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JANUARY 2018

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Our Crown of Rejoicing

 

Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

 

Unconditional Promises

It is a whole lot nicer to have the Lord with us than against us.  He is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).  The unbeliever is condemned already (John 3:18) and I don't know anyway that can be “sugar-coated.”  But thank goodness, a believer can make mistakes and still know that the Lord is “with them.”  David said that goodness and mercy would follow him all the days of his life in Psalm 23, but he surely made a gross mistake by taking another man's wife and then by murdering her husband to cover up his sin.  Abraham was the friend of God but surely producing Ishmael by Hagar was not an act of faith.  Neither was letting both Pharaoh in Egypt and Abimelech in Gerar think that she was his sister and not his wife.  This was so that they would not kill him in order to have her as a wife since she was beautiful.  Both took her in their innocence but the Lord preserved Sara in both cases.  One could wonder if Abraham really loved her.  But the Lord was with both of these men.

 

Why was He with them?  Apparently it was because of their faithful worship of the Lord.  David was a man after (or dear to) God's own heart (Acts 13:22). David loved the LORD and never loved “other gods.”  He didn't turn aside to idols like others did.  Abraham was called out of Idolatry when he was in Ur of the Chaldees and never went back to that worship.  He built altars to the Lord.  He walked by faith and not by sight.  When he got the call to leave Haran, he left not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). 

 

Believers today are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon believing (Ephesians 1:13).  They have the Lord in them so He obviously is with them.  But sometimes we hinder fellowship with Him by grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).  When the Holy Spirit is grieved or sad or distressed, it probably seems like the Lord is not with us even though He is.  He just can't control or fill us like He want to fill us (Ephesians 5:18).  We have the angels of God serving us according to Hebrews 1:14.  The Lord promises us that with regard to His practical care He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  Believers are indeed blessed since we are promised the Lord's presence and protecting care.

 

His Conditional Promise

While the Lord is with us and not against us once we are saved or truly worshiping Him and only Him, there is another practical promise that He has made us.  If we make disciples, if we baptize them, if we teach them then the Lord is with us even to the end of the age.  The apostles are not with us now at the end of the age so that promise must be ours.  I think it means that if we do what the Lord has asked us to do, He will use us to effectively spread the Gospel.  The work will be fruitful.  We may not always see the results immediately, but there will be results.  He says in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Sometimes it seems like the road is hard and the results are few for those trying to faithfully make disciples.  But the Lord has made us a promise and I believe that what the Lord promises, He will fulfill.  So let us take heart and continue with the business of making disciples.

 

There will be great joy when we meet people in heaven that tell us that they heard the Gospel and trusted the Lord through something that we did.  That will be our “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

 

 

Meditation for the week of January 7, 2018

Fear not!

 

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,  and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

John 12:15 "FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SITTING ON A DONKEY'S COLT."

Romans 3:18  "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

 

Fearing God

A sense of fear is associated with the worship of the Living God.  Most commentators try to translate the fear of God as reverence for God.  But while the word involves reverence, it really involves much more than that.  That is why we read in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love (Christ) casts out fear which involves torment. 

 

I am sure that we have all been tormented by fear at times.  Fear can keep us from making bad decisions.  For example, if we fear getting involved in a car accident, we will not drink and drive nor will we text and drive.  Many of us fear things that are beyond our control.  We fear cancer and heart attacks and stroke.  We may fear being alone.

 

One fear we should all have is the fear of God.  Our world is out of control because society or the world naturally speaking has no fear of God.   Romans 3:18 says that there is no fear of God before their eyes.  People do not want to be accountable to a holy God.  They want to be able to define good and bad just as Eve wanted to do in the garden.  People do not see eternal consequences with regard to the decisions that they make.  However, the fear of God in the sense of dread and accountability seems to be a very important part of our relationship with God.  Because of our confidence that the Lord judges sin, many of us have been convicted of our sinnership and have turned to the Lord for salvation.  Now we no longer have to fear judgment.  There may be practical consequences associated with sin and bad decisions now, but our sins have been forgiven as far as the Lord is concerned.  We may fear the process of death, but we don't need to fear the after-life.  We no longer need to fear meeting God.

