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DECEMBER 2005

 

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Luke 24:15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

 

Have you ever noticed that the Lord seems to be the closest when we are the most confused and perhaps the most troubled? However, because we have our minds clouded by the circumstances sometimes we donít recognize Him. These two disciples were sure that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah and that He was destined to set up a kingdom, but now He had been crucified. They were going home after the crucifixion talking about what had happened when the Lord drew near and went with them. He taught them from the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, but they didnít recognize him until later that evening as they ate a meal together with Him. Then they realized that their hearts had burned but that they didnĎt want an antacid. Luke 24:32 says, ď And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?Ē Wow, what a meeting that was! And the Lord cared enough for these two that he appeared unto them Himself. He didnít delegate this to another.

The Lord Himself had to die for us as well. That responsibility could not be delegated to another. Peter reminds us, ďWho his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).Ē Neither angels nor prophets nor old testament animals could do this particular job. Only the sinless spotless Savior, the unique and only Son of His Father, the One who was well-beloved could be the once for all sacrifice for our sins that would satisfy God forever. The Lord did this for us Himself and He is going to come again to take us to heaven Himself. He promised, ďIf I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself (John 14:3).Ē In 1 Thessalonians 4: 16 we read that it is the Lord Himself who is going to come to take the dead and the living saints back with Him to the place prepared in the FatherĎs house. The Lord will not entrust the responsibility of getting the bride that He bought and cleansed to another.

We often hear that when it comes time to cross over from time to eternity that we wonít have to cross Jordan alone. Somehow I believe that the Lord draws near to the believer when that difficult time comes. I wonder if that could be what Paul means when he says that He has finished his course and that there is a crown of righteousness awaiting him at that day and the crown seems to be awaiting all those who love the Lordís appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). What day would Paul be concerned with? If I knew that the time of my departure was at hand (2 Timothy 4:6), I would be thinking about that day. The appearing here is an epiphany or manifestation of the Lordís brightness. I believe Paul anticipated the appearing of the Lord to him on the day he was to be martyred, and he was encouraging others to expect that same epiphany if they were truly the Lordís.

The Lord really does love us and I am convinced He is always trying to draw near when we need Him. We may try to hide from him like Adam and Eve did after they sinned but He does not hide from us. He is near even to unbelievers (Acts 17:27). However, I believe that those who trust in Christ but find themselves in situations they donít understand, have the Lord draw near in ways they donít expect.

I just love these words, ďJesus Himself drew near and went with them.Ē

 

Meditation for the week of December 4, 2005

Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

 

When the terrible terrorism occurred in New York City on 9/11, I had the opportunity to talk to some friends in a gym that day about what had happened. During our conversation, I told them that many people questioned whether there was a God. But I told them that after what had happened that morning, no one should question whether Satan was real. In my mind, there is no other rational explanation for such hate and unnecessary suffering.

Satan is the enemy of the Christian. Christ is our advocate or lawyer or comforter. Satan is evil and Christ is good. Satan deceives while the Lord tells the truth. Satan will be destroyed while Christ is victorious, but right now in this world it seems sometimes that Satan has the upper hand.

Satan means adversary. In Revelation 12:9, he is presented as a dragon and I would take that to mean that He is ferocious. I wouldnít want to meet him in a dark alley. As a serpent he is a crafty deceiver. As the Devil, he is evil. He is the enemy but sometimes we embrace him as our friend. At times, he is in the church (Revelation 2:13) instead of Christ who is pushed to the outside (Revelation 3:20).

As our adversary, he brings trials into our lives that we donít understand just as he did with Job. He attacks the truth that God wants to bless us just as He did in the Garden of Eden with Eve. He tries to convince us that God is not living up to His side of the bargain just as he did with the Lord during His testing in the wilderness. He uses his servants to make it appear that God is not hearing our prayers as he did with Daniel in Daniel 10:13. He has an army with which to attack us according to Revelation 12:9. He is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44) and while His defeat is certain, yet at present his power is great (Ephesians 2:2).

We, the people of God, often do Satanís work for him. Peter is called an adversary of the Lordís when he failed to accept the truth that Christ was going to be crucified and then rise again the third day (Matthew 16:23). Sometimes I wonder how often I am doing Satanís work when I think I am doing the Lordís work. Sometimes I am afraid I act more like Satan (self-centered) that I do like Christ (self-sacrificing). Sometimes I worry that Satan knows the truth better than I do and uses my unbelief to manipulate me into doing that which is not God honoring. Sometimes I worry that I could be the cause of division and hate when I am supposed to be the instrument of unity and love. Sometimes I worry that I could become a burden instead of being a burden bearer (Galatians 6:2).

I am glad that the Lord loves me even when Satan tries to convince me that He doesnít. I am glad that truth will prevail and that Christ has been and will be victorious even when circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. I am glad that I am going to be received into heaven because I have received the truth that Christ died for my sins and that ultimately Satan and His angels are going to be cast out. I am glad that we walk by faith in a good God and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), that is, by what would seem to be right based on our own reasoning and on our circumstances.

