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MAY 2014

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Does God Really Love Us?

 

John 11:3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." (Love = tender affection of a friend)

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (Love = self-sacrificing devotion)

John 11:5 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." (Friend= tender affection)

John 11:36 Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" (Love = tender affection of a friend)

 

Circumstances of Life

Often things happen in our lives that cause us to question the love of God. Since we donít think like God thinks, it is easy for Satan to come along in a time of trial and cast his fiery darts of doubt at us. We then doubt our beliefs and believe our doubts and Satan has us discouraged and possibly defeated. Satanís lie is that that God doesnít really love us when things are not working the way we would have them work. But God does love his friends and the end of the story will always prove His love. That seems to be the lesson in this story about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

 

Love

Love in the New Testament is described by two different Greek words. There is a third word that means natural affection. A form of the word is used twice and we will not concern ourselves with that word just now. The other two words seem to be used in such a way that we can understand the love of God in all of its facets. The word for passionate love that our society tends to emphasize as if it were true love, is not used in the New Testament at all. What I find interesting is that Lazarus and his sisters were loved both in the sense of the tender affection of a friend and in the sense of self-sacrificing devotional love. Our English language is somewhat "sloppy" when it comes to defining love. The Greek was a lot more precise. So Lazarus was a friend of the Lord, and the Lord was willing to make sacrifices for him. That is implied in the use of these two words in this story.

 

The Fiery Dart

Mary and Martha knew that the Lord was Lazarusí friend. They also knew that the Lord healed. Naturally they would assume that he would want to heal his friend. But when they sent to the Lord to have him come and heal Lazarus, he stayed where he was for two more days. As we read the story, it is obvious that Martha, then Mary, and then the Jews all believed that the Lord could have healed Lazarus. After all, he had opened the eyes of the blind. However, when someone is sick we want the ambulance to come as quickly as possible because hope exists while people are living, not after they die. But the Lord lingers. Is He really Lazarusí friend? Does He really want the best for all three in this family? Yes! However, He has to cause them sorrow in order to show them that He not only has the power to heal, he has the power to raise from the dead. So now we all know that that hope does not end at the grave. That is just the beginning of a new phase of life for the believer in Christ Who is the resurrection and the life.

The Lord waited a total a four days before raising Lazarus so that there would be no doubt that Lazarus was really dead and not just unconscious. Then He raised Him from the dead. When we get to the end of the story, was Satanís lie real? No! The Lord was Lazarusís friend. He did have charity toward the whole family. He did bring joy out of sorrow. Satanís lie that the Lord didnít really care was obviously not true.

 

Conclusion

Because the Lord waited when we would have wanted Him to rush, we now know that the grave is not the end. There is life after death. The Lord will never forsake His own. We are not only loved as friends but we are loved in sacrificial ways that will glorify the Lord if we can just wait until we get to the end of the story. Many of our problems with those fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16) have to do with Godís timetable not being our timetable. He has made a promise that He is coming again. And He will, but maybe not when we want Him to come.

 

Addendum

I have often wondered how Lazarus felt about being raised from the dead. He obviously had a death experience, not a near death experience (or NDE as they are called today). He had been in paradise enjoying rest. I wonder how he felt about coming back and having to die all over again. I suspect he was happy to be used as a teaching tool for the Lord, but I also suspect that if he could have stayed where he was when his body was in that tomb, he would have done so!

Meditation for the week of May 4, 2014

Why did God Send His Son into the World?

John 3:17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Work, Purpose, Results

Most of us who love the Lord love the Gospel as set forth in John 3:16-18. I often say that John 3:16 tells us of the work of God, John 3:17 tells us of the purpose of God, and John 3:18 tells us the results of Godís work and purpose. While we often meditate on Godís love in John 3:16, recently I have been taken by Godís purpose in John 3:17.

 

Our Day contrasted to Noahís Day

In Noahís day the heart of man was only evil continually and there was violence in all the earth. The Lord lost his patience and decided to destroy the earth with a flood and to start over with one righteous man and his family. We read all about the conditions of that day in Genesis 6, but Noah walked with God and found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He believed God when he was told destruction was coming and that he needed to build an ark. Because he believed God, he and his family were saved.

When the Lord was born into this world, I am convinced that the heart of man was pretty much what it had been in Noahís day. Israel had turned to idols and away from God. Obviously the Romans were a cruel violent bunch using crucifixion as a means of keeping people obedient and subservient. The Jews were more interested in their religious positions than in justice. The Lord could have come to destroy the earth but that didnít work in Noahís day. So this time he comes to save and not to condemn or destroy. The Lord who could have called twelve legions of angels to fight for Him when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, came not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.

