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JANUARY 2012

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Faithfulness!

 

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

 

As we come to the end of another year, I am asking myself, "What did I accomplish for the Lord this last year?" The answer is not very satisfying. I would have to say that I haven't accomplished very much.

All of us who are truly saved and worshiping the Lord realize that what we do did not save us. Salvation is fully and completely a gift from God. But now that we are the Lord's, He has placed in our hearts a desire to serve Him. That is one of the things that I look for when people tell me that they are saved. When I listen to people who claim to be Christians, do I hear them talk about One that they love, or do they talk about themselves? Are they self-serving or are they serving others and Christ? Are they displaying their own righteousness or are they displaying the righteousness of Christ? How would I measure up if these questions were used to rate my life for the Lord over this past year? I am afraid that most of my life was concerned with self and not with God. Even when we think we are serving the Lord, we often are doing it for self-serving reasons.

Many give to the Lord in order to get from the Lord. They are not giving sacrificially, they are investing. While the Lord is clear that blessing often results from giving, my experience is that when I give I have less and not more in a material way. My blessings are spiritual. I don't think the Lord wants us to give him a portion and keep the rest for ourselves. I think He wants us to give Him ALL and to use some of it as good stewards to meet the needs of our life and service for Him. I am not sure that I can honestly say that I have done that.

Many preach the Gospel and minister the Word for material gain today. The Lord says that they are merchandising the Gospel. He despises that since the Gospel is free. But since we do need money in this life, who can honestly say that the need for money has not entered into decisions we have made about how we serve the Lord? Would we have made the same decisions if money were really not an issue? I suspect that most of us who serve the Lord would have to admit that in some measure, we have failed on this issue.

However, the real issue as I look back over the last year is, "How faithful have I been to the mysteries of God that have been entrusted to me?" Have I changed my view of God and His truth to conform to the popular movements of the day? Have I been faithful to proclaim that everyone who is saved was once lost? Do I emphasize the need for a "new birth?" Do I still tell the unsaved about God's wrath which includes eternal conscious punishment if we die without trusting in Christ for salvation? Do I love the unsaved enough to be honest with them or do I make God the kind of God that popular religion makes Him out to be? Am I faithful to the unsaved and to the Lord who was willing to despise the shame of rejection and of the cross in order to save us?

Do I believe and preach that the church is not ours? It is God's and His dwelling place. Do I believe that the early new testament church and the apostle's teaching concerning it are still the guide for the church today? Or have I been willing to build an organization that pleases men rather than letting the Lord build a living organism (body) that pleases Him. The latter the gates of hell shall not overcome (Matthew 16:18). When we build our way, not only do we leave the Lord on the outside (Revelation 3:20), but we are building on a sandy foundation that will not last.

I would like to hear the Lord say when I meet Him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:21)." So would you, of that I am sure. But I suspect there are a few improvements that I could make over last year. Maybe you have some improvements to consider as well. We can be thankful that the Lord is gracious to us where we have failed, but He still tells us that there is a standard for stewards. The standard is FAITHFULNESS.

 

Meditation for the week of January 1, 2011

Does this really work?

 

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

Worry is one of the great afflictions of the human race. Of course, worry is like riding a stationary bike. It takes lots of energy but it doesn't get you anywhere. But according to this passage if we really put the interests of the Lord FIRST we wouldn't worry about having life's needs met. That would be the Lord's responsibility. Our responsibility would be to do whatever we can do to serve the Lord and to promote the spiritual kingdom that He has brought us into the moment we trust Him for salvation. John 3:3 says, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The Lord was rejected as the King of the Jews at the cross, but those of us who trust Him, recognize that right now He is our King. In a coming day, He will present Himself to this world as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16).

What does it really mean to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God? During my university studies (year's ago), there was a man by the name of Maslow that thought he had figured out what motivated people. According to him, people had five levels of needs. When the basic needs were met such as the need for food, water and shelter then they were motivated by "higher" needs such as security, and then love, and then recognition. When these needs have been met, people are only motivated by something he calls self-actualization which really means that they are occupied with feeling that they have fulfilled their potential to make a mark in this life. You will notice that all of the things that Maslow mentions shows that we are normally motivated by things that affect us. We are motivated by the trinity, "ME, MYSELF, AND I."

A Christian who is born again and is truly walking in the spirit has a higher motivation than what Maslow describes. He will love God and love His neighbor as Himself. Notice the command to love our neighbors is measured by our love to self. Loving ourselves is always assumed in Scripture but it is not commanded—at least I have never found the command. Just as we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves according to Ephesians 5. But our motivation should not be to please self but to please God and that would require us to be acutely concerned with meeting the needs of others. Now I know some are going to say, but "Who is my neighbor?" A lawyer in the parable of the Good Samaritan tried to avoid his responsibilities by asking that question (Luke 10:29). It appears that our neighbor is the one that we would like to avoid. He may be of the wrong race, or he may have gotten himself into trouble and now needs someone to come along side of Him. Our neighbor is probably the one that we really don't like and don't want to help because we might be "enabling" him to continue in a self-destructive lifestyle. These people don't need a sermon, they need compassion and help with no strings attached. That of course will be the most powerful sermon that they will ever hear.