 

Fear Not

John 12:15 tells the children of Israel to fear not.  As I go through the old testament and the new, I am encouraged by the number of places where we are told not to fear.  I have to admit, that the older I get, the more I find to fear.  Yet, I take courage in the fact that when the children of Israel were boxed in at the Red Sea, Moses told them not to be afraid but to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13).  In the New Testament we are told to not be anxious, we are told to cast our care on the Lord, we are told over and over again not to worry.  I suppose worrying is somewhat different than fear but for me they are related.  I tend to worry about things I can't control.  I worry that the things I fear are going to happen. I can even worry about the fact that I worry.

 

I realize that if I really trusted the Lord as I should, I would never worry about the necessities of life.  I would live like sparrows or like the lilly of field that God feeds and clothes.  I would only need to worry about pleasing the Lord. 

 

Thank God I don't have to fear eternity.  That worry has been taken resolved because I have taken God at His word when He says in John 5:24,  "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.”  Now we all need to have the same confidence in the Lord's provision and care right now that we who are saved do in His promise of eternal life for eternity.

 

 

Meditation for the week of January 14, 2018

Seeing the Lord!

Genesis 46:30   And Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face, because you are still alive."

Luke 2:29-30  "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;  For my eyes have seen Your salvation.

John 9:35-38 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?"  He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"  And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you."  Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him.

John 20:20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

 

Joseph

We know that Joseph is a type or picture of the Lord Jesus.  He was cruelly treated by his natural family, he was imprisoned, he was charged with sin that he did not commit;  but yet through all of that the Lord orchestrated the events that would lead him to be the savior of his family and ultimately of the nation of Israel.  His father thought he had died, but when he saw him alive in Egypt, it caused him to say that now He was ready to die. 

A similar thing happened when Simeon saw the Lord at his birth.  He had been waiting to see the salvation of the Lord and when he saw the Lord Jesus, it gave him confidence in God's promise to send a savior.  It also gave him peace with regard to his own death.

We all need a vision of the Lord Jesus.  We don't get it by seeing him physically at the present time, but we do “see Jesus” by faith (Hebrews 2:9).  The song writer has put it this way:

O joyous hour! when God to me
A vision gave of Calvary;
My bonds were loosed—my soul unbound;
I sang upon redemption ground.

In order to see the Lord, our spiritual eyes need to be opened.  It takes the Holy Spirit using the word of God to do that today.  But when our eyes are opened, we may find that the religious people that we know ostracize us.  They may kick us out of the synagogue (or in today's circumstances, the church).  A person who has “seen the Lord Jesus” by faith is changed.  They no longer want to occupy themselves with the world that they once found so important (Egypt in the case of Israel).  They will want to live in Goshen where there is blessing but where there is separation from the corrupt world.  Instead of trying to be like the world, they will realize that their strength is in being different from the world.

Seeing the Lord should make us Glad!

When the disciples saw the Lord in that room where the doors were closed for fear of the Jews after the Lord's resurrection, they were glad.  Their leader, their friend, their savior was alive and talking to them.  Prophesy had been fulfilled.  Now for the first time they understood the full plan of God.  They left that place witnessing to the resurrection of the Lord.  Their lives for the most part ended in martyrdom, but seeing the Lord made all the difference.  Now they had strength, a message and a commission.

What about Us?

We will not see the resurrected Lord until He comes.  We can believe in Him, we can worship Him, we can preach Him; but we do so without the physical sight of the Lord that Thomas had.  But those of us who have taken God at His Word and have believed in the record that God has given us of His Son are blessed.  The Lord prays for us in John 17 and he blesses us in John 20.  

