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DECEMBER 2018

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Our Minds don't like to Mind

 

Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

Big Topic

Whenever we look at the mind from a Biblical point of view, we have a big topic.  The mind must be changed to be saved, that is called repentance.  For repentance to be real, there needs to be a corresponding change of behavior but the change of mind comes first.  Faith or trust or belief involves the mind.  Choices are associated with the mind. Some minds are depraved, but all of our minds need to be renewed.  When we look at the matter of renewal in the Bible, it usually means renovation.  It is what people do to old houses to make them look like new.

 

The mind is associated with the inner man and it is associated with a spirit.  Paul says, in Ephesians 4:23, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”  This might be better translated “have your mind renovated by the Holy Spirit.”  Some seem to think this is referring to what happens immediately upon conversion and translate it “having been renewed in the spirit of your mind.”  Others think this is something that occurs as we submit to the Holy Spirit after we are saved and that it has to do with our responsibility.  Regardless of a person's interpretation of the Ephesians passage, Romans 12:2 makes it clear that Christians can be molded by the particular age of our society around us or we can have our minds renewed or renovated.  Paul is beseeching Christians to be renewed which tells me that, at least in this letter, being renewed is not automatic.  It is a responsibility.

 

Whatever we Think is Right is usually Wrong

Isaiah tells us, “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:7-9 NKJV).”

 

The way we think naturally, is not the way God thinks.  That is why the unsaved cannot tell a person how to get to heaven nor can they discern lies, nor can they think in a spiritual way.  But as Christians, who have the Spirit of God using the Word of God to guide us, we should be able to start thinking like God thinks.  That is the transformation Paul speaks of in Romans 12:2.  But is that transformation taking place in our lives?

 

How many of us really believe that the principles laid out in the Sermon on the Mount really work?  How many of us are angry and continue to be angry when we should not let our anger linger so that it becomes grudges?  How many of us like to lead by serving?  How many of us consider others better than themselves?  How many of us are quick to hear and slow to speak?  I think you get my drift.  I sure need to be “begged” or “beseeched” to allow the Holy Spirit do His work in this area of my life. 

 

I Think

In general when we start a sentence with “I think” we need to take a deep breath and stop.  Can we honestly say we are thinking like the Holy Spirit would have us think or are we thinking in a natural unconverted way?  Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”  When people start a sentence with “I think” or “it seems to me” we are probably listening to philosophy.  When they start a sentence with “I don't believe” and then follow up with some “antiquated” truth from the Bible, we are dealing with empty lies. When people start sentences with “the Bible says,” we should probably start paying attention although Satan tested the Lord by using Scripture out of context.  But we who are saved have the Holy Spirit and we should discipline ourselves to have our minds renewed or renovated by the Holy Spirit so that we are not being led by Satan's messengers instead of by the truth of Scripture. 

 

A Wonderful Thing

The mind is a wonderful thing when it is controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  I can give us peace.  It can make us a blessing.  But we need to understand that it is easy to let the world control our thinking and when we do that we are headed for disaster.

 

Meditation for the week of December 2, 2018

Is there Evil in the Church?

 

3 John 1:1 NKJV The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:

3 John 1:9 NKJV I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.

3 John 1:12 NKJV Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.

 

The Apostle John

This is really a sad letter as far as I am concerned.  Gaius needs instruction.  Diotrephes needs to be recognized for what he is--an evil man trying to control an assembly of the Lord.  Demetrius needs to be imitated or followed by Gaius and others in the assembly since John sees him as having a good testimony.  His life was evidence of the reality of his profession of faith. 

 

The Key Verse

3 John 1:11 NKJV, “Beloved (Gaius), do not imitate (follow) what is evil (Diotrephes), but what is good (Demetrius). He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”

 

Apparently Diotrephes was not saved.  He had not seen God yet he took a position within the church that God had not given him.  He was keeping the Apostle John and other faithful brethren from coming and ministering to the church.  He was saying malicious things about the Apostle John.  He was casting out of the church those who tried to help the faithful who wanted to come and minister to the needs of those in the assembly.  In other words, Gaius either had to agree with him or he too would be “put out” of the church.  And yet John tells Gaius to support Demetrius who is good and to not support Diotrephes who wanted to be the main man in charge of the church.

