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JULY 2008

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Acts 10:33

"So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God."

 

All of us have an independent streak in us. The independent streak found in those who founded this country led to our independence. We didn't like having to do England's will as a nation. We often don't like being told what to do and how to do it as individuals, particularly in areas where we think we are experts. Some of us take instructions when we need them but many of us don't. When we do get instructions that make sense they don't make sense to us if they disagree with our preconceived notions. Generally we don't want to be confused with the facts, because our minds are made up.

It is one thing when we don't listen to other people, but it is another thing when we don't listen to God. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, he told her she could be as God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). When it comes to the spiritual affairs of life, many of us still think that we know what is right even when what we believe doesn't make sense.

Many people think that there are many paths leading to God and that He is known by many names in different cultures. Each god wants something different from those who worship him. So how could all these gods exist when they don't agree or is there a God over the gods that we haven't been told about?

In general people who believe in the Christian God think that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. The problem with this thinking is that most of us know we are not good. We may be better than others, but we don't live up to our own standards, let alone living up to the standards of God.

Other people think that God will honor whatever they believe as long as they sincerely believe it. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes that our believing makes things true. However, things that are true are true whether we believe they are true or not.

The Roman centurion in Acts 10 had been seeking for God and had been tying to please Him for a long time. He gave alms and he prayed and he likely was convinced that the Jewish Jehovah was the only living and true God. But while he had the right attitude, he didn't have all of the truth. God waited until the time was right and then sent Peter to him to explain that the way to God was through faith in Christ. The time was right when the Centurion was ready to listen to what God had to say through Peter. Instead of telling God what was right, he was willing to let God tell Him. The message he heard was, "whoever believes in Him (the Lord Jesus) will receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43)." The Centurion received forgiveness that day and was saved (see Acts 11:14) as was his household since they were all open to the message that they heard.

But after we are saved, we may still have trouble listening. Instead of looking for a church where God is comfortable, we look for one where we are comfortable. Sometimes we end up inside the church and He ends up on the outside (Revelation 3:20). Instead of accepting the fact that God has moral standards that are different from society's standards, we begin to live like the world around us instead of as a people set apart for the Lord. We often try to win people to Christ by trying to be like them instead of offering them the alternative of a new life in Christ.

Life would be a lot less confusing and we would be a great deal happier if we not only heard everything that God commanded us, but if we would prove that we have heard by submitting to what He says. That is what the Centurion did when he submitted to Peter's message to believe the Gospel and his command to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

 

Meditation for the week of July 6, 2008

1 Corinthians 1:26

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

 

Intelligence can certainly be a curse when it comes to knowing God and pleasing Him. Solomon was the wisest man on earth apart from the Lord Himself and yet he made some very foolish decisions. He set the stage for the nation of Israel's descent into the worship of foreign gods.

God said that Solomon "was wiser than all men (1Kings 4:31)." The Queen of Sheba came and tested him with hard questions. She came to this conclusion, "Indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard (1 Kings 10:7)."

God used him to build the temple that David his father had wanted to build. God appeared to him twice and the second time He told him, "Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever (1 Kings 9:4-5). Yet Solomon was not faithful to God and late in his life began to worship the gods of the foreign wives that he had married. What was this intelligent King thinking? We aren't really told what went through his mind as he began worshiping other gods, but he certainly wasn't showing a great deal of intelligence or wisdom when he did it.

Paul seems to be an exception to the rule that intelligence tends to cause us to walk by sight and not by faith. That is, our natural inclination is to walk by what makes sense and not by what God tells us especially when what He tells us doesn't make sense. If we are going to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), not everything in life is going to make logical sense. It didn't make logical sense for Abraham to offer his son on an altar, but he was willing to do it. It didn't make logical sense that our Savior would die for us instead of having us die for Him. Circumstances of life don't always make sense. Job didn't know why he was suffering. Joseph didn't know why he was in prison. Sarah didn't know why she was childless. But all these things make sense now even though they didn't make sense then.

I do not believe that we have to quit thinking to believe God. I am convinced that a good logical person will understand that if the Bible is true, nothing else matters. If it is not true, nothing matters. There is no other religion or philosophy that gets its teaching from one who is eternal and who knows what eternity is all about. Therefore, there is certainly nothing to lose and everything to gain by believing that God is the author of the Bible and that He has revealed Himself and His will to us through it. But that doesn't mean that we will understand every aspect of creation or that we will understand all of the suffering that is in the world. I will never be able to understand why I was born in the lap of luxury in the Unites States while others were born into adversity in third world countries. But even though we can't understand or explain some of these things, we can believe that God wants devoted hearts to worship him when things make sense; and, even more so, when things do not make sense.

I suspect that when Solomon in all his wisdom began experimenting with the worship of other gods that he liked some aspects of that worship. He likely felt he was being generous and compassionate when he allowed his wives to worship their gods instead of His God. But ultimately, he seems to have concluded that those gods were real gods that deserved worship. In 1 Kings 11:5, he went after gods which God said are not gods (2 Kings 19:18). How could he be called intelligent and wise when he did that?

I guess I would rather be considered unintelligent and end up in heaven than intelligent and end up in hell. I would be rather be considered unintelligent and worship God faithfully according to his will than intelligent and to lose my desire to do what the Lord says even when I think He could have done things better if He had just done them differently.

The really wise person will trust the Lord and will do what He says.

