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MARCH 2013

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What are We Going to Do?

 

Mark 8:8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments.

 

We live in a day of great uncertainty. The government is cutting back on its spending. Inflation is rampant. Many workers have been laid off and many have lost their unemployment benefits. Many have lost some or all of their pensions. We can't afford to get sick because even with insurance, the deductibles and co-pays are beyond most people's ability to pay. What are we going to do?

Maybe it is time to remember that the Lord knows exactly how to care for us in troublesome times and we need to trust Him. He has asked us to pray, "Give us this day our DAILY bread (Matthew 6:11)." He has told us to "seek first" the kingdom of God and our needs will be met (Matthew 6:33). He fed about 2 million people for forty years in the wilderness on a miraculous food called manna that appeared with the dew every morning. He also provided water out of rocks for all those people. In our passage for today, He feeds a crowd of four thousand men (plus the women and children) with seven loaves and a few small fishes. Remarkably, they not only didn't run out of food but they had enough left over to help out the local food bank.

Can the Lord take care of us in our present circumstances? He certainly can. The difficulty is that we hear of wars and famines in parts of the world where people are dying from starvation. Why doesn't the Lord take care of these people? I don't really know, but I wonder if it ever occurred to them to look to the Living God of Heaven for help rather than relying on worthless idols or relying on help from other countries. If they were willing to glorify God when the help came, God might move mountains to help them.

This crowd that was fed had to have people in it that were not really believers in Christ. They likely had come to see the Lord and to hear Him, but generally the crowds are not believers (although there will be a crowd of believers in heaven). Probably many had come to see if He would perform a miracle (and He did). They did not want to miss out on anything that He said or did so they had lingered for three days without planning ahead and bringing food. But the Lord loves His creation. He loves the whole world according to John 3:16. He had compassion on this multitude and would not send them away hungry. They may have come out of curiosity and because there was nothing on TV worth watching, but they went away full having seen the Lord and having had their needs met by Him. I wonder how many of them became "believers" that day. Many of them likely saw the miracle and participated in the eating of the food without really understanding the truth that this was the Messiah and that they should "receive Him" and "believe in Him." Nevertheless, all who had been with the Lord those three days left full.

I believe that believers in Christ have a special place in the heart of God and I do believe He will take care of His own even in trying times. There may be periods of time when we will wonder why he "waits" with His blessing; but if we look to Him to meet our needs rather than looking to men for our help, I think we will be able to glorify God by being the objects of His care if real trial comes in this country. Our blessing will be such that there will be some left over with which to bless others.

The country may be on the brink of economic disaster (then again it might not). But if disaster is coming, it may be that spiritual revival will come with it as unbelievers see the Living God take care of His own. We do not need to be concerned and distraught because the Lord has promised us eternal life if we trust Him, and He has also told those of us who are His that He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5-6 says, Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU." So we may boldly say: "THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT FEAR. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?"

I personally do not expect to starve no matter what happens in this country. The Lord is going to take care of His own. He may use the government and then again He may not. He may use corporations with a conscience and then again he may not. He may even use religious organizations and churches that make feeding the poor a priority. However, He may have to resort to feeding his own with the ravens and with widows as He did Elijah (1 Kings 17). But He can and will feed those of us who look to Him and not to men for our help.

 

Meditation for the week of March 3, 2013

A Wonderful Savior Is Jesus My Lord!

 

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2)

 

Does our help come from the hills or does it come from the Lord? Obviously, it comes from the Lord. We don't worship the "hills" so why does the Psalmist look unto the hills? Likely, it is because God dwelt at Jerusalem. The temple at Jerusalem was built on Mount Moriah and was surrounded by other hills. This was a Psalm that was probably sung by worshipers who were traveling to Jerusalem on feast days. For the Jew, the Lord dwelt on the hills in Jerusalem.

The Syrians in 1Kings 20:28, thought that God was a God of the hills (where they had lost a battle) and not a God of the valleys. They were wrong. So the King was told by a man of God, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD isGod of the hills, but He isnot God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.' "

Our God is a God of the hills and valleys of life. We don't worship nature as many do, we worship the creator God Who made nature and all that we enjoy. So where do we as Christians look for our help? We look to the Lord Jesus. The anonymous author of Hebrews reminds us that we should be "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)." Again, the Lord Jesus is associated with a hill, but this hill is called Calvary. It is outside the city of Jerusalem. So in a sense, Christians too look unto the hills from whence comes our help because our help comes from the Lord Jesus.

We need to keep our focus on the One Who is the source of our blessing. His sacrificial death at the cross of Calvary made it possible for sinners to be saved. He has taken sinners and made us saints through faith in Him. There is no other means of salvation and there is no other person who can save. And for those of us who are saved and who have become "family" to Him, He is the One to whom we look for our help. We don't have to go to Jerusalem, because upon believing the Holy Spirit "seals" us. He takes up residence in us and we become His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). That is a precious truth.

