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JULY 2006

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Acts 7:25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

 

Moses thought he was destined to be Israel’s deliverer. He thought or supposed that his miraculous preservation from death when he was a baby was because God intended to use him to save the nation from the bondage of Egypt. He likely thought being raised as the son of Pharaoh was all part of God’s plan. He had been trained to be a leader and a ruler. He thought that the children of Israel would understand that He was their deliverer, but they did not accept him like he thought they would.

How often mistakes in life are associated with thinking something is true when it is not. In Luke 24:21, the two on the way to Emmaus were disappointed because they thought the Lord had come to redeem Israel, but their deliverer had ended up being crucified. Many of the people who were looking for a deliverer thought Barabbas showed more promise than the Lord. After all Barabbas had led an insurrection. I think that is what England would have called the American Revolution had they won the War for Independence. So when given a choice by Pilate between Barabbas and the Lord Jesus, the People’s Choice was Barabbas.

Sometimes we have car accidents because “we thought” the other car would stop. Or “we thought” the light was green. Or “we thought’ the road was dry. The people of Israel didn’t see Moses as their deliverer just as they didn’t see the Lord as their deliverer. However, Moses also “thought” some things that weren’t true. He thought he could save the people in his own strength and because of his own privileged position and training. He thought the time was right for the people to be delivered. He thought the people would be glad for his intervention. Moses had some hard lessons to learn.

When Moses was too old to be a deliverer; when he had come to the conclusion that he didn’t even have the oratorical skills to be a deliverer; when he had learned how to be a shepherd as well as a ruler; then the Lord was able to use him. The Lord had intended to use him, Moses just didn’t know the when and the how. But he wasn’t used until the Lord became the deliverer and Moses became the tool that the Lord used.

Too many of us are using our reasoning skills when it comes to serving God rather than our faith skills. Faith often runs counter to reason. Accepting the fact that faith in Christ saves us eternally and that there is no other way of salvation does not make natural sense. Yet, faith takes God at His Word. Often as we try to serve the Lord, we think we know how God wants His work done even though we don’t have a clue. I am encouraged by the fact that even Paul, a man who lived in close fellowship with God, could try twice to serve the Lord in the area we know call Turkey when in fact the Lord wanted him to cross over into Greece (Acts 16:6-10). Likely the whole of Western Civilization has benefited from Paul going West instead of East.

Most of us assume (or think) that if we want to do something for the Lord then it must be His will that we do it. And it usually is. He just might want us to do it some other time or in some other way than we expected. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could quit “assuming” that the Lord is going to bless us just because we want what we think is right? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that we are doing the will of the Lord in His way and in His time?

Someday, I may get this lesson learned

 

Meditation for the week of July 2, 2006

2Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

 

Paul says “I know”. Today most people are taking a leap in the dark when they talk about their faith. They don’t know what they believe and, in many cases, they don’t know whom they believe. They are like a ship without a rudder or an anchor on a storm-tossed sea. But that was not Paul’s case, and it should not be our case.

We say that we trust in God, but we talk about God so generally that we forget that there is only one God. The first commandment requires us to worship only Him. In the Bible He is revealed by Jehovah in the old testament and by Jesus in the new. There is no other God. Paul had to learn this the hard way. He thought he was worshipping Jehovah, but he had rejected Jesus. On the way to Damascus, he found out that the One he was persecuting was alive and that He was the Messiah. He found out that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts 9:20) and, as a Jew, he knew that made Jesus God (John 5:18). Paul not only had the Lord appear to Him on the Damascus road, but He proved the reality of the Lord’s continuing faithful presence in his ministry. Now as he comes to the end of his life and his ministry, he has full confidence that the Lord Who had been faithful to him, would continue to be faithful to Him.

Paul’s execution is certain in this book. He says that the time of his departure is at hand or near (1 Timothy 4:6). He doesn’t need doubts, he needs confidence, and he has it. John the Baptist had doubts at this stage in his ministry, but when he doubted, He sent to the Lord to have his questions answered and his doubts removed. The Lord helped John by saying, “Go show John again (Matthew 11:4).” So whether we are strong or weak we need to “know” the Lord. We need to know the promises He has given us, and we need to know that He is able to perform them. We can’t afford to just hope or just think we know a great big generic God when we face trouble or death. We need to know that we know the personal, humble, caring, merciful, gracious, loving and sacrificial Lord Jesus Christ. We need to know that He is faithful.