A Christian who is seeking FIRST the kingdom of God will esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3). He will be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). He will humble himself rather than exalting himself (Luke 14:11). He shares what he has with others (1 John 3:17). These are just a few of the characteristics of Christians that run counter to the things that normally motivate us according to Maslow.

The Lord makes us a promise. If we put Him first we will have our needs (not our greeds) met. I wonder if it works? Has anyone really been able to do this? I am convinced that the Lord is gracious when we fail but that we miss out on great blessings as Christians when we stay occupied with what we want rather than with what the Lord wants.

 

Meditation for the week of January 8, 2012

Is He or Isn't He?

 

Genesis 28:16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."

Luke 2:44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.

 

Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau who had every reason to be mad at Jacob. Jacob had deceived his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Esau had lost the position associated with the firstborn because of his own foolishness and now he had lost the blessing that went with it. Esau was hot and Jacob was a deceiver. But out alone at night when Jacob least expected it, the Lord appeared to Him and spoke to him. Jacob was awestruck because he realized He had been in the presence of the Lord.

In Luke, the Lord had gone with his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. On the way home, the Lord stayed behind and it took about a day for his parents to realize that he was not with them even though they SUPPOSED that He was.

We have a tendency to think that the Lord is only present and communing with us at set times in set places. Sometimes we fail to realize that the Lord is present even when He is. My friends seem to experience His presence when hunting or fishing. Many of us have experienced his presence in times of great stress. It may have been in sickness or at a funeral. Normally we do not experience the presence of the Lord at a boisterous party. We are more likely to hear Him speak and experience His presence when things are quiet. Often it is when our hearts are breaking. That seems to be why the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:2 says that it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting.

However, Jacob says that the place where he met the Lord was the House of God (Bethel). Thus, it was a place where God was dwelling. The church that meets in a particular place to worship and serve the Lord is one of the places where God dwells in our day. We often quote Matthew 18:20 and assume that if two or three Christians are together that the Lord is in their presence in some sense. However, what the verse is really saying is, "When two or three of you are doing what I ask you to do the way I ask you to do it, I will honor the decisions you make and the actions you take." That is what doing something "in the Lord's name" really means. Just having Christians together is not enough to know that we have the Lord with us. We must be letting Him direct the meeting. Scripture tells us that there are times when that isn't true. The Lord was outside of the door to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:20).

I wonder how many times we meet together in church meetings when the Lord is really not there? Just having an emotional experience does not mean that He is there. But we know that He always desires to be there and that he will be there if we do what He wants us to do HIS WAY. I am concerned because most people that I talk to today, go to the church that pleases them. But we need to ask if the church is pleasing the Lord. Elders are going to be held accountable in a special way for this, but all of us need to find out how the Lord designed HIS dwelling place so that we can experience the joy of having Him present. It would be a shame to find out that we SUPPOSED Him to be present when He was really someplace else and not with us at all.

I would hope that we wouldn't always have to meet the Lord unexpectedly like Jacob did. That seemed to be an experience that scared him to some degree. However, we won't be meeting the Lord in meetings of the church like we should unless we make sure we are doing things His way and not our way.

 

Meditation for the week of January 15, 2012

What do we Really Think of the Lord?

 

Luke 4:22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"

 

The Lord spoke with authority, that is, He knew what He was talking about. He wasn't like the Pharisees who knew what the books said about God but who didn't know God. In this passage, the people marveled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth. Grace seemed to be attractive to the Jews because the religion of law as taught by the Pharisees was not very gracious. But while everything the Lord did and everything He said, attracted people to Him and convinced them that He was different, He just didn't measure up to their concept of what the Messiah should be like. After all he was raised in Nazareth, a town that was not very "regal". He was a carpenter and the son of a carpenter. He didn't have a lot of financial or political clout. I am sure that most people thought his mother had been immoral since she was pregnant with Him before she was married. Even though that society didn't have cell phones or TV's or the internet, I have no doubt that it still had gossips who made sure that his friends and neighbors would be aware of His mother's so-called indiscretion. Joseph's Son just didn't seem like the kind of man Who would be the Jewish Messiah and our Savior.

