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JANUARY 2005

 

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Luke 13:1-5

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

 

Recently we woke up to the news that an earthquake and a tsunami had inflicted a great deal of damage on the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka had been particularly hard hit and since my son-in-law is from Sri Lanka we were concerned. He was able to contact his family and was relieved to find out that they were spared but even now, several days later, the magnitude of this natural disaster is just becoming evident. One newscaster said that this was a truly natural disaster since it couldn’t have been predicted, there was no warning and no army could stop it. Is this the judgment of God on these nations? Similarly, was Florida being judged by God when it was hit by the four hurricanes during the summer and fall of 2004?

As I understand the new testament, God is not judging nations now as He did in old testament times. When the Lord began His earthly ministry, He came to proclaim “the acceptable year of the Lord” in Luke 4:19. He actually closed the book of Isaiah from which He was reading mid-sentence because the rest of the sentence reads, “and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2).” I believe we have been in the acceptable year (actually the old testament year of Jubilee as described in Leviticus 25:10) for the last 2000 years in a spiritual sense. I think the year of Jubilee is a picture of the church age or the day of grace when prisoners are set free, debts are forgiven, the blind recover their sight, the oppressed are delivered, and the broken-hearted are healed. The day of vengeance is coming when the Lord will begin to deal with earthly nations for rejecting the Lord. That starts with Revelation chapters 4 and 5 where the Lord opens the seals of the Book of Judgment and it goes through Revelation 19 when the Lord comes as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Does that mean that we should ignore the fact the God is speaking to us in a disaster like this? Of course not! But the question to ask is not, “What about them?” The question to ask is “What about me?” We need to ask, “Has the Word of God caused me conviction of sin and has it turned me to the Lord for salvation so that I can be ready for whatever comes along?” Those of us who are Christians need to ask if we are resisting the will of God in our lives. The two groups undergoing trials in Luke 13 were just a warning to those who assumed that calamities were God’s judgment for some special sin. So if we believe that God is judging sinners in calamities, He says that all who are unrepentant are about to be judged. However, while there are many unanswered questions in my mind about these calamities, for the most part I think they happen so that God can save rather than destroy today. We can’t tell God how to do His business, we need to let Him tell us and then we need to trust Him to do His business right. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right (Genesis 18:25)?

Week of January 2, 2005

Joel 2:1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is near at hand.

 

The Associated Press reported on January 1, 2005 that knowledge of the ocean and its currents passed down from generation to generation by a group of Thai fishermen known as the Morgan sea gypsies saved an entire village from the Asian tsunami that occurred the day after Christmas.

By the time killer waves crashed over southern Thailand the entire 181 population of their fishing village had fled to a temple in the mountains of South Surin Island, English language Thai daily The Nation reported.

"The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared," 65-year-old village chief Sarmao Kathalay told the paper.

In another report, Reuters said on January 3, 2005 that a Thai expert had tried to warn the government that a deadly tsunami might be sweeping toward tourist-packed beaches, but couldn't find anyone to take his calls and sound a warning.

Lives were lost in this terrible tragedy for the same reason that lives will be lost for eternity. If the knowledge of the Morgan sea gypsies had been shared with the other countries around the Indian Ocean and if that knowledge had been believed and acted upon, many lives could have been saved. Many of us who know the Gospel are not sharing it with the enthusiasm that we should be. In some cases we may not share it because we do not really believe that spiritual danger is imminent. That was the case with those that the Thai expert tried to warn. Some of those who wouldn’t listen were afraid that the warning would hurt the tourist trade. Can you imagine what not sounding the warning is going to do the tourist trade?

