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JULY 2012

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Birthday's—People lose their Lives at Them!

 

Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. (Genesis 40:20-22)

 

We tend to make a big deal out of birthdays in our culture. I don't really know why since everyone has them, and they come about once every year. Some in the Bible had over 900 of them. When we are young, birthdays seem to be very important because we have had so few of them. As we get older, birthdays are just a reminder that no matter how many you end up having, one of them is going to be your last one.

Birthday celebrations in the Bible had a way of causing people to lose their lives. The chief baker lost his when Pharaoh had his birthday. When Herod had his birthday. John the Baptist lost his head (Matthew 14:6). My birthday was last week, and I tried to celebrate another year of life in a quiet way as I really didn't want to cause anyone to lose their lives. Birthdays can be drunken parties when if fact they ought to be quiet times of reflection. We need to ask ourselves the age old questions, "Why am I here?" and "Am I making any difference in this world while I am here?"

If we believe the Bible (and I do), the purpose of our lives on this earth is to glorify God. We do that through the two great commands: 1. Love God and 2. Love your neighbor. We can love our neighbor without loving God, but normally loving God leads to loving our neighbor. To really love God we must be "born again (John 3:7)." This changes us from being self-centered to being Christ-centered. Instead of doing things our own way, we should want to worship and serve Him His way. One of the ways we show that we love Him is by loving those He created like us, that is, by loving our neighbors. I know that in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) we like to think that the Lord is the Good Samaritan—and He is. But we also can be good samaritans, and we ought to be if we are born again.

People tell me that they are followers of Christ but they seem to be confused as to what the new birth is. John 1:11-13 tells us what it is and what it isn't. It isn't a physical blood line, that is we are not born again because our parents or grandparents were born again. It is not the will of the flesh, that is, it is not something that we can do for ourselves by joining or paying or praying or doing. Neither is it the will of man, that is, it is not something another man can do for us. Nobody but God has the right to tell us how to be born again, and only He has the right to assure us that we are born again. As an evangelist, I always try to make sure I explain this the way the Lord explains it and not the way I would like to explain it. Salvation is "of God", that is, it is something that God has provided and that the Holy Spirit using the Word of God shows to us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our need and directs our attention to Christ. Salvation or the new birth is not doing, it is trusting. We will have trouble trusting in Christ if we are still trusting in anyone or anything other than Christ. Most of us would rather trust ourselves than trust Christ.

I remember just when I was born again. While I don't remember my first birth, my folks do, and they told me when my first birthday was. They have also told me a few things about the difficulties they had when I was born. But I remember my second birth and I remember the difficulty I had simply trusting in the truth that Christ had died for my sins. I had trouble believing that Christ's death was enough to take me to heaven. While I don't remember my first birth, I personally do remember my new birth. I am glad that I do because of that four letter word MUST in John 3:7.

Johnny Cash has a song that I like in this regard. The lyrics go like this:

Yes,I know when Jesus saved me (saved my soul), The very moment He forgave me (made me whole);
He took away my heavy burdens, Lord he gave me peace within (peace within)
Satan can't make me doubt it (i won't doubt it), It's real and I'm gonna shout it (I'm gonna shout it);
I was there when it happened and I guess I ought to know

 

 

Meditation for the week of July 1, 2012

Jumping to Conclusions

 

"Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? (Job 4:7)

 

Exercise is recommended for all of us today. Even the Bible says that exercise is good even though it only profits for a little while. But the only exercise many of us get is the exercise we get from "jumping to conclusions."

Job's three friends were like that. When we read the book of Job, we are given insight that his three friends did not have—we are told that Job was a model of integrity and righteousness. We find out that Satan (the adversary) believes that the only reason Job is upright is because of the blessing that God has heaped upon him. So Satan goes on the attack to prove that Job will turn his back on God when he suffers tragedy. Job's three friends come to comfort him and they stay quiet for seven days, then they begin to "help" Job understand his sin. And they jump to the conclusion that this couldn't have happened if Job hadn't sinned. One argues from the wisdom he has gotten in spiritual visions. One of these men argue from the premise of "the wisdom of the ancients". The last man is just so smart that he "knows". Apparently, he considers himself an older man, and he argues from his own experience and understanding.

What I have noticed about these three men is that they move from supposing Job has sinned to making specific charges against him. In Job 22, Eliphaz says job has done a number of things that are causing God's judgment. These men had stayed silent for seven days, that was wisdom. When they began opening their mouths, they went beyond what they knew to be true and laid charges that were not only untrue but unkind. No wonder Job called them "miserable comforters." Certainly, in Job's case, with friends like these he didn't need enemies.

The fourth man is younger. He listens to the conversation and finally decides he must speak up. His basic premise is: Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment (Job 32:9). Job's friends had not convinced him that he had sinned (because he hadn't) but Job had justified himself rather than God. Elihu basically says that God is so great that He doesn't have to justify what He does. He doesn't have to explain Himself to mere man.

