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DECEMBER 2013

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Beauty is more than Skin Deep

Isaiah 53:2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

Three things that we enjoy

When we go on vacation, we like to do three things. We like to see beautiful memorable sights. We like to eat new different and good food, and we like to visit friends and relatives. The Bible takes us on a travelogue that meets all three of those needs in our lives; however, our trip can be taken in an arm chair as we relax and meditate on the blessings of the Bible.

Some things are just not beautiful

As we take this spiritual Biblical journey, we are exposed to some things that are beautiful and to some things that are ugly. Sin has damaged our beautiful creation. As a result, we are exposed to war, thorns and thistles, disease, hate, and many other things that we would certainly not consider beautiful. We are even exposed to the Messiah who did not have the beauty that most assumed a King should have. The Lord came from Nazareth, a despised city. He was born a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. He was poor when He should have been rich. He had a band of disciples when He should have had a standing army. He was born in an inn and placed in a manger when He should have been born in castle and been placed in a luxurious crib. The Lord was not marred by sin as creation had been, but He seemed so common and ordinary. Certainly He did not seem like a King.

But things get worse. This common ordinary man who had the ability to heal and calm storms and to teach in an authoritative but gracious way started getting a following which made the Jewish leaders envious. So in order to get rid of Him, the Jews convinced the Romans to crucify Him. Now crucifixion is not beautiful. It is probably one thing that all of us would consider brutal and cruel. It involved needless suffering and was designed to keep people loyal to the Romans through fear. Most of us would not want a crucifixion to be one of the stops on a good vacation.

What is true Beauty?

Beauty is usually defined as something that "looks good". It appeals to the eye. True beauty makes us feel good. Women know the importance of beauty as seen by their purchase and use of beauty products. A new car needs to appeal to the eye of a potential buyer before that buyer is going to be willing to test drive the car. A new home has to have eye appeal to sell quickly. But what is beautiful to one person may not appeal to someone else. There is truth to the statement that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may have been beautiful when we first see something or someone may turn out to seem quite disagreeable later. The person that we thought was beautiful may have a foul mouth, they may be liars, and they may be so characteristically evil that what was once pleasant to the eyes becomes very irritating when we see them. I have had cars that I once looked at with pride that I just wanted out of my sight after they became money pits that seemed to need constant repair.

So what is true beauty? It depends. A person who does not have physical characteristics that would put them on the cover of a magazine, might be quite beautiful to people who know them. Their inner beauty may be such that people don’t even think about their physical beauty. It is like that with those of us who love the Lord. The nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side are not something that we would normally consider beautiful. But to those of us who believe He is precious (1 Peter 2:7). In other words believers esteem Him and we find Him valuable. I can assure you that those wounds that He bears because of Calvary are wounds that give Him character and beauty as far as I am concerned.

Conclusion

The Lord may not have looked like a king. He may have seemed ordinary. He may bear gruesome scars since His visage or face was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men (Isaiah 52:14). The world may find Him detestable. But I find Him beautiful After all those scars are the result of His love for me. And I am quite sure that this is the attitude of all who have found out that He bears the marks of the crucifixion because of His love for them.

Meditation for the week of December 1, 2013

Sin Separates us from God!

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Hiding from God

Adam and Eve had it made. They lived in paradise, and they had open communion with God in the cool of the day. The cool of the day is associated with a breeze. Communion with the Lord may have been like a breeze that came and refreshed them. But Satan couldn’t allow mankind to glorify God in this beautiful garden. So he got them to violate just one command. And he did that by lying to them. And when they violated that command they no longer wanted to hear the voice of God in the cool of the day. They hid themselves. Notice God did not hide from Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God.

Do we Hide Ourselves Today?

Satan is the great deceiver. That is one of his titles. The Lord says that Satan is the father or originator of lies (John 8:44). Today there is great deception. Parents lie to children, children lie to parents. News sources lie. Sometimes they do it intentionally and sometimes they do it unintentionally. But they do lie. Politicians lie. They know that if they repeat something often enough, there will be some people who will believe the lies. Thank God for every parent, every child, every news source, and every politician that does their best to tell the truth because they stand out in the crowd.

Many of us repeat lies because the lies are what we want to believe. If we refused to repeat anything critical or defamatory that we couldn’t affirm to in a court of law, we would probably have a lot less to say. Our conversations would likely be a lot sweeter and our comments a lot shorter if we were really concerned about speaking only the truth.

