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MAY 2008

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Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Giving and receiving gifts can be a hard thing to do in our culture. Most of us want to do something either to deserve the gift or to repay the person who has given the gift. It is hard to just say "thank you!" In addition, many people give gifts anonymously so that the person receiving the gift will not only accept it but will not feel any obligation to the person who gave it.

My dad used to raise bees and he produced some of the best honey in the world. It was crystal clear because he handled it carefully. For the most part It came from sweet clover and if there were any other flowers involved, usually they were from the basswood trees. The experts considered sweet clover honey with a little basswood a connoisseur's delight. Honey could have a certain percentage of water and still be considered pure by government standards. My dad did not add water to his honey like some producers did so that they could make just a little more money. So when relatives would visit us, dad would often offer them a jar of that pure, clear, tasty honey as a gift. Usually they would balk at taking it without paying. Dad usually would not accept payment so before they left they would often give us kids a little something. I remember getting a fifty cent piece for a jar of honey that would have sold in those days for at least a dollar. Did my relatives get a gift? No! They got a bargain and in the process they devalued the gift. I never remember my dad getting offended because his relatives didn't know how to just say "thank you".

The Lord gets offended when people do not receive His gift with a "thank you." His gift is His Son. Through His Son He gives us eternal life. Some have rightly said that God is too rich to sell and we are too poor to buy His gift. We cannot pay for it and we cannot work for it. All we can do is say "thank you." Some people ask the Lord to save them. This is somewhat like holding a gift in your hands on Christmas morning and asking the giver to give it to you. That wouldn't make much sense. The only way to receive a gift is to say "thank you."

Saying thank you is difficult. I know that by experience. I have been in the Lord's work living by faith for many years which means that any requests for money are made to the Lord and not to men. Sometimes I receive gifts from people I feel I should be helping and it is hard to just say "thank you."

When the giver of a gift gives a gift with no expectation of some benefit, that person usually feels good about what they have done particularly when the gift meet a real need and when the gift is received with thanksgiving by the person in need. The Lord must feel good when needy undeserving sinners receive the gift of eternal life through His Son with thanksgiving.

We need to say thank you Lord if we haven't already. Mrs. Seth Sykes has put it so well in the chorus that we often sing with the children:

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul,

Thank you, Lord, for making me whole;

Thank you, Lord, for giving to me

Thy great salvation so rich and free.

Meditation for the week of May 4, 2008

Revelation 20:2-3

He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

 

Why are human beings so violent? We kill one another with our armies. We have police forces because we aren't safe in our cities. We have prisons filled with people who have committed violent crimes. Every day the newspaper is filled with stories of human suffering caused by the violent way humans treat one another. Satan is the reason that men behave in this irrational way.

Satan is a fallen angel who at one time had the highest place in heaven. He is out to destroy anything and everything that pleases God (Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:13-15). He deceived Eve into believing that she would be happier and wiser if she disobeyed God. One of the results of this great deception was that Eve's firstborn was a murderer. Satan tried to prove that Job only worshiped God because of the material blessings that God had provided Him. He tried to convince the Lord to rule the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross during the temptation in the wilderness. He has tried to convince men that Christ was an impostor and that He did not rise from the dead. He is evil, wicked, cunning, and an adversary to anything good. We are his children by nature (Ephesians 2:2-3) and he is a murderer (John 8:44). No wonder there is so much violence in the world.

Many of my friends wonder if there is a God because of all of the suffering and wickedness in this world. But the suffering that is intentionally caused by the wicked actions of men convinces me that Satan is real and that he influences the thinking and the affairs of men. How could there be an event like the destruction of the world trade center without his diabolical influence in this old world? Surely, God gets blamed for that which Satan has done. I realize that most people feel that if there is a God, he should stop Satan from doing what he does. Ultimately God will destroy Satan but right now, He is allowing Satan to test men to see if we will follow Satan or if we will follow God. When we follow Satan we fulfill his desire to have men who were created for the pleasure of God (Revelation 4:11) destroy one another.

Some people think that we are in the millennium and that the church represents the physical kingdom of God that is spoken of in the Bible. However, Satan will be bound during that 1000 years. When he is bound he won't be able to do his work of deceiving men into killing each other. But since men are bent on killing one another, the millennium must yet be future. That means we live in the day when we must be born again so that we don't think like Satan (John 3:7). After we are saved or born again we must resist him with the things that we believe (1 Peter 5:9). We need to submit to the Scriptures in order to do right and not do wrong.

The Lord says to love God and to love one another (Mark 12:30-31). Satan's influence causes the world to hate and not to love. The only cure for Satan's hate and deception is the real living Christ who wants to give us a new life. That life will cause us to love God and to love one another. Only the Gospel message can overcome the power of Satan and stem the violence that we see in our world.

Meditation for the week of May 11, 2008

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Matthew 10:1-5 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out.

 

The eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary says that a traitor is one who betrays anotherfs trust or is false to an obligation or duty. Judas was a traitor and yet the Lord appointed him a place with the twelve apostles. Didn't the Lord know what Judas would do? Aren't we told to separate from unbelievers which certainly would be the case with Judas? So why did the Lord allow him to be a part of that select group?