 

Who Won?

I don't know whether Diotrephes was brought into submission or not. All I know is that in the church universal, there is no evil.  All are saved.  All are subject to the Lord.  But in the local church there is evil.  Not all are saved.  Not all are walking with the Lord and not all are subject to the will of the Lord.  We often hear that the local church is a miniature of the universal church but obviously there are some differences, and this is one of them.  There are no unsaved men with the personality of a Diotrephes in the universal church.

 

When Paul left Ephesus for the last time he warned them in Acts 20:29-31: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” I would assume that Diotrephes was one that rose up from within.  Paul had warned Ephesus and now Gaius was being warned by the Apostle John about this very situation. Would we have the courage today to carry out the instructions of the Apostle John?

 

What was Wrong?

Diotrephes wanted the preeminence.  The Lord is supposed to have the preeminence.  The Lord always raised up elders by the Holy Spirit.  There was always more than one when a church was functioning properly.  Diotrephes seemed to want to be the man in charge without accountability to others.

 

What are We supposed to Do?

Obviously, we should pray about this situation.  We should consult with others in the assembly to make sure that we don't become like a Diotrephes ourselves. It appears that we as Christians need to pray for discernment and sometimes we need an outside authority like the Apostle John to come and help us deal with the situation.  That person should be one that the whole congregation trusts.  Perhaps it should be one who has seen people saved within the congregation.

 

I am sure that at first Diotrephes seemed like a good leader.  But I wonder if those who were following him had heard how he came to faith in the Lord. Then did they wait for a while that he might be 'tested” or proved by the life he was living?  Has the person been a shepherd that those in the flock trust?  We don't like to be “suspicious” of everybody but eldership is not a popularity contest.  Neither should current elders recognize subsequent elders without considering the desires of the congregation.  The congregation should be accountable to the leaders but the leaders need to be accountable to the congregation as well. 

 

Practical Comments

The Lord is our head.  He is our leader.  But he was a servant leader who washed his disciples feet. How good it is when our leaders are an example to the flock and when they are more concerned about seeing souls saved and straying sheep recovered than they are about their own positions.  We all need to support that kind of leadership.

 

Meditation for the week of December 9, 2018

The Desire for World Peace

 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world  (John 16:33 NKJV).

 

In the movie Miss Congeniality, Gracie Hart played by Sandra Bullock is an undercover cop at a beauty pageant.  She is clumsy and crude and has a hard time playing the part.  But during her interview the following dialogue takes place:

 

Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?

Gracie Hart: That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.

[crowd is silent]

Gracie Hart: And world peace!

[crowd cheers ecstatically]

 

Now since Gracie is an FBI agent, she wants harsher punishment for parole violators.  But the audience wants the standard answer, “World Peace.”  Don't we all want world peace?  So why don't we have it?  Will we ever have it?

 

Why Don't We have World Peace?

In Noah's day, before the flood, God said, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5 NKJV).”

 

The New Testament condemns the world that existed in Paul's day.  Paul describes that world in Romans 1:29-32, “ Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32 NKJV).  Our society nearly 2000 years later is not better.  The scary part of what Paul says is that society approves the people who practice this immorality.  I trust that none who read this meditation are "approvers."

 

Coming Judgment

I have been reading through the Old Testament and there is a lot more said about coming judgment than there is about a world filled with peace.  Warnings that are not heeded abound.  If I were a Jew whose only hope was in obtaining a country where I could be “safe”, I would be shaking in my boots.  While that day is coming, the day of God's wrath is coming first; and it is going to be terrible.

 

If I were a Gentile (non-jew) whose only hope is in this life and the pleasures it can bring, I would also be shaking in my boots.  Even scientists are concerned about what we are leaving for the next generation.  We in the US have unbridled corruption in politics, out of control government spending, a war machine that keeps getting bigger and bigger, environmental disasters that are scary to say the least.  We would like to believe that in the United States we will continue to have it good but many things point to a country that has lost its moral compass and that could easily be conquered by those who want to enslave us for their own power and profit.  I don't want to be a prophet of doom, but I fear that doomsday is coming.

