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FEBRUARY 2015

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The Lord wants to Dwell Among His People

 

Exodus 25:8  “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”

1 Corinthians 3:16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

 

The Old Testament Tabernacle

The children of Israel were certainly a blessed people.  God had chosen the weakest of the nations to display His glory on this earth.  They were redeemed out of their bondage in Egypt to walk with the Lord through a wilderness to the Promised Land.  But the Lord did not leave them alone, He went with them.  He led them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  And now he tells them to build him a sanctuary where He can dwell among them.

 

Some Observations about the Tabernacle

This sanctuary was a big ornate and heavy tent.  It was built by a number of different people who were following the blue print for their section.  The builders had to follow the pattern exactly in order for this tent to fit together properly when it was all done.  If someone had made a board a little too tall or not quite wide enough, the final product would not have been a display of the glory of the Lord, it would have been a display of the inability of the builders to follow the directions. 

 

The tabernacle where the Lord wanted to dwell was built so that the glory of the Christ would be seen.  For example, there was wood speaking of his humanity.  The wood was overlaid with gold speaking of his deity.  The boards sat on silver sockets speaking of redemption.  There was brass, speaking of judgment.  There was linen speaking of righteousness.  We could and should go on and on.

 

Some Observations about the Church

These Old Testament instructions help us understand the importance of the church as a sanctuary in the New Testament.  It also is a place where the Lord dwells.  The local church is designed to display His glory.  However, the passage above deals with the temple.  The Jews of that day would likely have been more familiar with the temple than with the tabernacle since they had a temple.  The temple replaced the tabernacle when the children of Israel finally got into the land and possessed it.  Most of the principles of worship in the temple were the same as they were in the tabernacle.

 

Whether we look at the church as a tabernacle (temporary) or temple (permanent), it is a place where the Lord wants to dwell.  It is designed to display His glory and not ours.  It should reflect His desires and not ours.  When we come to the New Testament worship in the temple, clearly this was not the case.  We read in Matthew 21:13, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”  The Jews were using the temple as a place to do “religious” business.  They were getting rich by selling animals to those who had come from a distance to sacrifice.  They were also exchanging foreign money for Jewish money at very profitable exchange rate for the money changers.   Only Jewish coins could be used to buy or sell in the temple.

 

How would the Lord deal with our Church?

The primitive or first century church seemed to be characterized by praying and prophesying.  We know what praying is but prophesying is not a word with which many of us are comfortable.  Likely it had to do with preaching or being the spokesman for God rather than with predicting the future.  Doctrine was extremely important in the early church.  Money was collected for the needs of the church, but the Gospel was never “sold”.  Singing was important to the Lord (He sang a hymn after instituting the Lord ’s Supper in the upper room) and singing was important in the church, but music is not mentioned as one of the four pillars that describe the activities of the church in Acts 2:41-42.  All four of those pillars are associated with a people who are worshipping the Lord.  Singing has to take second place to good preaching in the church.  If our doctrine comes from our singing, we will be shallow in our beliefs and guided more by emotion than by good Biblical doctrine.

 

So Where Does that Leave Us?

I am now speaking from experience and from my own personal prejudices.  But I would like to see more preaching about Christ without losing the beauty of singing about Him and to Him.  I would like to see more men talk to the Lord at the Lord’s Supper—I would like to hear prayers of thanksgiving.  I would like to see money mentioned little or not at all in our assembly meetings.  I would like to see the Christians take responsibility for the cost of programs and outreaches rather than asking those who might be unsaved to “pay“ to come and hear the Gospel.  That is what I would like, but I think the Lord would like that as well since that seems to be the pattern of the early church. 

 

 

Meditation for the week of February 1, 2015

Godly Counsel

 

Isaiah 9:6  For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Human Counselors

When people with “problems” go to counselors, they usually seek out those who “understand” them.  People with alcoholism go to recovering alcoholics; people with lust problems go to those who have somehow claimed to have conquered the problem.  People with anger issues go to those who they feel have overcome those issues and will understand them.  However, that approach can leave the best counselor in the world on the sidelines instead of THE WONDERFUL COUNSELOR being directly involved in the battle. 

 

Grace to Help

I have been thinking lately about Hebrews 4:15 which says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  I have quoted from the NKJV. The KJV says that He is touched by the feelings of our infirmities rather than saying that He cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.  It is the fact that he was in ALL POINTS tempted as we are that has gotten my attention.

