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JUNE 2012

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Hard Questions!

 

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1)

 

Solomon had wisdom and power and riches. Did I mention that he had wisdom? He seemed to have answers for questions that many of us have never even thought to ask. Obviously, his wisdom is surpassed only by the wisdom of the Lord. When the Queen of Sheba came to test Solomon with hard questions, she got her answers and was greatly impressed with the happiness of his subjects and with the majesty of his kingdom. She also was impressed with him.

Most of us have 'hard questions" that we would like to have answered. Even though we have the divinely inspired Scriptures that are sufficient to answer all of the questions that God wants us to have answered, there are some things that some of us will never be able to explain or understand. For example:

I do not know how the Lord spoke the worlds into existence, but I believe that He did (Hebrews 11:3).

I do not understand how God could seem to be so angry in the old testament, and so merciful in the new. War is major them of the old testament. A respected man was usually a man of war. Peace however is a major theme of the new testament. Even the wars of the tribulation period will be leading up to the peace of the righteous thousand year reign of Christ. I don't understand this, but I thank God daily for the fact that I was born in new testament times.

I do not understand how something without beginning can exist. God is eternal and has no beginning nor ending, yet I believe He does exist. His name Jehovah seems to imply that He is the ever existing One. He is the one who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). The coming of the Lord into the wold proved that God does exist. Creation also proves that. The fact that we have consciences proves that as well. I don't have to understand it to know that it is true.

I don't understand how the early new testament Christians could understand an epistle or letter that was read to them while we have to send people to seminaries and Bible schools to study these letters. The more we study them in an intellectual way the more interpretations seem to arise from some of the passages. We aren't wise enough (or maybe simple enough) to agree on the meanings of the words that Paul and others wrote.

I don't understand how one man could bear away the sins of every person in the world. Now even if you assume that He only bears away the sins of believers (which I don't believe), I still would have trouble explaining that. But one thing I know even though I don't understand it, Christ bore my sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).

I don't understand how God could love the whole world. I have never met anyone with this kind of love in spite of what they say. The Lord had no prejudices unless it was that he hated hypocrisy. He spent his time with ethnic groups and sinners that most Jewish people avoided without being tainted by their sin and prejudices. Because of His love, He touched lepers and cast out demons. He allowed a woman who "was a sinner" (Luke 7:37) to anoint him with perfume. Because of His love, he forgave an adulteress who was caught in the act while convicting her accusers of hypocrisy (John 8:1-11).

No I don't understand a lot of things. I don't understand why I have been blessed to live in a land where I have been given privileges and blessings that people down through the ages have not been able to enjoy. I don't understand why I am a believer in the Lord when others are not. I don't understand why the Lord would care enough and love me enough to die for me, but I am glad He did.

I don't have to have the wisdom of a Solomon in order to believe that God is who He claimed to be, does what He wants to do, and loves each of us unconditionally. Most of all I don't have to understand the theology associated with the death of Christ to believe that He died for me because He said that He did. Sometimes not having all the answers is alright. Walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) allows us to have confidence and peace even when we don't have all the answers.

Meditation for the week of June 3, 2012

What a way to die!

 

He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one's sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 21:20)

 

Recently a young missionary family lost their lives in an airplane accident in Zambia. The pilot's wife happened to be with him on the trip where he had the accident. They hadn't been in that country very long, but the hospital where they served has been there a long time. When this young couple died the President of Zambia declared a national day of mourning with flags flown at half staff. All programs designed to entertain were canceled or postponed. About 2000 people attended the simple funeral and burial. The funeral was a testimony to the love and respect that the people of Zambia had for this couple.

In contrast, Jehoram, an old testament king of Judah, died to no one's regret or sorrow. I am sure there were people at his funeral, but apparently he was one person that this earth was better off without. He had been king of Judah and he had been "boss" but He had turned his back on His God. God as well as his subjects had turned their backs on him when he died. No one was really grieved at his passing.

