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MARCH 2015

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All Men (and women) Everywhere!


Acts 17:30 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.


Limiting the Gospel

I have noticed over the years that there is always a tendency on the part of different groups of people to limit the Gospel.  Some limit it to ethnic groups.  Some limit it to a select group of the elect that God has predetermined will be saved.  Whatever the limitations are, I notice that the people that preach the limitations include themselves in the select group that they believe God has called to be saved.  The people that I talk to who limit the Gospel take pride in the fact that they are a select people that God has chosen to be saved.


There is no Limitation in this Command

This verse settles all of that for me.  I always let the simple scriptures explain the difficult ones and this scripture seems fairly straight forward to me.  God commands ALL MEN EVERY WHERE to repent.  Now we know that true repentance is the change of mind that brings us to faith in Christ.  One who hasn’t repented still has problems with what God has revealed in the Scriptures that are keeping that person from believing.  Once we quit arguing with God, we are able to accept the truth of God.  Repentance produces works just as faith produces works.  Works do not produce repentance.  So when Paul says that God commands all men everywhere to repent, he is saying that all men everywhere need to change their minds so that they can come to faith.  No one is saved apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Obviously, the Jews need for repentance involved different issues than the Greeks need for repentance in Athens. Athens is where Paul was preaching that God commands ALL MEN EVERYWHERE to repent.


Can all men everywhere repent?  God would not and does not command us to do that which we cannot do.  Some might argue that we cannot move mountains but that command is a conditional promise.  If we have faith as a mustard seed, we could remove mountains.  I apparently don’t have that much faith.  Paul refers to the faith required to move mountains in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  In that passage he lists all faith along with other improbable exaggerations.  So I think I can say, that properly understood, the commands that the Lord gives us are commands that we can and should carry out.  Man is weak and fails with regard to the moral commands of God, but this command is given to overcome that weakness.  This command must be obeyed to be right with God.


We need to Lose our Pride

We need to lose our pride after we are saved and recognize that we are just sinners saved by grace.  I know that sinners become saints upon believing in Christ.  But saints are still just sinners saved by grace.  We have nothing of which to be proud.  In preaching the Gospel, we preach that we too were caught in the quagmire of sin.  We too had been deceived by Satan.  But by God’s grace we heard the Gospel and dealt with our problems of unbelief and trusted Christ.  Yes we who are “in Christ” or “in Him (Ephesians 1:4)” are now God’s elect people.  In the Old Testament those who were “born right” were his elect people.  In the New Testament those who are ”born right” or “born again” are his elect people.  In the Old Testament, his elect was a physical people.  In the New Testament, his elect is a spiritual people that has obeyed the command to repent.


I have had people tell me that repentance is just a message to the Jews.  This verse puts that argument to rest.  I have had people tell me that only select people out of every tongue, and nation and tribe are chosen to be saved.  This verse puts that argument to rest.  Ultimately, no one is excluded from the promise that those who trust or believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.  After all, in John 3:17 the Lord says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  Of course the whole world is not saved, but God’s purpose in sending His Son was to make it possible for the WHOLE WORLD to be saved. 


Personal Responsibility

Those who miss out on God’s salvation will have only themselves to blame.  Limiting the Gospel to certain groups of people would allow the unsaved to blame God for their unbelief.  The Serpent questioned the certainty of the Word of God in the garden and he is still doing that today.  We who have repented and believed should certainly not be used in limiting the Gospel in any way.  We should not be doing Satan’s work of questioning clear simple promises of Scripture.  When I preach the Gospel, I know that God is ready and willing to save any in my audience who are willing to come to Him by faith.  God loved the world--the whole world without limitation.  For that I am truly thankful.


Meditation for the week of March 1, 2015

Even Saved People Make Dumb Decisions


Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.


Aladdin’s Lamp

In the Middle Eastern folk tales called “A Thousand and One Nights” there is a fable about Aladdin and his lamp.  Without going into detail, Aladdin comes into possession of a lamp which when rubbed produces a genie who says he can fulfill three wishes for Aladdin.  Aladdin uses the wishes to get rich and powerful and to defeat an evil sorcerer.  Now the story is fiction with a moral point.  Unfortunately, many people seem to treat the Lord like a genie (magical spirit who takes human form and performs miracles).  They use this verse to believe that they can get anything for which they ask.  The only trouble is that experience proves that they can’t.  This out of context interpretation of the passage is detrimental to our faith.  When we find out that the verse as it is often interpreted does not work, it would be fairly easy to lose confidence in all that we believe about Christ being the eternal Son of God and the Savior of Sinners.


