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JUNE 2014

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True Joy is just over the Horizon!

 

Psalm 30:5 Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

 

Definition

Dictionary.com defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation. I know of two families who probably think that joy is going to be gone forever from their lives. They both have lost family members in unexpected tragedies recently. I cannot truly empathize, that is, I cannot say that I can actually feel what they are feeling because I have not passed down the road that they are passing. As a result, I want to be careful when I say that the Lord can turn their sorrow into joy. We can see numerous occasions in our Bibles where the Lord did just that.

 

Seeking the Living among the Dead

The disciples of the Lord were confused, sad and discouraged on Friday when the Lord was crucified. But the Lord had said that He would turn their sorrow into joy and He did. On Sunday morning, the women who came to the tomb found it empty. Angels asked them why they were seeking the living among the dead. Then the Lord began appearing to them. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and finally to all of them. Joy did come in the morning

 

Turning Water to Wine

The Lord went to a wedding one day. They ran out of wine which I think is a no no. His mother seemed to know that the Lord had the power to correct the situation. She told the servants to do whatever the Lord told them to do. So at his command, they filled water pots with water and served the water to the master or governor of the feast. That took a lot of courage since they certainly didnít want to be serving him water even if it was cool and refreshing. Lo and behold, the governor thought they had saved the best wine until the end of the feast which was unusual. Usually the best wine was served first. Water can be refreshing but it doesnít provide the joy that wine does at a wedding feast. The Lord had turned the water to wine. He took circumstances that could have been bad and changed the situation into one of joy. I am sure that the servants were filled with joy when instead of being reprimanded and perhaps beaten, they were being praised. The Lord can change our circumstances. He can turn sorrow into joy.

 

Exceeding His friends Expectations

Lazarus, the Lord's friend, was sick. His sisters sent for the Lord so that He could come and heal Lazarus. The Lord lingered for two days until Lazarus had died dead. Then He came. Mary and Martha were sad and confused. Why hadnít he come when they first asked Him to come? Why hadnít He healed His friend? The Lord Jesus felt their sorrow and wept at the tomb. But He had something better than a healing prepared for Lazarus. He was about to raise him from the dead. And He did! Sorrow was turned to joy that day and I am sure that it seemed like a new day had dawned for that family. Joy came in the morning.

 

An Unexpected Hanging

Esther in the Old Testament became queen by very unusual circumstances. But she was a Jew in a city and a country that had people with great hatred for the Jews. The Jews had an enemy called Haman who was determined to destroy the Jews because of his hatred for Estherís cousin Mordecai. He had raised Esther. When the edict by Haman went forth to destroy all the Jews, the city was greatly confused and perplexed. It turns out Esther was able to save her people by revealing Hamanís motives to the King. She did this at the risk of her own life. Haman was hanged on his own gallows and the Jews were allowed to defend themselves. The day when they were to be destroyed became a day of celebration because they had been victorious over their enemies. Sorrow had been turned to joy for them. Mourning had been turned into a holiday.

 

Conclusion

This life contains a lot of sorrow. We know that we will have joy in the morning when the Lord returns. Night will be over and the day will dawn. But I donít think these families that are sorrowing this week will have to wait until then to experience the joy of the Lord. Maybe family members who have rejected the Lord will be led to repentance and salvation. That would bring great joy. I believe that somehow, some way, He will turn their sorrow into joy.

 

Meditation for the week of June 1, 2014

Are the Warnings all Hype for Naught?

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

 

Weather Warnings

We get a lot of weather warnings these days. Even today as I write this we are being told about the possibility of "cold weather funnels" that do little damage and rarely reach the ground. This last week we were told that we might get 80 mile an hour winds and baseball sized hail. For those who got these storms, the warnings may have saved the lives of the people who made sure that they had a roof over their heads when the hail came. But the warnings didnít save property. There was nothing that could be done to spare the houses that had the roofs destroyed, the siding ripped off and the windows broken.

