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lose their Lives at Them!
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)
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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
Cash has a song that I like in this regard. The lyrics go like this:
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
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
for the week of July 1, 2012
now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever
cut off? (Job 4:7)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
for the week of July 8, 2012
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
for the week of July 15, 2012
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
for the week of July 22, 2012
has the Lord done for You?
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)
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
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.
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:
grace, how sweet the sound
saved a wretch like me.
once was lost but now am found
blind but now I see.
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.
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.
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.
Lord has done great things for us. The power of the Gospel is seen in
our praising the Lord about those great things.
for the week of July 29, 2012