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JUNE 2005

 

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Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

2 Corinthians12:8-9 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee (in other words, no!)

 

Christians are given great promises. Our promises seem to provide us with a genie in the bottle that gives us three wishes. Only this genie allows the third wish to be for more wishes. How come then, do we have so many “no’s” when we pray?

Doesn’t the Lord say that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart? However, our hearts need to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). As we delight ourselves in the Lord, I suspect our desires become the desires of the Lord much like a loving spouse wants what their partner wants. That means we aren’t occupied with the desires that motivated us before we met the Lord, but now we are “born again” (John 3) and we are in a new family. We now have a new nature and we have new desires. But if we ask for the things we wanted before we met the Lord we are likely to get a resounding “no”. Many of those things would not delight the Lord and should not delight us.

When the Lord says that whatsoever we ask in His name He will do it, there appears to be a condition placed on our asking. A name in the Scripture represented the character, reputation and authority of the person. If I give someone my credit card and tell them to use it in the next three days and to spend $50.00 or less, they can have complete assurance that I will stand behind their using my name if they meet the conditions. If they spend more than $50.00 or wait until the fourth day, they no longer have authority to use my credit card and to sign my name. I think this might be a crude illustration of what the Lord is saying. He doesn’t automatically rubber stamp all of our prayers, but He acts immediately when we are asking according to the guidelines He has given us. He isn’t likely to answer a prayer to destroy someone we don’t like. He isn’t going to answer self-willed or self-serving prayer. But he will answer every prayer where the desires we have are desires He has.

If we are not getting our prayers answered, we need to ask ourselves if we are really part of the family of God. Did we find out we were lost and did we find out that the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)? Are we depending and delighting in what Christ did for us or are we still in bondage because think our salvation depends on what we are doing or have done for Christ? Of course, we should be living for Christ because we are saved, but not in order to be saved.

Are we not getting our prayers answered because we are knowingly disobeying the Lord? Certainly, that would lead to our having desires that the Lord does not have which would hinder our prayers.

Paul prayed three times before everything came together for Him. He didn’t get the answer he originally wanted, but He got an answer. I am sure that Paul ended up being satisfied with the Lord’s response to this problem in his life.

 

Week of June 5, 2005

Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

 

Obedience has fallen on hard times. We sometimes hear people say that no one is going to tell them what to do. I suppose this really started with Eve in the Garden of Eden when Satan deceived her into believing she was being cheated by God since He wouldn’t allow her to eat of the fruit of one tree in the Garden. We are often told that anything connected with spiritual obedience is “legalistic”.

However, is it really wrong to use the word obey in our new testament relationship with the Lord? Abraham “obeyed” without knowing where his obedience would take him when he was called out of the idolatrous worship of Ur (Hebrews 11:8). Paul’s first question as a believer when the Lord appeared to him in Acts 9 was, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” God says judgment will fall on those who do not obey the Gospel in both 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and in 1 Peter 4:17. Obviously, obedience is expected in the new testament just as it was in the old. But I do have some problems with this whole issue:

I used to teach that if the Lord is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. After careful self-examination, I decided I could no longer teach that. If you are like me there are areas in your life that could use some “tuning up”. Even though our desire is to make the Lord Jesus Lord of all, I doubt if many of us have lived up to that ideal. Yet in our heart of hearts most of us do have a desire to please Him by obeying Him.

I also have a problem with knowing what the Lord has really commanded. For example, I am not a Jew and so I don’t take the old testament commands personally unless I find them in the new testament. Otherwise, I assume they are illustrating Truth and not demanding obedience. So I don’t offer animal sacrifices, I don’t keep the old testament feasts, I don’t worship at Jerusalem and I don’t keep the Sabbath. As a matter of fact I don’t even try to keep the ten commandments from the old testament. But I do try to keep the new testament teaching on the ten commandments. Some people consider me disobedient.

I also find myself wondering when I am keeping the commandments of the Lord and when I am keeping the commandments of men. Some Christians think we should be Republicans and some think we should be Democrats. Some of us think we should forget about politics. Most Christians believe that baptism is an important ordinance but some think we should baptize infants, some think we should baptize adults. Others think we should baptize believers. Some think we should immerse, some think we should sprinkle or pour. Some think it doesn’t matter. Some think the Lord’s supper puts away sin and some think it is just a ceremony that reminds us that Christ died to put away sin. Some think we should do it often so as not to forget what the Lord has done for us and others think that doing it often cheapens the ceremony. Who is right?

The easy solution would be to say that the Lord doesn’t really care. But if something is in the Bible, the Lord must care about the issue so I personally have always assumed that He does have a will and that He does care. If He died for me the least I can do is ask the same question Paul asked, “Lord what will you have me to do?” I notice that the Lord doesn’t force us to obey Him and often seems to show a lot of grace when we don’t. But I think it greatly pleases Him when we do obey. However, if we are not willing to obey, it would seem to be hypocritical to call Him Lord.