When people ask me, “What do you know for sure?,” I want to answer, “I know that the Lord Jesus is my Savior and that I am going to heaven. On the way, the Lord is going to be with me. What do you know for sure?” Of course, no one asks that question who really wants an answer, so I don’t answer them the way I should. But I do know whom I have trusted and I am persuaded that He is able to keep or guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I have committed my eternal soul to Him. Sometimes I have trouble committing my day to day problems to Him. However, I know He knows every sparrow that falls to the ground so I am confident because, not only do I know Him, but He also knows me. There is something comforting about that.

2Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.

 

Meditation for the week of July 9, 2006

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Acts 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us.

 

I often hear that outward appearance does not matter based on 1 Samuel 16:7. However, I do not think that is what the verse says. I think that the verse says that outward appearance does not matter to God because He can see the heart. However, there is a lot said in the Scriptures about outward appearance because that is all that men can see. And men judge character and the heart by what they see. In job interviews, we are told that you can only make one first impression so make sure it is a good one. So we have both Paul and Peter dealing with clothes that we wear and we have James dealing with the works that men see. However, sometimes God does not see us the way men see us and for that I am glad.

Once we are saved we are “in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).” The only way the world can know that is by our outward appearance. But God knows because He knows our hearts. That is why there are some people in the Bible that God speaks highly of that we wouldn’t and maybe even couldn’t allow to be leaders in our churches. King David is a case in point. How could a murderer and an adulterer lead God’s people and be called a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22)? I know it could be argued that he was a man after God’s heart only before he sinned. David’s desire for God seems to be referred to in 1 Samuel 13 when Saul sinned and was rejected by God but before David had become the king. However, 1 Kings 15:5 implies that while God did not overlook David’s sin, He did know that David was loyal to the Lord and to the Lord only. There was no idol worship or turning aside to pagan God’s during his lifetime. I think that is what God means when He says David was a man after His own heart.

Saving faith requires us to believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9). The Ethiopian Eunuch believed with all his heart (Acts  8:37). Those who read the newer versions will have to trust the King James Version on this one since this statement is not in some versions. I believe it belongs here because earlier in the chapter, Simon the Sorcerer believed but he wasn’t saved. He apparently believed in the power of the Gospel and in the reality of the miracles but he didn’t trust in the Lord with all his heart. Because of that, Philip asks the Eunuch if he believes with all his heart because that is the only faith that is genuine. Now we believe with our minds scientifically, not with our hearts. So this has to be a literary device to help us understand that the believing that saves is not just intellectual. It is without reservation, and it is motivational in that the heart figuratively affects everything we love and do.

So outward appearance is important but the heart is more important. And I have to wonder some days what the Lord really sees when he looks at my heart. By nature our hearts are desperately wicked and the Lord knows that (Jeremiah 17:9-10). But after we are saved we should have a heart that has been touched by the personal love of the Lord for us. We should be loyal to Him and only Him in our worship. Hopefully, He knows that we are even if others can’t always see it. The crowning sin of Scripture is not trusting in the name or the authority of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18). Outwardly, we may look like we are faithful and devoted but God sees the heart and He knows whether we are really true. He knows our hearts.

Meditation for the week of July 16, 2006

Acts 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

 

God sometimes gives us practical knowledge that we do not use in a spiritual way. Agabus knew through a revelation from the Lord what would happen to Paul if he went to Jerusalem. It was only natural for him to assume that the Lord had revealed that to him so that he could warn Paul not to go. Instead, it appears to have been revealed to him so that Paul and his friends could be prepared for what was ahead. Because God had revealed Paul’s future to him, Agabus thought he knew the will of the Lord, but he did not.

Many have said that Paul was out of the will of the Lord on this last journey to Jerusalem. They think that he could have and should have avoided imprisonment and martyrdom. However, Paul never figured that out if it was true. When he wrote the book of the Ephesians, he considered himself a prisoner of the Lord and not a prisoner of the Romans (Ephesians 4:1). In his departing words in 2 Timothy 4:7, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” These are not the words of one who has remorse over making a mistake.