Proper Prayer is Powerful

The Lord did command his followers to pray and He usually tells them to pray in His name.  That simply means that they are to pray for things that He authorizes.   We need to forgive others in order to be praying in full fellowship with the Father and only then can we really be praying in the Lord’s name.  Nearly all of the portions on prayer have conditions associated with the prayer, but not this promise.  So is this promise an open ended prayer where we can treat the Lord like a “Genie in a lamp?” The answer is “no!”


The Key is near the Door

Good preachers that I have heard over the years always said that when interpreting a difficult passage that the key was always near the door.  That was another way of saying, “let the context determine the interpretation.”  In this case the context has to do with a very misunderstood verse about judging.  Most think the passage says we shouldn’t judge when what it really says is that we shouldn’t judge in a way that we would not want to be judged.  The passage says do not judge hypocritically and if you do, it will come back to haunt you.  In addition, we are to get our own lives in order before trying to correct others.


The passage also has a well-known verse about giving that which is holy to dogs and not casting pearls before swine.  Again, in the context, the Lord is saying that we should not go to unbelievers to judge spiritual problems.  Paul clarifies this in 1 Corinthians 6.  Then the Lord gives this admonition that we have quoted above. Quite clearly the Lord is saying that if we don’t know how to judge a problem rightly; if we ask, the Lord will give us the wisdom to do so.  This is clarified by James the Lord’s brother who writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”  So when the Lord says ask, seek and knock he is not trying to make us feel like failures for not being able to do miracles, but He is encouraging us to diligently seek for the wisdom we need in judging or discerning right and wrong when a problem is difficult.  If we seek for that wisdom, the Lord will make sure that we find it.



There are some things for which we don’t need to ask the Lord.  We who are believers in the Lord don’t need to ask for the Holy Spirit since we were sealed by Holy Spirit the moment we believed.  We just need to say thank you.  But wisdom—now that is different.  Even saved people make dumb decisions.  Because of that we do need to ask for wisdom.


This verse is not an Aladdin’s lamp.  The Lord is probably not going to make you miraculously rich (though if you are saved, He has promised to meet your needs.) This verse encourages us to know that the Lord will give us wisdom if we ask Him for it.  Please don’t take this verse to mean that the Lord will spare you if you intentionally jump off a third-story roof.  We were not made to fly.  I guarantee that you will get hurt.  Even the Lord did not do this


Meditation for the week of March 8, 2015

The Last Great Enemy


Mark 14:34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”


The Last Great Enemy

Most people want to avoid death if at all possible.  Even Christians who say that they are not afraid to die tend to wear seat belts, they go to doctors, they eat health food and they work out at gyms.  Generally these are things that help us live longer.  We may say that we are doing those things just to feel better while we are living; but, somehow, I think most people are like me.  They would like to live forever or at least until the Lord returns.  I believe that God will rapture (catch away) the church before the great and terrible day of the Lord’s wrath comes, and I would certainly prefer going to heaven that way without having to face that last great enemy called death (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Heaven is no doubt a wonderful place, but most of us would just as soon fight it out on planet earth rather than having to face that last great enemy.  There are exceptions of course.  There is a day coming when the wrath of God on a Christ-rejecting world will be so severe that people will seek death and not find it (Revelation 9:6).  There are also people that for one reason or another take their own lives.  But these are exceptions and not the rule.


Why Do we Dread of Fear Death?

Death is to a great extent a mystery.  People tell us that no one has gone to heaven and then come back to tell us about it.  But of course that is not really true.  I have talked to people who have had out of body experiences that seem quite believable to me.  However, there are a number of reasons why some of the current books on best seller lists do not seem believable to me.  But the most reliable book is the Bible, and in the Bible the Lord authoritatively tells us about heaven because He came from there.  In addition, Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration talking to the Lord.  Moses had died about 1500 years earlier and Elijah had been taken to heaven without dying.  But both were living a conscious life in heaven and they knew what was going on with the Lord down here on earth.  Death is certainly not the end but those who die unsaved will wish that it was.  For those who have trusted Christ, eternal life has got to be glorious.  We may not know a lot about that life but it has got to be a whole lot better than this one.


Also, it appears that Paul had an out of body experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-6.  He was caught up to paradise and saw things that he wasn’t allowed to tell us.  However, he does tell the Corinthians that he would rather be absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).  He too went to heaven and came back and it caused him to want to return.


