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FEBRUARY 2016

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Too Much Giving!

 

Exodus 36:5-7  and they spoke to Moses, saying, "The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do."  So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, "Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary." And the people were restrained from bringing,  for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done--indeed too much.

 

Moses and His Proclamation

Today, Christians do all kinds of fund raising for their projects.  You can give over the internet, you can send money by mail, you can give through the Sunday morning offerings of the church; but, however people give, it never seems to be enough.  I get fund raising letters all of the time and they always seem to imply that there is an acute need that is not being met.  I have never gotten a fund raising letter that said, “Please don't send us any more money, we wouldn't know how to use it properly for the Lord.  All of our needs have been met.”  Moses had that privilege.  While he didn't send letters, he did make a proclamation that the people had given generously and they had given more than enough  He told them to QUIT giving.

 

The Source of this Bounty

After Joseph died, a ruler that didn't know Joseph took the leadership in Egypt.  While Egypt had been a place of refuge for the children of Israel under Joseph, it ultimately became a place of slavery.  As we know, the Lord had told Abraham that his descendants would be in a land that was not theirs for 400 years (See Genesis 15:13-14).  He also told Abraham that he would bring his descendants back to the promised land.  In order to do that, He performed miracles through Moses that destroyed Egypt.  Apparently, this was a war between Jehovah represented by Moses and the pagan gods of Egypt.  The last miracle was the killing of the firstborn in Egypt that were not in a home protected by the blood of a lamb.  When the children of Israel left Egypt (actually the Egyptians thrust them out) they asked the Egyptians for their silver, gold and clothing.  By doing this, they were paid for their years of slavery and the Bible says that they “plundered” the Egyptians.  This, then, was the source of the material for the tabernacle.

 

Plundered by Idolatry

After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel finally reached Mt. Sinai where Moses went up into the mountain to get instructions from God as to how He wanted to be worshiped by His special redeemed people.  Moses was in the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.  It was long enough for the children of Israel to wonder what had happened to Moses and to make a golden calf that supposedly represented the God who had brought them out of Egypt.  The worship of the golden calf, something that the people had made, allowed for partying and it required a lot of the gold that had been brought out of Egypt.  God of course was incensed and very angry.  The golden calf was ground to powder and sprinkled on water.  The people than were forced to drink it.   But those who contributed their wealth to the golden calf could not contribute that wealth to the building of the tabernacle.  The people that had plundered the Egyptians had now been plundered by idolatry. 

 

The Privilege of Contributing to the Tabernacle

While Satan tried to provide a counterfeit worship during the time Moses was in the Mount, the real worship of the Lord was never in question.  Moses had to intercede for the people because of their sin and there were consequences associated with their rebellion.  But the Lord had his faithful people who had more than enough wealth to build this tabernacle and to worship right.

 

Practical Lessons

Moses in the mountain is a picture of Christ in heaven today.  He has gone into heaven with the promise that He will return. Just as the forty days and forty nights was a testing time for Israel, we too are being tested by 2000 years of waiting.  It didn't take long for the children of Israel to forget Moses and all the miracles they had just experienced including passing through the Red Sea.  Their path to safety had been a path of destruction for the Egyptian army.  Are we like that today?  Corrupting ourselves while we wait for the Lord to return from the mountain?  Do we turn to our way of worship or are we remaining faithful to the mandates of the Lord given through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament?  Do we still believe that there is only one way of salvation? Do we believe that salvation is not something we do for God but something He has done for us?  Do we still believe that there needs to be a time in our lives when we turn from the way we thought was right and turned to the Lord and trusted Him? 

 

If we turn aside to “our way of worshiping the Lord” we will be robbed.  If we faithfully wait for His return we will be blessed and His work will prosper.  There will be more than enough resources to do what He asks us to do.

 

Meditation for the week of February 7, 2016

Winners and Losers

 

2 Timothy 4:7  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

Some Win and Some Lose

We are constantly being bombarded with winners and losers in this life.  Presidential debates have winners and losers—at least that is how the press describes the debates.  We have the Superbowl with one team described as winners and the other as losers.  Those who amass wealth in our society are considered winners and those who are poor are often considered losers.   When we have games for our children in our children's meetings, the children all want to win.  In spiritual things, the megachurches are seen as the successful winners.  The little churches that are left with nothing when all of their members head to the big churches are seen as losers.  In real life we are taught that we are either winners or losers, and many of our children are depressed because other children bully them and make them think that they are losers. 

 

Does the Lord Encourage this Kind of Competition?

Should the Christian experience be characterized by winners and losers?  To some degree, yes!  The Lord says however that those who save their lives lose them and those who lose their lives save them.  In Matthew 16:25, the Lord says,  “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  The Lord says that the winners are the losers and losers are the winners!