The Lord was the One who turned the other cheek when smitten. He was a peacemaker rather than a man of war. He was meek rather than proud. He was poor and not rich. He showed mercy to sinners and grace to those who didnít deserve it. He was misunderstood and rejected. He was all that the Sermon on the Mount said that we should be. This was a different approach. Instead of condemning as He had in Noahís day, He came to save.. Did it make a difference? Did this approach work?

For the most part the answer is a resounding NO!

What is the World like Today?

When I look around I see violence in all the earth. I see men who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. I see people who are determined to defend their rights. I see a world willing to sacrifice others but not themselves. Money and the power that can go with it are the things that motivate many. The news makes it clear that hearts are still only evil continually. And many who call themselves Christians fall into this description of the world. People use the Bible to justify themselves rather than God. There are all kinds doctrines that we are told are Christian, but in my mind are anything but. I often ask myself, am I that kind of a Christian? What would my friends, neighbors and family say? I hope I am not characterized by the cruelty and the hypocrisy of this present age.

 

Individual Blessing

Just as there were eight saved in Noahís day, there are a few that are saved today. They are not good people, they are sinners. They are not saved because they deserve it, they are saved by grace. The world as a whole will never be saved, but down through the ages there have been a few here and there who not only believe God but who believe in or trust the Son that God sent to save. They believe God when He said He sent his Son to save and not to condemn. They believe God when He says He loves them and that the proof of His love is seen at the cross.

 

Conclusion

What a joy it is to worship a God who wants to save and not to destroy. I find His desire remarkable when I look at the way most treat Him. They use His name as a curse word. They question the reality of His miracles, and they question His divinity. They change His moral principles to meet the desires of a changing society which hasnít changed at all. The imagination of the heart of man in general will always be evil. But God still sent His Son to save and not to destroy. Iím a believer in the Lord and I am glad that I can be sure that I am saved from coming destruction. Godís patience has to be wearing thin with a world that He came to save but that by and large has cruelly rejected Him

Meditation for the week of May 11, 2014

Donít the Meek end up on Crosses?

Matthew 5: 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

Definition

Humble and gentle are two words that are usually used to define the word meek. Humble means not to be proud or arrogant. So a meek person is not proud, self-assertive, or abusive in any way. The Lord says that these are the people who will inherit the earth. This does not say that warriors and those who "fight" for the truth will inherit the earth. But it will be the MEEK.

 

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven

Many people are living their lives under the "thou shalt nots" of the Ten Commandments. I believe that didnít work for the Israelites and that it doesnít work for Christians. Law only breeds more law and it doesnít deal with the change in heart necessary to live a devoted life for the Lord. Christians should be living their lives under the positive goals of the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the Sermon on the Mount is the constitution for the millennial kingdom and is the constitution for the heavenly kingdom that we enter when we are born again.

 

Grace and Works

We know that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord and we are not saved by works of righteousness. If we were saved by works of righteousness we would be boasting about our own worthiness (see Ephesians 2:8-10). However, we also know that when we are "born again" that leads to a "new life". That new life should be characterized by meekness among other things. The Lord was meek Matthew 21:5 describes the Lord as meek when He is making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was not forcing Himself on the nation. He didnít come with an army. He didnít come with a lot of media people telling the world about how good He was and how bad his opponents were. He was available, He was righteous, but He was meek. Look where it got Him. He ended up on a cross!

 

Are we really Born Again?

Recently I was at the funeral of a lady who had died at a ripe old age. She had a love for the Gospel and talked to everyone she met about the Lord. We were told at the funeral that she used the old fashioned words that used to a part of the preaching of the Gospel. She used works like "sin" and "saved" and "lost" and "born again" and "eternity." This is the way the Bible speaks, and it is the way the Lord speaks and Paul speaks; but it is not the way many of us speak today. And these words are not old fashioned, they are Biblical. But I fear that sitting in our pews today are many people who are being taught how to live like a Christian without being taught how to become a Christian. Today we use words that may be Biblical if properly understood, but we do not always hear the need for a person to "come to an end of themselves" like the prodigal son in Luke 15 did. It is so necessary to quit trusting in self in order to trust in the Lord. We talk about making decisions and following the Lord but we donít hear about the humbling of the person in the presence of a holy God before trusting in the Lord. The Lord never saved an unwilling sinner so, yes, a decision is involved; but the decision is not what we depend on. We depend on the Lord and His promises. Yes, a Christian is a follower of the Lord, but many followed the Lord who never believed in Him when He was here on the earth. They may have eaten of the loaves that He miraculously provided, but they never ate of the true manna which was the Lord Himself. Could people who call themselves Christians but who seem to lack meekness be believers in a superficial Gospel that does not produce conviction and conversion? Have many of the people who have heard the old fashioned Gospel learned the words without actually coming to know the Lord? And yes meekness is often in short supply today.

