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JULY 2010

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Are We Really Free?

 

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."

 

The Lord says that the Truth sets us free (John 8:32). Of course He is the Truth (John 14:6). The Lord cannot lie to us (Titus 1:2) and He would not lie to us if He could (John 14:2). But Satan is a different story. He is clever in the way he gets us to lie.

I have recently been at a Bible camp for young children. One of the songs that they loved singing was, "I'm going to heaven, can't wait!" Now I liked the song and I am not criticizing anyone for singing it, but I realized that I personally am quite content to wait. I quit singing that song because it was making a liar out of me. A year and one-half ago I found out through a routine physical exam that my heart was on the verge of quitting. I had a stent put in before any damage was done and I thanked the Lord for watching out for me. But If I really couldn't wait, I suppose the doctor did me a disservice. However, I am really happy that I get to stay here for a little while longer. I can wait!

Sometimes we Christians sing, "I surrender all!" I quit singing that song some time ago because I realize that no matter how much I want to surrender "ALL", I have only surrendered "SOME". Again, to be honest, the song was making a liar out of me.

This has made me realize how subtle Satan is. As Christians we have been set free from sin according to Romans 6. But no matter how devoted we are to the Lord, Satan who is the Father of lies (the originator or source), knows how to deceive us into lying. But thank God we were the slaves of sin, but we who are saved are now the slaves of righteousness (or of Christ) according to Romans 6:18. Sometimes we don't act like we are free, but God says we are, so we are. And that means that we should act like we are.

Sometimes it takes a battle or a war to set people free from tyranny. That battle was fought for us at Calvary. Christ died to save us from the penalty, the power and ultimately from the presence of sin. Christians may get tripped up once in a while, but Satan is no longer calling the shots. We have been set free! And of course lying isn't the only thing that Satan uses to attack us. We all have places where we are vulnerable and where we are deceived by Satan into acting like he is still the boss. But he is not our boss any more.

If we are trusting in the Lord for salvation, we have a new master and we are now free to serve Him. We could not serve him as unbelievers. But as believers we can serve the Lord, not because we HAVE TO as was the case with our old master, sin. But we can serve Him because we WANT TO!

We serve a far better master than we had before. And when we get tripped up, the fact that it bothers us is proof that we now serve the Lord.

Meditation for the week of July 4, 2010

Let's Let God be God!

 

Romans 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"

 

The first commandment in Exodus 20 is "You shall have no other gods before Me." The other nine of the commands would only be true of those who are worshiping the living God who created them and no other. They are the ways we please God when we have no other God but Him. This is the command that we are honoring when we "believe on the the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31)." This is the command that the Jews dishonored when they nailed the Lord to a cross.

Most of us would not believe in idols or in pagan mythical gods today. But most of us do believe in ourselves and I am convinced that the god that we put before the living God of the Bible is ourselves. It is the trinity called, "me, myself, and I." We think that we know how God should act and what He should do and therefore we question God when things don't go the way we think they should go. After all, in our minds we are the final authority, are we not?

Romans 9 deals with how God chooses His people. It is clear in the passage that God chooses without any help from us and that is why He could say that he loved Jacob and hated Esau. The Jews thought they were the chosen people, but in the new testament believers in Christ are the chosen people. This is what Ephesians 1:4 teaches us. Mos tof us fail to understand Romans 9 in the context of the whole book of Romans which says that even Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3). So while God could choose His people any way He wanted to, he tells us that in this dispensation He chooses believers in Christ to be His people. Romans 9:15 says, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." Believers are the ones on whom He has chosen to have compassion and really that has always been true. So if Jews don't like God's plan, Paul says to them, "Who are you to reply against God?"

However we all tend to argue with God when we don't like or understand His plan. Job even did that. Everyone in the book of Job including Job thought that God should bless those who did good and destroy those who were wicked (see chapters 21 and 27). The only problem was that Job was seemingly being destroyed and even God said He was good. But Job had to learn the lesson that none of us learn very well. He had to learn to let God be God. God said to Job, "Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified (Job 40:8)?" Job didn't know what was going on behind the scenes. He didn't know that He was being trusted with a trial to prove to Satan that there was at least one loyal worshiper of God on earth.

I marvel that many people who do not know where they came from or where they are going are so certain that God did not make them. I marvel that we who are convinced that there is a God in heaven who made us are still so prone to second guess Him and to think we know how He should operate. God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). When it comes to salvation, He saves lost sinners, not the righteous. As Christians, He wants us to trust Him, not second guess Him.

He wants us to let Him be God!

Meditation for the week of July 11, 2010

How do we get Faith?

 

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

Words are powerful. They inform us, educate us and motivate us. Our emotions are greatly affected by words. Sometimes a word is the vehicle that conveys a message. Other times a word is the message itself. The Lord is both the vehicle that explains the message and He is the message that is being explained. He is the way we know Who God is. He reveals God to us because He is God.

