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MARCH 2004

 

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Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

 

How much value do we have? Certainly, we are worth more that birds and flowers that the Lord takes care of so He will obviously take care of us. But what is the real worth of the individual to God?

After God had created man and woman on the sixth day he said everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The creation of things and plant life and fish was good but after humans were created, everything was “very good”. Humans were God’s crowning work of creation. But are we still seen as very good now that sin has marred us?

In Matthew 19:17, the Lord tells a young ruler than there is “none good but one, that is God.” This was a problem to the young man because he seemed to think he was pretty good. So while we are not good, does this mean that we have no value? If we have value, how valuable are we? We are so valuable that God was willing to give his only, unique Son in whom was all His delight so that we could have a place in His heaven. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The question is not how much value do we have but why do we who have failed and rebelled against God have that much value? Why didn’t God just destroy his creation and start over with people that were not marred by sin and the desire to sin?

I don’t know why God has loved us so and has placed such a value on us. But I am glad that He did. This One who gave His Son to bear the punishment that we deserve because of our sin is the God who has promised eternal life to those who have trusted in His Son. He promises them that He will never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). He promises believers that we can cast all our care upon him; “for he careth for or concerning you (1 Peter 5:7).” We are not just a number (even though our hairs are) but we are precious to Him. Certainly, we have a God like no other and a Savior like no other.

If today we are feeling a little blue, if we are wondering what we are doing here on this old earth, if we are discouraged wondering if we really have value, let me assure you that we do. Everyone born into this world has value but only those who have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ have really appreciated the extent of that value. God feeds the birds and places beautiful clothes on the lilies of the field and we are of more value to Him than they. We may be a speck in the universe and we may seem insignificant to other men and women. We may not fit into society and we may never get to run a corporation or a country. But we who are saved are valuable to God. He wants us in His heaven and He wants us to be part of His Son’s bride. He wants us to be confident in His love. To God we have great value.

Week of March 7, 2004

Genesis 32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

 

When Jacob was born, he grasped his older twin bother Esau’s heel as he was born. As a result, he was called Jacob which literally means heel-catcher. Apparently, that is a figure of speech for one who supplants (takes the place of another) or one who deceives or lies. I have always wondered if the name was prophetic, that is, did the Lord have Jacob called “Liar” because he knew that would be his character or did he become a liar and a deceiver because he thought it was expected of him since that is what he was named? Can you imagine being given the name “Deceiver” and then being called to supper by that name? We lose the meaning of Jacob’s name in translation and thus we lose the impact that the name may have had on Jacob’s life.

There are three things to think about because of this passage. One, we need to be careful when we name and nickname our children. The names that we give them will likely affect the way they see themselves and thus their names may affect their behavior. My name, Bruce, is generally just noise until people link the name to me since the name is really a surname that has no meaning. So in my case, I have given the name its reputation. But in Jacob’s case the name may have affected his character and his reputation.

Two, the Lord can overcome the nature of the name. Jacob was asked his name in our passage, and he honestly said, “Deceiver”. This was a confession of sin because earlier when he was asked his name, he had said “Esau” (Genesis 27:18-19). As a result, he stole a blessing from Esau that God would have given him legitimately (Genesis 25:23). Nevertheless, when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he confessed that he was a deceiver and God changed his name to Israel which means prince of God. God can change our names from sinner to saint when we confess that sinner is an accurate description of who we are by nature and what we are by practice and when that causes us to look to the Lord for his cleansing and saving power. All of those saved by grace are changed into saints (God’s holy or distinct or special ones) when they trust the Lord Jesus Christ to save them by His death, burial and resurrection.

Thirdly, just as Jacob’s name may have been prophetic, the name of Jesus was prophetic and the Lord lived out the meaning of His name. Matthew 1:21 says, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Joshua which means Savior.

Names are important! I am certainly thankful that I wasn’t named “Deceiver” and I am glad that the Lord was named “Jesus“. The hymn writer has said it so well:

 

There is a name I love to hear, I love to speak its worth.

It sounds like music in my ear, the sweetest name on earth.

 

Week of March 14, 2004

Mark 4:41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Exodus 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go [back] by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided.

 

I love the spring time, however, I hate the wind that comes with it. Today, I will be driving into a 35 mile an hour wind as I travel to a preaching engagement. In the spring in Iowa, we will soon have tornado warnings because of the power of the wind that comes with the spring storms. When the wind blows softly, we call it a breeze and it reminds us of the blessing of God. However, sometimes the breeze is just a forerunner of the “big storm” that can be very destructive. In Acts 27:13, the south wind was the calm before the storm and lulled a captain of a ship into believing all was well, when in fact a great storm was coming.

