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JANUARY 2016

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When Did Boorish Behavior in Public Become Acceptable?

 

Ephesians 4:29  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification (building up the hearer), that it may impart grace to the hearers.

 

The Nature of Mankind

I tend to only watch the last quarter of the important football games that I need to know something about in order to interact with people in my circle of acquaintances.  Since everyone seems to be taken with football it behooves me to know whether Iowa, Iowa State or UNI has won or lost their last few games.  Since last week's Rose Bowl game was so big, I actually watched most of the last half.  But I missed the half-time show, fortunately.  So I missed the way the Stanford band, being the class act that they are, made fun of Iowa and Iowans.  I missed the fact that after winning the game,  the Stanford players, being the class act that they are, used very profane language in addressing the Iowa team.  But what I haven't missed is the way many people are justifying this kind of behavior.  Apparently anyone (like me) who would be critical of the behavior of the Stanford band and players is just too sensitive.  I am a person who just doesn't understand the nature of the game and that this is all in good fun.  I will give you that I don't understand the nature of the game if this kind of behavior is what the game is all about.  I thought football taught teamwork.  I thought the players and the fans and bands were to be enthusiastic, but they were to remain role models.  That is what I thought.  I remember seeing the movie, “On Any Given Sunday.”  The coach told his team, “On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose.  The point is, can you win or lose like a man?”  The Hawkeyes seemed to lose like men, the Cardinals seemed to win like boorish bullies.

 

Apparently, the band was “trolling.”  That is the current way of describing their desire to get a rise or reaction from those that they were trying to humiliate.   The powerful are intent on making sure that people know that they are boss.  I think of the way that the “strong bulls of Bashan (Psalm 22:12)” bullied the Lord.  They were the religious Pharisees and the Romans who were “in charge.”  They told Him to save Himself if He was the Christ.  Then they crowned Him with thorns, mocked Him, beat Him and crucified Him. 

 

The Nature of Christ

I realize that many people judge the Lord I serve by His relationship with the people of the land in the Old Testament.  These people turned their backs on Jehovah and suffered for it.  I would rather judge the Lord by His New Testament dealings with those He came to save.  Unbelievers will not be “trolled” by the Lord in a coming day but they will experience the vengeance of the Lord for rejecting His willingness to take the punishment that we deserve on Himself.  And their punishment will be deserved just like the punishment of Israel for turning aside to idols was deserved.  After all the Lord had saved them miraculously out of Egypt. 

 

But my Lord is gracious.  My Lord is merciful.  My Lord is forgiving.  My Lord is meek.  My Lord is humble.  My Lord IS NOT A BULLY or a TROLL nor is He BOORISH (that is, uncouth, rude and crude).  However, because He allowed men to crucify Him, some think He is weak.  But His weakness was His strength.  Paul found out that his weakness was His strength as well.  He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

The Nature of a Christian

A Christian has been “born again”.  He has been given a “new life” and a new way of thinking when he trusts the Lord and His worth, word, and work.  That kind of thinking puts others ahead of Himself.  That person lets no corrupt language proceed from his lips (Ephesians 4:29).  He is gracious and compassionate and understanding.  That kind of person would not only not justify the kind of behavior that the Stanford band and team demonstrated, but they would never themselves intentionally be involved in such behavior.  Years ago I read these standards for what we let pass through our lips in an advice column.  Apparently, they weren't original with the author I read.  But they are timeless truth:

 

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:

At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”

At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

 

This should be the behavior of a Christian. It is my desire this year to make sure that it is my behavior.  As far as I know, I have never intentionally intimidated others to make them look weak or small and I don't intend to start even though I have personally experienced such behavior on many occasions..  Such behavior is boorish.  I want to be Christ-like.  Stanford is definitely not my role model.  Christ is.

 

Meditation for the week of January 3, 2016

Music to the Ears!

 

Matthew 8:2-3  And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."  Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

 

The True Story of What Happened

This leper needed to be healed.  A leper in the days of the Lord was to be socially segregated so that others would not get the disease.  We would call that being quarantined except a quarantined person is usually restricted to their house while a leper was generally put outside the city.  If someone approached them, they were to cry “unclean, unclean.”  They were to dwell alone “outside the camp.”  So when this leper approached the Lord, he probably shouldn't have.  But he knew his need and he was confident the Lord could meet it.  And the Lord did meet his need.  Those words, “I am willing” had to be music to his ears.

 

The Application to us Today!