 

The verse we are dealing with shows that while He didn’t sin, he understands us and sympathizes with us in ALL POINTS.  We understand the particular sins that afflict us.  We often are very critical of people with sins that we have never had tempt us.  But the Lord has been victorious over the temptations of ALL sins that Satan uses to tempt humanity.  Instead of that hardening Him, it causes Him to sympathize with us.

 

How Did the Lord Get the Victory?

When the Lord was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, it was when He was physically weak.  He was hungry.  He had been fasting forty days and forty nights.  One of His temptations had to do with that hunger.  Satan seemed to be saying that since He had the power to make bread out of stones, now was the time to do it.   The Lord resisted the temptation to do that which He could have done since He would have done it for the wrong reasons.  The Lord always used His power to benefit others and not to benefit Himself.  He was also asked to prove that God’s promises were real by intentionally throwing Himself off the temple, and He was given the opportunity to have a Kingdom without the cross.  He resisted all three opportunities to sin by quoting and living the truth of the word of God.

 

There are some things we need to understand when we are tempted.  First of all the Lord was lead into the wilderness by the Spirit.  Our temptations are allowed by the Lord Himself.  When the temptations come, it is necessary to know the Word of God and to depend upon it.    Then we need to realize that the Lord cares and if we come boldly to the throne of grace (the place of favor that we don’t deserve), we WILL obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Men and woman may not understand us, or trust us or forgive us, but the Lord will.  And He will do it over and over again. 

 

So?

When we have a problem, we need to start talking to the Lord about it before we start talking to men about it.  The Lord is going to call sin “sin” and we are going to have to confess it.  But the Lord knows how to provide mercy and grace that an earthly counselor cannot.  I believe earthly counselors are helpful.  Many can provide Godly coping skills.  They can help us understand whether the problem we are dealing with is the symptom of a deeper problem or whether it is the disease itself.  For example, in many cases the person just needs to come to a saving knowledge of forgiven sins.  In other words, they need to be born again.  But even a new creature in Christ will struggle with sin.  When that happens, we need to remember that the Lord knows and understands.  He is ready to provide mercy and grace to help in time of need.

 

The Lord is a Wonderful Counselor.

 

 

Meditation for the week of February 8, 2015

What is this Greater Love?

 

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”

 

February 14 is Valentine’s Day.  It is the one day in the year when we tell our significant others that we love them.  And then that is supposed to carry them through another year.  I had a friend who went further than that.  He said that when he got married, he told his wife that he loved her;  and if it ever changed, he would let her know.  My limited observations seem to indicate that men are generally not as good at vocalizing their love as women.  Of course, maybe it is just me that has trouble with this.  

 

So likely your significant other told you not to spend any money on her, that she knew you loved her.  However, I would suspect that if you were wise you did not take her at her word.  I considered what to do this year. While we have plans to do some fine dining, we weren’t going to be able to do it on the actual date and maybe not on the actual weekend because both of us have the “creeping crud” which is either a cold or the flu.  So I was trying to figure out how to make my wife feel special without spending a lot of money.  I didn’t really pray about it but sometimes God answers prayers that we haven’t really vocalized yet.  He does know our needs.  So while sitting at McDonald’s, an enterprising young girl came along and tried to sell me Girl Scout cookies.  At first I told her no.  I knew my wife would say that they were not on her diet.  Then I realized that this girl was an answer to an unspoken prayer.  I bought a box of “thin” mints and put a bow on them and took them to my wife.  She got chocolate that she would have told me not to buy but that she seemed to enjoy.   I got appreciated, and I didn’t spend a wad of money.  What could be better?  Our fine dining is still on hold.

 

Greater or Best or Chief Love

With the Lord, Valentine’s Day was a dark day on an old rugged cross.  But why, in this passage, does He say that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends?   The Good News Bible translates this, “The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.”  Most more literal translations seem to leave us with the idea that laying down your life for your friends is the greatest love that there is  This love is not just the greatest love you can have for your friends even though that is also true..  Why would laying down your life for your friends be a greater love than laying down your life for your enemies which is what the Lord did?   It would seem to me that there is a sense in which the greatest love was laying down His life for those who rejected Him, who envied His popularity, who hated Him without a cause.    But the word greater may mean most valuable or most important.  For example it seems to me that in Matthew 23:17, the temple is more important or valuable than the gold of the temple.  The passage says, “Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?”