People are greatly influenced by the words that they hear. I have a friend who has been diligently studying His Bible now for nearly ten years with me. He finally asked if there was a book that would help him with some of the things we have talked about. I found him the Believer's Bible Commentary by William McDonald. I got him the commentary because I believed it would be a help to him, but I cautioned him that it wasn't the Bible. It is one man's understanding of what the Bible says. The last time we were together he told me that he was wondering whether he should read the commentary before reading the passage he was studying. He said it made the Bible seem so much clearer when he did it that way. I cautioned him not to study that way but to read the passage and to try to understand it before reading the commentary. Otherwise he would learn what McDonald knew, but he might not learn what the Holy Spirit would be trying to teach him. Because McDonald would make sense, he might not realize that there were other ways to look at the Scripture he was reading. I pointed out that we want our faith to be in the Word of God and not in what man says about the Word of God. My friend realized and agreed that he should continue reading the Bible before turning to helps that were written to explain the Bible. Since faith comes by hearing, we want to make sure that we are hearing the word of God.

When I am at Christian camps, I sometimes help the counselors deal with those in their cabins who tell them that they have trusted the Lord. I suggest that they ask their campers how they know that trusting the Lord will actually save them. I try to get them to have the camper find a verse of scripture that assures them that they are truly trusting in what God has said. Faith comes by hearing and in order to have the right faith we have to listen to the right message. The message that saves is the message that is found in the Bible. Romans 5:8 summarizes the word that must be trusted this way, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We come to faith in Christ through the hearing (actually through listening and responding) to the message of the Bible. We learn to trust the Lord after we are saved with our daily problems, our financial needs and our daily service to the Lord by listening to what the Word of God says as well. Faith has to have an object and whether we are wanting to be saved or whether we are wanting to please the Lord after we are saved, our faith has to be in the Word of God. All of us like being "spoon-fed" and we like to have men simplify the Bible and its teachings for us. While teachers are helpful when they intelligently and accurately explain the Bible, we are ultimately going to have to answer to God as to why we did what we did; and no person is going to be there defending us. Only the Lord who loves us will be able to be the advocate for us (1John 2:1). He may have to plead His blood before the throne of God with regard to a lot of things that we thought pleased God that didn't just because we read the books of men that "made sense" before reading the Word of God.

Words are really powerful. We need faith in the Lord which means we have to have faith in what He says. I often wonder why there are so many conflicting opinions today about what the Lord has said when He says that He is THE way, THE truth and THE life (John 14:6). We want to make sure our faith is in the right message. If faith comes by what we hear, then we need to be hearing the word of God.

 

Meditation for the week of July 18, 2010

A Missed Opportunity

 

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

Recently, I was at our local library trying to record some radio programs. My family was coming to visit and I wanted to be able to relax with them and enjoy some family time. In addition, my grandson was going to be baptized so my wife and I were trying to arrange the baptism. I was busy with the Lord's work.

My recording was not going well that day. In the middle of the afternoon I left my equipment in the study room, notified the librarian in charge that I was leaving for a few minutes and went out for a quick snack at a close convenience store. The tracts that I normally carry were in that study room.

When I got back to the library, a well dressed man met me on the sidewalk and said that he had fallen on hard times. He said he needed a place to stay for the night. He seemed intelligent and articulate. He didn't appear to be on drugs or on drink. He wasn't smoking. He asked if I knew Waterloo well enough to tell him where to go. I suggested the Salvation Army which was close and he said he had been there. Their beds were full. They had directed him to another place and their beds were full. He indicated that he had come to Waterloo for a job at a local industrial business but because he and his wife had gotten into some kind of squabble, he had spent a night in jail and had lost his job. He said he was hungry and hadn't been able to eat at the Salvation Army because he had gotten there too late. So I had to decide what to do. I generally will not give cash to someone like that because I assume that they are going to spend it on drugs, drink and cigarettes; but I do normally try to feed them. But I was too busy to take time to take him to a restaurant and pay for a meal for him. I did give him some money and made some suggestions as to where he might be able to get help. I told him where the city bus station was in the downtown area if he wanted to get a bus pass.

After I went back to my study room in the library, my conscience began to bother me. I had a car and I could have driven him to a number of places that might have helped him. I didn't want to put my family at risk by taking him home since I didn't know him, but I did have the ability to put him up in a motel for at least one night while he was trying to figure out what to do. If I had done that, I might have made a friend. He might listened if I had told Him about a man who died on a cross to save me and who says He will never forsake me. He might have thought I told him because I cared for him rather than because I wanted points in heaven. I might have actually done the Lord's work the Lord's way. I had taken the easy way. I surely didn't love my brother "as myself (Matt 22:39)."

I have been concerned that our society and our churches have become very self-centered. While there are faith based organizations that are making a difference in our society, I had a hard time coming up with a church other than the Salvation Army in our area that would have helped someone like him. There may be some but I don't know which ones they are. Having been concerned about the lack of true Christianity in Christian circles, I should have personally stepped up and made a difference in this man's live. I had a chance to help this individual. While I gave him some help, I passed up the chance to be a true Good Samaritan to him. The Good Samaritan in Luke 10 took the man who needed help to a motel and told the owner to take care of the man and he would pay the bill.

I have been thinking since that incident about how quickly a person could end up in a position of need himself. We who have always had enough assume that we will always have enough but that may not always be true. We or our loved ones may need someone or a program somewhere to help us when we are in deep need. Will there be an angel of mercy available that will be willing to make the sacrifice of time and money for us should the need arise?

I got my radio programs done. We got the baptism arranged. But did I really do the Lord's work that day? I don't think so. I think I missed a great opportunity.

 

Meditation for the week of July 25, 2010