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JANUARY 2006

 

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Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

 

Another year has come and gone and the Lord has not come again as He promised in John 14:3. We were told nearly two thousand years ago that the time was at hand and that the Lord would come quickly, so is the Lord not keeping his promise?

When the Lord said that the time was at hand, He meant that the events were in place and were always ready to happen. The thought behind “at hand” would be similar to setting up the equipment and dynamite to demolish a building. If everything is in place all that has to happen to demolish the building is for an engineer to push the plunger on the detonator. Once things are set up, the time is “at hand”. The Lord has waited over 2000 years to “push the plunger,” but the time has been at hand ever since John finished the book of Revelation. Once the plunger is pushed, the events associated with the Lord’s coming will happen quickly just as the demolition of the building takes place quickly when the dynamite explodes. When the Lord says He is coming quickly, He did not mean immediately. He meant that when He comes the events will happen suddenly.

So, why has the Lord not come? Because “He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).” The Lord still wants to give the unsaved a chance to be delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We don’t understand the mercy of God and we don’t understand how He keeps time, so it would be easy to assume that He has forgotten about His promise. The world is asking “Where is the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:4)?” I am afraid that many of us are sleeping when we should be awake and vigilant (Romans 13:11) and we have set the stage for the Lord to come since it will be at an hour when we don’t expect it (Matthew 24:44).

I am sure that many thought the Lord was about to come when the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Others likely thought the events of the Lord’s coming were associated with the Crusades, and some likely with World War 1 and World War 11. I know I sure wondered if the events of the Lord’s return had begun when the first missile was fired in the first Gulf War. I believe that “the Lord’s coming” consists of His coming to remove believing Saints from the wrath that is going to come on the earth as well as His coming to reign in righteousness for one thousand years after the tribulation period. When Iraq started the first Gulf War, I reexamined my belief that the rapture or the catching up of believers was to occur before the tribulation period lasting seven years could occur. While I am more confident in that position than ever before, I will admit that many things happening today are “like” the things that I see prophesied for this old world when God pours out His wrath during the literal seven years of tribulation.

I am glad that I am saved and ready for the Lord to return. Many faithful Christians are tired of this old world and are saying “even so come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).” Others of us are having such a good time that we don’t think much about the fact that even today we may meet the Lord in the air. Even today we may get dragged out of this world that we have grown so fond of. Even today, we may leave behind loved ones who are not ready and that we have not warned because we have lost sight of the fact that the time is at hand and that, when the Lord comes, He will come quickly.

The Lord will keep His promise. Because His character depends on it, we can depend on it. Maybe He will keep His promise this year. Perhaps He will keep His promise today.

 

Meditation for the week of January 1, 2006

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand (near).

 

Paul was facing martyrdom. Apparently, he was not going to die by being thrown to the lions, but he was going to die (verses 17 and 18). I do not know if his actual execution date had been set or if Paul could just see what was coming, but either way, he was ready. Most of us do not know the time of our deaths, but some do. I have wondered what a person on death row experiences. And yet are we not all on death row? But most of us do not face this issue if we don’t have to face it.

I have a friend who was told three years ago that he had a year to live. Then recently he was told that he had a week to live. Obviously, doctors are not God or he wouldn’t have been around for the second sentence of death. However, I have watched this friend and his family face death and I have observed that life for them has changed in at least three ways as a result of this illness.

One thing that has changed is their attitude toward “things”. “Things” no longer satisfy. I have heard his wife say that she doesn’t like to shop even for necessary clothes because “things” do not seem very important.

Also, quality time with family and friends has become a priority and has sustained them. One of his friends asked him if he wished he had spent more time at the office now that he was facing the end. His answer was obvious. I have observed that quality time for them has involved real love properly communicated by actions, by words and by prayers.

Sometimes we cheapen love by the way we throw the word around in our Christian culture, but true love helps ease the pain and under girds those who are going through trial. Paul says, that of all the gifts of service for God, the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is eternal and, of course, experiencing the love of God is the greatest need of all in times of trial. When we first trust in the Lord Jesus, we experience His love doctrinally and perhaps somewhat academically by believing what God says about the death, burial and resurrection of His Son. In times of great trial, I believe that love is often experienced practically through the love of friends and family. Many of us try to show our love by “fixing” something. But when a person has the sentence of death over their heads, there may not be anything we can “fix”. We can bring food and clear sidewalks of snow and help with the necessary routine of life, but I can see that a dying person just needs to know that people really do care. Sometimes we communicate that by wisely saying nothing and other times we communicate that by being wise about what we say.

