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December 2008

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Looking up

 

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament (or expanse) shows His handiwork.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

 

The beauty and glory of God is seen by looking upward and not by looking downward. I am sure that as a shepherd David had times when he laid on his back and studied the beauty and order of God as seen in the stars. Today most of us live where we have city lights keeping us from seeing the heavenly beauty of God's creation. We miss out on seeing the first star come out on a clear night. We miss the beauty of a lunar eclipse. Many of our children have never gotten a clear view of the northern lights when they are on display in all of their shimmering colors. We tend to be watching TV in the fall when farmers used to harvest their crops by the light of a harvest moon. Many of us today do not experience the beauty and order of the sky that declares the glory of God.

Stars are always where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. You can set your clock by them. They are a reminder of the order that ought to be seen in the life a Christian. They are also a reminder of the fact that God is a God of order and that the universe did not just happen. It was designed, and the earth with its ability to sustain life as we know it is a part of that design.

The shepherds that were tending their flocks near Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago, also found the heavens to be amazing since an angel and ultimately a whole host of angelic beings appeared to them and announced the birth of the long awaited Messiah. The Lord came from heaven and ultimately went back to heaven and He brought peace and goodwill with Him from heaven. What a night that must have been for the shepherds!

We are told that this very One who became a man of sorrows, who was rejected and who was crucified, will come again and receive those of us who believe in Him unto Himself. Our blessings as Christians are not down here on earth but up there in heaven. In the world we will have tribulation, in the world we will be persecuted, in the world there will be sorrow; but up there it will beŚwell, heavenly. So why are we so occupied with fixing a world that is unfixable and with amassing wealth in a world that is going to be burned up when our real blessing is found by looking up and not by looking down? Down here, the Lord was executed and rejected. But up there He is appreciated and worshiped, and He is preparing a special place for the bride in His Father''s house. He is anticipating our arrival just as we should be anticipating His.

Paul reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven and we are waiting for the Lord to come from heaven. He will not be born into this world again. For the believer, He will come as a blessed hope, and as a comfort. He will deliver the Saints from the wrath to come which probably refers to the troubles that will be ushered in after the catching away of the church. To the unbeliever He will come as a victorious general and judge on a white horse, and those who have not believed that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, will find out that God is real and that His promises are going to be fulfilled whether we believe in Him or not. It is just that the promises are so much better for the believer than for the unbeliever.

When He was taken up into heaven, angels spoke to the disciples who witnessed his ascension and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11). We need to keep looking up and not down.

 

Meditation for the week of December 7, 2008

The Miraculous Conception

 

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

 

About 2000 years ago, a great miracle occurred. A young woman who was engaged but not married, had a child. Now that wouldn't be a miracle in our day and it wouldn't cause a ripple in the annals of history. But this birth caused quite a stir when it occurred and still causes a people to sit up and take notice. The reason this birth was notable is because the baby's conception was miraculous. The woman was a virgin when the baby was conceived. Because that seems so improbable to the natural mind, many have tried to imply that the story is a myth. But Matthew thought the story was true, and what is good enough for Matthew is good enough for me.

None of the Gospel writers tell us when the baby was born. Some think it occurred on December 25th, the date that was thought to be the date when the sun was reborn by many who worshiped the sun and the stars. December 25 was considered to be the shortest day of the year, Now we know that the date is a few days earlier. What we do know about the birth of the Lord is that it probably wasn't on that date since it would likely have been too cold for the shepherds to have been living in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks at night.

What we do know is that this conception was miraculous even though the birth was normal. We know that Mary who was the virgin that conceived the Lord had other children the normal way married women do, so she didn't remain a virgin. We know that the conception of the Christ child was foretold 700 years before it happened. We know that when Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus, another great miracle occurred. God was now dwelling with men. His title Immanuel means, "God with us." John tells us in John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The Word was a title for the Lord Jesus since He is the means of communicating who God is to us.

We do know that the celebration of Christmas is the world's way of honoring the Lord and is not the way the Lord asked us to honor him. The Lord wants us to believe in Him. We celebrate Christmas with a world that has rejected Him. I always marvel that those who will not get baptized to honor Him, who will not associate with a congregation of believers to honor Him, and some who have never taken a piece from a loaf of bread or a drink from a cup of wine to honor Him, are determined to celebrate Christmas in order to honor Him.

We do know that the Lord was born to die. Simeon reminded Mary in Luke 2:35 that she would understand sorrow because of this Son. He said a sword would pierce her soul. The Lord was destined to be a "Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Some object to the Gospel because they cannot imagine a Father punishing His Son on a cross for something He did not do. Yet that is exactly why the Lord was born. He is the only one who could die for our sins since He did not have any of His own for which to die. Those of us who have trusted in His sacrificial death, know true love. We know that the Lord was born to die because God loved us and wanted to provide a righteous means of salvation for us.

We may be occupied with a baby in a manger this time of year. But we should be occupied with the Savior who died on the Cross. We should be thankful for this great miracle that occurred when Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to a Son who was willing to live with and ultimately die for sinners. Paul says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." I don't object to the Gospel because the Father gave His unique Son to die for me. I thank God for that great Truth.

 

Meditation for the week of December 14, 2008

The Little Word ALL

 

1Timothy 2:3-6

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,

 

I like the little words in the Bible. I can understand them. One of those words that I really like is the word all. I preach the Gospel, and I preach it in the confidence that everyone to whom I preach can be saved. This time of the year we are reminded that the Lord was given the name Jesus which means Savior because Joesph was told by the angel of the Lord, "you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)."