Thus we look unto Him to be saved (Isaiah 45:22). After we are saved, He is the one we worship by the way we live, by the ceremonies we observe, and in our preaching of the Gospel. The Samaritan woman at the well became a worshiper "in spirit and in truth" and made her worship of the Lord obvious by telling the Samaritans, "Come see a man (John 4:29)." They did come and they heard him and believed in Him.

The hymn writer has said:

 

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

He taketh my burden away;

He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,

He giveth me strength as my day.

The children of Israel worshiped the Lord at Jerusalem. I found Him in the Bible and can worship Him privately any where and at any time. Publicly, I worship Him in a ceremonial remembrance meal consisting of bread and wine and enjoyed with other Christians on the Lord's day. I have also experienced His care in my daily walk for many years. Yes, my help comes from the Lord!

 

Meditation for the week of March 10, 2013

How Often do we Forsake the Lord and Flee?

 

Mark 14:50 Then they all forsook Him and fled.

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.

 

This is the time of the year when we remember the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord. Psalm 30 verse 5 reminds us that weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning. What we call "Good (or Holy) Friday" was certainly not good for the Lord. But on the Lord's day, the open tomb, the angelic messengers, the appearance of the Lord to Mary and ultimately to all the disciples brought the joy of the morning to all those who had trusted in the Lord. They hadn't understood that the Lord had to suffer before He could reign, but now they were experiencing something that they hadn't thought possible. A man who had died on a cross had come back to life. That man was the Lord Jesus, our Savior, and the Jews Messiah. He was and is the Son of God. Now the man of sorrows was turning the events into a time of joy. Joy had come in the morning.

But before the victory, there was the taste of defeat for the disciples. In the garden, when the mob came to take the Lord Jesus, they all forsook Him and fled. Peter had said he would never deny the Lord and tried to honestly carry that out by removing the servant of the high priest's ear with a sword (John 18:10). But ultimately even he was among those who forsook the Lord and fled. That left the Lord all alone except that He said He was not alone. In John 16:32 he says, "Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."

What would we have done in these circumstances? When we are put to the test and our lives are at stake, I think it would be easy to say that the wise would get out of there. I think Demas did that when he forsook Paul (2 Timothy 4:10). I think it is hard for many of us to imagine the fear associated with an out-of-control mob or with an evil ruler. When Paul stood before an evil ruler, all forsook Him as well.

Easter is approaching and we will all get dressed up in our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and go to worship with others who claim to be Christians in nice church buildings where we can be very sentimental about the events of that Friday. Our crosses will have nice shrouds on them to make them pretty. Our songs will be practiced and perfect and we will come away from our services without ever really entering into the fear and suffering of that so-called "Good Friday." The Lord had agonized and prayed in the garden before Judas betrayed Him. He had said that His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (Mark 14:34). I am convinced that Satan was attacking Him like never before. The disciples slept and were of no emotional help, but an angel came and strengthened the Lord (Luke 22:43). Where would we have been if we had been with the Lord that night in Gethsemane when Satan was attacking and the mob was coming? I am sure that I would have forsook Him and fled.

I wonder how often the fear of man and the fear of death cause us to forsake the Lord even today. We all want to go to churches that are "blessed" and "big" and "growing". But the Lord wants us to take up our crosses "daily" and follow Him (Luke 9:23). When we don't, I am glad that the Lord is still seeking us out to restore our fellowship and usefulness like He did Peter and the other disciples. The Lord knows our weaknesses and still loves us and even continues to use us.

Shortly we will be celebrating Good Friday and then Easter. Would we have forsaken the Lord and fled if we had been there? Probably! We live in a day and time when the persecution is subtle and where our lives are not in daily danger. Certainly, those of us living in the civilized world today would never forsake the Lord and flee now would we? Or would we?

 

Meditation for the week of March 17, 2013

Did Christ Really Die?

 

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

 

Why does this passage mention that Christ was buried? I believe it was because Paul was trying to lay to rest the lie that Christ had not really died. Some say he fell into a coma and was later revived. But while that makes no sense since the Roman soldier thrust that spear into his side to make sure He was dead, yet even today some persist in thinking that Christ didn't really die.

We have witnesses to the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Luke states in Acts 1:3 that Christ showed himself alive after many infallible or undeniable proofs. But those witnesses would be witnessing to a living Savior Who had never died if He had fallen into a coma. And if He never really died, then the Gospel story is a lie. That is exactly what the Father of Lies would like us to believe.

He was buried. We don't intentionally bury people who are alive (except in the movies). The soldiers who were going to break his legs to hasten his death didn't do that because they saw that He was already dead. They were convinced that He had died. Joseph and Nicodemus thought he had died and they convinced Pilate that He had died who then gave them permission to bury the body. The women who came to the tomb to anoint his body on Sunday morning had watched His burial and were convinced He had died. Paul claims here that Christ had died. In Romans 5:6 he says that Christ DIED for the ungodly. In Romans 5:8, Paul says that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ DIED for us.