 

Week of June 12, 2005

2Chronicles 21:5 Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.

2Chronicles 21:6 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD.

2Chronicles 21:20 Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.

 

Jehoram was evil and he demonstrated that by killing his brothers (verse 4). He personally turned away from the worship of the Lord and encouraged the people of Judah to be unfaithful to the Lord as well. In his life he had allowed the people of Judah to live the way they wanted to live, unencumbered by the moral standards of the worship of Jehovah. Yet, when he died, he died to no one’s sorrow according to the NKJV. Apparently, he was cruel.

Recently, I had an interesting discussion with a friend about the nature of good and evil. We concluded that the Bible is clear that the only one who is good is God (Matthew 19:17). Obviously, Satan is evil. He is called the wicked one (1 John 5:18). We also concluded that evil seems to be “hate without a cause” (John 15:25). We know that the goodness of God is seen in the fact that God is love (1 John 4:8). That love is demonstrated by the fact that God loves sinners who do not love Him and provides for their salvation before they become good (Romans 5:8). Thus, goodness is seen by God’s love without a cause.

Ultimately, it seems that those who are evil are murderers. This was true of Cain, it was true of Jehoram and and it is true of Satan (John 8:44). God equates hate with murder (1 John 3:15). When evil is a person’s lifestyle, that person is not anyone’s true friend. People may fear that person, but no one will like him or trust him. The end result is to die like Jehoram, to no one’s sorrow or regret. Since evil people have rejected God and His goodness as demonstrated by His sending His Son to die for them, they are going to suffer with no one to befriend them or care for them throughout eternity.

We know that it is possible for all of us to do evil things. I would suggest that being evil is altogether different. Being evil has to do with the character and motives of a person. I would like to believe that all of us would like to be builders and not destroyers. I would also like to believe that we have a real care for those around us. If that is true, then I believe that the greatest good we can do for those around us is to free them from the clutches of Satan and take them to heaven with us. That can only happen through the faithful preaching of the good news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).” When the Gospel is believed, goodness prevails and evil is defeated.

The Lord’s death was altogether different than Jehoram’s. We still proclaim the death of Christ when we remember Him with a loaf of bread and a cup of wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). When He died there was sorrow, and He was missed. He is remembered because He is good and He does good. Those of us who are true believers in Christ can say like the bride in the Song of Solomon, “This is my beloved and this is my friend (Song of Songs 5:16).”

 

Week of June 19, 2005

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

 

I enjoy reading about the Lord’s relationship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The Lord was not only their friend but he showed them charity. It is quite obvious that the Lord’s love was returned by these three. They weren’t numbered with the 12 disciples and they don’t appear to be part of the 70 that were sent out by the Lord. But, the Lord seemed to consider these three friends special. He disappointed them by not coming and curing Lazarus, but he loved them so much that he cried at the tomb. And then he did something for them that they had not expected. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Wouldn’t it be nice to be one of the Lord’s special friends?

I believe that each person born into this world is special to the Lord. However, only those who receive Him by believing on His name can count themselves among His special friends (John 1:12, John 15:13-15) . John the evangelist knew that he was the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23). The Lord showed special kindness to a woman taken in adultery (John 8). I am sure that she knew that she was special to the Lord when He forgave her rather than condemning her. The Samaritan woman (John 4) had to know that the Lord made a special trip to Jacob’s well in Samaria because of his concern for her. Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her and seemed to have a special place in her heart for the Lord. The Lord had a special place in His heart for her as well since she was the first one to see the Lord after the resurrection (Mark 16:9). Thomas must have realized he was special when He found out that the Lord wanted him to be sure that He had been raised from the dead (John 20).

We know that God loved the world, but God’s love becomes really special when we realize that He loved us personally (Galatians 2:20). Being special to someone gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Some of us have special friends in this life that encourage us. They are loyal when we are being attacked. They are there when we are discouraged or sick. They rejoice in our victories and are concerned when we suffer defeat. We can confide in them and they will understand. Many of us have found that kind of a friend in our spouses. We will always find real or imagined faults in our earthly friends, but we should never find a reason to be disappointed in the Lord. I know that most of us consider the Lord special but I wonder if we really understand how special we are to him?

If we are saved, He has forgiven us like He did the woman taken in adultery. In addition, I believe that the Lord made a special visit to us like He did to the Samaritan woman. He freed us from bondage like He did Mary Magdalene. He answers our honest questions so that we do not doubt as He did with Thomas. He has no doubt disappointed us at times because we expected Him to operate differently in some circumstances than He did, but He is likely waiting to perform a greater miracle than we expect as He did for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. If we are saved, if we have become a follower of the Lord by turning away from sin and self and trusting Him, if we have truly repented and trusted in the Lord, we should know like John that we are loved. Experiencing the Lord’s personal love gives us a reason for living and prepares us for dying. Surely, the Lord is the answer to the loneliness and discouragement and disappointments of this life. Why would anyone reject His personal friendship and love?

Week of June 26, 2005