Submission to the will of God is often difficult. Some times it leads to a cross. When the Lord prayed for the Father’s will to be done, it wasn’t as though He had a different will from the Father and wanted a different outcome. His prayer was designed to assure us of His humanity and that He was not carrying out a personal plan but the plan of the Father that had been prepared before Satan ever brought sin into this world

I have a hard time knowing the will of God in some of my day to day decisions. However, there are some aspects of God’s will that I do know. I know that God wants all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). This repentance has to do with turning from man-made gods to the living and true God. I know that God wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). This salvation has to do with being delivered from the consequences of sin eternally. I know that believers in Christ have eternal life that fits them for heaven and that Christ rejecters are condemned (John 3:18). I know that believing in God is not always the same as trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:19). I know that when we are saved, we should know and not hope that they are saved (1 John 5:13).

We do not find it easy to accept God’s will as to how to be saved before we trust in the work of the cross to save us. Most of us argued with God in some way and tried to explain to Him how to save us instead of letting Him explain to us how to be saved. When we started listening, we found out His way was better and much easier than our way. When it comes to submitting to God’s will after we are saved, we often have the same problem. The difficulty is that after we are saved we want to know and to do God’s will as long as it leads to an earthly mansion rather than to an earthly cross. Many of us can’t accept the fact that the path to blessing just may be the path of suffering. The last thing we want to do is to take up a cross and follow the Lord.

So even though we may have the knowledge of what is going to happen in the future as Agabus did, we may not have the courage that Paul had to use that information properly. I wonder how often I have let the flesh that is still in me make my so-called spiritual decisions. When it comes to submitting to the will of God, we can bank on the fact that what we usually think is right is probably wrong (Isaiah 55:8). May the Lord give us grace to accept and to do the will of God even when His plan does not make logical sense.

Meditation for the week of July 23, 2006

Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

 

The Lord was a revolutionary only He didn’t train an armed militia and He didn’t carry a gun. He was straightforward in His teaching and He called hypocrites “hypocrites.” But He didn’t physically fight. He strongly suggested that fighting does not win wars, that hate does not accomplish anything, but that loving those who hate you will stop the cycle of violence. But what did the Lord know? He ended up on a cross!

Ever since sin came into this world, the world has been filled with hate and violence. God destroyed the earth with a flood because of the violence and bloodshed on the earth in the days before the flood. Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve killed his brother Abel. Jacob and his descendents have been fighting Esau and his descendents throughout history as have the descendents of Isaac and Ishmael. All of these were brothers who should have loved each other. But those who are not related also feel free to dehumanize those that are not like them into the enemy and kill them.

No wonder the Lord started over and made a new creation through the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born again by trusting in the Lord Jesus as the sacrifice that satisfied God on our behalf, we are supposed to become Christ-like. That means that instead of fighting, we turn the other cheek when someone smites us. In other words, we do not defend ourselves during an attack and we never have the right to be vindictive or to exact retribution However, turning the other cheek would not require us to knowingly put ourselves in a position where we know we are going go be hurt over and over again. The Lord only allowed Himself to be crucified once.

We are to give to those who ask instead of circling the wagons and protecting our investments. And we are to love our enemies. That does not mean we necessarily like them but we are to show charity toward them. In other words, instead of killing them and destroying them, we are to love them to death. This will break the cycle of violence and allow for peace to be established. I wonder if this really works, I have never seen it carried out.

Nations don’t think they can operate this way and survive. We have a culture built around the patriotism of war and we respect those who give their lives so that we can be free. And if we are going to require young people to fight, we should show respect to them. I am not sure that I have seen this work in the church. I know people who go to law with other Christians over business matters rather than following the Lord’s injunction to give them everything if they sue you to get something.

The Lord says that we win by losing, that we live by dying, that we defend ourselves by loving and not fighting. These are revolutionary thoughts. I wonder what would happen if we decided that the Lord knows best and we actually put these principles into practice.

 

Meditation for the week of July 30, 2006