Some people have problems with the idea that Christ as the Son of God could die. Because there have been many skeptics who have claimed that God is dead, there is a tendency to believe that God could never die. Death as it is used by these skeptics seems to indicate that God no longer exists or that He never did exist. But we have to understand the words in their context and we definitely need to understand that death is not the end of existence. It wasn't the end for the Lord and it isn't the end for us. Death always separates. When our friends and loved ones die we can no longer talk to them or spend time with them. That does not mean that they cease to exist. When Christ died He did not cease to exist and neither did He cease being God. When He died He went to "paradise" according to His own words to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). He went there without His earthly body because that was laid in a new tomb. Then He was raised from the dead and given a body that was different than the one that He had the first time. Apparently He could be recognized in that body.

Christ did die. That is why the resurrection is such a miracle. Christ not only died to put away the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), but He died to put away my sins. That death was a terrible death and shows how evil the heart of man is, but it also shows how good the heart of God is. The hymn writer has said:

 

They crucified Him, They crucified Him, They nailed Him to the tree.

And there He died, a King crucified, to save a poor sinner like me.

 

It was necessary for Christ to die for us to have a sacrifice for our sins that permanently and completely satisfied the righteous claims of God. But that death does us no good if we reject the simple but profound truth that Christ DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. I hope that as you read this, the truth that Christ did indeed die for our sins, brings you peace. It does me!

 

Meditation for the week of March 24, 2013

I'm Going With the Empty Tomb!

 

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12

 

Accountability is the name of the game in this life. It is also the name of the game in the next. We are all going to give account to the God who created us whether we believe in Him or not. But if we have believed in Him and the Son He sent to redeem us, our future will be one of joy and reward. If we reject Him, our end will be eternal doom. It doesn't make any difference as to what the intellectuals tell us. It does not make any difference as to what the skeptics of "so-called" science say (1 Timothy 6:2). Facts are facts and the fact is that witnesses saw Christ after he was raised from the dead. Science says that can't happen. Philosophers say it makes no sense. Faith in faithful witnesses to the resurrection of Christ contradicts the logic of men. I am personally going with the truth of the empty tomb.

Of course, that means that I am accountable to the Living Savior. He says that if we love Him, we should keep His commandments, that is, we should guard His truth (John 14:15). Just as there are differing degrees of punishment for unbelievers when they are held accountable after they die (Matthew 11:20-24), there are differing rewards for faithfulness for Christians after we die (1 Corinthians 3:14-15). We are saved by grace alone but the saved are rewarded for their faithfulness. It is all about accountability.

When the children of Israel were told to possess the good land of Canaan that God was giving to them, they were told to utterly destroy the people in that land. Those people had once known the truth but had turned away from it. They were all descendents of Noah's son Ham and his grandson Canaan. They knew about the flood and the judgment God had inflicted on the world before the flood. The people of Noah's day had developed hearts that were only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Succeeding generations lost the awe and fear of God that Noah and his family had after the flood and chose other gods. I believe that people choose the kinds of gods that they worship based on the kind of lifestyle that they want to live. The people of the land had turned to idols and all of the immorality allowed by those idols. Their gods appealed to the lusts of the flesh. The children of Israel were to eliminate these people so that they would not learn about and start worshiping their gods. That seems extreme to us today, but it was the only way to preserve Israel and keep them faithful to the Lord.

Israel failed to drive out all of the Canaanites and ultimately they began worshiping their gods. In worshiping their gods, they became immoral just like the Canaanites. The end result of that downward slide many years later was the crucifixion of their own Messiah. Their hearts had become hard to the Truth. They didn't want to be confused with the facts because their minds were already made up. In the day of Christ, religion had become the idol. Religion was being used to control the people by ruthless scribes, priests and lawyers. It was no longer a question of serving "other gods" though some were doing that. Instead, it was a matter of telling God how to be worshiped rather than letting Him tell the Jews how to worship. God wanted the hearts of the people. The religious leaders only knew about dead rules and ritual. They hated to be in bondage to the Romans but had no problem using Pilate to accomplish their evil plan to eliminate the Lord so that He could not compete with their authority and leadership. They wanted accountability to no one but themselves.

Unfortunately for this world, the time of accountability is coming. On Easter we celebrate the only living Savior and are reminded of an empty tomb. But we are also reminded that this Christ who came the first time as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) will reveal Himself when He comes the second time as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). His coming at this time will be to destroy His enemies and to set up a righteous kingdom on earth. Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen." This time the Lord will not be crucified. He will come in power and with authority and will judge sin righteously. He will set up His kingdom and He will demand accountability. All of the philosophers and all the skeptical scientists will not be able to deliver men from the reality that Christ is Creator, Christ is King, and Christ is God and Christ is Judge.

Yes, I am personally going with an empty tomb and the accountability that goes with that truth. The Christ I will meet after this life is over is the One who died for me. Believers will meet Him as their Savior. Unbelievers, in spite of what they thought, will meet Him as their judge.

 

Meditation for the week of March 31, 2012