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JULY 2013

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Breathless at 14, 000 Feet!

 

Matthew 14:23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

 

Mountain top experiences are found frequently in the Bible. Some of them are great experiences and some of them are not so great.

Moses spent a lot of time at the top of Mt. Sinai receiving the new way of worship for his people who had been saved from the bondage of Egypt. Moses also saw the Promised Land from the top of a mountain before he died. The Lord taught the Sermon on the Mount from the top of a mountain. He was transfigured before Peter, James and John on the top of a mountain. In that experience we learn that Moses and Elijah still exist and they seem to be enjoying life in heaven. We also see the Lord in His glory. The Lord commissioned his disciples in a mountain in Galilee after the resurrection. But Satan also tempted the Lord to worship him on the top of a mountain. The false worship of Samaria was associated with a mountain.

I have often wondered why the Lord went up into a mountain to pray. Did he get closer to His Father there than He could on earth? I doubt it! But you will notice that when he went up on the mountain He was alone. I suspect there are a lot of people like me that do not find climbing mountains to be thrilling. As a matter of fact, I have recently been to the top of Mt. Evans in Colorado, and I was told that I was seeing great things in the distance. However, if someone hadn't told me what I was seeing, I wouldnít have had a clue as to what I was looking at. The grand view was beautiful and panoramic, but the mountains in the distance all looked the same to me. In addition to that, being above 14,000 feet on a summer's day, left me short of breath and a little dizzy. This Iowa boy who normally lives at about 880 feet above sea level found that breathing at 14,000 feet above sea level was almost an "out of this world" experience. I suspect that the Lord climbed the mountain so that He would not have a lot of people bothering him rather than climbing it so that He could get closer to His Father.

Moses was on a mountain that was about 7,500 feet above sea level. Mount Herman, near Lebanon is about 9,200 feet. The other mountains in Israel are less than 4,000 feet. So most of the mountains in Israel seem to be at a lower elevation than Denver, the mile high city. Many people would call the mountains in Israel and the surrounding area big hills rather than mountains. Nevertheless, climbing to the top of the mountains would likely allow for a certain amount of solitude, particularly if you did this at night which the Lord often did.

I am expecting to enjoy a "mountain top" experience when the Lord comes or if I am called home by way of death before He returns. However, I have come to the conclusion that mountain top experiences in this life are way overrated. If you want to be light headed and sick to your stomach, climb mountains. However, remember when you get to the top, you have to get back down; and that can be a thrilling experience since the Lord did invent a thing called gravity. And when you get to the top of the mountain, you will be like the bear that went over the mountain. It could be said of him:

The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain,

The bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see.

The other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain,

The other side of the mountain, was all that he could see.

I know many people are thrilled to climb mountains and it is an exhilarating experience for them. As for me, I am going to enjoy my mountains from a distance in the will of the Lord. I hope to get my mountain top experiences when I am alone with God meditating on His goodness and talking with Him. Or it would be all right with me to have a mountain top experience as we worship the Lord around a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. It would be all right with me to enjoy a mountain top experience when someone tells me that they have trusted the Lord and that they KNOW that they are saved.

Those experiences leave me breathless enough, I personally don't need to be breathless at 14,000 feet.

 

Meditation for the week of July 7, 2013

We Don't Know that we Don't Know!

 

Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.

 

The older we get, the more we know that we don't know much. God is all knowing. Man is anything but. We all think God should be like us, and do what we want Him to do, and be what we want Him to be. But God says that we need to lose our pride and admit that we don't understand God and His ways, even though He fully understands us and our ways.

Job was a righteous man, God said so. He was attacked because Satan needed to see someone who worshiped God when worshiping God made no sense. Job had lost everything including his health. He had three "friends" and they said that hey KNEW that Job had sinned. Otherwise these things would not have happened to Job. They reasoned from experience, from insight from religious visions and from the wisdom of the ancients. Job just had to have sinned according to all human reasoning. There was just one problem. He HADN'T SINNED! Even Job didn't always make sense. Sometimes he though the wicked prospered (Job 21:7-15) and sometime he thought the wicked would be repaid for their wickedness (Job 27:13-23). Even Job didn't really know what He was talking about.

