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JULY 2007

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2 Corinthians 6:17-18 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

John 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

 

When we become children of God through faith in Christ (John 1:12), we are set free from the bondage of sin. After we are saved, we are servants or bond slaves of righteousness or Christ and He is the One who gives us our marching orders. (Romans 6:18). Even though sin may tempt us and may deceive us into serving the wrong master on occasion, our real allegiance is to righteousness.

In order for our spiritual Father to play his role as Father, we who are born again need to recognize that we are now "different". God calls us His peculiar or special people (Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9). We are holy, that is, we are a people set apart for God. In order for God to be a Father to his spiritual children, we need to "separate from unbelievers" according to 1 Corinthians 6:17. This keeps us from being influenced by the attitudes of those who have rejected Christ and His claims, and it frees us to follow the Lord and to get our guidance from our heavenly Father.

Separation has been understood in various ways. Some think Christians should completely isolate themselves from the people of the world. However, in John 17 we are sent into the world to serve and to preach the Gospel. So how can we serve the Lord in the world and still not be yoked to unbelievers in such a way that they and not the Lord dictate how we live and serve? Some say we should go to taverns and bars to reach unbelievers and others say that a separated people should not do that because of the temptations that present themselves, and because going to these places makes it appear that we approve the lifestyle of those who frequent these establishments.

Most of us agree that marrying an unbeliever would give the world a place in our life that it should not have. Most of us understand that business partnerships with unbelievers will make it very difficult to maintain Christian standards in the way the business is run. But what is the rule of thumb that guides us in our social relationships with unbelievers if we want to be separated unto the Lord and yet serve Him in the world?

We need to remember that the Lord is offering the world a new life, and our relationships with the unsaved should be offering them an alternative to what they now have. We don't become like the unsaved to reach the unsaved, we need to be different (or holy or separated) to reach them. When Paul said he became all things to all men to reach them with the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22), he seemed to be identifying with the way they thought in order to help them. I think he tried to find common ground in his discussions with them. However in offering the unsaved an alternative, I do believe that we can be a separated people in places and circumstances that would normally make us uncomfortable if we are there for the right reason doing the right things. I would think that any relationship or approach to the ministry that causes us to be something that is not Biblical and that we as Christians would not be if we weren't nurturing that relationship would be an unequal yoke. In addition, we should not knowingly be using our money to support causes that the Lord would not support. Also, we should not socialize in situations where we have to participate in sin in order to pursue the relationship.

I believe a separated people serving in the world should be changing the world by reaching people with the good news of the Gospel. If we are changing the world and the world is not changing us and if we are offering the world an alternative to their present lives, then likely the Lord will be pleased with us. If instead we are being changed by the world, then we are likely going where we should not go and doing what we should not do.

Meditation for the week of July 1, 2007

Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

Psalm 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

Psalm 73:22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

 

Asaph simply didn't understand. The wicked seemed to have it good and the righteous seemed to have it bad. This was about to destroy his faith in God. But when he considered "the end" of the wicked and their ultimate destruction, then and only then did he get his thinking straightened out. David had the same problem in Psalm 37, and it was in considering "the end" of the righteous that he was able to justify God.

We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). As a result there are circumstances in life that don't make sense to us that we have to believe make sense to God. Sometimes, like Job, we don't know the whole story. We don't realize that our faithfulness is being used to demonstrate to Satan that some people will worship God and be loyal to Him even when they don't understand the path that God has taken them down. Even though Job was upright and did nothing for which he needed to be "punished," Job suffered. However, even though he willingly submitted to the trial (Job 2:10) Job justified himself rather than God, and that is the tendency in all of us. I have a friend who has experienced Job-like trials who recently said, "We are quick to blame Him when bad things happen and slow to praise Him when good happens. I think it is part of our responsibility to stand up for Him and defend Him when he is maligned." That is the true walk of faith.

 

Someday when life is over and we have perfect understanding, many of us will be saying, "So foolish was I, and ignorant." I am well aware that life does not make sense at times. But those of us who are saved know that the Gospel doesn't make sense. Why should God love us and send His Son to die for our sins? God knows that there is no earthly person that does good, no not one (Romans 3:12). But the Lord who is good willingly died for those who do not do good. Does that make sense? Does being offered salvation as a free gift (Romans 6:23) rather than paying a dear price for it make sense?