In my experience, many of us who are Christians are finding every excuse imaginable for not preaching the Gospel which is good news to the repentant sinner but bad news to those who think they are all right but have never made preparation to meet God. We are told that church’s mission is to teach Christians and equip them to preach the Gospel. The problem is that everyone is equipped but very few seem to be using the equipment and when they do they preach, they often preach a Gospel that is not found in the Scripture. We use terminology that is not Scriptural and spend very little time on the reason why the Gospel saves. We hardly ever mention the eternal consequences of the Gospel. The message that the Lord is coming again to take vengeance on His enemies is considered an outdated message that is believed only by those too old to really be “with it”. If the Gospel is preached at all, it is the Gospel of love that fails to mention that a loving God is also a holy God who must judge sin. I have seen people “drop in” on our meetings who were never told that we know how to get to heaven. Instead of arguing about how to preach the Gospel more effectively, we often argue about whether we should preach it all.

The message is urgent and the trumpet of warning needs to be sounded so that those around us will understand the signs of the times and will flee to Christ for safety. We who know the Truth need to quit making excuses and we need to start making a difference. We can’t make people believe what we know to be true but we can at least tell them what we know and warn them. No doubt some will be saved.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Week of January 9, 2005

Luke 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 

Resting in our society is often equated with laziness. Even our recreation has to be filled with activity. We usually ask, “What are you going TO DO on your vacation?” Have you ever heard someone say, “I am not going to do anything, I am going to just relax and rest (and perhaps meditate in the Scriptural sense).” If we spend a day doing nothing, we are taught that we have wasted a day in so far as our “goals” are concerned. We have “time management” seminars so we can order our priorities and get everything done efficiently. The result of this thinking is that most of us are anxious and concerned that we “don’t have things under control.”

Here again, the Lord thinks differently that we do. When it comes to salvation, most of us think we need to do something to be saved. God says we need to rest on the work that Christ has finished and that will prepare us for eternity and give us peace. When it comes to our lives, we think that great industry and planned activity is what is rewarded. We think that God will reward our efforts to serve Him, but God says He would much rather we had time to spend with Him where we could listen to Him, talk to Him and be taught by Him.

Nowhere does God commend laziness and an undisciplined life. But part of a disciplined life is knowing that when we are anxious and troubled, we likely have taken on responsibilities and activities that the Lord has not required of us. In addition, we may have forgotten to take time to enjoy the presence of the Lord. When we are anxious and troubled we often wonder what we are going to do when in fact the Lord doesn’t want us to do anything but to just relax and trust Him. When the nation of Israel was miraculously saved from the bondage of Egypt, one of their first obstacles was the Red Sea. With the Egyptians pursuing them from behind and with their road “dead ending” at the Red Sea, the Israelites began to think that they had made a great mistake in following Moses and leaving Egypt. But the Lord told them through Moses in Exodus 14:13-14, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” We all know that the Lord miraculously saved the Israelites that night by opening a way through the sea while He destroyed the Egyptians in the sea.

Recently, I have been “careful and troubled about many things.” When things are not going smoothly, I always wonder what I am doing wrong. Perhaps the problem is my need to be “doing.“ I am going to take courage in the Lord’s admonition to Martha that “one thing is needful.” That one thing seems to be summarized in the promise of Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me. . .and I WILL give you rest.” Life is too short to be lived in state of anxiety when it is possible to live it with a sense of peace and security by sitting at the feet of the Lord.

Week of January 16, 2005

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

According to this verse, we are involved in a war . “Spoils” were the rewards that armies got for defeating the enemy. The victorious army took everything that they could lay their hands on and “spoiled” or plundered those that they defeated. The weapons in this particular battle are philosophy and vain deceit. You and I are the potential losers.

Philosophy has to do with man’s wisdom. Vain deceit has to do with empty delusions. The rudiments of the world have to do with the fundamental nature of society. The Bible in Basic English gives us this translation, “Take care that no one takes you away by force, through man's wisdom and deceit, going after the beliefs of men and the theories of the world, and not after Christ.”

Those who are trying to defeat us through philosophy usually start sentences with “I think” instead of with “God says”. Usually their reasoning makes logical sense. But we need to remember that God does not think like we think. The Christian experience starts with repentance and Spiritual growth continues through repentance. Repentance involves a change of mind so that our thinking is brought into agreement with God’s thinking on issues where we disagree.

