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JANUARY 2017

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Comforting Grace for Scary Times

 

Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

 

Scary Times

The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is scary.  Most of its message has to do with judgments on this earth because men would rather worship anyone and anything other than the Lord Jesus.  But with all the scary stuff in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the final words are encouraging. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” That grace is unmerited favor, it is a free gift, it is receiving blessings that are not deserved.  It is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

As we approach another new year, change is in the works.  Some change is good and some is bad.  I used to tell my clients when I advised them as a CPA that if everything was going well, don't change anything.  I also told them that if things were not going well, change something.  Most people would say things are not going well for the world in general.  We have wars, earthquakes, diseases, floods, tornadoes, murders, drug usage, government debt that is strangling our economies and I could go on and on.  But I suppose the thing that is on most people's mind is the possibility of an all-out nuclear war.  I know that is on my mind.  Because things are not going well, people want to change something.

 

While I do believe that the world is headed for a seven year period of great trial, I do believe that those who are saved will not be part of that.  The tribulation period is an earthly judgment centered around an earthly people with earthly promises.  I am part of a spiritual people with the spiritual promises.  However, while we who are saved are spared from the tribulation judgments, we may still go through tribulation before the Lord comes.   We who trust in the Lord Jesus worry about our children and our grandchildren and wonder what they are going to have to face on this earth.  We need to make sure that we teach them how to become Christians before we try to teach them how to live like Christians.  It is imperative that our children understand that they are not saved by doing right but they are saved by trusting in the Lord and then they will have a desire to do right.  They need to understand that they were not born believers in Christ. Times are scary and we don't want to lose our children.  But neither do we want to mislead those who call themselves Christians because they stand for the right moral issues in our day.  Being moral to the extent that man can be moral does not make us fit for eternity.  We need people to realize that scary times are here and there is only one say to be saved for time and for eternity and that is to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16: 31).”  For those of us that are saved, I have been thinking of some verses of real encouragement. These promises are from the New Testament since we have a tendency to take Old Testament promises meant for Israel as the promises for the church.  Then we are disappointed when we don't see the fulfillment of the promises. Here are some words of encouragement:

 

Promises that Comfort

 

Matthew 6:31-34 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

John 14:1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

 

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Notice death does not separate us from the love of God).

 

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

 

Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU." So we may boldly say: "THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT FEAR. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?"

 

I'm Glad I am Saved

I plan on facing 2017 with the confidence that the future does not need to be scary.  I have the promises of God encouraging me.  I have the Holy Spirit within me and the angels of God that minister to me.  What can man do to me?   God has not told us what 2017 holds but He has told those of us who are His children by faith that if we trust Him not only for eternity but also for the present time, then 2017 has to be a good year. 

 

And what the Lords says, I also say:  "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

 

Meditation for the week of January 1, 2017

The Next Stop is Elim

 

Exodus 15:23  And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

 

The journeys of the children of Israel are instructive since we see parallels in the life of a New Testament Christian.  The children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt, a place that had once been a sanctuary for them.  When the Lord saw fit to deliver them from that bondage, He did so miraculously and about 2 million people came out of Egypt and began a trek through a wilderness.  It didn't take long to realize that this trip was not going to be a walk in the park.   Soon they were being pursued by the Egyptians who had changed their minds about freeing their slave labor.  They had some unbaked bread with them but no water.  All of a sudden the realization that they had some animals but no other food or water to sustain them made them wonder why they had started this journey.  As we look at their journey, there are four places that we need to consider.

 

Ranses--Salvation

This is where the children of Israel were building pyramids for Pharaoh.  Originally they had been shepherds living in a lush area called Goshen but now they were slaves.  This is where they took a perfect lamb and observed it for several days and then killed it and applied its blood to the doors of their homes while roasting and eating the flesh.  While there is much that is instructive in this event, what strikes me is that their calendar started with the month when the lamb was slain.  This was an event that they did not forget.   They were to remember this event yearly with a feast.  This was the month of their redemption or salvation from bondage.  This had to be a “high” in their experience.  How could they ever forget it? 