While I admit that I fear the wind, I am constantly reminded that God uses the wind and is able to protect us from its destructive force. The wind was the means that God used to save the Israelites when they left Egypt. They had already been redeemed through the blood of a slain lamb whose blood had been applied to their homes (or the value of whose blood had been appropriated by faith). After they were saved, things got worse, not better. They started their journey as God’s redeemed people and found out that the Egyptians (now their enemies) were behind them with nice new tanks (they called them chariots). The Israelites didn’t have a gun or a grenade with them. To make matters worse, in relying upon God and his leader Moses (who pictures the Lord Jesus) they had been led up a blind alley. They had the Egyptians behind them and the Red Sea in front of them and they had nowhere to go and nothing that they could do. They accused Moses of leading them into a death trap and said they were better off before they had been saved. Moses says in Exodus 14:13, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day.” Then the Lord used the wind to part the waters of the Red Sea and to permanently separate the people from Egypt since after this experience they could no longer go back.

Isn’t that just like the Lord? He saves people that can’t save themselves. He wants all the glory in our salvation. They just needed to stand still and see His salvation. Most of us believe that God helps those who help themselves. However, God saves those who can’t help themselves and after we are saved we need to be reminded of that over and over again. In Mark 4, the disciples thought they were going to drown because of the storm. After all, the Lord was asleep and apparently didn’t care that they were perishing. How could the disciples of the Son of God have believed that the boat could have sunk with the Lord in it?

I like the fact that He stilled the winds and “there was a great calm”. We know that when a real storm arises, He has power to protect us. When the storm is raging because of the powers of darkness, He still is in control. We know that we can be terrified by terrorism, nuclear war, thugs in our neighborhoods and by many other possible perils. But the Lord has the power to use the wind to save us as He did with the Israelites, or He has the power to cause the storm to cease so that we can enjoy the “great calm.”

 

Week of March 21, 2004

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

 

A sanctuary is a special place, a protected place or a reserved place. In the old testament, God wanted Israel to make Him a sanctuary where he could dwell in their presence. The term was applied to the tabernacle (or tent) that was built for the wilderness wanderings of the nation of Israel after coming out of Egypt and to its most Holy Place where only the High Priest went once a year. The term was also applied to the temple and its most Holy Place after Solomon built the first temple in the kingdom age.

The church in the new testament did not construct buildings and yet the church is a place where God dwells. The church is God’s building in 1 Corinthians 3:9, it is God’s temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and it is God’s dwelling place in Ephesians 2:22. These references likely include both local congregations as well as the church in it’s broadest sense. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, the believer’s body is the temple or dwelling place of God.

In Ephesians 3:17, Paul prays for the Ephesians that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith. I find it astounding that my heart is the place where the eternal God of heaven wants to take up residence. When He does take up residence there, a full understanding of the love and power of God seems to be appreciated by the believer. In 1 Corinthians 6, God dwells in the believer’s body whether he knows it or not. But in Ephesians 3, there has to be prayer and preparation for the Lord’s presence. In 1 Corinthians 6, the Lord may not be totally “at home” in His dwelling place but in Ephesians 3, we make Him welcome in a special place in our bodies referred to as the heart. The heart apparently refers to our innermost being including our thoughts and feelings. In this case it must have to do with our capacity to love and to understand the love of God.

Without being too technical because I am sure that the heart is being used symbolically here, I have been thinking about the fact that I can make the Lord welcome in my own life or heart or affections or motives. And when I do I will be able to understand “the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge“ and I will be filled or controlled with all the fullness of God. This must have to do with His love and His ability to “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” I who am nothing but a sinner saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus as my Savior can become a sanctuary for the Lord. He needs a sanctuary in this world. He was born in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and his people hid their faces from Him (Isaiah 53:3). He came unto His own and His own received Him not (John 1:11). But I have the ability to give Him a place to dwell where he can be comfortable. He doesn’t want to be a guest, He wants to be a permanent resident. One who has rejected the claims of Christ and His salvation would certainly not want the presence of the Lord in His life, but we who are believers should be able to offer a special protected place to the Lord where He is “at home”. I sometimes wonder how “at home” he feels in the place that I have provided for Him.

 

Week of March 28, 2004