Leprosy has always been considered to be a picture of sin.  But since we are all sinners, it must represent the kinds of sins that we can share with others.  These would be social sins of our society.  It isn't the sins that we commit unintentionally; leprosy must represent the intentional sins that we learn from others.   But at some point, many people involved in sins such as selling drugs, murder, lying, cheating, and immorality come to hate themselves.  Some end up in prison and when they realize how damaged they are both before men and before God, some of them truly repent and realize that their rebellion is not just against man but their rebellion is really against God.  When they do, Satan often tries to convince these people that they are beyond hope and that God would never want them or forgive them.  And yet that is just what God wants to do.  He sent His Son so that we who are sinners of any kind can be forgiven.  But often it is the gross sinner that society rejects that comes to the Lord and gets the blessing of spiritual healing.  The people who think that they are “good enough” on their own to get to heaven, miss out on the beauty of those words, “I am willing: be cleansed.” 

 

The cleansing of this leper had to be proven to be real so he had to go to the priest and offer a sacrifice and be pronounced clean.  The priests were often like doctors in the Old Testament and were taught how to discern leprosy and how to determine if it had run its course.  They determined if the person was no longer able to give it to others. 

 

Hearing those Words Today!

I wish that when we were sick with any disease, we could approach the Lord and hear those words, “I am willing be cleansed.”  But while there are a lot of differences of opinion with regard to current “faith healing” and “faith healers”, I am convinced that whenever we are healed physically it is because of the healing power of the Lord.  We may get healed from the flu, from colds, from gall bladder attacks, from heart disease and from other maladies.  In each case the healing process may be different.  In some cases, the apparent healer is a doctor but in each case, the real healer is the Lord.  However, we must admit that many times we pray for healing and the sick person is not healed.  So we don't always get to hear those words in this dispensation.  That is a practical reality even for those who try to practice faith healing.

 

But spiritually we can all hear those words, “I am willing!”  Sin is a disease that kills.  It destroys relationships.  It destroys mental health.  Ultimately, it leads to death.  But what about eternity?  What happens after death?  The Bible says that we can all be prepared for this “afterwards.”  If we realize our need, if we come in simple trusting faith to the Lord, He says He will cleanse us and make us fit for heaven.  And He wants to do that.  The repentant thief that died beside the Lord was cleansed and saved in the eleventh hour of his life.  Did He deserve his salvation?  NO!  Did the Lord want to save Him?  YES!  I am convinced the Lord also wanted to save the other thief, but the other thief said NO to the Lord. 

 

Conclusion

There is a straight forward verse in the New Testament that has always encouraged me.  It is found in Paul's writings to Timothy.  Paul says that the Lord “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).”  I love those words “all men” and of course that includes all women.  “I am willing, be cleansed.”  Those are beautiful words and words that are music to the ears of any who have spiritual leprosy.

 

Meditation for the week of January 10, 2016

Lessons from Peaches

 

Romans 3:11  THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD.

Luke 19:10  for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

John 12:32  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."

Luke 14:23  Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

 

Introduction

I have a daughter whose family has finally decided that their children needed a dog.  They bought a little dog that has gotten big.  The dog is friendly.  Now when I say friendly, I mean all-over-you type of friendly.  If a person didn't like dogs, that would just be too bad because this dog will not leave a person alone once she decides to be your friend. Ultimately, you will have to be licked and she will have to be petted.  This dog will not take no for an answer and she doesn't do rejection. 

 

Application to Us

I wonder how many friendships never develop in our lives because we often write people off that we think have offended us or who have neglected us.  I will have to admit, I don't have the endurance of this dog, Peaches.  Many times I have told that dog to get lost and she only got more energetic in her attempt to be my friend.  You would think that it would know that while I like dogs, I don't really love them.  But no matter how much I try to avoid, Peaches, Peaches will not allow me to avoid her.  And usually I end up playing with her and petting her.  And I have even gotten somewhat attached to her.  But the effort in this relationship was all Peaches.  I did nothing to encourage her early on. 

 

Many times as I look back over life, I think of friendships that I should have pursued but didn't.  Either I didn't have time or I didn't really like the person, or I thought that in some way they had avoided or mistreated me.  So I withdrew when I probably should have pursued.  I should have had a Peaches as my role model.

 

I think the Lord is a lot Like Peaches—even though He certainly is not a Dog!

The Bible says that there is NONE that seeks after God.  But if we look at the message of the Bible in context, the Lord keeps seeking us.  He seeks the lost and we are all lost by nature.  That means that we can't find our way and that we are perishing.  God uses the crucifixion to try to win the lost.  Is there any one in our country has not heard of that dark day when men crucified a man who had been found innocent in their courts.  But of course men believed in capital punishment and as a result they took the physical life of the Son of God.  That event has caused people to stop and think over the years.  We have to ask, was this a miscarriage of justice?  If it was, have the hearts and minds of men and women become any more civilized over the years?  If this kind of prejudice and envy is still the way we are today, is there anything that can change that?  And the answer comes back, YES!  There is something that can change that.  Christ died for our sins so that when we trust Him our whole life and attitudes can be changed into Christ-like lives and attitudes.  The cross is one way that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to woo us so that we can be different from those who crucified the Lord.  The Lord wants us to partake of a feast, not of a famine. As a result when people turn away from Him, He finds others and COMPELS them to come to the feast.  My Lord is a peach of a Peaches.