In the old testament, the emphasis is on this life. Eternity is not the main theme of the old testament even though resurrection and eternal values are found there. The way Jehoram was buried reflected God's rejection of this king. What must eternity be like for him? We have what happens after death unfolded for us in the new testament. While Jehoram lived for time, he exists for eternity; and he is no doubt now wishing he had worshiped the "God of his fathers" rather than rebelling against Him.

But to die and not have any one care, that would seem to be such a futile wasted life. We certainly are put here for some reason, and even those who do not believe in a god of any kind still usually believe in community. They realize that the command to "love our neighbor as ourselves" is a necessary part of any society that is going to endure. Jehoram loved himself and his idols, and he violated this most important principle. He was a wicked man, killing his own brothers as well as some of the princes of Israel.

Many people want to celebrate the lives they have lived at their deaths rather than have their family and friends face the grim reality that death is the result of sin. Our bodies are embalmed and "fixed" so that we look happy and even alive. We do not witness the actual burial. We do everything we can to pretend that death is not real. But death is real and so is eternity.

Yes, the believer in Christ can rejoice that death is not the end but just the beginning of a glorious future with Christ. But death is a time for mourning and if no one feels an emptiness or a big hole in their life when their close family members and friends die, something is wrong. Or worse, a person may be so evil that people may be glad when he dies. Expressing grief in some way only shows honor and love for the person who has died.

I hope that the Lord returns before I die. But if there should be a funeral in my future, I hope that some who come to my funeral shed a few tears. Then after the tears are shed, I hope that they will rejoice in the fact that because of the promise that Christ died for my sins and because I believe God when He said that, my future too will be glorious.

It would be terrible to die "to no one's sorrow."

 

Meditation for the week of June 10, 2012

Do we Grieve or do we Gloat at the Violence in our World?

 

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)

 

Recently I was in a Starbucks coffee shop. They were playing Johnny Cash's "25 minutes to Go." It is gruesome song about a man about to be hanged. The lyrics say something about the whole town waiting to hear the man yell. The sheriff also wanted to see him die. I suppose the song was designed as a protest against capital punishment; but even if we believe in capital punishment, how can any person be happy when another person loses his life at the hand of another human being? I write as one who has never been in war and has never had to defend his family during a home invasion or who has never seen his family suffer violence. I know what the normal reaction of a father and husband would be in those cases, but somehow it still seems to me that if retribution is demanded by the state, people should be grieving and not gloating. Life is precious because it is God given. Taking life should never be something that would make a person happy. Taking life with with malice and premeditation is so evil that John says that a person who can do this does not have eternal life dwelling in him. In other words, that person is not a Biblical Christian. That person is a murderer. A murderer in this case is one who commits murder and is never sorry for it because we know murderers can be forgiven and saved. Paul breathed out slaughter or murder against Christians, and yet he was saved and changed on the Damascus road in Acts 9. But after he met the Lord and trusted Him as His Savior, he would never again have been considered a murderer.

Murder is the first recorded sin after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Cain, an unbeliever, murdered Abel who was a believer. John says hating or detesting your brother is the equivalent of murder although I don't think anyone would be judged for murder in a court of law until they had actually carried out the act. Hatred is something that has to be dealt with by God alone since only He knows the heart of a person. Unfortunately, hate in the heart often causes those who do hate others to commit violence and murder.

Those who do commit murder as defined by the Bible actually take life in an intentional premeditated way because of hatred. Provision was made for manslaughter in the old testament which was killing that was accidental and not premeditated. Murder required stoning in the old testament while a person who was guilty of manslaughter could be spared by going to a city of refuge.

This song that I listened to bothered me because people were happy that they were going to watch the criminal die. The hatred for the criminal in a case like that might be considered just by the world, but it is wrong. And since hatred and murder are the same in John's eyes, how many of us as Christians find ourselves detesting other people and falling under John's classification of a murderer? People we detest may be people who have hurt us, they may be people with whom we strongly disagree or they may be people that are "not like us" and that we are prejudiced against.

