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MAY 2004

 

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Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank.

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

 

Is it possible to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus in today’s secular and irreverent society? When the Lord prayed for His disciples in John 17 just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, He recognized that the world (or social system) would be a great problem for those He was leaving behind. In that prayer, He reminds the Father that He is sending His disciples into a world that hates them. They are not to be a part of this world or social system but they must serve Him there. So He prays for the preservation of His disciples as well as for those who would believe on Him through their word.

Satan uses the peer pressure of the world to keep people from accepting the Truth of Scripture. He is a murderer and deceiver and doesn’t want us to know that we have a God in heaven who loves us in spite of our sin and has provided Christ as a sacrifice for our sin. Satan doesn’t want us to know that if we believe the Truth we will be blessed and if we believe him we will be condemned and lost forever. If He loses the battle to keep us from becoming believers in Christ then he tries to keep us from being faithful through the pressure of having to live in this world. How many times have you heard people justify bad decisions by saying that in our day “you have to do it to get along or to get ahead?”

Daniel is an example of faithfulness in a world that doesn’t know the Living and True God. He was taken to Babylon as a teenage believer when God used Babylon to judge the nation of Israel for their idolatry. Daniel and his three friends represented the best that Israel had to offer and Babylon was going to educate them in all of the religious superstition of their society. Daniel’s preservation began with his purpose of heart. They could call him what they wanted to (and they called him by a name that linked him with their pagan gods) but he wouldn’t feed on their unclean diet which likely had been consecrated through some of it being offered to a pagan god. Then when Satan tested him, Daniel prayed. Even though Daniel became the master of the Chaldeans (Daniel 5:11) and went to the world’s college of that day, he never believed the superstitions that he was taught. Because the system had not corrupted him, the corrupted system knew who had wisdom when they needed the right answers. Daniel’s faith was tested and he was cast into a den of lions but ultimately even heathen kings realized that they needed him and Daniel prospered. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that not everyone prospers in this world who is faithful to God but a spiritual reward is waiting for all who are faithful.

In this day of compromise so that we can “get along” and “get ahead” we need to be reminded that faith in Christ is the only source of real blessing (John 3:18 and 36). We need to remind those who trust Him that their faith will be tested but that it is possible through purpose of heart and prayer to be faithful and the faithful may even prosper under the leadership of those who see a difference between the children of this world and the children of God by faith.

Week of May 2, 2004

Luke 2:35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

 

Today, there are mothers in the United States who are getting the news that their sons have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I often wonder what it must be like to try to make sense out of that news. Yet, I am sure that these mothers feel proud of their sons even though they are greatly pained by their loss. If the loss of mothers today for a son is so great, what must it have been like for Mary, the mother of the Lord, to stand by the cross and see her Son die for crimes He did not commit? Was she able to make sense of this?

Many women in Israel wanted to give birth to the Messiah. Of course, most thought that the Messiah would reestablish King David’s physical kingdom and would free them from Roman rule. Most Jews did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer before He would reign. No doubt Simeon was telling Mary that her Son must suffer when He held the Lord in his arms in the temple. While I have wondered if Mary understood the implications of what Simeon was telling her, I am sure his comments were a comfort to her when she watched her Son die on that old rugged cross. However, even after the victory of the resurrection, thinking about her Son passing through the “sorrows of death (Psalm 116:3),” had to be like a sword piercing her soul.

Mary didn’t offer her Son as so many seem to think. No, His death was voluntary and the Lord’s sacrifice was a true act of God. Paul reminds us that He gave Himself (Galatians 2:20). John 3:16 reminds us that the Father gave Him. But that does not make Mary’s pain any less real. How it thrills us today to know that Mary’s pain and the Lord’s death does make sense. There would be no sinners in heaven if God had not found a sinless sacrifice who could bear the punishment that we deserve because of our sins. The resurrection proves that Christ was victorious and that His death did justify those of us who believe in Him (Romans 4:25).

We are confident that mothers who have lost their sons recently in the current wars will ultimately be comforted by the fact that their sons also died for others. In fact they died for those of us who are sitting at home enjoying the freedoms and the prosperity of the United States. That doesn’t make it easy to bear when bad news comes. But when those of us who have been protected by the soldiers pay tribute to them and give thanks for them, it does give their deaths meaning. A more important issue, however, is our attitude toward God for the sacrifice of His Son. Thanking God for the death of the Lord Jesus gives value to His Son’s death and to the grief that Mary endured.

 

Week of May 9, 2004

Psalm 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

Psalm 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

 

In this Psalm of Asaph’s, being thankful, keeping our promises to God and calling upon Him in the day of trouble gives us the promise of deliverance. When we are delivered we glorify God by being thankful and keeping our promises and calling upon Him in the day of trouble.

Notice that the whole process starts with being thankful. Many of my prayers are prayers where I ask for things and often I ask to be delivered from some trouble. I wonder if God only sees me coming to Him as a beggar. But we are to come in a thankful spirit and usually that results from having a prayer answered. I realize that the time element in Hebrew writing is not necessarily linear as it is in English writing which means that we don’t really know if the thanksgiving is the result or the cause of being delivered in the passage. From a natural point of view, however, it is easier to respond to requests of children when they are thankful than it is when they aren’t. So I think it would be safe to assume that being thankful sets the stage for being delivered. The new testament seems to support this idea in Philippians 4:6, “ Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

I don’t think God requires to make vows in order to be delivered but many people do. If we make them we are to keep them. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

When we look at that third clause, call upon Me in the day of trouble, many of us tend to wait until all else has failed to call upon God. We are raised to be self-reliant and to believe that “God helps those who help themselves.” It encourages me to know that our God often allows us to have trials so that He can hear us call upon Him so that He can prove His love to us in a practical way by delivering us. Then we will offer unto God thanksgiving.