Those who are teaching empty lies often starts their sentences with “I don’t believe . . . “ Examples are:

1. I don’t believe that a merciful God would torment a Christ rejecter in hell for all eternity.

2. I don’t believe that we need to remember our salvation experience. Or I don’t believe that everyone who is saved has a sudden conversion experience.

3. I don’t believe that baptism is important.

4. I don’t believe that Christianity has a corner on Truth.

5. I don’t believe that the Bible miracles were literal.

Normally these teachers will not show from the Scripture what they do believe. Instead they will explain why it doesn’t make sense to believe the Scriptures or they will try to show that the Scriptures need to be reinterpreted so that they are relevant in today's world.

Because of my desire to avoid being “spoiled” and knowing how easy it is to follow a logical line of reasoning, I have made it a habit to read through the Bible every year in addition to other studying. I try to use a different version or a different edited Bible every year. When I am asking the Lord for guidance on an issue, I try to wait for God to show me through His Word what I ought to do. When I get to heaven, if I should be asked why I belong there, I want to be able to quote a promise from the Bible. I would mention Isaiah 53:5-6 or Romans 5:6-8. If the Lord were to ask me what Scriptural guidance I had for my occupation in life I would quote the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20. When I look for guidance on worship, I try to find it in the Acts and in the Epistles since they are written specifically to and for the church.

Our meditation starts with the warning “beware.“ Paul knew the power of philosophy and empty lies. I am convinced that spending time with the Lord in prayer and getting Biblical guidance for our decisions in life is the only way to avoid being “spoiled” or plundered.

Week of January 23, 2005

Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed.

 

Sleeping can be a blessing and it can be a curse. Peter slept at the transfiguration (Luke 9:32). He also slept in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:37). Sometimes sleep is the means of refreshing the body and mind. Other times it is a way of avoiding problems. Sometimes we sleep because we are lazy. When I think about our verse for this week, I wonder if the Romans were sleeping because they had lost the excitement of expecting that the Lord was about to return. Perhaps they didn’t see any point in working for the Lord any more. Have we also grown so discouraged that we are sleeping on the job?

This passage shows us at least three things. The first is that the word salvation can have different meanings. In Acts 4:12, I believe salvation is a present deliverance from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. In Romans 13:11, salvation is the future deliverance from the day of wrath that is coming on all the world after the Lord returns. Salvation here will occur at the catching away of believers to be with the Lord according to 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

The second thing this passage show us is that the Romans knew when they first believed. Today I talk to so many people who think that you “grow into believing”. I know that believers grow in their faith and understanding, but saving faith is a point in time experience in the Bible. I personally remember the peace that came with trusting (not just believing the facts but trusting) in the truth that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).”

The third thing that this passage teaches me is that the “shine” and “joy” and “enthusiasm” that we had when we first believed can be lost. Many of us were saved because we thought the Lord was about to return and we wanted to be ready. I know there are many people telling us that current events are signs that the Lord is about to return and then they say that there are no signs for the rapture but only for the return of the Lord to reign. So if we are seeing “signs of the times”, most of us who believe that the Bible has given us a calendar of future events in Daniel 9:24-27, would expect our salvation to occur seven years before the events heralded by the signs. I don’t know if current events are “signs of the times” or not but I do know that the Lord wanted us to live in the expectation that He could return at any time. I think this verse indicates that and I think many of us need to wake up.

We have something better than a million dollars, more productive than any multilevel marketing program, more encouraging than any motivational speaker can make our lives, more necessary than food, clothing and water and yet we have gone to sleep because of discouragement. The world has the problems, the Lord has the solution and it is free. We who are saved are the means of distribution. In spite of the fact that it has been two thousand years since the Lord made the promise to return, we don’t have “forever” to spread the “good news” that the Messiah has come, He has died for our sins, He has been raised from the dead, He has ascended to heaven and He is coming again.

 

Week of January 30, 2005