 

Red Sea—No turning Back

After being delivered from the Egyptians, on their third encampment they have the Red Sea before them and the Egyptian army behind them.  What were they going to do?  The people questioned Moses as to why he had brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.  Moses told them to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord and we all know the story.  The Lord brought the children of Israel through on dry ground while the Egyptians were drowned in that same sea.  But since the sea would not open up again, now there was no going back.  In many ways this is like the New Testament believer getting baptized.  From that point on, even unbelievers expect the believer to live up to their open identification with the Lord Jesus.  There can be no secret disciples after being baptized. 

 

Marah—Bitterness

So far the children of Israel have seen two mighty miracles (in addition to the miracles done in the land of Egypt).  They have been delivered from Egypt as slaves.  They have been delivered from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.  But they, like us, never expect the next miracle.  They need water.  It would appear that God has answered their prayers when they come to Marah.  But the water is bitter.  Why would God provide them needed water that can't be drunk?  Since the water cannot be drunk, it appears to be poisonous but seem to think it was just brackish.  Nevertheless, the Lord was able to make the bitter water sweet.  All it took was for a tree to be thrown into the water.  No doubt, we who are saved need to consider the cross when the trials come.  No matter what we are experiencing, things will be put in perspective.  The experience that seemed bitter will all of a sudden become sweet and satisfying. 

 

Elim—the Oasis in the Desert

Just beyond Marah there was a place called Elim that had twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees.  I wonder who had dug the wells and who had planted the palm trees.  It makes no difference, the Lord knew that 2 million people would need a place to rest and be refreshed after leaving Egypt, after going through the Red Sea, and after the bitterness of Marah.  God knew how to take care of His people.

 

Our Journey

Getting the salvation God has provided is exhilarating.  The burden of sin rolls away.  It is a mountain top experience, but very quickly reality sets in.  A person begins to realize that walking by faith and not by sight is more difficult than they expected.  Getting baptized properly means family will be upset.  After being obedient to the Lord on that issue Satan will test us with some bitter experience.  Maybe it will be sickness or death of a loved one or temptations that we cannot control.  It may be the rejection of friends.  But while the experience may be bitter, we need to bring the cross into those circumstances so the Lord can provide sweetness out of that which is bitter.  And then remember, Elim is coming.  The Lord does not forsake His own.  He does not grieve them willingly.  And if you are lingering at Marah today, take courage.  The next stop is Elim.

  

Meditation for the week of January 8, 2017

Lying seems to be the Name of the Game

 

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Jacob

Apart from the devil, I suppose the best known liar in the Bible is Jacob.  His name means supplanter or liar or deceiver depending on the dictionary that one consults.  He lied to his father in order to obtain the blessing that his father intended for Esau.  He lied to Esau on his way back from Padanaram or modern day Syria.  It appears that he and his wives' father, Laban, had an uneasy relationship, likely because they were both liars (I am assuming that because Laban deceived Jacob into taking Leah as his wife).  Jacob came by his ability to lie honestly.  His grandfather Abraham had lied about his wife Sarah while in Egypt.  To save his skin (not hers) he had said she was his sister.  He did the same thing when he was in the land of the Philistines.  Of course, he was telling a half-truth since she was his half-sister.  Then Isaac learns from his father and does the same thing and says Rebekah is his sister when he flees to the Philistines because of a famine in the land of Canaan.  Only Rebekah is not a sister except in a general sense.  She is actually a second cousin as I understand genealogies.  So Abraham tells a half lie, Isaac lies in much the same way, and Jacob just lies. 

 

The Truth about Liars

My father used to say that some people lie when the truth would do better and I think that would have been true for both Abraham and Isaac.  He also said that it takes a good memory to be a good liar because sometimes it is difficult to remember what lie you have told and to whom you have told it.  Remembering the details of the lie can get tricky.  But a good liar can be a great deceiver and that seems to be the character of the devil. 

 

Last Days

One of the characteristics of the last days is lying and deception.  2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (or the liar), that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  I believe this deception has to do with a man explaining why so many people have disappeared in the “catching away of the true believers” and he exalts himself as the world's hope against the invasion that must have occurred.  He says he is a man of peace when in fact he simply wants people to worship him instead of the Lord.  And of course he wants to get rich since money is power. I think he will control the economy so no man can buy or sell in the market place unless they have pledged their allegiance to him.  

