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March 2009

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Hurry up and wait!

Numbers 9: 18-20

At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not journey. So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the LORD they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the LORD they would journey.

 

Life is a journey. We need to know where we are going, and we need to know where we are. Then we can use a map to find the road in between. We start out in Egypt in bondage to the ruler of this world who is Satan. We want to travel to the promised land which is heaven. Christ is the only way between Egypt and the promised land. When we trust Him for salvation, we not only have our destinies secure but we have guidance for the path of life. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell us and to guide us safely home using the Word of God. The psalmist says in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path." Many people think that they can find their way without the help of a map. I have tried that in real life, hoping that I was going in the right general direction, but I find it is a lot easier when I have a map to guide me. The Bible is the Christian's road map. We need to make sure that we are moving in accordance with its principles.

One of the difficulties of life is that sometimes the Lord says, "WAIT." For those of us accustomed to "making things happen" as opposed to "watching things happen" or "wondering what happened," waiting is difficult. Sometimes when we are traveling, we have to wait for a train—a long long train. If you don't wait, you can get hurt. Sometimes, we need to wait because the weather is bad. Our Iowa winters can be brutal if you get in your car unprepared and try to travel when you should be waiting.

Waiting is frustrating. I have never waited on a doctor or a dentist but what I wondered why their time was more important than mine. Most people don't want to wait for an appointment, or for a promotion, or to get rich. We want those things now. But good things can happen to those who wait. Sometimes we find the Lord is preparing us so He can use us later in life. That preparation is called experience.

Sometimes we don't know why we are waiting and we find out that we have been spared great sorrow because we waited. Some people have missed planes and have had their lives spared when the plane crashed. There were people who were late getting to the World Trade Center the morning that remains imprinted in our minds, 9/11/2001. They were spared because of it.

Sometimes we are like the person who is the understudy in a play. The Lord has us on the sidelines so that we will be ready if and when he needs us.

Wouldn't it be nice to know when to move and when to camp? When to get busy traveling and when to just sit back and rest and milk the goats and gather the manna and meditate on the goodness of God while waiting for the command to get packed and to get moving? Most of us have a tendency to look at "waiting time" as "wasted time". But that is not necessarily so especially if we are enjoying the presence of the Lord while we are waiting.

Even if the wait seems like it has been "a long time," be assured that the command to break camp and move out will come. We will know it has come because our movements will be guided by the principles of the Word of God and we will have peace about our decision to move. Circumstances may be against us and they may be for us. They do not always give us good guidance. But good counselors who have gone that way before will be able to help in discerning the mind of the Holy Spirit. At some point we will look back at the "waiting time" and realize that it wasn't "wasted time" but instead if was "training time." If we move before we should we will just be spinning our wheels and getting frustrated. If we won't move when we should, the Lord may reprove us for our disobedience. When the cloud or Holy Spirit moves, so should we, but we should not move a moment before.

 

Meditation for the week of March 1, 2009

Doing the thing we would never do!

 

Numbers 12:1-3

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)

 

Moses was a man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1). He was humble or as the KJV says, he was meek. He wasn't one to lord it over the people of Israel and though he got righteously angry when Aaron and the children of Israel made the golden calf (Exodus 32:19), he wasn't prone to anger. He seemed to lack pride and a desire for position and he truly was a shepherd to the nation of Israel. He interceded for them with God and saved them from destruction when they sinned. But it only took a few minutes for his strong point to become his weak point. When he smote the rock when was supposed to speak to it, he made the mistake that kept him out of the promised land (Numbers 20:6-12).

Solomon asked for the wisdom of God at the beginning of his reign when he was young. When he was old, he worshiped heathen gods because of his unbelieving wives. That doesn't sound like Godly wisdom. Peter was willing to use a sword to protect the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane, but he denied the Lord three times after the Lord was taken captive. Later, he feared the Jews and was rebuked by Paul for his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11). He was bold and professed his love for the Lord by telling Him he would never forsake Him, but he did forsake him when put in the right circumstances.

When someone points out how faithful we are, when we begin to think we have the flesh under control, when we begin to criticize others who have sinned in a way that we find repulsive, we need to be careful. That will be just the time when Satan comes along and provides us with circumstances and temptations that will prove that we are weak in the very areas where we thought we were strong. In Romans 7 Paul gives us the solution to our weaknesses, and the solution is Christ. He is the one who saved us from the penalty of our sin and He is the only one who can preserve us from its power.

Paul says in Romans 7:24-25, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."

