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DECEMBER 2010

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Nebuchadnezzar's Testimony

 

Daniel 4:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me.

 

People who are true converts to "the Most High God" should have one good Gospel sermon in them. That sermon is the story of how they were humbled in the presence of God, how they faced their unbelief, and how they ultimately found out that Jesus is Lord just as Paul did on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:5).

Nebuchadnezzar had worshiped the mystical pagan gods of his day. Actually, it appears from the previous chapter that he had made a statue that he wanted everyone to worship and that statue was really a representation of him. He thought he should be worshiped and most of us are like that before we are "born again". We think that what we think is right and we follow the teachings of those who agree with us. We assume that we are the final authority with regard to spiritual matters and we elevate ourselves to the position of "most High God." Those of us who believe that there is only One God and only one way to heaven are considered narrow. We had to repent (or find out we were wrong and God was right) in order to believe that truth. We are narrow because we believe that it is a narrow road that leads to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14). We, like Nebuchadnezzar, wish that all people were narrow enough to worship the God we worship. We wish they could understand the peace and joy that comes with having a relationship based on trust with "the Most High God." Most people know the burden and cruelty of religion, but they do not know the joy and liberty of serving a loving God. When Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king, he cruelly tried to destroy the three friends of Daniel who had been faithful to the "Most High God" and who would not bow down to his idol. The Jews in the new testament cruelly crucified their Messiah. But now Nebuchadnezzar is a changed man and he wants others to know the Living and True God.

Nebuchadnezzar found out that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men (Daniel 4:7)." He found out that God had given him the kingdom, he had not built it on his own. And he wasn't the most majestic of people nor the best of the earth, but he was the lowest of men as far as God was concerned. Nebuchadnezzar became a beast who ate grass and yet "the Most High God" preserved his kingdom for Him. When his ordeal was over he says, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down (Daniel 4:37)." Nebuchadnezzar is now justifying the one true God and is worshiping Him. It appears to me that he wants everyone in his kingdom to worship "the Most High God" as well.

This story has a sad ending. In the next chapter Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, Belshazzar, rebelled against God and likely died on the night of his debauchery and rebellion. Daniel was called to interpret for him what was being miraculously written on the wall that night by the fingers of a man's hand. He was told that his kingdom was finished and that God had weighed him in the balances and found him lacking (Daniel 5:27). Belshazzar died that night and he wasn't prepared. Daniel said to him that the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar should have spoken to him. "But you his son (probably grandson), Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. . . God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified (Daniel 5:22-23)."

Nebuchadnezzar found the God of heaven and submitted to Him. He was prepared for eternity. Beshazzar knew better but rebelled in pride. He was not prepared and no doubt is wishing right now that he had listened to his grandfather.

The Scripture is clear and straight forward and narrow : "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18)."

 

Meditation for the week of December 5, 2010

Our Hope has been Deferred, but the Promise is Sure!

 

Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

 

My wife and I follow the journeys of a number of people whose children have cancer. We watch as they wait expectantly for the Lord to cure the cancer using their doctor's wisdom. If the doctor tells them that normally the kind of cancer that their child has is curable, we see them rejoice as they realize that there is hope. But in some cases, the doctor's give up and tell the families that there is nothing that can be done. They are told that they have "no hope."

Hope deferred is not as bad as a situation with no hope. Hope is one of the key elements of life. We all need air, food, water, and shelter. We need love—real nurturing unconditional love. But we also need hope. We need to know that the future holds something for us that we can anticipate with joy.

This time of the year, children look forward with anticipation to Christmas. They expect that on Christmas eve or Christmas day, they are going to get to open some presents—some of which will NOT be clothes. They will laugh and jump up and down with joy when they get their electronic games, their DVD's, their scooters, bicycles and ice skates. Their joy might be in the wrong things, but when the gifts are opened, we get a little picture of what Solomon meant when he said, "when desire comes, it is a tree of life." The children are happy and they are filled with "life." They are certainly not running around disappointed and depressed. However, If they are among the unfortunate whose parents are without jobs, they might hear their parents tell them that there will be no presents this year; but that hopefully, in another year, things will be different. You can imagine their disappointment as their "hope is deferred."