Another thing to consider is that people in this world will call upon other “gods” since according to them it doesn’t make any difference as to what Higher Power that you believe in as long as you are sincere. But our God wants us to worship Him and Him alone. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and will not share His honor with other so called gods. We know who God is through the Lord Jesus Christ and when we trust Him and Him alone as our God and Savior, the stage is set for our being thankful and paying our vows and calling upon Him in the day of trouble. Asaph mentions the wicked who are going to be destroyed rather than being saved. The wicked are no doubt those who have rebelled against the Living God of Heaven rather than trusting in His Son.

I will deliver thee! What a promise. Those who call upon the Lord in faith are going to be delivered. Surely we should be thankful and fulfill our promises to God just as He will fulfill His promise to us.

 

Week of May 16, 2004

Luke 14:22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

 

The Gospel invitation is found in this story about a great supper, “Come for all things are now ready (Luke 14:17).” The work is done that saves the sinner and the Lord invites all of us to trust Him and to enter into the blessing of eternal life. However, Satan manages to convince many of us that we are not included in the invitation. One of his great lies is that there is room for others but not room for us.

Some people think God has not chosen them to be saved and therefore they cannot believe or trust in the Lord even if they want to. This lie is perpetuated by letting the difficult Scriptures explain the easy ones. The easy ones say that “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).” Also John 3:16 assures us, “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.” Actually the Scriptures teach that in the old testament, God chose people who were born right to be His people. They had to be descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the new testament, we have to be born right to be God’s chosen people as well. But now we have to receive Christ by faith and be born Spiritually into the family of God. God does not choose us to trust in Christ but He chooses those who do trust in Christ to be His people.

Some people think that they are so good that they don’t need to be saved. We don’t need the Scriptures to tell us that we are sinners and that we are not as good as we would like to pretend we are. We know that we fail ourselves and our own standards. Surely, we fail God’s. Acts 4:12 emphasizes that we all need to be saved and 1 Timothy 2:14 makes it clear that the Lord wants to save everyone. The good need to be saved, not because of the good they have done, but because of the bad they have done. After all, “all have sinned (Romans 3:23).”

Some people think that they are too bad to be saved. They think that they have committed sins that are unforgivable. While we might have trouble forgiving ourselves and while it may be difficult for others to forgive us, God has no difficulty forgiving and, thus, saving us. Acts 13:39 assures us, “And by him all that believe are justified (made righteous before God) from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

Some people think that they have missed their opportunity to be saved. They quote Genesis 6:3 which says, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.“ This states that God was going to limit the time that He would have patience with the wickedness of mankind before the flood. God limits our opportunity in the same way. However, He does not give us a set number of years of opportunity as He did in Noah’s day. When the Lord comes, the door is shut and the opportunity to be saved during this day of grace will be gone (see Luke 13: 25). As long as the Lord has not come we know that there is still opportunity for the living to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “The Lord is not slack (slow) concerning his promise (to come), as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

As of today, all things are ready and the invitation is come. There is still room in the Father’s house for at least one more. There is still room for you.

Week of May 23, 2004

1 Samuel 12:24 Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

 

The Bible encourages us to consider many things. To consider means to ponder or think carefully about or to meditate. We are to consider our latter end or the affect our present decisions have on our future (Deuteronomy 32:29). We are to consider one another to encourage each other spiritually (Hebrews 10:24). We are to consider the Lord’s trials when we are getting discouraged (Hebrews 12:3). Considering the lily of the field and the ravens will help us be free from anxiety about the future (Luke 12:24, 27) and will give us renewed confidence in God’s ability to take care of us.

On Memorial Day we consider the sacrifice that young men and women (and some older ones as well) have made for the sake of their country. I don’t understand why the nature of man is such that we need to fight wars in order to have peace but it seems that God has allowed that to be the case. The only real peace this world will see is when the Prince of Peace reigns and, from the standpoint of the world, He is not reigning now. He does rule the hearts of those of us who have submitted to Him in simple trusting faith and we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).” This is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). We have peace about our sins since they are forgiven. We have peace about eternity since we have “passed from death unto life (John 5:24).” But the world does not have peace. Instead it has trials. The Lord told His disciples just before He was crucified, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).”

Wouldn’t it be nice it we could say that the lives of those that we consider on Memorial day had been sacrificed for lasting peace? But we can’t say that. We will remember our loved ones who have died on this day as well and while they may have done great things and while they may be greatly loved, they could not bring peace to this world. The person we really need to remember this weekend, however, is the Lord Jesus. We need to “consider how great things he hath done.”

The children of Israel were encouraged to consider the miracles of being delivered from Egypt and preserved in the wilderness by the Lord. They were to consider how He had brought them victory over their enemies in the promised land. The reason they needed to remember is that they were wanting a King and the Lord said that they were choosing an earthly king and rejecting Him as their King.

We need to consider the great things the Lord has done for us at Calvary. He didn’t give “of Himself” there. He gave Himself.. That is, He gave all. He did this so that we could have a just and righteous salvation offered to us. He did this to bring us peace. May we never forget where true blessing is found.

 

Week of May 30, 2004