Our minds may want to do right but our flesh which is the sin principle in each one of us may cause us to do that which we know we shouldn't. We cannot ever assume that we have "arrived" and will not be tempted to make a costly mistake that we will later regret.

My dad used to tell us when we were children that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 10 minutes to spoil it. Obviously, none of us are beyond failing the Lord in one way or another. About the time we say, "I would never do that!", Satan finds a way to tempt us to do exactly the thing we said we would never do. Our strong point, may very well be the weak point that Satan uses to prove that we have feet of clay. We need to remember that we are only sinners saved by grace. We are not beyond temptation.

 

Meditation for the week of March 8, 2009

Loneliness

 

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."

 

Tonight, I am going home to an empty house since my wife is babysitting our grandchildren several hours away. I am not looking forward to being alone but at least the loneliness will be temporary. God created us in such a way that we need friends and fellowship and partners in this life. We work better together than we do alone. Loneliness can be a terrible thing. We see people in nursing homes that are lonely and generally they are very unhappy. But having the wrong friends can be worse than being lonely.

The kind of friends that we make will have a great influence on the lives that we live. Paul tells us that if we associate with evil people, they won't become like us. Instead we will become like them and we will have our behavior corrupted. Recently, I have been meditating on the destruction of Babylon during the tribulation period. In Revelation 18:4 we read, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." It appears that those people who associate with this unfaithful religious system will be judged with her when she is destroyed. We know salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. But we also know that there are consequences when we make bad decisions. If we who are saved are in a car being driven by a driver who is drunk, we will be hurt in any accident that occurs even though we are not drunk ourselves. So the earthly consequences of keeping bad company can be serious. And the likelihood is that if we keep company with those who are drinking in excess, we will more than likely find it easy to do the same thing.

Christians need to have fellowship with others who believe in the Lord Jesus. In Acts 2:42, fellowship is one of the things that characterized the very first congregation of believers in Jerusalem. In 1 Corinthians 11 where the Lord's Supper is explained, the word together is used five times. We do this together as a local church and not individually. But while Christians need each other and do not thrive when we are alone, we are admonished to separate from unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. We need to make sure that we live our lives in such a way that the unsaved are not able to influence the way we live and worship.

Likewise the Lord intended for a man and a woman to support each other and to compliment each other in the marriage relationship. However, the Lord makes it clear that a Christian living alone and dedicating his or her life to the Lord is far better than getting married to the wrong partner. The verse we have mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6 makes it clear that a Christian cannot be married to an unbeliever. When that rule is violated, disaster results. But in 1 Corinthians 7:39, marriage is to be "in the Lord". In Paul's epistles, being "in Christ" seems to imply that we are saved. Being "in the Lord" seems to imply that we are walking in obedience to the will of the Lord. So not only should a partner be saved, but the partners should be unified in their desire to please the Lord and in their spiritual goals. That way they can be glorifying the Lord in their marriage while being the help that their partner needs.

Loneliness is a bad thing. However, there is no loneliness like being imprisoned in a wrong relationship. Whether we are talking about business partners, marriage partners, social friends or the people that we meet with for worship, a relationship from which we can't get free that keeps us from enjoying the fellowship of the Lord is going to seem like a prison and is going to leave us very lonely. The Lord experienced ultimate loneliness at the cross when He was forsaken by the Father. There is no loneliness like complete separation from God who is the source of life and love. Those unbelievers who end up experiencing eternal conscious punishment after they die may have their friends in that place of torment with them, but I am convinced that they will still experience a loneliness that we cannot fully understand in this life since they will be forever and totally separated from God.

While we all need alone time, none of us wants to be totally alone. Satan knows how important friendship and fellowship is, so he is constantly trying to destroy friendships that would be a help to us. He also knows how to tempt us to get involved with the wrong people. Loneliness may be bad but linking up with the wrong friends may be worse.

 

Meditation for the week of March 15, 2009

Must is a Good Four Letter Word

 

John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

 

Recently I was commenting on a radio preacher of the Gospel to a friend of mine. I had thought the man preached quite clearly. My friend asked me if I had ever had opportunity to ask the preacher if he was "born again." I said that I hadn't since I really didn't know him that well. My friend told me that someone had asked the preacher that question, and the man did not know if he was born again. I was surprised! Certainly he knew about the must in the above verse.