 

When we are born again, we should want to please the Lord and be like Him. We will esteem other better than ourselves. We will allow ourselves to be humbled and we will let God do the exalting. Philippians 2:1-11 tells us about the kind of mind that we ought to have if we are truly "born again." It is the mind of one who is truly meek.

 

Conclusion

The principles of Godís kingdom which we enter into when we are born again, are completely contrary to the principles of this world We are to be meek and not proud and self-assertive. If you are like me and feel that you have some adjustments to make in this area, just thank the Lord that you even have a desire to be Christ-like with regard to meekness. Most of us didnít even have the desire to be meek before we were saved and at least most of us who are saved have that desire now.

 

Blessed are the meek!

Meditation for the week of May 18, 2014

The God of This Age

 

2 Corinthians 4:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

 

Memorial Day

This weekend my wife and I watched a wonderful program on the public broadcasting channel. It was the nationís memorial to all of the soldiers who have fought in all of our wars. It showcased the living and the dead. But mostly it reminded us that war is the cause of sorrow and death. I kept asking myself, "Why is it that we must see so many young people die in the prime of life as one nation fights another or as one tribe fights another or as one gang in our cities fights another?" And while I am a believer in the God of the Bible who demonstrates both grace and truth, I know that most wars have a religious component. The principals who instigate these wars may not even believe in God, but they use religion to control those who do. Thus, they do the will of the god of this age.

 

The Effects of War

War has caused death and destruction down through the ages. I have not researched how many people have died in wars but the numbers are incomprehensible. We had about 3,000 people die in the World Trade Center bombings on 9/11/01. Then we had about 4,000 soldiers die in Iraq as a result of that bombing. Depending on the organization that did the research, they report that somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 deaths occurred in Iraq as a result of that war. And that doesnít include the number of people lost in Afghanistan, both civilian and military, as a result of that bombing of the Trade Center. Then there was the Arab Spring and the war in Syria, and the current war in the Ukraine. These are just some of the places where people are fighting one another at the present time.

 

Who wins in these wars? The answer is the god of this age.

 

The Importance of the Soul

Mankind is composed of a body, a soul and a spirit. Some say we are just body and soul which includes the spirit. But the point is that when the body dies, the real person contained in that body still exists. God says that those who come to Him and trust in the redemptive work of His Son on the cross go to be with the Lord when they die. He went up to heaven. Those who reject God and His Son go to hell. War may be hell on earth, but that is not the end for the real person inside that body. Since most people try to explain away their accountability to the Living God who has revealed Himself through creation, through the Bible and through the Lord Jesus, the majority of people who die in these wars go to hell. Does the diabolic god of this age love them? Is he going to comfort them when they miss out on the glories of heaven? NO! Instead I believe He will be laughing at them for believing in him rather than in the Living God of the Bible.

 

So who wins as a result of war? Satan wins. I understand why people have difficulty believing in a God that they cannot see and who used Satanís tool called war to cleanse the earth of people who had turned away from Him in the Old Testament. But I donít understand why people cannot see that war proves that man is being deceived by a real god called the god of this age into destroying souls eternally. Satan is a liar and a murderer. He deceived Eve so that she couldnít glorify God in the Garden of Eden and he deceives us into believing that war and violence are the answer to manís problems. As a result he causes great grief and sorrow on this earth and ushers multitudes into the eternal burnings when they are still in the prime of life.

 

Satan is Cunning

As I watched the nationís memorial this Memorial Day weekend, my heart ached for those families that have given the lives of their family members to keep us free. But I realized that we are not really free if we have to keep fighting and killing to stay free. I know that there is no earthly answer to this problem until the Lord returns as the Prince of Peace to set up his kingdom. Until then, Satan will continue to make sure that as many as possible are killed in war and then will laugh at those of us who think that we are winning when in fact everyone is losing.

 

The Solution

The only solution is found in Christ. Since Satan is cunning and powerful and since he is obviously controlling the world during this present age, we need to make sure that we are prepared should the ravages of war affect us. When we have trusted in Christ our redeemer and our savior who forgives the sins of those who trust Him, we are prepared for anything Satan can throw at us. When we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the god of this age loses and the angels in heaven rejoice. Yes, there is a battle going on. Letís make sure that we are ready for it.

 

Meditation for the week of May 27, 2014