Even though the Lord knows what is in the heart, he judges righteous judgment and all judgment is based on outward actions. That is why works do not save and yet both believers and unbelievers have their works judged. Works are the evidence of what we are. Until Judas had actually betrayed the Lord, the Lord would not judge him for being a traitor\even though He knew Judas' heart. I notice that the Lord did not try to entrap Judas so that He could be seen for what he was. He let Judas make His own mistakes and even told Judas what the consequences would be in an attempt to get Judas to change his mind.

Judas reminds us that we shouldn't be surprised when someone who has seemed real and who has been a part of our work turns out to be a traitor to us and to the Lord. The people who are in the work of the Lord but who are not devoted to the Lord can be deadly enemies, but they wait until the time is right to show who they really are. Ahithophel appeared to be a friend of David's but he bore a grudge. He waited until the time was right to make his real agenda known. Ahithophel had reason to be angry with David because David had defiled his granddaughter (see 2 Samuel 11:3 and 2 Samuel 23:34). But he was not pure in heart and as a result he destroyed himself.

We know that Judas was a thief and was embezzling funds from the treasury of the Lord and his band of disciples (John 12:6). Mary's anointing of the Lord with ointment that was very costly was probably what finally sent Judas on his rampage. He didn't understand that kind of devotion. In addition, he had been robbed of the money since in his mind the ointment had been wasted on the Lord.

Judas shows us that being a traitor is costly. When the Lord told His disciples one of them would betray Him, they all asked if it could be them including Judas (Matthew 26:25). Likely, eleven of them recognized the potential within themselves to be betrayers and wanted to be reassured that they would never do such a thing. Judas probably asked the question just to see if the Lord knew that he was intending to betray him. Ultimately, Judas realized he had made a mistake, but the mistake was in thinking that the Lord would use His powers to deliver Himself. Judas thought no one would be hurt by his betrayal, but he thought he would be richer. Judas ended up committing suicide when he realized he had made a mistake.

Being real and loyal to the Lord has its rewards. The pure in heart will see God. The Lord can depend on one who is pure in heart or loyal to Him. A traitor will just destroy himself and hurt everyone who has trusted him. It must thrill the Lord when He sees that we are loyal to Him.

Meditation for the week of May 18, 2008

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

 

Memorial day weekend is a sad nostalgic day for many people. Most of us have loved ones that have died. On Memorial Day we go to the cemeteries to honor and remember them. We decorate the graves and headstones with flowers and flags, pictures, letter, and poems. We also remember the price of our freedom because on Memorial Day we honor the soldiers that have given their lives for that freedom.

Memorial day reminds us of the finality of death. When David's infant child by Bathsheba died, he said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. (2 Samuel 12:23)" Death, with the exception of a few people that Scripture records were raised from the dead, has always been a one way street. Even those that were raised from the dead in the Scripture died again. There is, of course, one notable exception. The Lord died and then rose from the dead never to die again.

Christians cannot go to a grave with a monument that contains the Lord's body to remember the Lord. Some religious movements think we have been cheated because we don't have a sacred place like that where we can go to show our respect to the Lord. Christians buried the Lord's body, but His body didn't stay in the grave. Angels told those who came to the tomb, "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6)." We do remember Him, however. Every so often we take a loaf of bread and a cup of wine and eat and drink from those symbols of his body and blood to remember Him until He comes. Our remembrance is sad and nostalgic when we think of the sorrows that the Lord bore because of our sin. We are reminded that the world hated him and it was without a cause (See John 15:25). However our memorial to Him also contains great joy. We are reminded of His love in dying for us, and every time we remember Him we are reminded that He is coming again.

Christians declare that the rest of the story is yet future. Those of us who are living when the Lord comes will meet Him in the air without dying. Those of us who have died will be raised to meet the Lord in the air just before those who are living are caught up to meet the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The rest of the world will be left for the terrible tribulation that is going to try those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10). The Lord's promise to come again is a motivating, purifying, blessed hope for the Christian. To the unsaved world, it is a fairy tale.

How many people are actively and regularly remembered 2000 years after their deaths? I do not know of very many. Even those who say that they don't believe in the Lord have trouble forgetting Him. Some of them spend their time removing His Word from our schools. They worry that we might talk to Him publicly in prayer even though they say He doesn't exist. They go to great lengths to prove that time and chance merged molecules and atoms in just the right way so that a lightning strike or something like that could give rise to this miracle called life. In addition, they help the rest of us remember that His word is true when they say, "Where is the promise of His coming (see 2 Peter 3:4)?" The skeptical attitude of the world toward Him and His coming gives me confidence in His coming again. One would think that a world that does not believe in Him would forget about Him. However, they simply cannot forget Him and His promises. I wonder if deep down in their hearts, most skeptics are still wondering if they are really right in rejecting Him.

Years ago, I found peace when I believed that He had promised me eternal life if I would simply trust Him. Today, every time I remember Him by eating from a loaf of bread and drinking from a cup of wine, I am encouraged by the fact that He has promised to come again FOR ME. I believe that He will keep that promise.

 

Meditation for the week of May 25, 2008