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MARCH 2011

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Puppy Creep!

 

Psalm 104:9 You have set a boundary that they (the waters) may not pass over, That they may not return to cover the earth.

 

My daughter has a very young excitable lovable puppy. This puppy can be told to "stay" and she will lay down and "stay" for a few minutes. But she keeps her eye on whoever has told her that and starts creeping forward a little at a time. Her purpose is to get close enough to jump up and lick the face of the person who has told her to stay. She knows what "stay" means but has no intention of "staying". She certainly doesn't understand the concept of boundaries connected with personal space. Some people really do not like having their faces licked by a dog. People's boundaries are often just as elastic as this puppy's seem to be, particularly when it comes to the boundaries given to us in the Bible.

As I read the old testament history of the children of Israel, I find that God was clear that their boundaries were important. Because of the need to protect inheritances given to families, some things that were permissible generally, were not permissible in specific families. One family only had daughters and they had to marry within their family so that their inheritance would not pass to men in another family (See Numbers 26). Obviously, the application would seem to be that if we really want to preserve the blessings that God has given us, we must not go beyond the bounds set for everyone, but we may need to abide by a higher standard than others with regard to our personal boundaries. For example, it is certainly permissible and even honorable to marry, but some people may choose to remain single so that marriage and its responsibilities are not a distraction to them in serving the Lord.

Balaam was a man who like my daughter's puppy kept creeping beyond the boundaries given to him. When I read of him in Numbers starting at chapter 22, I could wonder if he wasn't a saved person (using new testament terminology). He knew the mind of the Lord. He talked to the Lord. He prophesied things that were correct about the coming Messiah. However, when we read about him in the new testament, he was obviously an unsaved evil person. Jude 1:11-12, says, "Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves."

While Balaam could not curse the children of Israel, he did know how to defeat them. He knew that if he got them to violate their boundaries and if the men got involved with the Moabite and Midianite women, then they would also get involved with those nation's gods. And so while he didn't curse them, he did want the money and prestige that went with using his prophetic ability to please men and not God. This is a frightening passage. How many preachers appear to have a Word from the Lord, when they really do not love the Lord or His people?

Today God has set social boundaries, boundaries for the local church, and personal boundaries. In Genesis, God divided light from darkness. That principle is seen in the new testament by the believer being "separate" from the unbeliever (2nd Corinthians 6:14-18). We can't (or shouldn't) worship together, intermarry, or get into business with unbelievers. We shouldn't be in any relationship where the decisions we make would be morally different if we weren't in the relationship.

Today, when I listen to people interpreting the Bible, particularly with regard to things that they wish weren't in the Bible, I see "puppy creep!" People know that the unsaved are often not living right, but the way they live seems to have a certain attraction. The carnal churches of our day grow so much faster that the ones that believe that the church exists to please the Lord even when that doesn't please us. But when confronted with an issue, we tend to ask, "What's wrong with doing it that way?" The better question would be "What is right with it?" or "How does the Lord feel about that?"

God has boundaries. Do we know what they are? Do we have any "stops" beyond which we personally cannot go? Two-year-old's have very few boundaries, but we should not be acting like two-year-olds. We should not be acting like Balaam or like my daughter's puppy. The boundaries we have should be boundaries that God has given us and not man, but once we are convinced as to where those boundaries are, we should not do a "puppy creep."

 

Meditation for the week of March 6, 2011

Are we Really Wasting our Lives and Resources?

 

Mark 14:3-4 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted?

 

Mary took what may have been the equivalent of a year's wages and wasted it by anointing the Lord with spikenard that had that value. Judas at the same time seemed to think that he could profit from the Lord's ability to deliver himself and he did what any prudent capitalistic business man would do. He sold the Lord for the price of a slave. Why should he not capitalize on the Lord's abilities without regard to where those abilities came from and without regard to the Lord's reasons for using those abilities? Mary went down in history as being devoted to the Lord and her devotion is included in many good Gospel sermons. Judas committed suicide. He is also included in many good Gospel sermons as an illustration of what not to do.

The Lord says that if we save our lives we lose them and if we lose our lives we save them. Everything seems backward to the person who does not love the Lord or believe in life after death. There are many who think that since we really don't "know" what happens when we die, we should live for the here and now. Otherwise they think that we may be wasting these short lives that we have been given.