Jobs three friends had sat silently for a full week before saying anything. Then they waited for Job to speak first. They would have been wise if they had kept their thoughts to themselves and if they had never spoken because they simply didn't KNOW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT! And they certainly did not know that they did not know.

The people in Acts 17 were ancient Greek philosophers who loved to reason about things that they didn't understand. They thought they were pretty smart but Paul had to point out that they were worshiping an "unknown God." This God was not unknown to Paul, but He was unknown to these Greek philosophers. Some of them were Stoics who thought that self-discipline was the answer and some of them were Epicureans who thought that self-indulgence was the answer. But both groups were self-centered and did not know the LIVING AND TRUE GOD. They remind me a lot of the learned religious talk of people who consider themselves educated today. These philosophers certainly did not know that they did not know.

In John 9, a man who was blind from birth is healed by the Lord. The Pharisees said that the Lord was a sinner because he had healed on the Sabbath. The poor fellow who was healed used the logic of the Pharisees to prove that the Lord was not a sinner. Pharisees said God did not hear sinners, but the Lord had been able to heal so He couldn't have been a sinner. The healed man said in John 9:31, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." The blind man knew two things that would never be taken from him. He knew that he could see. He knew that the Lord could not be a sinner. He didn't know much, but WHAT HE KNEW, HE KNEW!.

The older we get, the more we know that we don't have all the answers. However, we do know that we can depend upon God and we can depend upon His promises. I have found that when it comes to getting advice, I can shop around until I find those who will give me the advice I want to hear. In addition, if I want to know the will of the Lord in my life, I just ask someone. They will know. If I want to know why I am prospering, I just ask someone. They will know. If I want to know why things have turned out badly, I just ask someone. They will certainly know. And while counselors can be valuable, I have found that much counsel is based on the wisdom of man and not on the wisdom of God.

Job was wise. Even though He didn't know why he was being attacked, He was going to trust the Lord no matter what. Our problem is that even though there are a lot of things that we don't know, WE OFTEN DON'T KNOW THAT WE DON'T KNOW! And that is why we should be careful about passing judgment and offering advice.

I am kind of like that blind man. There are a lot of things that I don't know or understand about God and His ways. But there is one thing that I know. I know that Christ died for me. I know that whereas I was blind, now I see (or understand.) I may not know much, BUT WHAT I KNOW, I KNOW!

 

Meditation for the week of July 14, 2013

Is there Such a Thing as Righteous Judgment?

 

2 Timothy 4:8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

Likely by now everyone knows the names of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. My wife and I had to quit watching the major news channels because of the way that George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were being tried by the media. The news organizations weren't just reporting the news, they were editorializing and making the news. When George Zimmerman was acquitted (he was not found innocent) then everyone and their Uncle Dudley decided that they knew more about the case than the jurors did, and the trial has effectively continued through commentators and news organizations.

I thank God that we have the system we have when it comes to criminal trials, but it is for certain that a lynching mentality still exits in this country. We are protected by a legal system that says that we are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a REASONABLE doubt. Is this a "righteous" system? Probably not. Is there a better system provided by earthly governments? No! And even under this system current forensic techniques on evidence that is available from older trials has now proven that many innocent people have been found guilty. Even though we personally may not agree with the verdict in the Martin/Zimmerman case, we have to recognize that a jury that heard all the evidence spoke. And they felt that the prosecution had not proved Zimmerman guilty beyond a REASONABLE doubt. Do we understand that the legal system that spoke here, might one day be the legal system that protects us and our families from lynchings and mob rule? I did watch enough of the trial to be able to say that I thought the judge was superb. In this case, she didn't decide guilt or innocence, but she did guide the trial and she did try to maintain order and keep the trial fair.