So while the book of Job tries to answer the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The actors in this play seem to be left in the dark as to what happened. The first three friends argue from what "seems right" but Job and the three are ultimately told to submit to God even when they don't understand. In the new testament this is called walking by faith and not by sight (2nd Corinthians 5:7). Even though Job was self righteous he exhibited true righteousness when he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15)."

Things do happen where we must trust the Lord without an explanation, yet, in this case we do know why Job suffered. He didn't suffer because of some hidden sin, he suffered because he was upright. He wasn't sinless but He did worship right and He did try to treat others right. We know that he was a testimony to Satan that some people do worship the Lord because He is the Lord and not because worshiping the Lord is going to be make them rich or famous. Neither is the worship of the Lord an insurance policy against disaster. They worship Him because they love Him. It is true that in new testament terms we worship Him because he has put away our sins. But after we become children of God by faith, we should be worshiping Him regardless of circumstances.

When trouble comes, we should ask the Lord to show us if this is being caused by our sin. The Lord will tell us if it is. No Father disciplines a child without telling him why. If we know of no sin then we need to remember Satan is watching and the Lord just may have trusted us with a trial to prove to Satan that there are people who are faithful to Him even when they don't understand their circumstances.

 

Meditation for the week of July 8, 2012

Saving a Few

 

Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Matthew 24:34-35)

 

The message of the Bible is that all people need to be saved. But what are they saved from? Obviously, we need to be saved from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. That penalty is called the second death, and it is eternal separation from God in a place of eternal conscious punishment. Because many people do not want to accept the fact that God would eternally punish those who reject His Son, they have subscribed to a universal type of salvation. They believe that ultimately the death of Christ will take everyone to heaven. Many believe that because God is merciful, everyone will one day be saved. However, that simply is not true. Only those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ during their time on earth will be saved. Bible says that this is only a "few." (See Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-25).

In addition, judgment is coming in a practical way on the earth. The Lord was rejected nearly 2000 years ago when He was nailed to a cross. God is offering salvation through the Lord at this present time, but He has not forgotten what people on this earth did to His Son. That is why in Matthew 24 we read about events that will take place at the end of this age before the Lord comes to establish His earthly Kingdom. Those events are called the tribulation period. There have been evil difficult days in the history of mankind but nothing will compare to the wars, disease, earthquakes and other disasters that will take place in this literal period of seven years. These judgments will come because of the wrath of God on unbelievers. Yet even though this will be a terrible period, a few, a very few, will not "pass away." God will save a very few to be part of his earthly kingdom when He comes to reveal Himself as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The statement that "this generation that will not pass away till all these things take place" has been understood in several ways. The early Christians thought "this generation" referred to them. But they were wrong. The Lord says that His Word will never pass away; therefore, since the promise can be depended upon, "this generation" cannot mean those who saw the resurrection of the Lord as they have all died. Others think that "this generation" refers to the Jewish race. They think that the Jews will not ever be completely destroyed. While this is true, in my opinion this is not what this verse is saying. Others think that the fig tree that blossoms in the passage refers to Israel becoming a nation. So within one generation of the establishment of Israel as an independent nation, the events in Matthew 24 should have taken place. The Lord should have come and the Kingdom should have been set up during the existence of "this generation." But how long is a generation? Some say 20 years, some 40 and some 100. If this is the interpretation of the passage, a generation would have to be 100 years since it has been more than 40 years since Israel became a nation.

My view is that "this generation" refers to the Jewish people who see the tribulation period begin. Some of them will be miraculously saved to preach the Gospel. Many of them will be martyred. All Jews will be persecuted in at least the last half of the tribulation period. But they will not all die. God will save a few, a very few, to go with Him into the Kingdom that He will establish.

Instead of universal salvation, this passage again convinces me that those who are saved are always the few, the very few. Biblical Christianity is not popular today. To be a Biblical Christian, one must "repent and believe." That belief or trust must be in the One whose name can hardly be mentioned in public in our "Christian" land. That belief must be in the Lord Jesus. Instead of teaching universal salvation, the Bible teaches the salvation of a "remnant" or of a very few—whether that salvation is from the tribulation period of from the eternal consequences of our unforgiven sins.

Thank God some from "this generation" will not die when judgment comes on this earth. But I am more thankful for everyone who is part of the very few who are trusting Christ Jesus for eternal salvation at present. I am one of those, are you?

 

Meditation for the week of July 15, 2012

Playing Nice Pays

 

And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)

 

This world is filled with hate and prejudice. Competition instead of cooperation is often the name of the game. Friends are courted based on social status and based on whether they are good networking contacts. Because people are so success oriented, people tell me that it is hard to know if you have any true friends if it is known that you are successful. When a child doesn't "fit in" at school they can be bullied. When people come from certain ethnic backgrounds, it is not uncommon for them to be hated, ostracized and persecuted.

