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JUNE 2008

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John 10:17-18 "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."

 

The Lord did not offer Himself as the sacrifice that saves because He was forced to do it. He did it willingly. He had the power or ability to lay his life down and He had the ability to take it again. The Father gave him the ability to willingly offer Himself as the sacrifice that paid the penalty that we deserve because of our sins.

Today we have people giving their lives for noble causes. Some of them are doing it willingly and some are doing it unwillingly. While many of our servicemen and women have voluntarily joined the armed forces, once they join their freedoms are gone. So when they come back in a casket, there is always some reason to believe that they were ordered to carry out a mission that cost them their lives. So whether they gave their lives voluntarily could probably be argued in many cases. Doing things because we have a duty to do them is noble. Doing them because we want to do them out of devotion to a person or cause is much more satisfying and noble than doing what we do out of duty.

We who have benefited from the Lord's voluntary free-will offering should want to serve the Lord in any way that He wants us to serve Him. In Romans 12:1, Paul says that it is only reasonable that we present our bodies as living sacrifices. A sacrifice is costly and usually requires us to give up something that is precious to us. In the case of a Christian, our body is no longer to be used for selfish purposes, but we are to dedicate it to the Lord so He can use it. Some have paid the ultimate sacrifice since they have been martyred to serve the Lord. Most have done it not because they were forced to give their lives but because they were willing to put themselves in harms way out of devotion to the Lord and out of devotion to those who need to be saved. Their sacrifice has been like the free will offering of Leviticus 1:3.

The Lord has asked us to show that they are believers by being baptized, but we don't have to be baptized. Of course we won't please the Lord unless we do get baptized, but the Lord will never force us to do what we should want to do voluntarily. If we get baptized because we HAVE TO, I doubt that we will have pleased Him. We should get baptized because we want to please the Lord. We don't HAVE TO DO ANYTHING to please the Lord, but there are lots of things that we can do and should want to do of our own free will to please Him. We will not be making up our own minds as to what pleases the Lord, we will be asking Him to tell us. We will then do what he asks out of devotion instead of out of duty. Of course if we don't want to please the Lord, that indicates that for some reason we don't appreciate what the Lord has done for us. We may not be truly born again or if we are born again, we may be stubbornly living a self-willed life.

 

Many arguments that we have about what we have to do please the Lord would not be arguments if we were really devoted to Him. Instead of asking what we have to do, we would be asking what we are privileged to do. The Lord voluntarily delivered Himself for us. Is there anything that He has asked us to do that we do voluntarily and devotionally for Him? We can do the right things because we HAVE TO and that won't be devotional worship. We can do things our way instead of His way because we WANT TO and that won't be devotional worship, But the Lord must be thrilled when we do the things He has asked us to do because WE WANT TO and not because WE HAVE TO. That is when He gets our devotional worship which Paul says is only reasonable.

Meditation for the week of June 1, 2008

Jonah 3:1-2

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you."

 

I once worked for a CPA firm where every audit had to be reviewed by a senior partner. One of the accountants used to get the senior partners note's on his audits and he would say, "We learn by doing—it over!" Jonah learned by doing it over. The trouble is, sometimes we don't give each other the chance to do it over.

I have listened to teachers who told me that God was the God of the second chance. Their ministry would deal with Peter who denied the Lord but was forgiven and recommissioned in John 21. They would deal with John Mark who left Paul and Barnabus in Acts 13:13 and returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabus disagreed over taking John Mark with them on their next trip and actually went their separate ways over the issue. Later Paul would ask Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome when he came to visit Paul in prison because Paul said, "he is useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:11)." Paul gave him another chance. Sometimes these teachers would deal with Jonah who was told to go to Nineveh the second time after rebelling against the Lord the first time.

But then, we would also get teaching that said, "An eagle with a broken wing can never fly as high." This implied that if you committed certain sins, your usefulness to the Lord would always be limited after that. These teachers would point out that David didn't get to build the temple after his sin with Bathsheba. They would tell us that since elders are to be blameless, they were disqualified from leadership if they committed certain major sins.

I believe that men are harder to please than God on this issue. God tells Christians that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). When the Lord forgives, he cleanses us from ALL sin, not just from some sins. God considers one who truly confesses his sin to be clean. Peter denied the Lord when the Lord could have used a friend. The Lord forgave him and used him in a most prominent way. David did have consequences associated with his sin with Bathsheba, but it was because of his hypocrisy in judgment. Matthew 7:2 makes it clear that he was being judged in the way he had judged. He held a rich man who had taken a poor man's lamb to entertain a guest to a higher standard than the standard he was setting for himself. In addition, he had Uriah killed to cover his sin (See 2 Samuel 12: 5,6,9,10 and 1 Kings 15:5). But when David made the confession, "I have sinned (2 Samuel 12:13)," the Lord did not take his life as David would have taken the rich man's life. Nor did the Lord remove him from being King.