If we are saved, we can say, “I once was blind but now I see.”  We have gotten a vision of the Lord.  We are truly blessed.  Seeing the Lord by faith prepares us for death, gives us a reason for living and keeps us looking for the sudden return of the Lord.  That will be day!

Meditation for the week of January 21, 2018

I do not Know the Lord

 

Genesis 50:20  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go."

 

Joseph vs. Pharaoh

Joseph was a Savior.  Pharaoh was a destroyer.  Joseph feared and worshiped God.  Pharaoh thought he was a god.  Joseph suffered himself.  Pharaoh caused everyone he ruled to suffer.  The Pharaoh who was the destroyer was not the same Pharaoh that Joseph had served during the famine that occurred in the land of Egypt (and the rest of the Middle East).  The Pharaoh who destroyed his own people not only did not know the Lord, he didn't know or remember Joseph who had been a great blessing to Egypt.  Years had passed and apparently, the Pharaoh who was the destroyer did not know the history of Egypt.  He apparently did not know that the Lord had blessed Egypt because of a man named Joseph who came out of a prison to serve as an appointed second in command to Pharaoh. 

 

Egypt had been a sanctuary for the Israelite's as long as Joseph was ruling.  But ultimately Egypt became a place where the Israelite's were enslaved.  They were forced into hard labor building structures for Pharaoh.  While pyramids are not specifically mentioned as the structures that were built, it does appear that the Israelite's worked on some of the pyramids.  Thus, this place that was a safe haven under Joseph became a hostile environment under a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph nor did he know the Lord.

 

Lessons to be Learned

First, Egypt in many ways is a picture of the world society that is organized by Satan in opposition to the Living and True God.  Christians today live in the world but they are not of the world (John 17:11-14).  When Israelite's were being sheltered in Egypt they maintained their distinct character.  The lived in Goshen and pastured flocks.  The Egyptians found shepherds to be an abomination.  So by being shepherds they maintained their distinct culture and character.  When Christians lose their distinctive character, they end up being enslaved.  Instead of being salt which makes food (Christianity) tasty and light that illuminates (shows people the way to heaven) they become enslaved by the culture that rebels against God and that serves a Pharaoh that doesn't know the Lord. A  Christian's strength lies in being different from the world while living in the world. I suspect this is what had happened to many of the Israelites because when they were delivered from Egypt a mixed multitude went out with them.  Likely these were Egyptians who had married Jews.

 

Second, we find that while Pharaoh's heart was hardened, it was after he had publicly said that he didn't know the Lord. There is no doubt that God raises up some unbelievers to display His power and glory.  But in spite of what many people believe, he never creates some people to be unbelievers.  The worship of the living and true God involves a personal decision on the part of each person who comes into this world.  God, who knows the end from the beginning, does predestinate believers to be conformed to the image of His Son and He does predestinate unbelievers to eternal damnation.  But He does not predestinate some to believe and some not to believe.  When we consider the matter of predestination, we must distinguish between predestination for service and predestination for salvation.  We must also recognize that God does predestinate nations for his purposes.  But every person who like Pharaoh says, “I do not know the Lord” will only have themselves to blame when they end up separated from God eternally. 

 

Third, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we acting like little gods?”  Do we want to be the ones who determine what is good and what is evil like Eve wanted to do in the garden?  Do we want to be like Pharaoh who thought that in this contest between him and the LORD, he could ultimately win?  Apparently, Pharaoh had really bought into the idea that He was a god.  Most emperors and monarchs down through the years have in some way claimed to be divinely appointed if not divine themselves.  But in my mind they usually use that doctrine to control people.  But in this Pharaoh's case, I think he had really bought into the fact that he was a god and that he was more powerful than Moses' God. 

 

Conclusion

Surely, being a Joseph should be more desirable than being a Pharaoh.  There may be trials along the way, but at the end of the road, the Joseph's win.  It is much better to submit to the Lord than to reject Him by proudly saying, "I do not know the Lord."

 

Meditation for the week of January 28, 2018