I know that we can criticize God and his ways. Most of us have murmured and complained like the Israelites of old. Instead of remembering their great deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and their miraculous victory over the Egyptians at the Red Sea, they chose to complain about the miraculous manna that God had used to sustain them. Instead of rejoicing in their adventure with God and instead of being thankful that they were part of a miracle, they got tired of the journey. I need to be reminded from time to time that the Lord who deserved to have it good had it bad; and I, who deserve to have it bad, have it pretty good. And even if life doesn't turn out the way I would have liked, I know that eternity will be heavenly.

Asaph reminds us at the end of his Psalm, "But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."  Instead of grumbling and complaining when life doesn't make sense, let us stand up for God our Savior and defend Him.

Meditation for the week of July 8, 2007

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (bad).

 

Life is all about worship. We all worship something or someone. Many of us worship ourselves. But, if it is our purpose to worship the Lord, we will have to keep His commandments which means to guard His Truth. One of the Truths that we will have to guard is the truth that we are accountable to the Living God of heaven.

The preacher who wrote this book was likely the wisest man that ever lived apart from the Lord Himself. Yet when he examines life, he finds it to be empty. He planted, he built, he bought, he partied, he learned. Yet everything he did seemed to be empty. The reason life seemed to be empty is because of the temporary nature of life on this planet. He knew that the sun would keep rising and shining long after he was gone. He knew that there would be generations following him that would not appreciate what he had done.

If we live for riches, at the end of life, what do we have? I know that we can be more occupied with money when we don't have it than we are sometimes when we do have it. But still, when is enough, enough? When the rich man of Luke 12:20, finally got his retirement fund large enough so he thought he could take it easy, he died and left it all to others.

If we build, it may last a long time, but at some point the things we build will likely need to be destroyed. If we plant, in time the weeds are going to take over. If we spend our time learning, we will find out that man's knowledge is always changing and in come cases is absolutely wrong. Remember that, at one time, barbers did the doctoring though blood-letting. They would drain the bad blood out of a person and hope that the blood that replaced it would cure whatever ailed the person. Of course, sometimes they drained the life right out of a person. I don't think this is accepted medical practice today.

We can live self-centered lives or we can live other-centered lives. The Lord's commandments that we are to keep or guard can be summed up by two statements: 1. Love God. 2. Love your neighbor (Luke 10:27). I believe it takes a change of mind and a change of heart to truly love God, and I don't think we can worship Him if we don't love Him. That is why the Lord tells Nicodemus that the new birth is an absolute must (John 3:7). Solomon who is the preacher who authored this book, appears to have lived a very self-centered life for much of his reign. He realizes how empty that was at the end of this book.

Sometimes we say that the whole duty of man is to glorify or honor God. Since Jesus is the Son of God, we cannot glorify God without honoring His Son. We honor His Son when we first trust Him to be the One who not only could but who did take the punishment that we deserved because of our sins. Honoring the Lord Jesus changes our outlook from the here and now to eternity. It changes our thinking from being self-centered to being other-centered. It changes life from a dismal existence that ends with death to an eternal hope that never ends.

So what is the whole duty of man? It is to fear God and to do what He says. Our fear should be fear and trembling before we are saved; but, afterwards, our fear should be the fear of acting like we do not appreciate Who the Lord is and what He has done for us. We certainly don't want to end up at the end of life having tried everything except the One thing that can make sense out of life and that can give life a sense of purpose. That one thing is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to trust the Lord and we need to do what He says.

 

Meditation for the week of July 15, 2007

2 Samuel 21:17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.

Romans 16:2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

 

When David was relatively young and before he knew how to use the armor of a man of war, he was able to slay Goliath with a sling and a stone. He had already killed a lion and a bear, and he fearlessly took on this giant of a man in the name of the Lord. All of this is recorded in 1 Samuel 17. I suspect David took five smooth stones because Goliath came from a big family, and big families tend to stick together. Goliath had four close relatives, and I believe David was ready to take on Goliath as well as the four other close relatives (see 2nd Samuel 21:15-22). However, when David was a seasoned warrior, he needed Abishai to come along side him and help him destroy one of these sons of the giant. Sometimes we have the strength to do what needs to be done and sometimes we need help. It may have been that David was just too old to be fighting the way he once had. But that really doesn't explain his need for help; because when he slew Goliath, most would have said he was too young and too inexperienced to fight the giant.