Frankly, my wife and I tend to tune the warnings out. We live in a manufactured home with no basement; and by the time a tornado siren is sounded, it is usually too late to go to the only shelter on the court where we live. When we have tried to go, cars have been parked in the road and one has to walk at least a block to get to the shelter which is usually pretty full. So in the 14 years we have lived here, we tried the shelter about twice and now we roll over and go back to sleep. We have had some hail damage, but no one that we know has had serious wind damage in our court. So the warnings are pretty much ignored. After all, I have lived a good number of years and have only seen two live tornadoes. I figure the odds are much better that a car accident or heart attack or cancer is going to plague us than that a tornado is going to hit us. So we simply donít listen to the warnings anymore. As one of my friends told me last week about their storm warnings, "It was all hype for naught!"

 

Biblical Warnings

While I donít take weather warnings as seriously as I should, I do take the Bible warnings seriously. We know that there are two events for which all of us need to be prepared. One of the events about which we are warned and that has caught the attention of many has to do with the rapture of the church. After the rapture, the Lord will usher in a period of earthy judgments on the world that rejected the Lord. The believers will be spared, they will be in heaven. But those who are left behind will find out how bad Godís wrath is. The first part of this period may be when people think that they have "peace and safety"; but for these people, their earthly destruction is sudden.

Most people just don't take the warnings about the Lord's coming seriously. One of the reasons for this is that everyone who preaches prophetically has a little different interpretation of how the end times will play out. Instead of dealing with the principles that are clear, they deal with detail that isnít. People set dates for the Lordís return and point to certain events that are supposedly the fulfillment of prophecy. But when the Lord doesnít come, the warnings become so much hype.

Here in the US, we are fairly smug. We think we are safe and most of us think the Bible warnings can be ignored. Even Peter tells us that in the last days mockers will ask "Where is the promise of His coming?" Most people think that the Bible is all hype for naught!

The other warning has to do with the certainty of death. In the last few weeks, I have been reminded that many people die with their boots on. They get up in the morning and by evening they are in eternity, never to return to their family and friends. I believe that Luke 16 makes it pretty clear that self-satisfied, self-centered people who reject the Old Testament prophecies about the Lord are doomed forever. People who in this life have realized that the only way to be prepared for eternity is to trust in the One who has been rejected by this world will be able to enter heaven. Trusting in the death of Christ reconciles them to God. Even though they are sinners, their sins are forgiven. They will be the wise who listened to the warning. The foolish think it is all hype for naught.

 

We Need to Listen When God does the Warning

No one likes to speak of judgment and wrath. We like to speak about mercy, truth and grace. Today we can enjoy the grace and mercy and truth of the Lord. We can be saved. But we shouldnít assume that true Biblical warnings are all hype for naught!

Meditation for the week of June 8, 2014

The Best Father in the World!

Matthew 3:17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ďThis is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.Ē

John 335 ďThe Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

John 8:29 ďAnd He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.Ē

Some of us look back on our parenting skills and wonder if we were prepared to be the kind of parents that the Lord wanted us to be. We all tend to parent like our parents parented us and sometimes they left us with good skills and sometimes not.

Instead of getting our parenting skills from people who have their own problems because of their parents and because of their sin natures, we should have used the relationship of God the Father and His Son as our example. We certainly could have learned from the best Father in the world.

He Was Proud of His Son 

How many of us as Fathers have complained about our sons to others? On the other hand, how many of us have publicly presented our sons as the one in whom is all our delight? I realize that the Lord was about 30 when the Lord publicly commended Him, but even at twelve the Lord was doing His Fatherís business (Luke 2:49). I believe that the Lord had always done those things that please the Father, even when he was in Josephís home being raised by Joseph and Mary. But publicly proclaiming His confidence and pleasure in His Son at the beginning of the Lordís public ministry would have been a great confidence builder when things got tough from a natural standpoint.

 

He Trusted His Son 

The Son was being sent on a very difficult mission. If the Lord had been like the most of us, He could have resented His mission. He did not! He embraced it and the Father knew He could be trusted to carry out the mission. I believe that is why the Lord tells us that the Father had given all things into His hands. The Lord experienced the cost of obedience by the things that He suffered according to Hebrews 5:8. His mission was costly but He could be trusted with it. Once the plan was set into play, the Father didnít have to worry about the Lord doing what He had been called to do. I know many of us would argue that our sons cannot be trusted this way. If that is true, maybe it is because they know we didnít trust them when they were young.