According to Paul, the unsaved are "without hope (Ephesians 2:12)." Hope in the Scripture is linked to the resurrection and to the expectation that the Lord is going to return. We know and have faith that He is going to return, but we hope that it will be soon. When a Christian dies, the fact that the Lord will raise that person from the dead and take him or her home to be with Him forever, gives the Christian mourner a hope that the unsaved do not have. That is why Christians sorrow not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, our hope has been deferred for 2,000 years. Some believe that the Lord will never keep His promise to return (2 Peter 3:4). Others of us have started living as though he won't return and have gotten caught up in the pursuits of this world. Others know that while our hope has been deferred, the promise has not been forgotten by the Lord Himself.

Hope is a great motivator. If we really believe in the possibility of the Lord returning at any moment, we certainly will want to be ready to meet Him. We aren't ready to meet Him if we are not cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7). We need to be "born again" (1 Peter 1:23) or "saved" (Acts 4:12). We who are saved certainly want to be occupied with that which pleases the Lord when He comes, since we don't want to be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28). Wouldn't it be great to meet the Lord when He comes while meeting with a fellowship of Christians worshiping in a way that pleases Him, and who are encouraging each other to live in a way that pleases Him?

The Jews had their hope deferred for a long time when the Lord came the first time. But Lord came and their desire came. We who are waiting for the Lord to come again have had our hope deferred for a long time as well. But our desire will come. The Lord has promised it, and it will happen. Believe it! Think of the joy that will be ours if we are truly ready when that promise is fulfilled.

Meditation for the week of December 12, 2010

Merry Christmas?

 

Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

 

In 2005, the American Family Association targeted the Target Stores because they were banning the greeting "Merry Christmas" from their advertising and their stores. The AFA said that Target employees could not use the greeting to greet customers although that does not appear to be true. If it was true, the employees in most stores did not carry out the directive since those who checked found that employees would respond to a greeting with "Merry Christmas". It is clear that the public outcry worked because late in 2005, the Target store lifted the ban in its advertising. Recently (in 2010) I was in a Target store in Waterloo, Iowa that had a "Merry Christmas" sign hung in the store. AFA and others who promoted "Merry Christmas" in our stores and commercial establishments must have made the Lord very very happy. Or did they?

The gospel emphasizes a bloody sacrifice for our sins followed by victory because of the resurrection of Christ. Christmas emphasizes the joy and innocence of the Lord's birth but not the pain and sorrow of His death. The word Christmas, of course, really means Christ Mass. Religious groups that celebrate the mass say that it involves a bloodless sacrifice of the Lord Jesus since the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper become the actual body and blood of the Lord. They believe this sacrifice is effective in putting away sin. It is not my desire to offend anyone, but I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe that the Bible teaches that Christ is or needs to be offered over and over again. My salvation is dependent on my confidence in the fact that Christ died once for our sins, was buried and was raised again the third day all according to the old testament Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The Bible says that Christ offered Himself once (Hebrews 9:26-28). The Bible says that the sacrifice that satisfied God with regard to the payment for our sins was finished at the cross (John 19:30). There is a continual remembrance of that one sacrifice through the Lord's Supper, but the Lord only had to die once for our sins. When we are occupied with a "merry" Christmas we certainly aren't occupied with the sorrows of the cross. When we get occupied with the bloodless sacrifice of the mass, we certainly aren't preaching the clear Gospel that involves blood. Putting Christ back into a "Merry Christmas" is putting Him where he never was and never would want to be.