Recently, we got up in the morning to the news that Japan had been devastated by an earthquake (actually multiple earthquakes and a resulting tidal wave). In Japan many people work long hours in order to "get ahead". There were many people who had likely planned out their lives and were working hard at fulfilling their dreams who are now in eternity. I wonder if they feel that their lives were meaningful or wasted now that things have taken an unexpected turn. There were others who likely understood that spiritual things should take precedence over practical things and who prepared for the unexpected events that occurred. If they died in the calamity of last week, at least they didn't waste the time that God had given them on this earth to prepare to meet their God.

Many people seem to think that life is mostly about eating and drinking, clothing ourselves, having shelter from the elements and having a little fun along the way. Others want to amass great wealth, even though they leave it all behind when they die. Some like King Solomon search for great wisdom and understanding, however, that wisdom and understanding is often wasted since the younger generation is going to "live their own lives" and "make their own mistakes" anyway. The older generation has unwisely taught them that this is right. People generally don't want to waste their time on eternal matters since they are busy trying to live for the here and now even though they know that living for the here and now is really a frustrating waste of time. Spending our time on spiritual matters and devoting our time to things that please the Lord and that don't please the world is not a waste of time—when we realize that we have an eternity ahead.

I have a friend who is an artist. He has been able to chronicle his and his wife's lives by displaying his art work in two rooms and adding the important biographical information with each picture or set of pictures. He has accomplished a lot and yet it is all contained in about two rooms at the college where he taught. About ten years ago, he took the time to begin studying the Bible. I am sure that to many that would be an incredible waste of time when he still had the ability to paint pictures, write poems, and produce sculptures. Studying the Bible took time that he could have used to do "something really important." But I suspect, when life is over and he meets his Maker, the time in the last ten years "wasted" on the Bible and spiritual things will turn out to be the most important and profitable part of these last ten years.

I would much rather waste my money like Mary did that to waste my life like Judas did.

 

Meditation for the week of March 13, 2011

Something to Think About!

 

2 Timothy 1:4-5 Greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

 

News organizations are not writing about looting in Japan after their major earthquake and subsequent tidal waves. It certainly was a problem after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It may be true that the press is more controlled in Japan but because the US has news reporters in the area, it is hard to believe that they would not report massive looting if it were happening. Why is it that the Japanese seem to be more civil in this area than most in Western Christian Cultures are? Why is it that families in our so-called Christian nation who are not inclined to be "religious" often demonstrate Christian virtues that many who claim to be Christians do not?

I received an email recently that linked looting in our society to the fact that we have taken the Bible and prayer out of public schools. It is true that American society has deteriorated since that has happened, but is that the reason that society has deteriorated? I doubt that the Japanese have taken the Bible out of their public schools because likely it was never there. I am quite certain that they have never read the Bible in their public schools. They may have taught it as part of history or as classical western literature. Why does a secular society like Japan act like Christians should act, and why do the so-called Christian nations act so unchristian-like when disasters like this occur? In fairness to our society, looting is not done by the majority and there is a lot of altruism shown by people affected by the calamities, but we certainly have a large minority that uses peoples' misery to make matters worse.

I would like to suggest that taking prayer out of public school is a "straw man" that we have used to excuse the break down in society so that we who have caused it do not have to take responsibility for it. The responsibility for teaching our children about the Lord and about character choices does not lie with the schools or with the teachers or with our churches or church leaders or Sunday school teachers. These can all be a help or a hindrance to be sure, but the responsibility for teaching our children lies with parents and grandparents. It lies with the family. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses commanded the Israelite's to make the commands of the Lord a part of their every day life. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." I wonder if those children wouldn't have considered their parents to be obsessed with this one subject. How many of us as parents can honestly say we have taken this responsibility seriously? Some parents obviously do, but by and large our Christian society has taken the Bible and prayer out of the home, and we have replaced it with entertainment. I suspect that most of our conversations in the home are about "getting ahead", our jobs or businesses, our clubs and parties, politics, sports, music and movies, and maybe even about church activities. I suspect that very little of it is really about the Bible and the Lord.