 

Paul does use the idea of a race to help us understand the Christian experience.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he tells us that in a race only one receives the prize and that we need to discipline ourselves if we expect to win that race.  But is Paul saying that only one person can receive the prize?  Or is he is saying that we are all to run the race as though there is only one prize?  I think he is saying that we should run the race as though there is only one winner, but  I do not think only one person is going to get the prize Paul is talking about. I think we can all get that winner's prize.  Yet when it comes to Christian service, sometimes it seems like we are competing against one another rather than cooperating with one another.  Cooperating is called fellowship.  Competing against one another certainly does not lead to unity and fellowship. 

 

The Marathon

Paul also uses the idea of a marathon race in Hebrews 12 to encourage us to finish what the Lord has called us to do, even if we are discouraged.  But in a marathon it is more important to finish than it is to finish first.  Paul had that in mind when in 2 Timothy 4:7  he says he had fought a good fight, he had finished the race.  He had also guarded the truth that Christ died, was buried and was raised again the third day.  He had been faithful until the end.

 

When we look at the Christian experience, there is no competition between winners and losers. W are just asked to be faithful to the Lord who called us to serve Him when He saved us.  The Lord never says that one Christian has to lose in order for another to win.  The rewards that are going to be given to Saints for faithful service at the end of their lives does not require us to compete so that we can be winners.  I am convinced there will be enough rewards to go around.  I know that James and John were competing for the best places in the Lord's kingdom in Mark 10:35-41, but the Lord rebuked them for it; and the other disciples were displeased when they realized that James and John were trying to get the Lord to give them preferential treatment.  It did not lead to fellowship but to contention. 

 

The Real Losers

However, there are winners and losers when it comes to the Christian's relationship to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We are admonished to win the wrestling match in Ephesians 6:10-13.  That match is against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies.  We know that we need to separate from the ungodly world and flee the lusts of the flesh in order to be victorious over the world and the flesh or ungodly appetites that we have.

 

From a natural standpoint Christ was a loser.  He died at the hands of the powerful but the whole story wasn't written until the disciples came to an empty tomb.  The book of the Revelation gives us the rest of the story and this One who was bullied and crucified is going to be the final victor.  The winners are those who trust Him, the losers are those who trust the lies of Satan.  Unbelievers do believe, they just believe the wrong person and the wrong message.  Yes, there are winners and losers when it comes to obtaining eternal life.  But Christians should never be competing one with another for a place of prominence with the Lord.

 

 

Meditation for the week of February 14, 2016

What and Who can we Believe Today?

 

1 Timothy 1:15  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

 

What is a faithful saying?  It is a saying that is trustworthy.  It is a communication that is true.  One should be able to depend on a faithful saying.  Who tells the truth today?

 

It is certain that much of the material being posted on social media sites dealing with the current political campaigns cannot be trusted.  There are sites that are designed to check the facts and rumors that abound but unfortunately we tend to believe those sites when they agree with our opinion and we consider them biased when they don't agree with us.  Can we depend on promises made by politicians?  The answer is “no” because even if they try to keep their promises, there are checks and balances in the political process that will keep many of the promises from being fulfilled. 

 

So what can we depend upon?  Some say we can depend on scientific facts. But unfortunately facts have a way of changing over the years.  At one time the earth was the center of the universe and then the sun became the center of universe and now as I understand it, either can be considered the center depending on the purpose of the model being used.   I am told that Cape Canaveral is the “center” for the vehicles that we send into space.  But over my lifetime there have been a lot of scientific “facts” that somehow aren't facts any more.  An atom was once the smallest particle of matter but then we found out that atoms have parts called electrons and protons and neutrons.  Now the smallest part is called a quark but even that may change according to scientists as they gain more knowledge about what makes up matter.  I remember when the “science” of medicine told my wife to be careful about gaining weight when she was pregnant with our first child.  By the time the second child came along, weight gain that was not exorbitant was considered a good thing.  I paid doctors for both sets of advice.  Now I am not saying that any of these scientific “facts” were designed to intentionally deceive, but obviously some facts are presented without knowing all the facts about the facts.

 

It is my understanding that there are courses available to teach people how to lie in a believable way.  Most of us didn't need a course in how to lie, we have likely all done it.  But lying so everyone believes us is an art.  Satan has that art down to a science and he knows just how to deceive us.  Usually it is by questioning the Word of God.  He constantly asks the question, "Has God indeed said?”  (See Genesis 3:1).  I know many people that accept parts of the Bible and reject the rest based on their own experiences and limited understanding.  Now I realize that the Bible has to be read in context, and that the New Testament has to explain the Old Testament.  I also realize that there is symbolic language in the Bible.  The Lord used parables in the New Testament which were allegories explaining spiritual principles.  There is poetic language and allegories in the Old Testament as well.  Sometimes it is difficult to know what is literal and what is allegorical.  However, the verse that I have referenced in this meditation is bedrock truth and is not allegorical.