Celebrating a "Merry Christmas" as though it really honors the Lord must be somewhat like having a birthday party for a person who really didn't want one. When he comes home and finds his friends and relatives all bearing gifts and standing ready to honor him, he has to act happy and appreciative even though he did not want the party. I really believe that when the Lord said in 1 Corinthians 11:26, " For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes," that He really does want a memorial to His death til he comes. But where do we find Him asking for a "Merry Christmas" as a way to celebrate his birth? I've looked and looked for His request and have never found it.

I have no problem with a holiday season where we enjoy family and friends and give gifts to one another and to the needy. I have no problem with a holiday season that honors the Lord as the one sacrifice for sins that satisfied God on our behalf. We should be doing this all the time anyway. I have no problem with a holiday season that emphasizes the need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and that has Christians coming together to remember Him in the Lord's Supper. The Lord used this holiday season to preach the truth to the Jewish crowds in John 10:22. There the holiday was the man-made feast of Hanukah which was called the Feast of Dedication.

I fail to understand how we can get the true Gospel into a celebration that is merry and that offers Christ as a bloodless sacrifice over and over again I would not be at all offended if you wanted to greet me with "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" rather than with "Merry Christmas" this time of the year. I realize that most people use "Merry Christmas" traditionally without realizing what the true meaning of the greeting is. Therefore, if you greet me with "Merry Christmas", I will probably just smile and say, "Thank you."

 

Meditation for the week of December 19, 2010

The Post Holiday Blues!

 

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

 

Wouldn't it be nice to find something in life that actually lasts, and that actually satisfies? Most of us think new cars are the real deal and one would make us very happy. However, car dealers who sell used cars, remind us that everyone drives a used car. New cars are only new until we drive them off of the lot. The holiday season raises expectations of lasting satisfaction; but once the gits are unwrapped and the mess is cleaned up, once the dishes are all washed and the families all go home, the only thing left to look forward to is next year. If you ask me what I got for Christmas in another month,, I suspect that I will have a hard time remembering. We all need things to enjoy. We all need to look forward to new experiences and new friendships and new seasons in our lives. But when it is all said and done, it is all said and done. The older we get, the more fleeting life seems to be, and the more we realize that nothing in this life really satisfies the human heart. Our possessions get lost or they rust or get broken. Our friendships change. Our bodies break down. So what is this life all about anyway?

The Lord says that our lives should be all about eternity. We should be putting eternity and the Lord first. We should prepare for eternity. He says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33)." Most of us look for lasting satisfaction in that which does not last. The Lord tells us that He can satisfy us forever. He uses living water which would be clean running water in contrast to cistern water as a way to explain how to get permanent satisfaction. Physical thirst has to be quenched over and over again. We have a spiritual thirst that can be satisfied permanently if we would just let the Lord do what He does. He makes eternal sense out of a life that would make no sense if all it involved was to be born, grow up, look for new experiences and friends and things, and then die. The Lord knows how futile all that would be. But He offers water that will quench our thirst for ever. It will bring permanent joy instead of temporary happiness.

Now that the holiday season is almost over and we go into the dismal month of January, we get to experience the emptiness of knowing that there are no holidays of importance in January. January in our area (Iowa) will have two weeks of weather that will make us question our concern about global warming and our sanity for living here. Our cars may not start. If they do start we probably shouldn't go any where because if they stop and we are left on the highway, we will probably freeze. Our families and friends will have gone back to their homes and their jobs and unless we have drunk of the water that satisfies, January could be a very depressing time. Nothing in this life lasts or satisfies permanently. That isn't to say that we don't enjoy the memories of the holidays, but it seems that we need something more.

We need the water that satisfies and that springs up like a flowing artesian well. The joy that comes when we believe that the Lord has satisfied God with regard to our sin is lasting and satisfying. That joy must be experienced to be understood. You can put a rock on some springs of water and the pressure of the water will just cause it to start flowing somewhere else. The joy of a Christian who is filled with Holy Spirit because he has been satisfied by the living water of the Lord's providing is somewhat like that.

Even January cannot stifle that joy.

 

Meditation for the week of December 26, 2010