I don't know what the Japanese are doing right, and I don't know that I would want to live in their society. However, if the Word of God is going to keep us from sinning, if the Word of God is going to cause us to fear God, if the Word of God is going to be our guide, we are going to have to read it with our children and talk about it with out children. For the most part I would like to suggest that the breakdown in our society and family life is because the Bible and prayer has been taken out of our homes rather than because the Bible and prayer has been taken out of public school. As a society, we are not developing our children into mature adults who realize that they need to take personal responsibility for their actions. Some seem to think that there are no consequences to their sins. Is that because the entertainment world and not the Bible has developed their standard of behavior? In addition, the virtues of Christianity are not always modeled by their parents and by other mentors who claim to be Christians!

I suspect that the Japanese fear "losing face" rather than fearing God. It would be better if they were taught to fear God which is what we need to teach our children. That means that they should have a reverential awe for Him even if they are not yet believers in Him, but it also means that they need to fear the consequences of sin. This might not solve society's problems but it would surely be a step in the right direction.

 

Meditation for the week of March 20, 2011

Test all Things!

 

1 Thessalonians 5:20-22: Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

 

Today, many preachers claim to be prophets in the modern day sense. A modern day prophet is one who speaks for God just like old testament and new testament prophets did. The difference is that today we have the new testament epistles to help guide us in knowing whether a prophet is really speaking for God or whether he is misleading the people.

We are not to despise prophets. I believe that means we are not to despise those who publicly preach the truth that the Lord would be proclaiming Himself if He were here. Some of that truth is truth that we like and some of it is truth that we don't like.

In religious circles right now, there is a popular author who says he is rethinking the concept of hell. He is telling people what they want to hear. He is selling books and making money and influencing people. Those who believe that hell is on earth as he is teaching will one day find out that they didn't test what he said against the word of God. They held fast to that which is bad rather than to that which is good. They will find themselves in this hell that they said did not exist. God says that there is a place of eternal torment where those who have rejected Christ go after they die. If according to this modern thinking, that makes God a mean God and not a God of love, then I wouldn't want to cross this mean God and get on His bad side. He says that people who "do not believe" have his wrath abiding on them (John 3:36).

Fortunately, the God who has revealed Himself to me through His written word, IS a God of love. He has shown that to be true through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The Lord was willing to suffer "the just for the unjust" so that sinners can go righteously free. If people reject that awesome sacrifice, I personally believe that God has the right to be angry. Unbelievers will have crossed Him and gotten on His bad side.

Another issue that often comes up has to do with whether or not God intends for everyone to be saved from that real eternal place of torment. While I understand that the majority of adults who hear the Gospel will not be saved because they will reject the Lord Jesus, I still believe that God wants everyone to be saved and provides salvation so that all can be saved. I believe that Judas could have been saved. God called him the son of perdition because he knew his heart. He knew that Judas would "use" the Lord to make some money rather than "trust the Lord" in order to be saved. He didn't cause Judas to be like that, but He knew Judas would be like that so he was able to use Judas in the great plan of salvation. Judas, however, had only himself to blame.

Recently, I was in a Bible Study where we were looking at people who cannot be saved in Hebrews 6:4-6. They are people who have "fallen away" from the true Gospel. As I test all things, I believe the Scripture is clear that it is possible for every person born into this world to be saved. It is God's desire for every person born into this world to be saved. So then how can there be people for whom repentance is impossible? Some would say that they could have been saved but in falling away they have crossed a line from which they cannot recover. I do not believe that.

I may not have the final answer on these verses, but I really believe that the point of Hebrews is that Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:3-4). A true believing Hebrew should see that Christ is what the law was really all about. These verses are in the plural and are talking about Hebrews who know the Gospel and as a people have been brought face to face with God and the work of the Holy Spirit in their tabernacle worship in the wilderness. However, they have not accepted the fact that the fulfillment of the old testament is seen in Christ. They have not let the immature doctrines of the old testament become the mature or perfect doctrine of the new. They are still expecting their Jewish religion to save them and they have not accepted Christ as their Messiah. They have fallen away from what was available to them and not from what they actually had. That group of people cannot repent and be saved because they have rejected the only means of salvation which is Christ. However, individuals within that group can still change their minds about Christ and be saved. With God that is possible.

God does have a place of eternal conscious punishment. He will not save by our keeping the law or by our going about to establish our own righteousness. God will save from eternal conscious punishment everyone who believes what He says and who trusts In the Son. That is good. I intend to hold that fast.

 

Meditation for the week of March 27, 2011