Is it Wrong to Fear Death?

The short answer to this question is “no.”  If we are saved, we certainly do not need to fear what comes after death.  But the process of dying can be a fearful thing.  The Lord knew in the Garden of Gethsemane that His process of dying was going to be painful.  He was going to be crucified.  Satan used that issue to attack him in the Garden.  That is why the Lord was EXCEEDING sorrowful even unto death.  If the Lord could be attacked by Satan that severely before He died, certainly Satan will often attack the believer that way before he or she dies.  The unbeliever should fear death because of what comes after death for them.  The believer may fear the process of dying but what comes after will be glorious.


The Believer is not left Alone

The Lord wanted three of His disciples to be with Him when He was facing the death.  Most people want their friends and relatives present when they die.  But for the Lord, the disciples were not really with Him.  Instead they were tired and slept.  Thankfully some of them were with Him at the cross.  But the Lord will never leave the believer alone in their hour of trial.  Isaiah says to Israel:


Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,

Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)



The fear of death for a Christian is really the fear of the process of dying.  Fearing death is not sin.  Even the Lord feared that process.  But the saved can be encouraged by the promise that in that hour of trial, the Lord will be with them.  And after the process is over, we too will hear and see things that will leave us speechless.   If I were an unbeliever, I would be quaking in my boots.  But for a believer the best is yet to come.


Meditation for the week of March 15, 2015

The Potholes of Life


Acts 13:38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.”


Last Friday was the first day of spring.  It even felt like spring and smelled like spring.  After a hard cold winter when the wind has been howling and snow has been falling and the temperatures have been dropping, it is always refreshing to feel the warmth of the sun on a nice spring day.  We are reminded that winter doesn’t last forever and that life is about to be renewed.  It almost, almost I say, wants to make one sing and dance.  But in the spring, sometimes it is necessary to face the potholes that we hit during the winter.


Bumps in the Road

On the first day of spring this year, I took my car into the dealer for some routine maintenance.  Only it wasn’t routine.  They told me that the tires weren’t wearing properly and that the car should aligned.  Now I shouldn’t have had to be told that as I remember at least three “bumps” in the road that almost caused my teeth to fall out.  One of them caused the glove compartment door to release and fall open.  I knew that I should have done something about the damage that those bumps in the road likely caused.  But the car seemed to be driving fairly well, and I kept putting off the inevitable.  I kept trying to tell myself that there was nothing really wrong and that the car would be fine without a checkup by the doctor.


Sin is kind of like that in our lives.  Sin is really just an offense against God and it may be an offense against other people.  Sin can be intentional and it can be unintentional.  Sin can be things that we should have done but didn’t do, and it can be things that we did do that we shouldn’t have.  But anyway we describe sin, sin is a bump in the road of life.  If sin is not faced, it will seem like we are in the winter season of life with the wind in our faces and the temperature below zero.  It will seem like the steering is not right in our cars.  Many little bumps can accumulate to where the car is not driving right and one big bump can really destroy our peace and happiness.  People would like to ignore the bumps in life and say that they don’t matter.  However, ignoring these problems (and we don’t need to be told that they are problems), can cause serious depression and anxiety.  And worse of all, sin opens us up to Satanic attack where we want to blame God for our problems instead of trusting Him to solve them.  Many of us blame God for the way He has made us and for what He has allowed in our lives. In reality sin proves that Satan is real, and we should be blaming him and not God.


Repairing the Damage

But there is a solution.  It is called “forgiveness of sins.”  There is just nothing like true forgiveness.  It involves a meeting of minds.  The offender must confess his sin.  The one who is offended needs to be able to forgive that sin.  When minds meet, there is reconciliation.  Men forgive others because they know that they too have harmed others. It would be hypocritical to want to be forgiven if we can’t forgive others.  Because of our own sin, we really don’t have the right to punish others (correct and discipline maybe, but not punish).   But God can do what man cannot.  He recognizes that sin deserves punishment.  Christ bore the punishment our sins deserved and now offers to us the “forgiveness” of sins on a righteous basis.  When we confess our sins, He can be faithful and just in forgiving them (1 John 1:9). 


We all know the joy that comes when we are reconciled to friends and family members that we have offended.  It is just like smelling the first flowers of spring.  But it is much more exhilarating to know that we have been forgiven by God.  That puts the car back on the right track.  That corrects the damage the bumps in the road have caused and puts the wind at our back.  Why, oh why, would anyone want to go through life shackled by the burden of unforgiven sin when in a simple moment alone with God, confession can be made and forgiveness and reconciliation can be obtained? 