It is true that elders are to be blameless. The qualifications that are listed in the rest of the passage in 1 Timothy 3 define what blameless means. Notice a man must BE blameless. It is his present character that counts, not his past sins. When a person of the world is saved, we tend to give them responsibility and privileges quite quickly even though we should wait until the person brings forth fruits in keeping with their profession of faith. We even unwisely let them glorify their past sins when they tell what about the lives from which they were saved. However, when a person who has had a moral fall after salvation is restored to the Lord through repentance and confession, we tend to assume that they can never recover their reputation and character even though God says that He has forgiven them and that he has removed all their defilement. Why does the blood of Christ provide complete forgiveness in the one case but not in the other? Obviously, the blood of Christ has the same ability to cleanse in both cases, but men have a harder time accepting that fact when Christians sin. While it is true that it would take some time to make sure that a person's repentance was real, once that is determined we should treat Christians who have sinned the same way God does.

We should give them a second chance.

 

Meditation for the week of June 8, 2008

Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

 

Recently we have been subjected to catastrophic storms and floods in our part of the state. Before each storm we have had advisories telling us of the possibility of storms, then watches telling us that the conditions were favorable for storms, and finally warnings telling us that a storm was moving in our direction. On Memorial Day weekend, I came home while the civil defense sirens were blowing. Did I head for cover? No! Instead I asked the neighbor who was outside why the sirens were blowing. My neighbor was watching the sky but didn't seem to know why the sirens were blowing. We found out later that a tornado had gone through a town near us and at that moment was crossing a road about 10 miles north of us.

During the floods, we have been given constant updates as to river levels and what to do to avoid being hurt in the floods. Fortunately, most people have been preserved but some have stayed in their homes a little too long and have had to be rescued by boats in rising water. During the floods, we were warned one night that another storm was coming with hail and winds in excess of sixty miles an hour. We live in a manufactured home that has no basement and were advised to find a storm shelter, We didn't because so many cars are parked near the storm shelter when we need to take cover that we usually have to walk to the shelter in the rain. Instead, I pulled the covers over my head and went to sleep. Fortunately, the storm didn't amount to much by the time it reached our house.

I hear so many storm warnings this time of the year that I don't really pay attention to them like I should. I consider most of them to be false alarms. I am afraid that many of us treat Biblical warnings the same way. However, Noah was a wise man and even though he was warned about an event that had never happened before, he believed God and built an ark that saved the members of his house as well as preserving life for the planet. Noah had not even seen rain since the earth had been watered by a mist, and yet when God said it was going to rain and that the earth was going to be flooded, Noah began to prepare.

We have been told for years that the Lord is going to come. People have different views of what that means, but I believe that God is going to come to remove believers from this earth before He begins to judge the earth for rejecting Him and His Son. We have been warned over and over that judgment is coming. I believed those warnings, and even though I haven't been taking cover during the weather service's storm warnings, I have taken cover from the storm of God's wrath. There is a day coming when men and women will say to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand (Revelation 6:16-17)?"

Some people have wondered if the events of the last few weeks in the Midwest indicate that the tribulation has started. Since I am still here and since my Christian friends are still here, I can assure you that the floods and tornadoes of the last few weeks are not part of the time period that the Bible calls The Tribulation. But if these events are are so bad, what must the wars, disease, earthquakes, famines, and hailstones of that period be like?

There is only one shelter from the storm of God's wrath and that shelter is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John says in his Gospel, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36)." Today, God is offering salvation by grace through faith in His Son. Now would be a good time to flee to Christ and to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7).

Now is the time to believe the warnings and to prepare.

Meditation for the week of June 15, 2008

Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

 

Clare Boothe Luce has said that "no good deed goes unpunished." Peter and John could testify to the truth of that saying. They had healed a man and as a result they were able to preach the Gospel. God was able to use that message to save at least 5,000 people. Satan, of course, had a bit of a problem with that and used the unbelieving leaders of the nation of Israel to attempt to keep the apostles from preaching. They threw put them in jail and told them to quit it or else. However, Peter and John didn't think God would want them to quit it so after having been threatened, they went to their "own" and reported what had happened.