Some think the new birth takes place at the resurrection, but the resurrection is not the new birth spoken of in John 3. In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter writes to living Jewish Christians and says, "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever." The new birth takes place the moment we receive Christ by faith according to John 1:12-13.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the new birth. According to John 1:13, it is not "of blood." That is, it is not a natural birth according to the blood line. Just because our father or our mother is born again, does not mean that we are born again.

Also it is "not of the will of the flesh." The flesh is the sin principle that is in each one of us. It is the natural self-serving will. It is the part of us that is attracted to sin. We cannot save ourselves even though that appeals to the flesh, and we cannot be saved until we come to that point where we understand that we cannot save ourselves. Then and then only will we be able to give God all the credit for saving us and then and then only will we be able to rely wholly on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the means of our salvation. We cannot trust on something we are doing for God. We must trust wholly in what God has done for us.

In addition, it is not "of the will of man." I can preach the Gospel, but I cannot save anyone. This is not something I can do for my children, my relatives, or my friends. I can pray for them. I can preach to them, but one man cannot save another. This of course means that I may even sprinkle or immerse them in water, but that is not the new birth and will not save them.

It is "of God". The new birth is available to everyone who is willing to listen to what God says and is willing to trust in the truth that "Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)." The new birth is brought about by the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God to convict us of our sin and point us to the Savior (See John 16:7-13). The importance of the Word of God and the promises of God cannot be over emphasized when we preach about the new birth.

The new birth is a new relationship. It is not the ability to do miracles or speak in tongues. Nicodemus did neither. It is trusting in the Lord Jesus instead of trusting in ourselves, our good works, our religion, our church, our pastor, or the church ordinances. It does not make us sinless but it will give us a conscience about sin. We will be grieved when others sin, but we will be more concerned with living right ourselves than in requiring others who are unsaved to live right. Only the preaching of the cross will change people's attitudes and lives. This is called repentance. And when people have truly repented, believing on the Lord Jesus will be the result of their change in attitude. Then they should want to live right.

The new birth is not an option. It is a requirement. Must means must. Don't just assume that you are born again because someone else has told you that you are. Let the Lord assure you of that through His Word.

 

Meditation for the week of March 22, 2009

We are Open Books

 

1 Chronicles 28:9 "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.

Luke 6:8 But He knew their thoughts.

 

When we are around someone who has studied body language and knows the eye twitches and hand movements that give away what we are really thinking, it can really be kind of scary. You simply can't lie to them or win at poker when you are playing with them. The Lord can do better than that, He can read our minds. I know people that claim to be able to do that, but the Lord actually can.

Most of us are glad that the Lord keeps what He knows to himself for the most part because we know that the "heart is deceitful" and that at times we have complimented someone when we were really trashing them in our minds. We tell people we love them when in fact we wish they would leave us alone. We tell people that they are really doing a good job when in fact we wish we could fire them and do the job ourselves.

But what the Lord really knows that nobody else knows is how we feel about Him! He knows whether we are really loyal or whether we are "worshiping" Him for what we can get out of it. Is He just another way to make a buck or is He really the "man of sorrows" who was acquainted with grief who suffered and died for our sins personally? Do we say that we love Him to make the religious crowd happy? Are we pleasing our parents or friends by saying we believe in Him? Do we love Him enough to get baptized His way? Or do we think this is all a game and it really doesn't make any difference as to how we worship Him?

The Lord knew the thoughts of those who thought He blasphemed when He forgave sins (Luke 5:22). He knew the thoughts of those who were waiting to see if He would heal on the Sabbath so that they could accuse Him of not keeping the Law (Luke 6:8). He knows our thoughts and He knows if we are real or whether we are hypocrites.

No wonder David could say in Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." I suspect that most of us would have to say that a lot of our thoughts and meditations are not acceptable to the Lord. That is why it is so necessary to replace the thoughts that come so easily with that which is right and good. You can't simply empty a container without replacing the contents with something else, because an empty container will collect dirt. We are like that. We can't empty our heads of bad thoughts. It is impossible. We will just obsess on the thoughts that we want to eliminate. But we can drive out the bad thoughts by replacing them with something good. And the something good should be the thoughts that the Bible gives us concerning Christ. Paul says in Philippians4:8, "Finally, brethren (or in conclusion brethren), whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." The Lord Jesus is the only one with all of these virtues, so we need to think on Him. As we think on Him, we should drive out the stuff in our minds that shouldn't be there.

The Lord knows our thoughts and motives. We can't fool Him. I am glad that the Lord is forgiving and understanding, aren't you?

 

Meditation for the week of March 29, 2009