 

This is the greatest love that the Lord could provide for his friends and that may be all that the Lord is saying.  But I think He is going further and is saying that this is the greatest love because it is a love that is appreciated.  We know that love often has to do with duty and action.  But friends are people who love each other in an intimate way.  The Lord is talking to friends in this passage.  They have responded to His love and that is what makes the love here greater or intrinsically more valuable than the same love found in John 3:16. The love shown for His friends will motivate them to keep His commandments.  They will talk about and remember that love.  The same love shown to the unbeliever will be mocked and forgotten.

 

When you bring home a box of chocolates for your wife on Valentine’s Day and when you say, “ I love you,” I suspect you are hoping for a reciprocating response.  If she throws the gift in the trash and says that you shouldn’t have been so foolish as to have bought the gift she would certainly be diminishing the value of the love behind the gift.  The love therefore in this passage, is “greater” or more valuable or more appreciated than the love offered to everyone at the cross because many are foolishly rejecting that love.

 

Conclusion

God doesn’t just love, He is love. But for His love to be meaningful and valuable it has to be accepted and appreciated.  God has provided a love with infinite value because His love is undeserved and saves for eternity.  The Lord put Himself between us and the judgment of God.  He took the bullet that could have destroyed us. He could do no more for anyone, believer or unbeliever alike.  But what value have we placed on that love?

 

Meditation for the week of February 15, 2015

Are we Reproducing?

 

Luke 8:11-15  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

 

Four Kinds of Soil

Many people who call themselves Christians or “believers” today are not the kind of people that I identify with as a Christian.  Many seem to be more concerned with making people act like Christians before they tell them how to become Christians.

 

I believe that the problem of Christianity and of Christian behavior is found in this parable of the sower.  We have four kinds of soil represented by the parable and only one kind of soil produces true believers in Christ. Not everyone who calls themselves a believer has truly repented and believed in Christ.  The demons believe but are not saved (James 2:19).  Simon the Sorcerer believed but was not saved (Acts 8:13, 20).  Apparently he believed Philip and in the power of the Gospel but never trusted Christ with regard to his own personal need of a Savior.  We know that all who truly believe or trust in Christ are saved from the eternal penalty that they deserve because of their sins, but the parable makes it clear that we can say we believe without truly trusting in the Lord.

 

No Faith

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).  When the devil manages to snatch the word of God out of the hearts of those who hear it, those people have nothing in which to put their trust.  Satan wins.  These people are not “saved.”  They probably would not claim to be believers.

 

No Root

These who believe for a while are troublesome.  A true believer does not believe for a while.  The reason is because they have their faith in Christ and not in their believing.  If we have our faith in our believing, then our faith is in us and not in Christ.  When life becomes difficult and the Lord does not work according to our expectations, our believing will not be enough.  We will question everything that we have been taught is true.  We may start promoting the doctrines of universal salvation (the idea that all are ultimately saved).   We may accept the idea that all religions lead to heaven.  Or we may come to the conclusion that nothing that the Bible says is true.  These people only like the good news when the road leads downhill and the wind is at their back.  When troubles and trials come, they “fall away” but not from what they had but from what they could have had if their faith had been in Christ and not in themselves.

 

No Cultivation

We all know for seeds to grow the ground has to be properly prepared and the weeds have to be killed or pulled.  But when people “sign up” for the Christian experience without any conviction about the cost of discipleship, they have a shallow kind of belief that is not true belief at all.  We live in a day when most people get more enthused about movies and sports than they do about reproducing themselves through the spread of the Gospel.  The seed is choked and becomes unfruitful because people are more concerned with this life than with the next.

 

Good Ground

What is fruitfulness in this parable?  Quite clearly seed planted produces grain like the seed that is planted.  Corn produces corn, beans produce beans and wheat produces wheat.  The test of good ground is that the seed reproduces itself.  Some reproduce more and some less, but there is reproduction.  These are the only kind of believers that the Lord says are “saved” or “real.” 

 

I have noticed that when people are first saved, they are immediately concerned with friends and loved ones who are not.  They may show that by inviting their friends and loved ones to meetings where they can hear the Gospel.  They may show that by giving out literature.  They may show that by supporting churches that are concerned about the unsaved.  Many show that by sacrificially giving to those who spread the Gospel.  Not all have the same gift but all have the same desire.  That desire is to reproduce.  Those and only those are really ready to meet the Lord when this life is over.   People who hear the Gospel and receive it into hearts that are properly prepared by the Holy Spirit are the only people who can honestly advance the kingdom of God. 

 

Meditation for the week of February 22, 2015