Who would we go to if we were persecuted for preaching the Gospel? Would we have those that we would consider our own company or our own companions who would understand what we were doing and the persecution we were suffering? The Bible makes it clear that the church is supposed to be a house of prayer and worship but it is also supposed to be a support group for Christians. That is why the Bible so often speaks of the church being "together" and being unified or in "one accord".

I hear people say that they can worship the Lord without going to a meeting of the church. And they can. But they cannot find a support group when they don't have a group that they support. There are many things that we do by ourselves that we can do with so much more power and joy when we do it together.

Recently, I worked with a group of Christians in a park Gospel outreach. Some of us went door-to-door handing out invitations. Some of them sang. Some of us provided hot dogs with baked beans and chips. Some of us preached and some of us gave our testimonies as to how we came to know the Lord. We did together what we could not do well separately. We went away glad that we had our own company with which to share this great work. God could have done this in other ways perhaps because he can raise up children to Abraham from stones (Matthew 3:9). However, because we worked together we were more effective than we would have been separately. While we didn't experience persecution, we did experience rejection, but we were able to encourage each other because we could go to our own and talk about it.

Our own people or company should not be the unbelieving people in the world. We should have friends there but we should not have the same connection to them that we have with our own. Since we are in the world but not of the world (John 17:11, 16), we should feel like square pegs in round holes in today's society. We just don't fit.

Our own are the ones with whom we are going to spend eternity. It only seems fitting that they would be the ones we would seek out in our joys and in our sorrows down here. They should be our support group.

Meditation for the week of June 22, 2008

John 12:15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey's colt."

 

I am getting lots of emails that seem to be trying to influence how I vote in the next election. Democrats think they can give us everything and Republicans think they can give us a tax free paradise. They both think they can give us world peace. The Republicans will fight to give it to us and the Democrats will negotiate until they get it. They both want to cure cancer, provide better medical care, take care of the children and they both want us all to get richer. My personal opinion is that nobody can provide what this world wants in the next election.

There is Somebody that can provide what we need. Even He can not provide what we want because He knows that what we want is not always what we need. He's a man of peace, He believes in providing for the poor, He is able to heal the sick, He says that He can provide the social security that we need if we will just put Him first (Matthew 6:33). He has the cure for hate and murder. He isn't running for office but He would like to be our own personal King. He runs sort of a shadow government and those who submit to him are usually a help and not a burden to the visible government. They don't need more laws governing their lives because this King has sent a special anonymous servant called the Holy Spirit to help us be better citizens in this present world and to guide us as we try to help people prepare for the Kingdom that is coming.

When the Lord was here He said that it took a new birth to enter into His kingdom (John 3:3). But He also indicated that right now His Kingdom was spiritual and not physical so He didn't raise an army to fight for Him (John 18:36). Those who submit to His authority and who trust Him have forgiveness of sins, they have a place in heaven prepared for them, they will never perish, they will have enough to eat, and they will have peace of mind. The wise people of this world consider His subjects to be foolish. However, it will turn out that they were really wise and the wise of this world who rejected this King were really very foolish.

This King presented Himself to "His people" and they rejected Him. They thought a king should fight and he wouldn't. They thought a king should act kingly and they didn't think he did. He didn't have the right background, the right kind of birth, the right mother and he had been raised in the wrong town. So He came to His own and they didn't receive Him (John 1:11). If He were running for political office today, I am convinced that He wouldn't fit into the mold of either political party and most of us would consider his teaching to be too honest and too radical for us to vote for Him. They crucified Him the first time, not because He had done anything wrong, but to prove to Him that the leaders of Israel were the boss. He was just getting in the way of their careers. If He were to appear on the scene today, I suspect the same thing would happen. But there is a man coming who will be crafty and who will convince the world that He can provide peace. He will present Himself as a man of peace when really He is a man of war. He will be elected and followed without question when He comes on the scene. The Lord told Israel, "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive (John 5:43)."

So for whom should we vote? I am going to cast my vote for the Lord and His shadow government. After all, no man can rule on this earth unless He allows it. I wonder which of the candidates really understand that they will only be in office by permission of the real King. How many try to put the principles of the real kingdom into practice?

Even though we cannot get the Lord elected to the office that He should have and rightfully deserves at the present time, we can make Him our personal King and submit to His will as we go through life. The Lord is reigning in the hearts of those who have trusted him, and He will one day rule this world. There is no way that either the Republicans or the Democrats are going to be able to cure the ills of this world, but the day is coming when the Lord will bring be peace and righteousness and justice and sufficient food. When the Lord reigns heaven will truly be on earth.

Meditation for the week of June 29, 2008