 

Did Paul actually write this?  In Paul's day, some letters were supposedly written by him when in fact he had not written them.  So from time to time he would emphasize that something he was writing was something he had written and it could be depended upon.  This is one of those verses.  Paul told over and over how he had been confronted by the Lord on the Damascus Road in Acts 9.  That encounter changed his thinking and it changed his occupation.  Meeting the Lord changed everything.  Instead of prospering as a religious Pharisee, he became a follower of Christ, the One he had been persecuting.  And now he reminds Timothy who had preached with him and had traveled with him of this dependable saying.  I suspect Timothy had heard this before many times but Paul still reminds him that this is bedrock truth upon which he can depend.  

 

What are we going to believe? We have many different voices wanting us to believe them today.  Some are outlandish ads about health products.  Some are outlandish ads by would be politicians.  Some are subtle messages enticing us to do things that we know are not right.  But Satan is subtle and tries to convince us that if a lot of people believe things in a certain way and do things in a certain way, then that is the way we should believe and do.  We all have to make choices as to what and who we are going to believe.  I have made my choice.  I m going to believe Paul when he says, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  When I believe Paul, I am really believing in the written inspired word of God which means I am really believing what God has said about His Son.   I am normally a skeptical person when it comes to believing anything, but after years of studying and reading the Bible, I have found that there is nothing more dependable than the Bible properly interpreted.

 

I believe the message of Paul.  That message has not changed for over 2000 years and it gives every person who believes that faithful saying peace.  Everyone believes something or someone.  I believe Paul. 

 

Meditation for the week of February 21, 2016

Musings on the Lord's Commands

 

Luke 8:39  "Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you." And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

 

Do We Tell People What Great Things the Lord has done for us?

A great miracle had been done for this man.  He had been tormented and imprisoned by a legion of demons.  It had left him with super human strength and he was dangerous to others.  The demons knew who the Lord was and apparently spoke through the man who was demon possessed.  When the Lord freed the man from the demons, they wanted a body to inhabit so the Lord let them possess a herd of pigs who then promptly committed suicide by running down into the lake and drowning.  The people who saw this were afraid and told everyone in the city what had happened.  A multitude came out of the city and asked the Lord to leave.  One would think they would be rejoicing in the fact that the man who had the demons was now clothed and in his right mind.  But it appears that they were more concerned about the loss of the pigs which no doubt was a great financial loss than they were about the healing of the man who had the demons.

 

The man with the demons wanted to follow the Lord, but the Lord said, “No!”  Now is the time to go back into the city and tell people what great things God has done for you.  He did just that and it should have been obvious to anyone who had known him that the Lord really had done something great for him.  This man paved the way for the Lord to come back to that area and to be welcomed by the people.  Likely some of those people had previously wanted him to leave.

 

Times Not to Speak

When lepers were healed, the Lord told them not to say anything but to show themselves to the priest.  Likely this was because in that day only a priest could declare a leper clean.  Having the priest declare the leper clean would be proof that the miracle of healing was real.  When Jairus' daughter was raised from the dead in Mark 5, the Lord didn't want anyone to know that He had raised her.  Why?  I suspect it was because the girl was only twelve and I think the Lord wanted to protect her from those who would have made a spectacle of her and maybe even tried to make money by exhibiting her.  I think the Lord wanted her to have a normal life.

 

A Time when People can't help but Speak

In Mark 7, the Lord healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.  He told the man and those who witnessed this miracle not to tell anyone.  We read however, “the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it (Mark 7:36).”    Wouldn't it be nice to be so full of joy about the things that the Lord has done for us that we just couldn't help but tell others?  And if one had had a speech impediment, it would be a great joy to be speaking clearly. There are some things that are just too good to keep to ourselves and this was one of those things.

 

Lessons for Us

I have often pondered why sometimes the Lord has told those He helped to be quiet and sometimes he told them to tell others.  Sometimes when he told them to be quiet they didn't seem to be able to contain themselves and they proclaimed what the Lord had done for them to their friends and neighbors anyway.  I am sure that there are other lessons to be learned from these passages but for those of us that have encountered the Lord and have trusted Him, He has done great things for us.  Our testimonies need to make it obvious that great things have been done for us and then we need to be so happy about being saved from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin, that we just can't hold it in.  That would be true evangelism.

 

Today the Lord is absent.  He is in heaven.  But He is coming back and I hope that we who have been blessed by Him are telling others about the great things He had done for us.   Are we preparing people to be ready for His second coming or will they look at us and wonder why we just weren't excited about sharing this good news?

 

Meditation for the week of February 28, 2016