 

The Best Father Failed 

The Lord was the perfect example of what a Son ought to be. While daughters were usually not sent into battle or sent on public missions the way a Son is, still the Lord could be looked at as an example for all children whether sons or daughters. But because of the sin nature in the world today, not all failures in child rearing are the parentís fault. In Isaiah 1:2 we read, ďI have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.Ē So while we who are parents and particularly we who are fathers could have learned something from the best Father in the world, all failures are not our fault. It is one thing to be a Father and it is another thing to be able to function as a father. I believe that is what is involved when we separate ourselves from the unbelieving world. In 2 Corinthians 6:18, He will be a father to those who come out from unbelievers and are separate from them. Apparently, we can be ďfatheredĒ by an unbelieving world in which case the Lord cannot function as our father. Or we can make ourselves available to his nurturing by avoiding the corrupting influence of the rebellious world around us.

 

Lifeís Lessons 

The Lord and His Father are the best example of the proper relationship between a father and a son. It is too bad someone didnít tell us that when we were still young enough to make a difference in the lives of our children. We read self-help books, we did what our parents taught us both directly and indirectly. But maybe we should have read the best text in the world that tells us of the best Father in the world. That text is the Bible.

 

Mediation for the week of June 15, 2014

What is in a Name?

What do you think of when you hear the name Jeroboam? What about the name Baalam? What about the name Paul? What about the name Jesus? I think that most who read their Bibles would agree that Jeroboam made Israel to sin, that Balaam was covetous, that Paul was faithful and that the Lord is both despised and precious.

Jeroboam: 1 Kings 14:16 ďAnd He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who sinned and who made Israel sin.Ē

Jeroboam had been made ruler over ten tribes of Israel by the LORD. Because of the sins of Solomon who worshiped heathen gods late in his life, ten tribes were removed from the control of King David's dynasty. But while Jeroboam was told by the prophet Ahiljah the Shilonite that the LORD was giving him the ten tribes, he didnít have enough confidence in the LORD to believe that he could keep the ten tribes if his subjects went to Jerusalem to worship. As a result, he set up a system of worship that involved idols. He told the people that worshiping His idols with his priests on his feast days in the cities of his choice would be the worship of the God who had brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt (See 1 Kings 12). God didnít see it that way. Jeroboam not only sinned but he caused Israel to sin. And that is the way he has gone down in history.

Balaam: 2 Peter 2:15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.

Balaam was a man who knew the mind of God. God spoke to him and through him. He was hired to tell the king of the Moabites how to defeat Israel. Balaam could not get God to let him to curse Israel; but he did know that If Israel intermarried with heathen women, it would ultimately lead to their downfall. So he gave that counsel to Balak, the Moabite king, for the honor and money that Balak offered him. He goes down in history as a covetous man who valued money and honor over faithfulness to God. This convinces me that unsaved, unregenerate people have spiritual insight and often use it to try to defeat the purposes of God.

Paul: 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Paul was saved or born again or converted on the Damascus Road. From then to the end of his life he faithfully served the One that he had once persecuted. It ended up costing him his life. But his tombstone could have honestly included the words in 2 Timothy 4:7. Paul was faithful to the Lord to the end.

Jesus: Matthew 1:21 ďAnd she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.Ē

Whenever the name of Jesus is mentioned it causes a reaction. To some it is the name of the One person that they hate. They feel that His followers have caused wars, that they have been prejudiced, that they have been more interested in controlling the lives of others than they have been interested in controlling their own lives. To them He is Jesus of Nazareth, the despised city.

To others His name is fragrant and lovely. When they hear His name they think of One who loved them and sacrificially paid for their sins. They think of a friend that sticks closer than a brother. They think of a coming King who will reign in righteousness. To those who believe He is precious (1 Peter 2:7).