 

Discernment

How do we sort out what is true and what isn't today?  A little common sense help even though I realize we are to take people at face value if at all possible.  In our day when people know the power of words and take courses in body language so that they can lie effectively, how can the simple be wise and avoid the liar?

 

First know that a liar tends to flatter.  If flattery doesn't work then a liar will confront.  It is always well to get a second opinion on anything that you are “buying” whether it is a house or an investment or truth about your relationship with God.  Unfortunately, we have all lied at times and so no man can really say he always tells the truth.  But most of us try to pay our bills, we try to keep our marriage vows and our other promises.  The general character of our lives should be that of someone upon whom a person can depend.  Most of the time, liars take advantage of a person by telling them what they want to hear.  This is often part of their flattery.

 

But in all honesty, it hurts when we find out that we have believed a liar.  Satan has convinced people that He tells the truth and that the Bible is a lie.  So another technique of a liar is to undermine the basic foundational beliefs by which we live. I know many people do not believe the Bible because they THINK that it is not dependable.  In my mind, if that were to be true, there is nothing that is dependable because those who don't believe the Bible have no unified system of truth with which to replace the Bible.  If a person is going to take something we believe to be true from us, they need to replace it with something better and so far no one has given me anything better.  The Lord promises us eternal life if we will trust Him.  And that is just what I am doing and plan to continue doing.

Meditation for the week of January 15, 2017

Grace and Truth

John 1:16-17 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

 

What is Grace?

There are some words that are hard to define because they mean different things in different situations.  Grace is one of those words.  Sometimes it means favor which is usually unmerited.  Sometimes it is a gift or a blessing.  Sometimes it means the qualities of graciousness like kindness and compassion.  Sometimes it is respect and consideration of others.  I find it interesting that we never name a boy grace but we often give girls that name. 

 

What is Truth?

Pilate couldn't figure it out what truth was.  He seemed to think that truth was whatever worked politically at the time (see John 18:38).  I think we call this relative truth.  However, it was true that Pilate could find no fault in the Lord.  But it wasn't true that he would be able to treat an innocent man fairly and keep the Jews satisfied.  Truth is almost as difficult to define as grace.  Truth is something that is based on fact.  But what is a fact?  It is something based on objective reality.  However, even objective reality seems to change over time.  Today the person who is loudest and most shrill with the ability to repeat a thing over and over again is often considered to have the truth.  One thing we know, God says all men are liars so we can't be sure that men are always telling the truth.  What we can know is that there are some men who want to tell the truth and who try to tell the truth.  Even the scientific method gives different answers over time to those who believe that science is the only source of bedrock truth based on provable facts.   The last I knew, science couldn't decide if light was wave energy or particle energy.  They may have that figured out by now, I don't really keep up.  But the point is, truth should be based on objective facts, but some objective facts seem to be awfully subjective. 

 

So What is the Grace and Truth that came through Jesus Christ?

Since this passage is comparing grace and truth to the law, I believe that this statement has to do with the righteousness obtained through the Old Testament law versus the righteousness obtained through the Lord Jesus.  The law was a standard of behavior.  When that standard was not met and when there were objective witnesses to the law breaking there were penalties or consequences.  Unfortunately, the law wasn't always administered fairly or uniformly.  Often some people were above the law and some people were unfairly accused.  But the Lord applied the law uniformly and fairly.  Then he found means to righteously forgive those who had broken the law.  While it takes the epistles to fully understand this interplay between grace and truth, the Lord was always the standard bearer with regard to both.  Since all have sinned,  the truth is that we are all condemned under the law.  But God is just and the justifier of all who believe in Jesus.  He could be just and gracious because He was willing to bear the consequences of our sins for us.  He set us free from the penalty of the law..

