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The Main Thing!


Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.


Preaching an accurate faithful Gospel is important to the Lord and it needs to be important to us. When we preach the Gospel we are dealing with the destinies of people for eternity. Who would want to mislead anyone on that that important matter? When we talk about the Gospel, we know we are talking about Good News. Sometimes we use the word to include all or most of the doctrines of the Bible and sometimes we limit the term to the need to trust in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus to be saved for eternity. Whether we use the term in a broad sense or in a narrow sense, the end result is the same—we are preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. But if who are preaching the Gospel are all preaching the same Gospel. why does what I hear today often seem so strange to me?

Last week I was in a Chinese Restaurant in a mall when I heard a lady at the counter say, "I've lost my money, I can't pay for this!" She had a young girl with her and while I know that some people are scammers, trying to get a free meal when they really could pay for it, I decided to go and pay for the woman's meals. I thought that if she was scamming the owner or me, that was her problem, not mine. At least the girl would get something to eat. The owner was surprised when I offered to pay but added an extra egg roll for the two of them when he realized I was serious. The women asked me my name and I told her. Then I told her that I had something that I wanted to give her and I went back to my table and found a printed copy of how I came to trust the Lord and gave it to her. When I did she exclaimed, "Are you a Christian?" I said, "Yes." She said, "So am I." And she proceeded to tell me how she had trusted the Lord. She volunteered the information, I didn't ask for it. She said she had been alone and "down" and didn't think it was possible for even the Lord Jesus to help her. But she began to think about how the Father had said at the Lord's baptism, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!" She then thought that if the Father was pleased with His Son, she could be too. And she trusted Him right there.

I was surprised because she voluntarily told me her story about how she was saved and people today seldom do that. If they do tell their stories, the story is all about them and their decisions and their prayers and I don't hear much about the Lord. This woman realized she was "lost" before she was saved. Again, that is something I don't hear very often today.

She invited herself and her daughter to sit with me while she ate and we had a nice discussion. I found out that this stranger that I had decided to help had been baptized by my own brother—she was friends with a lot of people that I knew though I didn't know her. It sounded like she had had a rather hard life, but she couldn't forget what the Lord had done for her. She didn't tell me about what she had done for the Lord, she told me about what the Lord had done for her.

Today, I am told that the Gospel is a ten minute or less message. And yes, the basic Gospel message is in John 3:16 which can certainly be quoted in less than five minutes. But the Gospel is not an afterthought, the Gospel is the main thing. Romans, the explanation of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and Hebrews, the explanation of the Gospel to the Jews, are the longest epistles in the new testament and have some of the most controversial passages. The Gospel involves misunderstood concepts about sin, eternal punishment, heaven, repentance, faith, the new birth, law and grace, and eternal security, The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to the Savior is often neglected. I don't understand why when the Gospel is the main thing, we spend so little time teaching and preaching and explaining it. The unsaved need it, the newly saved need it, those away from the Lord need it, and the saved should rejoice in it. Furthermore, if the story of our conversions is the main Gospel message that we can share with others, why do we seem so reluctant to do so?

The Lord blessed me that day when I decided to pay for that ladies meal. I found someone who talked the same spiritual language that I talked. In a day of total religious confusion, her testimony was extremely refreshing.


Meditation for the week of February 5, 2012

We Need to get Honest!


Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"


When Simon Peter was called to follow the Lord, he obviously didn't feel "holy" enough to do that. The Lord had used his boat to teach, then had given Peter directions as to how to fish. Peter should have known more about fishing than a carpenter would know, but he did what the Lord told him to do and caught so many fish that the nets were breaking and the boats were in danger of sinking. Simon assumed his sin was the reason that they were having such trouble in the midst of success. He apparently realized he was in the presence of the Son of God Who had become the Son of Man. He knew he wasn't "holy" and he didn't want to defile the Lord with his life. He was honest and humble and introspective.

Isaiah had the same problem in the sixth chapter of the book by His name When he saw the Lord in His preincarnate glory with angels crying "holy, holy, holy," he said, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."

Peter was called to follow and Isiah was called to preach. Neither of these men were boasting about their own abilities and achievements when the Lord called them. They understood their own weaknesses and sinfulness.