I am convinced that the Lord not only died for the elect, but he died for all. In the old testament, the Jewish people are the elect or chosen people. They are an earthly people. In the new testament, those who are 'in Christ" because they have faith in Him are the elect or chosen people. They are a spiritual people. Those who miss out on God's salvation, will do so "because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18)." People rejected Christ when He came to reveal God to us and to die for our sins, but Christ did not reject anyone when He finished the work that saves. Again, our text says that He gave Himself a ransom for all. Since all we like sheep have gone astray, it is good news to know that the LORD laid on Christ the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Peter agrees with this. He says, "The Lord is not slack (or slow) concerning His promise (to come again), as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)." Repentance is the change of mind that brings us to faith in the Lord and it is clear that salvation is by faith alone according to the Bible. It is God's desire that all would come to repentance so that they can be spared from perishing.

Christ our Savior is available to all men but He only saves those who believe. I often think about those who hear the Gospel and reject it. They will one day be in eternal torments and one of those torments will be to have known that Christ died for them but they wouldn't believe in Christ. It won't be a case of them not being able to believe in Christ, but it will be a case of not being willing to believe in Christ. And because of that simple mistake, they will be lost. Since the Lord wants everyone to be saved and since He paid the ransom to buy us all back from the slave market of sin, the best way to celebrate this season would be by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ if we haven't already trusted Him. It would be the smart thing to do. And if we are saved, the best thing we can do is to thank God that His Son paid the ransom price for us all.

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23). There is an all in that verse that I don't really like, but it is there just the same. None of us deserve to be saved. But we can all be saved, God has not limited the work of Christ in any way. Provision was made so that God could forgive all the sin of all the people in all the world when Christ died on the cross. However, we ourselves can limit the work of Christ by not believing in Him. That is the greatest offense that we can commit against God. He loved all the people in the world and He sent His son into this world to die on a cross to prove that. When people reject that love, I believe that they deserve to perish. But that is not why Christ came. He came to save, not to destroy. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:18)"

The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself a ransom for all. That is the Christmas story and the Easter story all wrapped up together. When we believe in the Lord, we start a new life with Him and we enjoy a new beginning because of a new birth. So we also have the New Year in this story. And that is good news.

 

Meditation for the week of December 21, 2008

 

Coming as a Thief

 

Revelation 3:3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Revelation 16:15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

 

Another year is gone. We have accomplished some things we wanted to accomplish and we have left other things undone. We have been thrilled at some things that have happened this year, and we have been greatly disappointed by other things. There is one thing that has not happened that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been longing to have happen for nearly 2000 years. The Lord has not yet kept His promise to return (John 14:3).

Because it has been so long since the Lord made the promise, there are scoffers that are saying, "Where is the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:4)?" Scoffers tend to think 2000 years is too short to prove evolutionary theory but that 2000 years is too long when it comes to depending on a promise that the Lord has made. Just as I have depended on the fact that God said Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), I am depending on the fact that the Lord has promised to come again.

When we are told that the Lord will come as a thief, sometimes we think that means that we cannot know when the Lord is going to return; and, therefore, we get careless about watching and waiting for Him to return. One of the reasons that I believe that the return of the Lord for the church must occur before the prophetic calendar of events for the nation of Israel begins is that I do believe that the Lord wanted us to think that He could return at any time. If the church is going to go through some or all of that period of time called the Tribulation then there would have to be some things happen before He could return and we who are saved would not need to be waiting and watching.

However, the Lord's coming as a thief does not mean that we cannot know when the Lord is going to return. It means instead that we simply do not expect the Lord to return. You will notice that the Lord's coming as a thief is a warning to both the church and to those going through the Tribulation. In Revelation 16:15, the church has already been caught up into heaven (Revelation 4:1) and the events that must take place after that event are being described. For the Jewish believing remnant that knows the prophecies of Scripture, they will be able to count down from the day that the temple is desecrated by the Antichrist until the Lord returns to set up His kingdom. It will be one half of the last unfinished prophetic week of Daniel 9:27. The prophetic week of Daniel 9 represents seven years with each day being a year. So from the time the Antichrist ends the Jewish worship until the Lord returns to set up his kingdom will be 42 months or 1260 days (Revelation 13:5). While the church does not know when the Lord will come for them, the believing Jews of the Tribulation period can know. But in both cases, the Lord will come as a thief to a majority of the people. When we don't expect a thief, we don't lock the doors or buy a guard dog. If we do expect a thief, we prepare for him. By and large the Lord will surprise the whole world when He fulfills the promise he made 2000 years ago. The church is not expecting to be caught away from the wrath that is coming, and those who go through that wrath do not expect to see the Lord come on the white horse with the armies of heaven to defeat his foes (Revelation 19:11-21). But both will happen. I know it will because the Lord has spoken, and I believe God.

Hopefully, this is the year that the Lord will fulfill His promise. I would like to be among those who are waiting expectantly and eagerly to hear the shout that announces the rapture. I remember playing hide and seek as a kid, and while one person closed his eyes, the others hid. Before the one who closed his eyes started his search, he would always say, "Coming, ready or not." That is just what is going to happen when the Lord returns. He is going to come whether we are ready or not.

 

Meditation for the week of December 28, 2008