There is coming a day when one of the most despised groups on this earth will be terribly persecuted once again. They are the Jewish people. There are other groups that have also been persecuted and mistreated but for some reason the Jewish people are usually treated with a measure of disdain. Some say that it is because they crucified the Lord. While they did, so did the Romans and the Greeks and by extension, all of us. BUT OF COURSE THE JEWS SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. When the tribulation period comes these people will need help and there will be those who will have a heart of compassion toward them. They will protect them. I suspect that the ones who will be most persecuted are those who are believers in the fact that Jesus Christ was their Messiah. They will turn away from the political leader that the world will be following. This leader is Antichrist.

During the holocaust there were people who tried to protect the Jews. During the years when we had slavery in this country, there were people who operated "underground railroads" to help free the slaves. I wonder if these people who were showing compassion to "the least of these My brethren" realized that what they were doing, they were actually doing for the Lord. While this passage is written primarily for those who protect Jewish believers, I believe that the principle applies to the compassion that we should be showing to all people, but particularly to those who are at the margin of society whether they are believers or not.

The principle that we see in this passage is that the way the nations treat the persecuted believing Jews during the tribulation period is a measure of how they treat the Lord. But I don't think the principle is limited to this one situation. Obviously, the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 showed this kind of compassion on a man who had been robbed and beaten. The man was likely a Jew. I think that whenever we do something to help or encourage someone that the Lord loves, the Lord takes note of that. And my understanding is that the Lord loves every person that comes into this world. When we help and encourage and protect, it blesses the person helped and it blesses the person doing the helping. But the important thing is that the Lord is pleased. I believe that the greatest blessing comes when the people doing the "saving" doe it because they really want to help the individual. They don't do it for the Lord, they do it for the person. But in doing it for that person, they end up doing it for the Lord. Too many of our good works are done to get "points" in heaven. That kind of good works come across very self-serving. The best good works are done because we really want to bless the person we are helping. The Lord takes note of those kinds of good works.

In the past few days, I have been the recipient of the kind of good works I am talking about. People went out of their way to do something special for me that they didn't need to do. They didn't do it for the Lord, they did it for me. They did it quietly so no one else really knows what they did. I don't think the people involved even knew how they had blessed me. But I was blessed. And while it is a stretch to say that I am "one of the least of these my brethren," I am sure that the Lord was pleased with the encouragement that this old preacher got from some rather special kindnesses shown to him by some rather special Christians in the last few days.

It is time for me to spread some of that blessing around myself. If we would all do this, maybe we could encourage people to cooperate instead of compete, to love instead of hate. Maybe we could help put a stop to bullying and to the ostracizing of those "who don't fit in."

 

 

Meditation for the week of July 22, 2012

What has the Lord done for You?

 

Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you." And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39)

 

This man had been controlled by a legion of demons. All men could do was restrain him with chains so that he didn't hurt himself or others. Today we would have given him Prozac and/or Valium and said he was mentally ill. But there would have been no cure. The Lord came along one day and released Him from the bondage of those demons. They went into pigs and killed them by causing them to run into the lake. The man in whom the demons were, was freed from their dominion. He was a changed person. He was now clothed and in his right mind where before he was naked and out of control. The Bible says he was healed. This was indeed a notable miracle.

The man who was healed wanted to follow the Lord, but the Lord had something better for him to do. He wanted him to go to his family and tell them "what great things God has done for you." The man not only told his family, he broadcast his good news through the whole city.

Most of us will never have demons cast out of us. However, if we have been saved from the bondage of sin to live with and serve Christ forever, we have had something great done for us. Those of us who are Biblical Christians may not feel that we have the gift of evangelism, but we do have one good story to tell those that we know. It is the story of how we came to know the Lord as our Savior. It is a great thing to be able to say in the words of the well known hymn:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

However, I personally find it easier to complain about the circumstances of life than to tell people about the great things God has done for me. I am like the children of Israel who continually forgot the miracles God had done in delivering them from Egypt. Instead of praising God for His goodness they complained about what they considered to be difficult circumstances; and, yes, their circumstances were difficult at times. When they complained about the circumstances, they were really complaining about God who had allowed the circumstances. Yet, even with all their complaining, God never forsook His people but brought them into the promised land just as He had promised. His people experienced miracle after miracle but they quickly forgot the miracles and never seemed to expect the next one.

Those of us who can look back on the miracle of our coming to the Lord in salvation should thank the Lord daily for that. We also should thank the Lord that He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Those who don't know the Lord also go through problems but they only have themselves, their families, their friends, and their doctors to rely on. Should they die they have no future to anticipate with joy. We who are saved "have it made." We know our future is going to be better than our present.

We who are Biblical Christians likely have many "great things" in addition of our salvation experience that we can tell people about. Some of us have been healed of diseases. Even though doctors might have been used, the Lord gave those doctors the wisdom and the resources to do whatever they did. Many of us can attest to the Lord's miraculous financial provisions in our lives. It may be true that we have good jobs and good incomes, but the Lord led us to those jobs and gave us the ability to do them. Some of us have experienced the Lord's provision when we have had no visible means of support.

The Lord has done great things for us. The power of the Gospel is seen in our praising the Lord about those great things.

 

Meditation for the week of July 29, 2012