Finally, my friend has always been concerned about the spiritual well-being of others, but now that concern seems more natural and more urgent. He seems to be living with his mind on eternity. I feel that I have been privileged to be in the presence of God as my wife and I have visited our friend and his family during this trial. Many things that some people find important now seem rather trivial. When I turned on the TV recently and heard people agonizing over the officiating in a football game, I wanted to yell, “get a life!” Somehow that just didn’t seem important any more. My friend is not talking about who won which bowl game. He is talking to any who will listen and to some who won’t about His confidence in the Lord and how he is prepared to meet God

I believe our relationships with God and with one another would be sweeter if we lived each day as though “the time of our departure was near.”

 

(This meditation was published with the permission of those involved).

 

Meditation for the week of January 8, 2006

Genesis 28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Judges 16:20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.

 

I wonder how many times I have assumed that the Lord is present when in fact He was not. I know that there is a sense in which He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). As Christians we have a link to the Lord which cannot be broken. But we can still assume that He is blessing our service and efforts when that is simply not true. Samson went too far one day and told his secrets to his girlfriend who was not a friend at all. When he did, he lost the distinctive locks of his hair that had marked him out as a special servant of the Lord; and He lost the presence and power of the Lord. The sad thing is that He didn’t realize it until it was too late and, as a result, he lost his strength, his freedom and his sight.

We tend to assume that when two or three Christians come together to worship or break bread that the Lord always honors that gathering with His presence. We base that on Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” However, read carefully, the verse is dealing with a problem that the two or three have taken to the church as a whole. The Lord assures them that when they carry out His will, He will lend His authority to what they have done. This verse could really be paraphrased, “When you do what I ask you to do, the way I ask you to do it, you have My authority for what you do.” Sometimes, however, we quote this verse to assure ourselves of the Lord’s presence when we haven’t even consulted His Word or prayed earnestly to know His will before making the decisions that we expect Him to honor.

There is some encouraging news, however. Sometimes when we feel abandoned and we think the Lord is not present, He is. When Jacob was running from his brother Esau after deceiving him and stealing his blessing from their father, I am sure that He thought he was on his own as he traveled. But the Lord met him at night in a dream at a place Jacob named the House of God (Bethel). That night Jacob was given this promise, “behold, I am with thee (Genesis 28:15).” Those had to be sweet words of encouragement even though it is not completely clear to me that Jacob really believed the promise until he wrestled with God in Genesis 32:24. Jacob was a deceiver. He certainly didn’t deserve this blessing because of his character. Jacob was not the first born so He certainly didn’t deserve this blessing because of the way he was born. Jacob is like us. There is no reason why we who are “sinners of the Gentiles” should be blessed with the presence of God; and yet, when we trust Christ as our Savior, we do have that blessing. There may be times when it seems that all is dark and that the storm is raging. We may not recognize the presence of the Lord when He comes. When we get that sinking feeling and say, “Lord save me,” I believe that He is always there (Matthew 14:22-32) to lift us up. Sometimes we may go off and leave Him, but He does not go off and leave us.

So we may be presuming that we have the Lord’s presence when we don’t. We might not be aware that we have left God somewhere behind us and have gone on in our own strength. But if we really love the Lord and have faith in Him, we can be confident that He has His eye on us whether we can see Him clearly or not.

 

Meditation for the week of January 15, 2006

Genesis 45:21 And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.

 

Our lives are a journey. When we are young, the journey seems long. We are like children on a road trip who ask, “Are we there, yet?” after being on the road for about ten minutes. As we get older, the journey seems a lot shorter but sometimes it seems a lot harder.

Most of us look at Joseph as an old testament picture of Christ. He was a prepared deliverer for His family. His journey required Him to suffer and to be rejected. But his journey had meaning because He was a chosen vessel that God used to preserve the nation of Israel from starving so that they could produce the promised Messiah. When he sent his brothers on their journey to move to Egypt, he provided for their “moving” needs.

The Lord gives us wagons and provisions as well, that is, He makes sure that we have what we need to complete the journey from the new birth to the promised land. Sometimes I forget that. I tend to think that the Lord meets my needs only when I can’t meet them myself. Oh, I know we are to serve the Lord on this journey and that we are to “occupy” until He comes (Luke 19:13). But I forget that the One who has saved us is the One who keeps us. I suspect that most of us have trouble “trusting” the Lord for this journey through time even though we say we have “trusted” Him with our souls for eternity.