There is likely a lesson here involving our need to realize that every battle is the Lord's whether we are inexperienced or whether we are seasoned warriors. Sometimes after doing the Lord's work for a while we may think we are now equipped to handle whatever comes along, and we may forget that we cannot depend upon our own abilities. We must depend upon the Lord. Most of us need to learn this lesson over and over again.

But the lesson that has appealed to me is that all of us need helpers to come along side and to gsuccorh us at times. Abishai took over for David or David might have lost the last battle with a giant even though he won the first one. In Romans 16:2, Phoebe seems to have been a real helper to many including Paul. The best person to turn to when we are weak is the Lord Himself Who is able to succor them that are tried.

Helps or the ability to give relief is one of the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28. How can we help one another? We can pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18). We can bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). We can also have fellowship with one another's work (Philippians 1:5). We can encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11). A little praise that is well-deserved is not flattery and is uplifting. We can admonish one another (Romans 15:14). A timely word of correction given in humility may be just the thing that will keep someone from making a terrible mistake that they will regret for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes when we are carrying something heavy, it is a real relief to have someone who is strong come along and help bear the weight. It is even better when they say, gHere, let me carry that for you.h Sometimes we need helpers or succorers in our spiritual lives who can give us relief from some of the burdens that we are carrying. And the Lord is the One who can actually carry the burden for us if we will just let Him. We are admonished to cast all of our care upon Him because He cares (1 Peter 5:7). Christ was able to bear our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), so He obviously can handle the weight.

 

Meditation for the week of July 22, 2007

Luke 19:13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Revelation 2:25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

 

Last week my wife and I were in the Waterloo, Iowa, crowd that welcomed the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry home after nearly 2 years serving in Iraq. Crowds lined the streets and highways from Dubuque to Waterloo. Families were reunited. It was an awesome homecoming.

The Lord Jesus fought a greater battle for us at Calvary. He was victorious as the empty tomb proves. The Lord has promised to come again; however, He has not been gone two years but two thousand. He has asked us to stay busy until He returns. He has asked us to remember Him and to proclaim His death until He comes. He has asked us to remain faithful and to not give up hope until He comes.

Sometimes "absence makes the heart grow fonder."  We saw that when the soldiers came home and were being greeted with tears and hugs by those that loved them. Sometimes "out of sight is out of mind."  We saw a few soldiers looking for loved ones that they could not find. Hopefully, they did find them later. It would be a sad experience to come home after being gone for two years and to have no one there to meet you. But when the Lord comes will we be waiting expectantly for Him, or will we be slumbering and sleeping like the ten virgins in Matthew 25? Will He find us busy doing His work or will we have decided that there is no reward for being faithful since He has waited so long to return? The Lord has given us all equal opportunities to serve Him whether we are saved early or late in life or whether we are saved early or late in this dispensation of grace (Matthew 20:12). We have all been given equal responsibilities to serve Him (Luke 19:13). But we have been given differing abilities to use to serve Him until He comes (Matthew 25:15).

One thing we can do "until He comes" is to "remember Him" or to memorialize Him with a cup of wine and loaf of bread. This is a symbolic fellowship meal and cannot be done alone, but is always done with other believers in the Scriptures. The word "together" is used five times in this section of 1 Corinthians 11 dealing with the doctrine of the Lord's supper. There is no sacred value in the emblems. Taking them does not save or remove sin, but taking them reminds us that we have a Savior who did die to forgive us and remove our sin. Congregations that place an emphasis on remembering the Lord until He comes keep their focus on Him instead of focusing on themselves. They stay reminded that the Lord is coming. They are motivated to stay occupied with the business of doing the Lord's work until He comes. They believe that salvation is a free gift but that the Lord will reward faithfulness when He comes.

When our soldiers came home, our governor was not there. Not one of our Iowa congressmen was there. They all sent "representatives."  I do not understand why those who have been involved in voting for the war resolutions could not be there to thank the young men and women who had fought for them. Will it be like that when the Lord returns? If the Lord were to tell us that He was coming today (which He hasn't), would we be so busy with our lives and our commitments that we would not find time to meet Him in order to thank Him for what He has done for us?

Unbelievers are certainly not waiting for Him and would have no joy in meeting Him since He will be coming as their judge. But believers should be longing to get that first glimpse of our returning Lord and Savior.

Meditation for the week of July 29, 2007