Intentional lies are sin. Some of us have to confess that we have intentionally lied at times. I know that all of us have lied unintentionally. When we find out that we have lied, we usually try to correct what we have said and we apologize for it. But when our lies are intentional, they not only affect our communion with God, they also affect the communion of others. Satan's deception was subtle and intentional. His lie has had lasting consequences. We certainly don't want to help him accomplish his demonic purposes.

Truth is Important

Christians say that they have the Truth. If we repeat rumors that we do not know are true, if we lie in business dealings and say that our lies are "just business", if we violate our marriage vows, how are people that need to know the truth going to believe that we are telling them the truth?. Many people today that do not read their Bibles seem to think that Christians are gullible and live in a fantasy world. After all, we believe in an absent King, we believe in His imminent return to judge the world and to save us from that judgment. But that promise is over 2000 years old. Surely, it would seem to the unsaved, that we believe in One who may have walked the earth as a man; but, certainly, He wasn’t the Son of God. And Satan has convinced the world that His promises are not literally dependable. But Truth will win and we need to make sure that our lives make it possible for others to believe us when we tell them the Truth.

Oh for a Return to Unhindered Fellowship

Knowing unhindered communion with God is a great blessing. We may live in the world but times alone with the Lord are a real paradise on earth. We are not going to enjoy those times if we have been deceived by Satan and if we start acting in a self-willed way that makes us happy but causes us to hide from the Lord. We will actually be spreading the self-willed Gospel of the great deceiver rather than the self-sacrificing Gospel of the Lord, our great Savior.

Meditation for the week of December 8, 2013

Where’s the Good Works!

 

James 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

Introduction

Year’s ago, there was an ad by a fast food restaurant where the question was asked, "Where’s the beef?" The ad implied that other chains did not sell much beef in their hamburgers while this one did. I have been wondering if the day may come when I stand before the Lord and He asks me, "Where’s the good works?"

 

The Proof of True Faith

Paul tells us in Galatians 6:10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." James says that we are to show our faith by our works (James 2:18). John says, "But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him (1 John 3:17)?" The Lord Himself says, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. "Matthew 25:40)."

The principle is clear. If we are Christians we should have a heart of compassion for those who are in need. If we can help, we should help. Our priorities are to help family first (see 1 Timothy 5:8), then those who are believers, then we help all. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:14 and 15 that the works of Christians will be judged. Those Christians whose works pass the test will be rewarded and those whose works do not pass the test will suffer loss of reward even though they will be saved personally.

 

What are Good Works?

I have always emphasized the truths found in Ephesians 2:8-10. This passage says we are saved by faith and not by works. But we are saved unto good works that God has before ordained that we should walk in them. But what are the good works that God is wanting? Salvation is a new birth. A new birth leads to a new life because of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. A new life is seen in these good works. We often seem to think that good works are good morals and of course that is included. So we are always glad when those who are in jail, when those who are addicts, when those who have other difficult compulsive issues in their lives, see their lives change through the power of faith in Christ. We have to recognize however, that things do not always improve dramatically and immediately for those who have habitual sin in their lives. But the change that we will see is a new conscience about these things and a willingness to confess these things as sin. But is this the definition of good works in the passages we are considering?

The answer is, "No!" Good works quite clearly mean that we have compassion for and help one another When we see a need that we can help meet, we open up our hearts and meet that need. When we do that we are helping the Lord Himself.

 

Being Practical About This

Over the years, I have tried to be the best Bible teacher and Gospel Preacher that I know how to be. I know that not only will my works be judged but my teaching will be judged. I want to be faithful and balanced. The unsaved need to be warned and the Christians need to be instructed. Somehow I have always assumed that I was "doing good." And I trust that the Lord has seen it that way. But if I had it to do over, I would have spent less time preaching to the unsaved and more time trying to help them. I have not had a lot of resources so I never could do very much. But I know that when we serve a meal, we could always put one more at the table. I know that while I can’t feed the world, I can offer a meal to one. I know that we have a lot of clothes that have gone to Goodwill that maybe could have been given directly to someone who needed them. My wife and I can’t do much, but I am convinced that we can do something. While we have tried to do something, perhaps we can do a little more this next year.

 

Conclusion

If the Lord opens the door to help others this year, I do not want to do it for the reward. I want to do it for the person. The reward will take care of itself. I do not even want to do it for the Lord (please do not quote this out of context). I want to do it for the person and the Lord says I will be doing it for Him. I do not intend to do it so that I can preach to those I help. There are many organizations who do that and I applaud them. But I want to do what I do because it is the right thing to do. I believe that if people think we are helping them because they are valuable to us and to the Lord, they will give us opportunity to present the Gospel to them. Hopefully then, I will never have to hear the Lord ask me, "Where’s the good works?"