 

Grace and Truth in Everyday Life

While the Lord maintained the truth while showing grace in so far as our salvation is concerned, He also set an example of behavior with regard to everyday life.  I like to think of truth as the engine in a car.  It is the thing that makes things go.  All the parts have to work together perfectly to maintain forward motion.  But grace is like the oil in the engine.  It keeps things running smoothly.  Without oil, the engine may run for a while, but pretty soon there is going to be a lot of loud noise and the engine is going to seize up.  Nothing is going to work.  There was nothing wrong with the engine until the oil was left out.  Some people think grace has to do with overlooking sin which is based on the truth standard.  But grace doesn't overlook sin, it makes provision for it so that the person who sins is not destroyed but is helped.  Think of the woman in John 8.  She was caught in adultery.  The Lord could righteously say, "Neither do I condemn thee."  But he also said, "Go and sin no more."  Her sin had been found out.  Her embarrassment was real.  Those who hypocritically brought her without bringing the man involved couldn't condemn her.  They had probably all committed the same sin and knew that the Lord knew that by what he was writing on the ground.  But the Lord hadn't sinned and would one day die for her justification.  This was grace and truth in action. 

 

Both truth and grace are in short supply today. Lies are often presented as truth.  Bullish behavior rather than gracious behavior is often the way people maintain power and control.   Once we are saved we are supposed be Christ-like in our behavior.  That means that we maintain the truth in a gracious way.  We should not intentionally lie.  We should speak to others with respect.  We should have empathy for the fallen.  We should judge without hypocrisy.  We need to show grace and graciousness in our desire to maintain the truth. 

 

Meditation for the week of January 22, 2017

Friendship with the World

 

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

 

Our World

We live in a society (world) that greatly influences us.  Since we tend to become like those with whom we associate, it is easy to become “worldly” and become an enemy of God.  Now I believe that being “worldly” in the passages above means that we are unconverted.  That is we have never had our minds changed to agree with God where we disagree with Him.  The carnal mind thinks the way a natural man would think and not the way a spiritual man would think.  I know that carnal is used to mean immature in the passages in 1 Corinthians 3 but even there the carnal mind is thinking like an unconverted person would think.  It is easy to fall into the trap of saying that society has changed and we as Christians must change with it.  While it is true that our methods of teaching and evangelism can and must change to meet the needs of a changing world, the truths that we hold dear can never change.

 

What Kind of Commitment have we Made?

In the Old Testament we have a people that have just been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt.  They had come to Mt. Sinai where God was going to establish a new covenant with them.  He had already made promises to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But now He is making promises to this redeemed nation.  This is what He says and this is their response:

 

Exodus 19:5-8 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.

 

ALL that the Lord has spoken we will do.  But it didn't take long to start thinking in a natural way or the way of person in the world would think.  They were hungry so the Lord gave them manna, but they violated his command not to keep it until the morning.  After all, what difference could that make?  Then they violated his command not to gather manna on the Sabbath day.  After all, what difference could that make?  They complained about Moses and the lack of water and the lack of meat.  And after they got into the Promised Land, they didn't completely destroy the enemies of the Lord but spared some of them.  As a result, they intermarried with them and started serving their gods.  Did they do ALL that the Lord commanded them?   I don't think so.

 

The Greatest Enemy is often Religion

Sometimes the carnal mind is most evident in those who claim to worship God but have their minds made up as to who God is and as to how He wants to be worshiped.  I could give example after example of how that plays out in the “so-called” church today.  Even I have to wonder if I am really worshiping God the way He wants to be worshiped or am I being influenced by people who say they are saved but whose hearts are far from the Lord.  I keep thinking about the Jewish religious leaders who cruelly crucified the Lord.  The Lord was either who He claimed to be or He was mentally ill.  Either way, He shouldn't have been crucified.  But He was!  And it was the chief priests who led the rebellion against the Lord.  So friendship with the world certainly includes the immoral world but it also includes the religious world.  The religious world is a world that claims to be worshiping God but their god is the god of their choice.  It is not the God who sent His son to Calvary.  Religion is more concerned with controlling the behavior of others than it is concerned with controlling our own behavior.

 

My Prayer

My prayer is that I might be a follower Christ and not a follower of man.  That I might think like He thought and have the compassion that He had and know the salvation that He provides.  May I always have the desire to do ALL things that the Lord has spoken both morally and in ceremonial worship.  Help me to rightly divide the word of truth.  Help me to know what is Jewish and what is Christian.  Help me to understand that what pleases the Lord will likely not please men.  Help me to understand that what I may think is right is probably wrong and help me to change my mind where that becomes necessary (Isaiah 55: 6-9).  Help me to be like Abraham, a friend of God.  Let me never be His enemy.

 

Meditation for the week of week of January 29, 2017