Today when we preach about others sins, we often don't see our own. The sin of slander is practiced everyday in our so-called democratic political process, even by candidates who tell us that they are Christians. Covetousness and even extortion are considered "just good business" by many, particularly if there is a good corporate bonus available for those who make these "good decisions." Homosexuality is preached against by most today while we tend to turn a blind eye to "living together" without the benefit of marriage. Abortion is considered murder and is one of the heinous sins when we are preaching about "others" sins, but the hatred that is often seen in race and class relationships is often tolerated. However, hatred is the equivalent of murder as is unjustified anger (See 1 John 3:15 and Matthew 5:22). In other words, we see other peoples sins as sin, but we don't see our own sins as sin. Both Peter and Isaiah confessed their own sin and uncleanness before they were used of God to preach to others about their sin and need of repentance.

I am convinced that those who actually experience the reality of God in their lives know that they are weak and sinful. They don't hang their dirty linen out on the clothesline for everyone to see. Neither do they boast about the sins that they committed before they came to know the Savior. Nor are they unwise in displaying the weaknesses that they know exist in their own lives. However, they do preach from weakness and humility, and it comes across in their approach to the Christian life. When they preach that we are sinners in need of a Savior, they are not saying others need to be saved, they are saying that we all need to be saved. It is a joy to hear people like this preach about the love of God as experienced in their own lives rather than hearing them try to get people to conform to a religious life-style.

We cannot justify sin. All the things mentioned above are wrong. But the answer is not in turning immoral sinners into religious sinners. The answer is to bring people into contact with the resurrected Lord, so that they too can be humbled in His presence and find forgiveness in His sacrifice for their sins. Oh that we all could identify with Peter when he said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord!"


Meditation for the week of February 12, 2012

"Thank you, Lord Jesus!"


Psalms 56:3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You (The Most High God).


David was running from Saul. Saul should have been his friend since David had served Him faithfully. However, Saul knew that David was God's choice to replace him on the throne. Saul wanted his son to replace him. As a result, Saul had become a dangerous man. He was trying to defy the known will of God and therefore David had to go for his plans to succeed. When David fled from Saul, he found refuge in the wrong place. He went to the enemies of the people of God and tried to hide out. It didn't work. Because of Saul's sin and rebellion, David was on the run and and had looked for refuge where there was none. Now David "comes to himself (Luke 15:17)" and realizes where His trust really needs to be. He is afraid even though he shouldn't be because he has been promised the kingdom by the Lord through Samuel and hasn't gotten it yet. When he gets his act together he says, "Whenever I am afraid I will trust in You (that is, in the Most High God)."

Truly trusting someone is very difficult. First we have to be convinced of the trustworthy nature of the person we are to trust. Even when the person is trustworthy, most of us have more confidence in ourselves than we do in others. When things go wrong in my house or with my car or with my finances, I have a tendency to assume that I have done something wrong. I have often asked myself why that is my first response to a problem. I think it is because I assume that I should have things under control. I should be the fix it guy and if I were doing my job right, I wouldn't have unexpected problems because I should have foreseen the problem and prevented it. In other words, my trust is in myself and it hurts when I find out that I cannot make the world work like I think it should. Because of this mind set, I cannot and will not ask for help until I realize that I cannot fix whatever the problem is myself. I think David had my problem. David had not caused his problem with Saul but neither could he "fix" it. Only the Lord could fix the problem. David needed to trust the Lord, and ultimately He got his eye back on the One who is dependable and he trusted the Lord to protect himself from Saul.

Trust in the Lord brings a lot of blessings. It provides salvation for eternity. It provides us a home in heaven after we die. It gives us rest from our own anxieties. It makes us children of God. It changes our thinking processes. Some people seem to think that trusting in the Lord is easy. I found it to be difficult before I was saved, and I find it to be difficult now that I am saved. I could not trust in the Lord for salvation until I found out that there was absolutely nothing I could do to be saved. I was like Paul and his company on that stormy voyage in Acts 27: 20 where we read, "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up." When all hope was lost, the Lord was able to step in and save them. I remember coming to that point spiritually. At that point, I was able to trust in the Lord because I was no longer trying to trust in myself. The Lord didn't let me take any credit for my salvation The only thing I could do then and the only thing I can do now is say, "Thank you Lord Jesus!"