 

Can the Lord be Rejected?

Of course the Lord can be rejected.  I am confident that if I started beating and yelling at Peaches that ultimately she would slink away with her tail between her legs.  She might even turn and bark and bite.  But that is not her nature or her desire.   The same is true of the Lord.  He wants to be our friend.  He woos us.  He compels us.  But ultimately, if we keep rejecting Him, He will reject us.  And then the picture gets really ugly.  A mad dog will bite.  An angry God will obtain vengeance on those who reject His Son.  And that vengeance will be justified.  God has proven His love for His Son, and has proven His love for the world by allowing His Son to take the punishment that we deserve because of our sin,  He will be righteously angry when that love is rejected.  Eternity is involved in that anger.  John 3:18 says, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."  John 5:24 says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

 

Writing People Off

I am going to try to be more careful when it comes to “writing people off” that could be my friends.  We all need all the friends we can get.  But I am glad I do have a friend in the Lord.  He didn't “write me off” and ultimately I did not dismiss Him.  He could have dismissed me or written me off on many occasions, but He didn't and for that I am thankful today.  I hope nobody reading this has dismissed Him.  If you have, I suspect that He like Peaches is even today trying to get your attention.

 

Meditation for the week of January 17, 2016

The Church will Survive!

 

Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 

 

The Battle

No one has to tell us that there is a constant battle going on between good and evil in this world.  Some of us have different definitions of what is good and what is evil but all of us know that there are times that we want to do things that we should not do.  We also fail to do things that we should do.  Sin is not a theory, sin is a fact.  Individuals sin and nations are used in evil pursuits.  The question is, who is the author of sin and who is the author of that which is good?  I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you what I believe.  I believe Satan is real and is evil and wants to destroy all that is good.  That which is really good is of God and from God and is seen in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Church

We know that the church is the “called-out” people who worship the Lord Jesus in this dispensation—the period of time between the Lord's resurrection and His second coming. The church is built on the rock that Peter confessed, that is, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  It was not built on Peter himself.  The Lord had an earthly people in the Old Testament and he has a spiritual people in the New Testament.  The church is not an organization of man, it is not a corporate entity, it is not a building.  It is a group of people that are different from all others because they have undivided loyalty and faith in the Lord.  Their faith rests in Him and in His Word, the Bible.  While others question the value of the Word of God and while others question which God (if there is one at all) is the real God, the church has settled all that by faith.  I am one of those people.

 

Many intellectuals think I am simple (or foolish).  However, my faith is based on inductive reasoning.  That is the things I can prove and find reliable in the Bible let me have confidence in the promises that I cannot prove.  Thus, I have satisfying answers to the “big” questions having to do with where we came from, as well as with where God came from.  I find it easier to accept by faith that God, an intelligent designer, always existed than to accept (again by faith in man's assumptions) that the matter that makes up this universe just happened.  Man's faith also assumes that the matter that couldn't have always existed brought forth life and that life just happened.  It is quite evident that creationists cannot explain the beginning of our universe because they cannot explain God's beginnings. However evolutionists cannot explain where matter came from and therefore they are also at a loss to really explain the universe and where it came from.  If we accept the hypothesis that man can from alien intervention, we still have to explain where the aliens came from originally.  It seems to me that those who believe in Godless change or evolution would be like mechanics who learn how cars work and learn how to soup them up and improve them while at the same time denying that the original model was designed by an engineer somewhere.

 

Satan has plenty of ammunition to use in his attacks against the true church.  Sometimes he works as a lion or a wild wolf, attacking and ravaging.  So we see people who are forced to die for a system of belief that Satan tries to convince us isn't even true.  Sometimes he works as a bear, pretending to be friendly; but in reality waiting to destroy.  He can appear as an angel of light according to Paul.  He is sometimes a false prophet or a false teacher.  But however he works, he uses what is referred to as the gates (or authority) of hades (or the place of departed souls) to attack the church.  Paul says the church is constantly wrestling against his deceitfulness and his dominion and power as well as against his wicked spirits in Ephesian 6:12. 

 

So What is the Point?