 

World Peace

The little book of Joel uses a locust plague to warn the nation of Israel of coming judgment.  But after the plague the Lord tells the nation, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25 NKJV).”  I do not believe that promise has ever been completely fulfilled but it will be fulfilled when the Lord sets up His righteous 1000 year reign.  But Joel tells us that first there will be war and then the Lord will establish world peace.

 

When the Lord was born there was a promise of peace.  The shepherds heard a heavenly host saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14 NKJV).”  But unfortunately, the Lord was born to be rejected and crucified.  Peace did not come with the Lord's first coming.  It didn't come for the Lord or for the nation.  But it will come when He comes the second time!

 

Individual Peace

Since man is so prone to fight wars because of the nature of the human heart, we will probably never see world peace in our lifetimes.  Those of us who are saved now will be in heaven when that peace is established.  The unsaved will either die before or in the great tribulation period.  So what is the solution? 

 

While there is no promise of world peace for those of us living today, there is a promise of peace with God if we will just come to Him and trust Him. That is the peace that we all need and we can have it right now. To get that peace, we have to confess that our hearts are evil, that we are sinners in need of a Savior and then we need to trust the Lord Jesus who righteously forgives those who believe in Him. 

 

Meditation for the week of December 16, 2018

The Book of Remembrance

 

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. "They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him." Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.  (Malachi 3:16-18 NKJV)

 

Seven Rhetorical Questions

A rhetorical question is designed to elicit comment.  The questions are not necessarily asked to get an answer. In most cases the answers should be obvious.  In the book of Malachi, God asks Israel at least seven rhetorical questions to make the nation of Israel think about the fact that they are not honoring Him with their rituals or with their lives.  However, the Israelites are self-satisfied and don't seem to “get it.”

 

The nation has been back from their captivity in Babylon about 100 years.  But while there is (and always is) a faithful remnant, the majority of the people have a lukewarm attitude toward Jehovah, much like the Laodicean church in Revelation chapter 3.   That church seemed to think that they were doing everything right and yet the Lord was standing outside the church looking for someone to open the door and let Him in. 

 

The first question seems to set the tone for the book.  Jehovah expresses his love for His people and the people respond by saying, “Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?'” They don't understand that the captivity in Babylon was because of their departure from the Lord and that their restoration to the land, including the building of the temple and the wall of Jerusalem, was because of the love of the Lord for them as a nation.

 

The Christmas Season

During this season, the unbelievers join together with believers in Christ in a celebration of the birth of the Lord that the Lord never requested.  I often wonder how the Lord in heaven feels about what goes on in His name this time of the year.  He has given specific instructions as to what pleases Him ceremonially and as to what pleases Him morally.  Do we honor those instructions?  Do we get baptized to confess Him publicly?  Do we proclaim His death by participating in the Lord's supper and if we do, do we do it because we want to honor the Lord or do we do it because it is the thing to do this time of year?  Do we get so involved in the frenzy of the gift giving to one another that we forget to give the Lord the best gift of all. . .our heartfelt praise and thanksgiving?  In other words, is Christmas all about us or is it really all about Christ?  Do we celebrate Christmas because we really truly believe that Jehovah came in the flesh to reveal God to us in a personal way, that He died and was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures?  Do we do the very first thing that honors the Lord...do we trust Him?

 

The Lord knows What is What!

In our verse today, the Lord takes note of those who fear the Lord (in this case it means that they see their accountability to Him and they worship Him), and who speak about Him to others who also fear Him.  The Lord hears what they are saying.  The Lord knows that they think about Him (that is they meditate on His name).

 

The Lord knows whether our worship is all show and shallow or whether it is real.  He knows whether we serve Him or whether we serve our own desires and pleasures.  He knows whether we tell God how to be worshiped or whether we let Him tell us.