Trusting in the Lord for salvation is just the beginning of a new relationship with the Lord. I have found that trusting in the Lord for the problems of life is an ongoing learning experience. I don't think I am alone in having trouble with this matter of trust because I hear people say, "Well there is just nothing more that we can do, we will just have to trust the Lord!" I think that means that trusting the Lord is normally the last thing we do, it is not the first thing as it should be. Again, we don't trust in the Lord when we are still trusting in ourselves. But when all hope is lost, then and only then do we turn to the Lord and find refuge.

Trust has to have someone or something to trust in, that is, the object of our trust has to be dependable. When it comes to trusting people in this life, that is difficult because we all fail God and others at times. But we can trust the Lord. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our friend if we are really trusting Him. He will not fail. When we finally realize that He is the only One who is truly dependable and He does have the desire and the ability to meet our every need, then we will be able to truthfully say, "Thank you!"


Meditation for the week of Week of February 19, 2012

Silver and Gold I do not Have!


Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."


Most of us think that we could do great things for the Lord if we just had a pile of money available to us. I know I have had a lot of projects that I would love to have pursued but because I didn't have the money, I failed to try those projects. However, what really hurts is that sometimes people need financial help when I do not have the money to come along side of them.

I have thought a lot about this and realize that most of the people who were used of the Lord to spread the Gospel in the new testament were people of meager means. The Lord told those that wanted to follow Him that even the foxes had a more permanent dwelling place than He did (Luke 9:58). Obviously, there were people of means who ministered to Him because they believed in Him and because they had been blessed by Him (Luke 8:2-3). Mary of Bethany "wasted" perfume worth about a year's wages on Him. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had the means to give the Lord the burial of a King. However, the new testament disciples did not have a lot of money to throw at their church planting projects, and they didn't have a lot of money to help the poor. What then did they do when they couldn't give or spend money? Peter was in that situation in our passage. He didn't have money, but he had something better. In his case, he could heal. In healing he was able to spread the message that Christ had been raised from the dead and was the One that could save for eternity. Peter told the Jews that they should "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19)." The times of refreshing likely refer to the return of the Lord when He will set up His earthly Kingdom. Peter was more concerned with the spiritual needs of his audience than he was with their physical needs, but meeting those physical needs gave him the opportunity to meet his audience's spiritual needs.

What can we offer people today when we have no money? We can offer them friendship, emotional support and encouragement. Friendship has to be real. We cannot pretend to be friends in order to get "points" with the Lord. We need to be supportive and we need to be "there." When we can't give money, we can give ourselves which is what the Lord did for us. In doing that, we will be able to give them the Gospel as Peter did. We who are saved have a deposit of the Truth. We need to be concerned that those with whom we are "friends" understand that the Lord Jesus is the Truth and the only way to the Father (John 14:6). We need to be honest with our friends if they are depending on something other than the Lord to get them to heaven. Helping people start for heaven is the greatest gift we can give them—and of course we can't really give it to them. We can only introduce them to the Lord who can.

Sometimes our lack of resources is because of our lack of faith. In 1st Kings 17, the Lord asked a widow suffering in a serve famine to use the last of her flour and oil to feed Elijah. She did that and the Lord saw fit to keep the bin of flour and jar of oil from running out until the famine was over. She "foolishly" gave all that she had left to the Lord and then the Lord met her needs. However, I believe that sometimes our lack of resources are to remind us Whom we are serving. Lack of resources forces us to keep our eye on the One who provides salvation for eternity and meets our needs during this present life. It is fairly easy to begin depending on people or on corporations or on the government or on ourselves instead of on the Lord.

Sometimes our lack of resources is because the Lord wants us to give "ourselves" to those in need. When we have money, we make a donation and "salve" our consciences into believing we have done what was "required" to be righteous. However if we can't make a donation, we just might go and help rebuild after a flood or hurricane. We might stand by the sick and hold their hands or the hands of their family when they are suffering. We might listen to the stories of the elderly "over and over again" when they need companionship in old age. We don't do this for "reward," instead we do this for the people that we love because they are people the Lord put in this world and that He loves. We may not be able to give "silver and gold" but we can still give ourselves.

I have to admit that I would still like to have access to that pile of money, but I also have to admit that not having silver and gold has often been a great blessing as well.


Meditation for the week of February 26, 2012