As Christians we need to ask ourselves, " Do we really love others or would our actions and conversations indicate bitterness and hatred?" It is love to stand against and rebuke sin in a believer's life. It is love to point out to the unbeliever in Christ the need for repentance and forgiveness of ALL sins (not just certain sins) through faith in the death of the Lord Jesus. It is hate to bear grudges and to want to "get even". Racial slurs have no place in a Christian's vocabulary since normally we don't use hate slang with regard to people we love.

Meditation for the week of June 17, 2012

The Lord's Desire!

 

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  (John 17:20-22)

 

The Lord desires believers to be unified with one another and to be separated from the world. Believers serve in the world (or this society that has been organized by Satan); however, believers are not OF the world just as the Lord was not of the world. While unity of believers is the Lord's desire, Satan's desire is to have division among believers and to have them become one with the world.

Years ago I had a conversation about the Gospel with a man who was a church goer. I don't know if he really understood the new birth or not. But he did understand some things. As we were talking about the Gospel, he told me that in his church, they understood that the cross had a vertical dimension and an horizontal dimension. He said that if the vertical was not right (if our relationship with God was not right), then the horizontal would not be right (our relationship with one another would not be right). I liked his illustration because this truth is taught in 1 John 1:3. If we are in fellowship with the Father. believers will be in fellowship with one another. If we are not in fellowship with one another as believers, somebody is not in fellowship with the Father. Actually, we can maintain conformity with the world and a professed unity with believers when none of us are in fellowship with the Father. But to have true unity, the vertical has to be right.

One reason for division in the church is that many believer's don't accept all that the Lord has revealed to us. Often we hear that certain passages of New Testament Scripture were for the culture of that day and not for the culture of our day. This attitude has allowed the church to pretty much revise the teaching of Scripture at will depending on what people are willing to accept. Many people today avoid the Lord's teaching on the "new birth" because they personally don't understand it. However, it is not a teaching that was necessary for Nicodemus but that is not necessary for us. The new birth changes our minds and our attitudes so that the things that we believe and practice don't have to "make sense". God says a person naturally does not think like He thinks (Isaiah 55:8-9). Salvation by grace does not "make sense", salvation by works or by praying or by paying or by being good, that all "makes sense." Just as we had to have our minds changed about the work of Christ in salvation, we have to have our minds changed when it comes to worshiping Him after we are saved. But because we have a tendency to want to tell the Lord what should please Him rather than letting Him tell us what pleases Him, it is easy to obtain conformity and not true unity among believers. Maybe this is because many people who claim to be Christians were never born again.

In maintaining conformity rather than striving for true unity, some believers develop a concept of essential truth and nonessential truth. I am still waiting for someone to show me where the Lord lays out what is essential and what is nonessential. I understand that all of us need to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:18), and so we need humility, gentleness, patience, and love in the way we teach and hold the truth (Ephesians 4:2-3), but in my mind all truth is worth seeking, and when found all truth is essential. I am reminded of an old testament warrior who "foolishly" defended a patch of lentils. He was a "mighty man" in David's army (2 Samuel 23:11-12). Food for the Israelites was worth defending, and I consider the doctrines of Scripture to be the believer's spiritual food. Did they really NEED that patch of lentils? Could they not have replaced the food with a trip to Walmart after the battle was over? Shammah was not willing to give up any ground that would properly feed his people.

In Ephesians 4:3, we are beseeched to keep the unity of the Spirit. In Ephesians 4:13, we are considered mature when we have come to the unity of the faith or of the things that we believe. The only way to achieve Godly unity is for us all to be in fellowship with the Lord. Where there is not unity, we can have conformity and pretend everything is all right, but I believe that true unity comes from accepting all that God has revealed to us.

 

Meditation for the week of June 24, 2012