Challenge: When we are dead and gone (and, yes, that day is coming unless the Lord returns soon), what will people remember when they hear our names? I have a good idea what people will say about me. Some unbelievers will consider me a religious zealot who wasted my life serving a God that they think is fictitious when I could have used my university degrees and CPA certificate to make a difference in this world. Some Christians will consider me a legalist because I find New Testament teaching to be socially relevant yet today. Some will consider me to be a liberal because I donít get politically involved and I donít rail against the government that allows certain specific sins today. Some will consider me to be idealistic since I think the Gospel is still the answer to man's sin problem.

While different people will see me in different ways, I hope that I leave a legacy of absolute faith in the Lord and in the Bible as His inspired Word. I hope people will be able to say that I stayed faithful to the Biblical message of salvation. I hope that they know that I feared God. I hope that they know I loved the Lord.

Meditation for the week of June 22, 2014

Have we been truly Liberated?

2 Peter 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

Today all of us want to make our own mistakes and make them we do! We think we have become enlightened about moral issues and refuse to follow principles that are good for society and that can be found in any decent legal system. The principles that have stood the test of time are usually found in the Bible and the younger generation doesnít read that old book anymore, and the older generation has done their best to reinterpret it so that the younger generation is not offended. After all we are an enlightened liberated society. OR ARE WE?

False Teachers In this passage, Peter tells us false teachers will exist in the church just as false prophets existed in Israel. They will teach destructive heresies. That is they will divide people with their departure from orthodox established Biblical truth. They will be covetous. Because of them, unbelievers will take a dim view of Biblical truth. Many will follow them. Why do people follow them? I think verse 19 answers that. They promise liberty. Is that what results from their teaching? I donít think so.

Anarchy and its Results Many false teachers maintain that any restraints or limits placed on our actions are restrictions of our liberty. We keep hearing about victimless crimes and of the right to live our own lives and the right to defend our own rights. All of us have fought with unreasonable restrictions in our lives; but where there is no respect for authority, there is anarchy. Anarchy, where there is no recognized governmental authority, creates confusion and disorder. Everyone has to fear everyone rather than just fearing an established governmental order. Where there is anarchy, there certainly is not liberty.

While all of us would like the liberty to make our own decisions, we all need guidance in making those decisions. When those decisions are made by listening to teachers that are telling us to do things that will bring us into bondage, we are certainly not getting liberated. Just talk to the person who was convinced to start smoking or the person who was convinced to try addictive drugs if their freedom brought them true liberty. Talk to the teenage single mom who was convinced that old fashioned standards of morality were too restrictive. Having a child without a wedding and without a father willing to take responsibility for the child is anything but liberating for the mother.

However, while false teachers may convince our young people that old fashioned standards of morality are too restrictive and that they need the liberty to make their own mistakes, the real problem is that false teachers deny accountability to the living God who made them. False teachers may look successful, may have published books, may have gone to well-known seminaries, but when they deny the Lord that bought them (chapter 2 verse 1), they are certainly not liberated themselves nor are they liberating their listeners.

What is True Liberty? When people talk about freedom, they forget that everyone serves someone or something. Freedom is simply the ability to decide who we are going to serve. When the original colonies won the American Revolutionary War, they no longer had to serve England. But the colonies did set up a new constitution and a new government and those living in the new United States had the freedom to serve the new government. They did not have the freedom to serve no government. The US was free from England but those living in the US were not free to do as they pleased.

False teachers convince people that true freedom will involve throwing off Biblical teaching and the restraints that go with it. But these teachers are themselves slaves of corruption. They are not free. Those who listen to them will become like them and will be enslaved by that which ultimately destroys. The scary thing is that many of those who are teaching these enslaving divisive doctrines are religious teachers within the church.

The Options I am glad that we live in a country that does not demand that we worship a certain God a certain way. That is one important freedom that we have in this country. However, because of that freedom, we each have to decide whether to worship the god of self-centered pleasure and so-called liberty or whether to "repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)."

In this country, we can believe whom we want to believe. I believe God. That has given me the liberty to serve a new master. That master is the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found His yoke to be easy and His burden to be light (Matthew 11:30)

Meditation for the week of June 29, 2014