God to those we are fathering.

All of us have earthly fathers and some of us are fathers. We need to be concerned with the image of God that we are projecting to our physical children so that they will not be hindered in accepting the gift of His Son which is the gift that saves eternally. That is the gift that our heavenly Father needs to be thanked for this time of year.

Week of December 15, 2002

Luke 2:29-30

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

 

Simeon held the One in his arms that had created all things and Who holds all things together (Colossians 1:15-16). Simeon was holding the One who had given him breath. The Son of God had become the Son of man through the immaculate conception (He was conceived by the Holy Spirit) and by His virgin birth (Mary never “knew” a man until after the Lord Jesus was born). The innocence and frailty of this new life that was committed to the care of Mary and Joseph reminds us of Isaiah 53:2, “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant”. Again in Isaiah 53:2, He is referred to “as a root out of a dry ground.” The dry ground no doubt represents Israel who had not born any fruit for God for at least 400 years. The root represents the Lord’s right to the throne of Israel by being “the root and offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16). The Lord descended from King David through both Mary and Joseph. Simeon was given the privilege of being there when the Lord was born and of holding this One who would be the Savior of the world in his arms. What a privilege he had! And yet, he warned Mary, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35). He knew that the One he held would die as a “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).

It is as the “Arm of the Lord” (Isaiah 53:1) that we know the Lord Jesus. The ability of a man is seen in his arms. It is with the arms and the hands that he does his work. The Lord is the part of the triune God that carries out the plans of God. He created, He redeems, He rules, and He speaks for God as the Word of God in John 1. He is the head of the church, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He is the obedient servant. As the arm of the Lord, He carried out God’s plan of salvation by becoming the One who was “wounded for our transgression and Who was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Simeon could say, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:29-30). Simeon had held the baby who was to die as our Savior and he was able to depart or “die” in peace. The only way we can die in peace is if we too believe the report of Isaiah 53 and trust in the one that Simeon held in His arms. His love held Him to a cross where our sins were laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). Have you believed this report (Isaiah 53:1)?

Week of December 22, 2002

Jonah 3:1-2, And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

John 3:7, Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Matthew 11:4, Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see.

As we take inventory of our lives over the past year and begin to plan for the new, we should remember that our God provides second chances. You may be quite satisfied with last year’s activities, but many of us would like to do some things over. Thank God, no matter where we may have failed, our God is the God of the second chance.

Jonah was a great prophet (Matthew 12:42). I wouldn’t call someone who was disobedient to the Lord’s command and who was unhappy with the Lord’s willingness to save, a great prophet. But the Lord did and when Jonah disobeyed, the Lord gave him a second commission.

Most of us are rather proud of who we are by our first birth but the Lord says that we are corrupt by nature. He told Nicodemus, who likely was a good man, that he needed a new life. The first one wouldn’t do. We are all sinners by our first birth, but the Lord didn’t condemn us, He came to provide us with a life that would fit us for heaven. He provides a second or new birth.

John the Baptist was a great prophet as well. And yet when he was in prison he began to wonder if the One he had been preaching about was indeed the Messiah. He must have had doubts and he sent his disciples to find out if this was the One. They were told, “go show John again!” He needed reassurance and the Lord gave it to Him.

The Lord provides encouragement where there is failure, salvation where there is sin, reassurance where there is doubt. This is the Lord who may come again this next year so “that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:3).” But if He tarries, our Lord will still be with us as the one who encourages, saves and reassures. He has promised us, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Week of December 29, 2002