Later in this passage the Lord mentions that no prophet is accepted in His own country. Some people have said that an expert is anyone who travels 50 miles away from home and there may be some truth to that. The people we grow up with are not usually the people that we idolize. The preachers we grew up with are often not the ones who get our attention when we are older. The people we do support normally have to be from "away" but they still have to be "like" us. People who are not "like us" may not talk right, they may have the wrong color of skin, they may have the wrong friends, they may not be able to help us advance socially or politically or in business. As a result we often by-pass the talent God would choose for the talent that men think is better. We miss out on great blessing because we disdain the people God has chosen and we honor the ones He has not

King David was not the son of Jesse that Samuel would have chosen to be King. He had brothers who had much more regal bearing than David did. But the youngest son of Jesse became the King that was a man after God's own heart. The Lord used a lad's lunch to feed a multitude, He allowed a woman who was a sinner to demonstrate true devotion by anointing the Lord with fragrant ointment, He turned a woman who wasn't married to her current "man" into an evangelist. The apostle Paul apparently had trouble giving speeches and yet the Lord used Him and his preaching carried weight. These are not the people that men would have chosen to use, but they were the ones the Lord chose to use.

As mentioned above, one of the reasons that the Lord was rejected was because He didn't fit the Jewish concept of a King. Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:2, "And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." He didn't have "regal" beauty. The Lord came from the wrong family, from the wrong town and had the wrong occupation. Men look for physical beauty, social status and power. The Lord looks for the humble faithful servant. How many people have been hindered in their work for the Lord because they didn't measure up to our expectations? Many people have been chosen by men to be leaders and preachers in the church because of attributes that were attractive to us, but some of these people have divided God's people and perverted His Gospel.

Is it possible that just as the Lord was not honored because of what people thought they knew about Him that we could also miss prophets, teachers, evangelists and elders that the Lord has sent our way? Has our self-centeredness and desire to be associated with the "right" people caused us to miss out on great blessing?

The Lord was rejected by the religious people and by those who were influenced by their power. Thank God for those of us who have truly accepted Him as well as the people that He chooses to serve Him.

 

Meditation for the week of January 22, 2012

Some Things that are Impossible with God!

 

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6

 

This is a difficult verse for those of us who believe in eternal security, that is, we believe that once we are saved through faith in the Lord Jesus, we can never never be lost. I personally believe in eternal security for a number of reasons. One is that eternal life is received by faith in the Lord Jesus, and it begins at the new birth and not at death. Eternal life is a life from eternity and a life for eternity. It has eternal qualities and it has eternal quantity. It is everlasting.

Another reason that I believe in eternal security is that my faith is not in my faith but in the Lord. What He has promised me will never change. I believe that two plus two makes four and nobody will ever convince me that two plus two makes five. I also believe that Christ died for my sins, was buried and rose again the third day to save me. I believe that because God tells me that and my God does not lie. That is something that it is impossible for Him to do. Because of God's promise, no one will ever convince me that Christ did not die for my sins. That promise is an unchangeable fact.

Another reason that I believe in eternal security is that I do not believe in salvation by works. I am saved by grace and I am kept eternally secure by grace. I am not saved by grace and kept safe by my own efforts. Depending on my own efforts or even in my own "believing" to get to heaven would leave me unsure of my eternal destiny. Isaiah tells us not to look to ourselves by to Christ to be saved (Isaiah 45:22). When I look within myself or at myself, I will never be sure that I am saved. When I get my eye off myself so that I can look to the Lord to be saved, I can be sure that my eternal destiny is secure.

I could give other reasons for my confidence that I will never perish (John 10:28), but the problem is that Hebrews 6 seems to indicate that I could fall away and be lost eternally. How do I answer that?

First of all, the verse is written to Jews who may or may not be saved. When the author uses the term brother, in many cases he is talking about a Jewish brother who may or may not be a Christian brother. Hebrews explains the excellencies of Christ to Jews who may have heard the Gospel but who do not fully understand the Gospel message. I believe that many of his readers were not saved. Now we know that the Jews as a nation were once enlightened, they tasted the heavenly gift (manna), they partook of the Holy Spirit who led them through the wilderness and who dwelled in their wilderness tabernacle and in their kingdom temple. They had experienced the good word of God through their prophets. They had experienced some of the blessings of the ages to come in the reigns of David and Solomon. But not all in the nation that had those blessings were "believers" individually. Jude says, "But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe (Jude 1:5)." The Jews had all these blessings nationally and if they individually fall away from what they could have in Christ (not from what they did have), they can never be saved. The author likens this falling away to a new crucifixion. It is rejection of the only way of salvation. The Jews were like the child of Christian parents. Because they have seen the blessings that their parents have and have been taught the truth, they are without excuse if they reject Christ.

It is impossible to be saved if we reject Christ, because He is God's only way of salvation. There is no place for a change of mind that leads to salvation if we refuse to accept Christ as our Savior. This verse then is teaching that those who trust Christ are saved eternally, and that those who reject Him are lost eternally. Since Christ is the only way of salvation, it is impossible for a Christ rejecter to be delivered from the eternal consequences of rejecting the Lord Jesus.

 

Meditation for the week of January 29, 2012