 

Jewels

Jewels are precious, costly and beautiful.  I would like to be one of the Lord's jewels.  I don't get a lot of satisfaction out of the tinsel and busyness of the so-called Christmas season.  But I get a lot of satisfaction out of talking to others who in simple trusting faith have come to love the Lord.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of remembering that the Lord came into this world to suffer and die FOR ME.  I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that He knows that I truly love Him because He first loved me.

 

Meditation for the week of December 22, 2018

 

Our Five Year Plans

 

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil (hard or difficult) have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage."  (Genesis 47:9 NKJV)

 

Looking Back

Perhaps it is wise to never look back but then again, looking back can sometimes be enlightening.  We have come to the end of another year.  I remember when a year seemed like a long time.  Now it seems like years come and go faster and faster.   You young people obviously won't relate to that, but one day you will.  We spend the first 20 years of our life preparing, the next 40 years of our life pursuing, the last 20 years of our life remembering.   Then we die!  And what was it all about?  Jacob says he was a pilgrim; he was just passing through this life to that sacred place in the next.

 

The Age Old Question

People have always been asking what life is all about.  When I was younger, I thought it was all about planning for a successful future.  Now that I am older, I still want to know what I am supposed to be when I grow up.  Some people make their marks getting rich.  Then they die!  Others make their marks getting famous.  Then they die!  Others make their marks being total jerks while others make their marks being the proverbial nice guys who always help others and are always nice.  Then they die!  It is that problem with dying that makes us all question what life is all about. 

 

The Bible has the Answer

One thing is clear.  The Bible says that we are made of dust (dirt, mud or clay) and we go back to dust. Practical experience proves the Bible right on that issue.  How God can form a baby of dust or clay in the womb of a mother is beyond me.  But the Lord is artistic and uses the clay to make something unique and beautiful time after time.  But of course that is the body.

 

Inside that body is a soul and spirit.  I have heard different explanations of the soul and the spirit but even the Bible has a hard time separating the two.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV).”  So to keep it simple, let us say that the soul has to do with our thinking and the spirit has to do with our energy.  Taken together, they represent the eternal part of man that resides in that body of clay.  So when the body dies, what happens to the eternal part of man?  The Bible says that it exists eternally.  But some people go to be “with the Lord” who is in heaven.  And some are separated from God forever and go to a final destination called the Lake of Fire.  The difference has to do with with one thing—what did the Lord Jesus Christ mean to us in this short period we call life?  Did we take time out from what we wanted in life to give our Creator what He wanted?  Did we realize that this life is difficult or hard and short because of the rebellious self-willed nature with which we are born?  Did we prepare in this short hard life for a life of bliss with the Lord for eternity?  Have we prepared to meet God by getting the forgiveness of sins that comes with trusting the One we all claim to be worshiping this time of the year?

 

Our Five Year Plan

It is customary for employers to ask prospective employees where they expect to be in five years.  Many of you are already putting together your five year plan so that you will be prepared for the next step in your career or perhaps for retirement.  But you may have forgotten something that a rich man in Luke forgot.  He had his barns full.  His 401 K was more than adequate.  He had arrived and now he was going to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  But he forgot one thing.  The Lord said,  “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided (Luke 12:20 NKJV)?”  He had prepared but for what and for whom?  He ended up leaving it all to others.  And what about eternity?  Was he prepared?  Likely not!

 

The Audit

We are going to meet God and if we are saved before we die we are told we will be rewarded for faithfulness to the Lord.  I don't know how those rewards will work--just being in heaven is a pretty good reward as far as I am concerned.  If we rejected the Lord in this life, there may very well be degrees of punishment in eternity for unbelievers.  But maybe we shouldn't wait until we die to do an audit of our lives. Our five year plans will be the plans of fools if we have not properly prepared for eternity by trusting the Lord to put away our sins so that we can enjoy eternity.  We need to recognize that life is short and hard or difficult but eternity is long.  Regardless of what other planning we do, we need to prepare for eternity.

Meditation for the week of December 30, 2018