 

Meditation for the week of December 15, 2013

Banking on the Truth

2 Timothy 3:14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

Deception Abounds!
As we get closer and closer to the Lord’s return, it is harder and harder to make sure that what we believe is true. I can find news reports that support whatever I want to believe. Many of them are not news reports at all but commentary on the news. When it comes to Bible interpretation, I can find Bible teachers that will teach almost anything that I want to hear without regard to the full context of the chapter or the particular book or of the Bible. When it comes to diet and medical issues, I can find all kinds of contradictory experts. So what can a person believe? I believe that the only thing that we can depend upon for sure is the written Word of God. I believe that the average person can understand the Bible’s basic truths. The problem is that the Bible does not always tell us what we want to hear so we don’t always find it easy to believe.

Some Truths that I Believe
I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that in the original manuscripts, every word was inspired.
I believe that Christ is the Son of God.
I believe that Christ is sinless
I believe that Christ was raised from the dead and that He is coming again.
I believe that trusting Christ is the only way to be right with God.
I believe in heaven and in eternal conscious punishment. Thus, I believe in existence after death.
I believe that God sent His Son so all could be spared from eternal conscious punishment.
I believe that most people who claim to be Christians have never really trusted in Christ to save them.

How can We be Sure?
Timothy believed what he believed because he had been taught by his mother and his grandmother and by Paul. I believe what I believe because I have promises from the Holy Scripture to assure me. I have been taught by many. Some of what I have been taught does not stand the test of Scripture. Much has met that test and those are the truths that I am assured of and that I teach.

Most of these truths can be found in a couple of simple Scriptures. John 3:16, 17, 18 and 36 are good places to start. John 14:6 also comes to mind along with Luke 10:27. Basically I understand that God wants us to love Him and to love our neighbor. He says we don’t love Him when we are born the first time. Instead we love self. But when we understand our sinnership and trust Christ, things change. Then the love of God for us becomes real. Our love for others also becomes real and is one of the ways that we show our love for the living and true God who loves us

By faith I am sure of a few basic things. I am sure that the Lord did not sin nor lie. 1 Peter 2:22 says, “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth,” Because Christ is the Truth and does not and cannot lie, I am sure that Christ died for me and that one day I will be in heaven. This is something that we all need to be assured of.

Banking on the Truth
As we all celebrate in some fashion the birth of Christ at this time of the year, we need to make sure that we are not just celebrating a supposed myth or the Santa Claus lie. We need to remember that His name was called Jesus because He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). That is truth straight from our heavenly bank and trust company. I am banking on that Truth and I hope you are as well.



Meditation for the week of December 22, 2013

Perfect Peace from the Rock of Ages

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength (or the Rock of Ages). (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Reflecting on the End of Another Year

As we come to the end of another year, it is nice to know that there is someone who can give "perfect peace". It's not the doctors, or the politicians or the the people who report mostly bad news. Instead it is the ever existing One, the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. With Him, the world makes sense, without Him the world makes no sense. With Him, we can have peace, without Him we have distress, confusion and anxiety. This One who is Yah or Jehovah in the Old Testament, came to reveal God to us in the New Testament. His name is called Jesus.

According to the explanation of these verses in the Believers Bible Commentary, it was from this expression that Augustus Toplady got the idea for one of the greatest hymns in the English language, "Rock of Ages." Seeking shelter in a cleft in a rocky crag during a violent thunderstorm, he wrote:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment-throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Anticipating a New Year

We certainly do not know what this next year will hold but we can have perfect peace about it. Of course, we will have to die to self and and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us (or control us). We won't be able to tell God how to do His business, we will have to let Him tell us. And of course none of us could do that without first coming to an end of ourselves and trusting the Lord in order to get right with God. It is not possible to depend on the Lord when in reality we are depending upon self.

Surely

I have to admit that there are a lot of things this last year where I have not had "perfect peace." But that is my problem, not the Lord's. David could say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6)." I like that word "surely." Surely those of us who have found the Lord to be our shepherd can enjoy the same assurance that David enjoyed.

As we go into a new year, I want to enjoy that "perfect peace." I take courage in the fact that the Lord died to save us, prayed for us before going to the cross in John 17, gave His Holy Spirit to guide us after we are saved, and has promised that He is coming again for us. With regard to financial matters He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)." If He will not forsake us financially, I am sure He will not forsake us in other matters. So why shouldn't we enjoy "perfect peace?"

Meditation for the week of December 29, 2013