Judging in the Bible was not by jurors, it was by Kings or appointed judges or elders. The only righteous verdict that I can remember being recorded in the Bible was when Solomon used common sense to decide who was the mother of a living baby when two women were claiming him. One of their babies had died by being unintentionally suffocated in the night by a mother who carelessly laid on the child (1 Kings 3:19). Obviously some of the judges appointed by Moses and other judges in the Bible must have made good decisions, but generally the Biblical record shows that judges did not judge righteously. Joseph, Daniel and Daniel's three friends all come immediately to mind as having been judged unrighteously. The worst trials of all were the ones held by a mob wanting to crucify the Lord. They didn't care about guilt or innocence, the religious leaders just wanted to "lynch" the Lord legally.

But there is one judge who judges righteously. He is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). He is not going to be swayed by public opinion and He is keeping detailed records. He will not accept bribes. He will not be prejudiced. He will not show partiality or favoritism. The unbelievers who meet Him after death, will find out that God is not going to reward their good works but He is going to condemn them for their sins. That judgment takes place at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). For the believer the situation is different. The Lord provided a substitionary sacrifice that would satisfy God's righteousness when the Lord died for our sins. The Lord once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). John tells us that "He who believes in Him is not condemned (or judged); but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18)."

Some argue that it isn't right for God to let sinners go righteously free and that His judgment is unjust as well. But God has found a way to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law while still providing a way of escape from deserved judgment for guilty sinners. This is called grace. It is a concept that is not found in our criminal justice system.

I am glad for the "righteous judge" who has found us all guilty (Romans 3:19) and has still found a way to make believing sinners righteous (Romans 3:22-24).

 

Meditation for the week of July 21, 2013

Some Remarkable People!

 

Numbers 26:9-11 The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the LORD; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die.

 

In Psalms 44-49 we find something very remarkable. The sons of Korah are praising the God who judged their father for rebelling against the leadership of Moses. The story is found in its entirety in Numbers 16. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth because they had thought that Moses took too much upon Himself. They seemed to forget that God had chosen Moses to lead Israel. He had not taken this responsibility upon Himself. When the judgment came, all that did not separate themselves from Korah, Dathan and Abiram, were judged with them. Numbers 16:27 mentions their wives, their sons and their little children. But apparently that did not include the sons of Korah because they did not die. Years later the sons of Korah are praising this God who judged their own father. I am afraid that most of us (maybe I mean I) would have thought God was a little harsh and would have been critical of Him opening up the ground and swallowing them up for wanting to share in Moses leadership.

Sometimes the command to honor father and mother is used as a club to convince children to do whatever their parents ask. While that may be the case with young children, older children honor their father and mother by putting God first. The sons of Korah did that. In my opinion, it would be hard to find people today that would have justified and praised God in this situation.

After Korah, Dathan and Abiram are swallowed up by the earth, the next day the congregation of Israel complained that Moses (NOT GOD) had killed these people. God then sent a plague to judge this rebellion and Aaron had to take a censer (a vessel or dish) containing fire from the altar and incense and stand between the living and the dead to stop the plague. But again, apparently, the sons of Korah did not die. The sons of Korah were faithful to God and separated themselves from the rebellion of their father. Whether they wrote their songs of praise immediately following this disaster with their songs being sung later in the temple worship or whether these songs were written much later by the offspring of those who were faithful is not clear to me. But what is clear is that these sons were old enough to be accountable to God. In writing and singing these songs, the sons of Korah justified God in the judgment of their father.

What the sons of Korah did was not natural, rather it was spiritual. Their father criticized God's chosen leadership. That is the way of a person walking in the flesh. But the children made spiritual decisions.

I wonder how many of us today would worship God in spirit and in truth if it meant standing against the attitudes, decisions and practices of our family and our close friends. The Lord tells us that we must love Him more than we love family. We need to be careful that when we love the sinner we donít participate in or justify their sin just because they are family or close friends.

Thank goodness Godís judgment is not immediate and severe in this day of grace. Judgment will come but it will be in eternity. But if Godís judgment were immediate and severe today, would we be able to justify God and praise Him for judging sin in this way? Some people today are explaining away eternal conscious punishment after death for the unbeliever because they think that judgment is too severe and is contrary to the idea of a merciful God. People who are doing that today are not like the "sons of Korah."

The sons of Korah were remarkable people, in my opinion.

 

Meditation for the week of July 28, 2013