Sometimes we are like the children of Israel. After traveling nearly forty years in the wilderness, they were complaining because they were discouraged (Numbers 21). The Lord’s miraculous daily provision of manna no longer satisfied. The solution of course was to look to a brazen serpent lifted up on a pole. The Lord tells us that this is like getting a look at the cross (John 3:14-15). If our journey seems long or boring or unfair, a fresh view of the cross will put everything back into perspective.

When the Good Samaritan found the man who had fallen among thieves, he fixed him up and picked him up and then took him to a motel and put him up. He gave the motel owner a down payment and then asked him to run a tab on the man’s expenses that he would pay when he returned (Luke 10:34-35). That was pretty good care from a man who normally would be shunned by the victim. If the Good Samaritan symbolizes the Lord, surely provision has been made for us whether we believe it or not.

The Lord has said that we are of more value than the birds for whom He provides and the lilies of the field that He clothes. He says that if we trust Him enough to put Him and his interests first, He will take care of us (Matthew 6:33). I suppose that last promise is conditional, but I can personally testify to the fact that the Lord takes care of His own even when we don’t trust Him like we should. I suppose that could be because our God is a God of love. Love is not only what He does (John 3:16, Romans 5:8), but love is what He is (1 John 4:8).

I am so glad that I am not journeying alone. I have seen the Lord provide his carts and provisions through friends. I have seen Him be faithful when I was unbelieving. I have a Lord that can be trusted and I hope that you have personally experienced the sweetness of finding out that the Lord, who is worthy of our trust, has a personal interest in you.

Meditation for the week of January 22, 2006

Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

Psalm 53:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

 

These Psalms could be translated in one of four ways. Some say, the KJV above is the best translation. Others say that this could be translated, “The fool hath said in his heart no to God.” Others say that the best translation is, “The fool hath said in his heart no God for me.” And I have seen a translation that says, The fool hath said in his heart God will not do anything. All of these translations can be boiled down into the fact that the fool does not want to accept accountability to God.

The Bible also says that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). So in the Bible a wise person seeks the Lord and worships Him. The fool turns his back on Him. The fool makes up his own mind about what is right. The wise person lets God tell Him what is right. I am convinced that those people who believe the Bible and trust in the Lord increase their IQ’s simply because they are in tune with the mind of God while those who rebel against the Lord are swimming upstream in their thinking.

Why would people be so foolish as to turn their back on the God who has proven His existence through creation (Psalm 19:1-6), through the way He has dealt with the children of Israel; through the way He has fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; and through the way He describes our hearts and tells us that He knows things about us that we would likely not share with anyone (Jeremiah 17:9)? Some people turn to god’s that require great sacrifices from them so that they can hope to be saved while my God has provided a great sacrifice for us so that we can know that we are saved. Instead of asking us to die for Him, He sent His son to die for us. Many have died for Him, not to be saved, but because they are saved and want to tell others that there is a God in heaven that loves them. Satan, who is a liar and murderer (John 8:44), resists the truth of the Gospel. And for some reason the foolish tend to believe Satan instead of God. Pharaoh was given every reason by God to trust in the Lord, but instead he defied him and said, “I know not the Lord.” His foolishness destroyed Egypt and cost him and those in his kingdom their firstborn sons.

I am reminded of the story a man who wore a sandwich board in the business section of his city. Of course, people thought he was foolish. On the front of the sandwich board he had the words, “I am a fool for Christ.” As he passed people and they looked at the sign on his back it said, “Whose fool are you?”

I often wonder what it must be like for people who have rebelled against God to cross over to eternity and have to meet the God they have rejected. What must it be like to remember John 3:16 and not be able any longer to trust in the Savior that is offered there? I can imagine that the words of many who thought they were wise in this life but who find out that they sold their soul because of their pride in their own intellect and reasonings will be, “What a fool I was!” Me, I am glad for the peace that comes with believing and for the confidence that I have that I am prepared for that day when I step from time into eternity. We are not ready to live until we are ready to die. We are not ready to die until we have been wise enough to trust what God says. We need to realize that rejecting the Lord Jesus is foolish since there is really nothing to gain and everything to lose.

 

Meditation for the week of January 29, 2006