Meditation for the week of July 13, 2008

Luke 15:10

"Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

 

Sorrow is in abundant supply in this world. Sorrow started with a simple act of disobedience. Eve likely thought that taking one bite of a piece of forbidden fruit shouldn't hurt anyone. And if anyone was hurt it would be only herself. However, her action affected her husband who became the first man of sorrows. It affected her children since one of her children murdered his brother in a disagreement about religion. Because of Adam and Eve's sin, every person born into this world is born to die. Instead of being born with an innocent nature that can enjoy God and that God can enjoy, we are born with a rebellious unbelieving nature that has to be changed by the new birth for us to have fellowship with God.

The second man of sorrows was Christ. He is the man who bore our grief's and carried our sorrows. He suffered great indignities in order to save us from eternal sorrow. His life was filled with rejection and it ended unjustly on a felon's cross. He did right and was treated wrong. He has now been raised from the dead and is sitting at the Father's right hand. He is offering himself to us as our Savior. Think of the sorrow He must feel when people scoff at the idea that He can save them.

Sorrow will be experienced beyond measure when people who reject Christ wake up in eternal burnings to find out that what God had said in the Bible was true. The concept of eternal eludes me. I cannot conceive of time that goes on forever. Yet the book of Revelation talks of those who will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Unending time is used to describe eternity. But that is just one of the things that makes eternal destruction so bad. Another will be the fact that many people in hell will know John 3:16. Many learned it as a child. Some have seen the Bible verse reference at ball games. Others have seen the text on walls in homes and in places of worship. Since the memory of people in hell seems to be intact according to Luke 16:25, I wonder what it will be like to remember that verse and to realize that it could have been the promise that saved them. I would think that the torment of knowing the Gospel and knowing that Christ died for them and realizing that they foolishly turned their back on the Lord, would be pain that would be almost unbearable.

On the other hand, there is great joy when a person finally gets by all the excuses, all the deceitful lies of Satan, all of the rebellion, and finally in simply trusting faith receives the Lord as Savior. There is no joy quite like seeing a convicted, lost, troubled individual understand and depend for the first time on the truth that Christ died for them. If we experience such joy when one person gets peace with God and a home in heaven, what must it mean to the heart of the Father and to the Lord Jesus Himself? Obviously angels rejoice when truth prevails and Satan is defeated. They were likely there when Satan rebelled and they know the consequences of sin. No doubt angels rejoice because they know that for one more person the sufferings of the Cross were not wasted.

I was recently at a camp where the Gospel was preached to children. We saw the happy faces of some who were able to say for the first time, "I understand. I know I am saved. Christ did die for me." By trusting the promises of the Lord, they trusted the Lord. I hope everyone has the experience at some point in their lives of being involved with someone who has been delivered from the power of darkness in this way. There is no greater joy. There is no greater victory. There is no greater purpose in life than to see people pass from death to life (John 5:24).

It is no wonder that the angels rejoice.

 

Meditation for the week of July 20,2008

Acts 19:24-27

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. "Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. "So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."

 

Money is a great motivator. In a capitalistic free-enterprise society, money is the way we vote for the things we want to support. When there are problems in society or in families or in companies, often money is involved. We sometimes say, "It is always about the money!." That was the case with Demetrius and sometimes I wonder if that is the case with those of us who say we are serving the Lord today.

We say that money isn't everything, and it isn't when you have a lot of it. But if you don't have much and the house mortgage, the gas bill, the property taxes, the medical bills and the food bills are all coming due, then money is very important. Money represents a person's worth in our society. Generally people of power and people that we consider successful have a lot of money.

Making silver shrines for Diana was a money maker for Demetrius. When Paul began explaining that faith in Christ was the only way to please God, he was putting Demetrius' trade in Jeopardy. Whether Demetrius really thought the goddess Diana was "great" or not, he used that as his excuse to cause a riot and to try to stop the Christians from preaching against idols. It was all about the money.

I remember starting a business as a Certified Public Accountant in the years when you could not legally advertise. I was not known in the community where I was setting up the business so I was told that I should join the biggest church in town in order to get business. Instead I went to a little group that the Lord had led me to that was not even in town and was certainly not the popular place to go. Even I wondered if I was going to survive by doing what I was convinced the Lord wanted me to do. I found out later that some of my clients came to me because I was not going to the big church in town. They wanted their information kept confidential and since I didn't go to that church and hadn't joined all the social groups in town, they figured that I probably wasn't going to be telling the locals about their business. I would probably have gone broke if it had been all about the money.

As I observe churches and the work of the Lord, I find that an awfully lot is about the money. Religion has become big business. Bible versions and edited Bibles multiply because there is money to be made in them. Publishing religious literature can be a big business. Concerts and conferences are promoted just like they were businesses. I wonder what the Lord thinks about the business aspects of the free Gospel today. I know that there are many people in the business of preaching the Gospel that are doing it out of love for the Lord rather than out of the love of money, but how would we know that if their ministries and churches are all about the money?

I am told that if we went back to the Biblical model where the Gospel was always provided freely and where the unsaved were not knowingly being solicited for funds, that we couldn't do the work of the Lord today. However, I think the Biblical model still works. Using it would eliminate the doubt as to whether we are doing what we do because it is profitable or whether we are doing what we do because we really do worship the Lord. We don't want to be like Demetrius where it was all about the money.

 

Meditation for the week of July 27, 2008