The apostle John reminds us that we Christians, who are often considered losers in this world, are already over comers or victorious ďbecause greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).Ē Satan is real but He is no match for my Lord. I am glad that I am on the winning team.

 

Meditation for the week of December 10, 2005

Luke 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

Luke 1:32 He shall be great.

 

We know that Jesus means Savior. So the Lordís name means something to us. But I wonder if we understand what that name means to the Father and even to the Lord Himself. Sales people know that they have to know peopleís names and call them by those names in order to appear to care and to establish a connection with their customers and clients.

All of us like to hear our names. There are exceptions. I was never particularly fond of hearing my named called by my father when I knew he was angry. I was never particularly fond of family and friends who tended to add a y to my name after I was mature. But for the most part, it is nice to hear someone use your name. I know I not only appreciate people who call me by name but I appreciate it when I hear people using the names of my children and wife in a way that indicates that they respect and love them.

Today, I am conflicted when I hear people talk about and to the Lord. On the one hand it is nice to be able to see a warm personal relationship in the way they address the Lord. On the other hand, sometimes I think they use the name in such a familiar way that they have forgotten who He really is. I like to have children in my childrenís meetings address Jesus as Lord. I try to do that myself and yet I really like the song that goes like this:

There is a Name I love to hear,

I love to sing its worth;

It sounds like music in my ear,

The sweetest Name on earth.

O how I love Jesus,

O how I love Jesus,

O how I love Jesus,

Because He first loved me!

When we say His name in a way that shows our respect and love, I am sure that the Fatherís heart rejoices and that the Lord is glad. Worship is all about Him and His name and not all about us. He and not us is to be great. His name reminds us that His birth was necessary because the cross was necessary. His name reminds us that Biblical Christianity is still not popular and that just as He had an outside place in the manger, His followers are going to have an outside place in this world (Hebrews 13:13). His name reminds us that He is wonderful or marvelous (Isaiah 9:6).

I think I can honestly say that I love the name of Jesus but, more than that, I love the Person given that Name. I love Him because He first loved me, just as the above song and as Scripture say (1 John 4:19)! He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). He loved me enough to die for me so that I could be cleansed by His blood and made fit for heaven. Appreciating His personal love makes me appreciate His personal name.

 

Meditation for the week of December 18, 2005

Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill (murder); and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (or vain fellow), shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

1John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (the sacrifice that satisfies God) for our sins.

 

In the Sermon on the Mount we are told about anger without a cause. John tells us of love without a cause. Anger without a cause is murder whether the murder is actually committed or not. But who would be angry without a cause? Most of us think we have good reason to be angry when we are angry. The Lord had righteous anger when He cast the money changers out of the temple, something that just might apply to those who make a commercial killing at Christmas time. The Lord tells us in Ephesians 4 that, when we get angry, we should not sin by letting ďthe sun go down on our wrathĒ (Ephesians 4:26). Likely, He is saying that when you do get righteously angry, donít let the anger eat on you until it becomes a grudge. We should either get properly reconciled to the offender or forget about it.

Satan of course demonstrates ďanger without a cause.Ē There was no reason to take paradise away from Adam and Eve, but He did. Absalom, who seems to be King Davidís favorite son, was the one who turned on David. I know that he would say that David deserved it because he didnít properly punish Ammon for what he did to his sister Tamar (2nd Samuel 13). He never once loved his father enough to realize that Davidís sin with Bathsheba would have made him a hypocrite if he had punished Ammon.

Sometimes it seems that those of us who have the least to be angry about are the most angry. That anger can be directed at ourselves and it can be directed at God. We can resent Him for things that we donít understand and that we think are unfair. And frankly, there are a lot of things that I donít understand and think are unfair. However, I am not going to blame God, I am going to blame Satan. I know God is greater than Satan and could ďstopĒ Him if He wanted to, but for some reason He seems to be using Satan to test us to see if we will be faithful even when we are experiencing SatanĎs anger without a cause.

This time of the year we are reminded of Godís love without a cause. God sent His Son. He didnít wait for us to love Him to send His Son. When His Son came into this world, Herod had more confidence in Godís promises as an unbeliever than many of us do as professing believers. He went on a rampage and killed the children around Bethlehem in order to eliminate the King that the Jews didnít and wouldnít believe in (Matthew 2:16). Love without a cause causes us to feel worthwhile and special. It gives dignity to a person. Hate without a cause causes us to be expendable and destroys our purpose and value.

The coming of the Christ child who came to die on an old rugged cross, is the only beacon of light in a dark world. Godís love makes getting up in the morning worthwhile. I want to make it my objective to serve God by being involved in the loving rather than serving Satan by being involved in the hating. I want to be involved in spreading the love of God around in a world that seems to be bent on war and murder because so many of us hate one another without a cause.

 

Meditation for the week of December 25, 2005