Sometimes I wonder why I care and then I realize that even though Satan is strong and is constantly attacking and corrupting the real church, yet there are those who are faithful.  When Elijah thought he was the last faithful man on this earth, he wasn't.  However, the faithful were down to about 7,000 (1 Kings 19:7).  When Satan tried to destroy the Messianic line from whom Christ would come, there was always at least one person he could not destroy.  The church will be victorious.  I want to be part of that faithful few.  I hope you do too.

 

No matter how weak the church may be, no matter how bleak the future seems for the true believer who has accepted by faith things that cannot be proven or disproven scientifically, the gates of hell cannot and will not destroy the church.  I believe that. Praise the Lord!

 

Meditation for the week of January 24, 2016

Preparing for that last Great Trip

 

John 5:39  You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

 

Definition

Eternity is defined as time that has no beginning and no end.  In most translations of the Bible, God is described as eternal (see Deuteronomy 33:27).  Our home after we die is described as eternal in Ecclesiastes 12:5.  The life of a believer in Christ is called eternal life in the New Testament.  Eternal life seems to have quality to it.   It is a life given to us by God that fits us for an eternity with God.  It also seems to have quantity.  That is it lasts forever.  An unbeliever is not spoken of as “living” after dying since an unbeliever never obtained eternal life by trusting in the Lord Jesus.  However, the Bible is quite clear that an unbeliever exists eternally after death.

 

Eternity boggles my mind.  I can't get my head around it.  However, I am not really concerned with eternity looking backward.  I am concerned with eternity looking forward.  The reason I am a believer in Christ today is that I wanted to be sure I was ready for that last great trip—the one where the body goes to the grave and the real person in that body meets his maker.  Eternity is so long and time is so short, I wanted an assurance policy that I was prepared for that last great trip. 

 

Preparing for a trip in this Life

When we plan a trip in this life, there are three things we want to know.  We want to know where we are going.  We need to know where we are right now, then we need to find the best route between where we now are and our destination.  Thank the Lord for maps and more currently for cell phones with maps and GPS.  My wife and I are planning to make a trip to another country this week.  We have our passports, we have talked to people about what clothes to pack, we have plane tickets, we have gotten immunizations, and we have friends that are going to meet us on the other end.  We have taken pains to make sure that we are prepared to travel so that we can enjoy the trip. 

 

If preparing for a trip in this life is so important, doesn't it make sense to prepare for that last great trip from this life to the next?  Can proper preparation be made?  I know that this is where this meditation will get sticky because there are so many people with so many opinions about Who God is and how to be sure of ending up in eternal bliss and not in eternal torment.  In preparing for my trip, I have read everything I can about our destination.  I have gotten insurance against the possibility of a trip interruption.  But I have never been to the country I am going to, I am taking other people's word for the fact that it even exists.

 

I am preparing to go to a place after I die that I have never been to either.  Since the Bible speaks of heaven and hell, I want to make sure I am going to the right place.  But I am taking other people's word for the fact that heaven and hell really does exist.  I am taking the word of Peter and James and John who saw the Lord and Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration in Israel.  Moses and Elijah had been dead for quite a number of years.  But here they were.  They were recognizable and talking to the Lord.  I am taking the word of John who gives us a vision of the future after being caught up to heaven in Revelation 4:1.  I am taking the word of a rich man in Luke 16:19-31.

 

Are All Christians Ready?

The Word Christian is used in many different ways today.  A Biblical Christian has trusted in the Lord's sacrificial death and is ready for a trip to heaven.  Their sins are forgiven.  Their lives and thinking were changed when they came to faith in the Lord.  But many people call themselves Christians and they have no clue as to what the Biblical Gospel message is.  That is why this verse has been my meditation today.    Search the Scriptures, for in them you THINK you have eternal life.  If you read this passage in its context, the people the Lord was talking to did not believe in Him, they had not received Him, and yet they thought they had eternal life.  The Lord says that they did not believe the writings of Moses that they said would give them eternal life.

 

So What Should we Do?

First of all we need to prepare.  Only a fool would take a trip where they want to end up in a certain place without making any preparations.  If we would quit reading books about the Bible, if we would quit assuming that it takes a seminary degree to understand the Bible and if we all would sit down and really read the Bible with a desire to know if it makes sense, I am convinced that something miraculous would take place.  You would in some way be convinced that the Lord really is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  I do not know how the Lord does this miraculous work in each of our lives, but for those of us who really want to know we are prepared, the Lord uses His Word to bring us to faith.  Then we don't have to THINK we have eternal life.  We will be able to say we KNOW we have it, because we will be depending on God's promises as given to us in this old book.  We will not be depending on what men say.  We will be depending on what God says.  And as you read this book (in different versions if necessary), I am convinced that you will be as convinced as I am, that eternal life is available and obtainable.

 

 

Meditation for the week of January 31, 2016