Those Pesky On-going Sins

If we are going to enjoy a spiritual spring time and if we are going to have the car of life run in a straight line, we need the forgiveness of sins that comes with the new birth.  That’s the time in our lives when we first understood and trusted in the truth that Christ died for our sins.  When we receive Christ as our Savior, one of our blessings is to receive the forgiveness of sins.  Provision has been made for past sins, on-going present sins (we all have them), and future sins.  But because of those pesky on-going present sins, we who are forgiven need to confess to those we sin against; and, most certainly, we need to confess to God when we hit bumps in the road as we go along life’s pathway.  When we are reconciled to God and to one another, the sun will be warm, the wind will be light and from the south, and the car will drive down the road in the way it was designed.



Meditation for the week of March 22, 2015

Does the Lord Trust Me?


Colossians 4:2  Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains.


The Church

When Paul preached the Gospel, He looked for doors that the Lord had opened.  He had found one at Ephesus.  What joy he must have had as he saw their response to the Gospel.  But on his last personal contact with the elders at Ephesus he tells them, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29-30).”  He knew that the work that had started with such love and enthusiasm for the Lord, would soon be corrupted by those who were after disciples for themselves rather than making disciples for the Lord.  The Ephesians would not be able to discern savage wolves and perverse teachers.  Ultimately, according to John in Revelation 2:4, they had left their first love.  This probably took about 30 years.  The Lord had not left them but they had left the Lord. 


There is no joy in knowing that any good work that God establishes will be attacked by those who not only want to have people follow them instead of the Lord,  but who actually want to destroy that which is of God.  The joy is in knowing that with regard to the church in the broad sense, the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  The Lord is always going to have faithful people.  They may feel isolated and alone.  They may be weak and small in number.  They may be misunderstood by the world and by secular Christians.  At times they will be considered legalistic and at times they will be considered out of touch with society.  But I want to be a part of their number.  Not only do I want to trust the Lord, but I want Him to be able to trust me.


The Joy of a Door that the Lord Opens

Sometimes we have to wonder if the Lord really does trust us.  My ministry is small.  It was supposed to be large by now.  We say we don’t measure our success by numbers or riches; but frankly, once in a while, there needs to be some encouragement in this business.  We not only need to know the promises of God, we need to see Him fulfill those promises in a tangible way.  Most of my friends are so in to teaching the Christians that they ignore the few unsaved that may be present in a meeting.   I try not to do that.  I pray for open doors in the Gospel.  And recently, once again, the Lord gave me that:


I was holding a Bible study in my local church (some of you know the name of that church is Panera Bread).  The Bible study was in a back booth and we thought we were being discreet, but maybe, just maybe, I had gotten a little bit too enthused about the subject matter at hand.  All of a sudden a college-age girl sitting ahead of us, got up and asked me if she could ask me a question.   I said absolutely.  She said I have been overhearing your conversation and I have wondered if God hates homosexuals.  Now that was not the subject of our conversation   I was happy to tell her that God hates sin but He does not hate those who sin.  In fact that is what Easter is all about.  The resurrection proves that God has been satisfied with the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for sin, and those who have sinned in any way can be forgiven.  And that is a wonderful thing.  I did assure her that because I believe the Bible, I had to tell her that the practice of the homosexual lifestyle is sin but that it is not the only sin that grieves God.  Heterosexual sin also grieves God. We have all practiced sin of differing kinds in differing ways.  My Bible study partner was watching her face while we talked and was impressed with the fact that her question was not confrontational.  Her interest was genuine.  She did not question whether there was a God, but wanted to know how He viewed the problem.  I gave her some contact information and I hope to talk to her again. 


I was thankful that the Lord thought he could trust the two of us to be faithful to that girl.  We did see the Lord open a door to the Gospel.  We didn’t force the Gospel on that girl, but we were available and maybe kind of vocal.   On a number of occasions people in Panera’s have told us that they have been listening.  We don’t intentionally try to preach to those around us, but if they overhear, it is ok with me.  And it must be ok with the Lord. 


What joy there is in being trusted with the message of the Gospel.   Maybe, just maybe, others have overheard us as we have discussed the truth of Scripture in that “church” and maybe, just maybe, our work has influenced more people than we know.  I want to find those open doors where the Lord can trust me to be faithful to Him.  Let others be the destroyers, l want to be a builder.



Meditation for the week of March 29, 2015