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MAY 2015

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Salvation is Free, Worship is Costly

 

2 Samuel 24:24  Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

 

The Value of the Sacrifice

I am so glad that salvation from the penalty that I deserve because of my sin is free.  Isaiah 55:1 encourages us to buy wine and milk without money and without price.  I suspect that means we should be willing to pay (buy), but we can’t because the Lord is not setting a price on the value of that sacrifice that saves.  The value of the sacrifice would be diminished if a price was set.  The only way to put a proper value on something of infinite worth is to just say “thank you.” 

 

The Cost of Worship

If we really love the Lord, we will worship Him. It will be our way of saying “thank you.”   Worship is hard to define but it is easy to recognize when we see it.  It involves prayer, praise, singing, obedience, giving, evangelizing and serving.  It doesn’t occur just in an hour on Sunday morning. It is the full-time occupation of a Christian and is really the means of fulfilling the great commission.  We may have other jobs, but they are all just means that support our full-time worship of the Lord. 

 

True worship costs us something.  We may not always be honest about that when we are preaching the Gospel.  In the United States today, many claim to be Christians, but their worship does not seem to be costing them anything.  They have become passive participants with emotional responses to others who are trying to “lead” them in worship. That leaves the congregation with very little need to prepare and personally offer their own heartfelt sacrifices.  Their personal lives are often moral but very self-centered.  Maybe that is why Christianity in the US has become a shallow Churchianity for many. 

 

Romans 12:1 begs us to present our bodies as living sacrifices which is a service or worship that is only reasonable.  Matthew 6:33 admonishes us to put the Lord first if we want our needs met.  These principles are costly.  I question the concept of worship if it is reduced to an emotional response to highly talented musicians at assembly meetings and at concerts.  I personally enjoy going to a good concert, but except for the price of the ticket to get into the concert it really costs us nothing.  Christian music that I like makes me feel good much like some kinds of secular music makes me feel.  I do not really feel that my response to that kind of Christian entertainment is worship in the Biblical sense.

 

I think every aspect of our congregational gatherings should be viewed as worship.  I think every aspect of our daily lives should reflect personal worship.  We need to be concerned with how our assembly meetings and daily lives glorify the Lord. 

 

Measuring Up

Do any of us truly measure up to the standard of true worship?  I know I don’t, but I am concerned about it.  Can a person be saved without offering sacrifices that cost something to the Lord?  I am not going to give a definitive answer to that question because I really don’t know.  But what I do know is that we, like King David, should be willing to give sacrifices that cost us something.  Maybe we need to get back to making “joyful noises” to the Lord even if we can’t carry a tune.  Maybe we need to write some of our own songs.  Maybe we need to let the Lord hear us praising Him in prayer or in a public meditation.  If the Lord has spoken to us, that message should speak to others.  We certainly need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in all of our worship. 

 

It will Cost

We need to be worshipping in spirit in contrast to the lifeless rituals of the Jews when the Lord was on this earth.  We need to be worshipping in truth in contrast to the man-made system of the Samaritans when the Lord was here.   But to do that we will have to spend some time in our Bibles so that we will know what pleases the Lord. We will have to quit trying to please the flesh.  We will have to take personal responsibility for our individual and corporate worship.  We will have to sacrifice time to the things of the Lord.  And when we make arrangements in our lives and in our meetings, we need to be open to letting the Holy Spirit who is truly our worship leader rearrange.

 

It will cost us something.

 

Meditation for the week of May 3, 2015

One Mother’s Answered Prayer

 

1 Samuel 1:27  “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.

 

Hannah’s Desire

Hannah is a case study in maternal love.  She was childless and apparently in competition with another wife.  Her husband loved her even though she was childless.  The other wife who seems to be less loved taunted her for not being able to produce a child.  Having children was a sign of God’s blessing in Israel and Hannah wanted a child.  But she didn’t want just any child.  She wanted a child that would serve the Lord.  So one day when she was in Shiloh for a feast day, she was in the tabernacle praying for a child.  She didn’t say a prayer, she actually prayed.  Her lips moved, but her voice was silent.  Eli the priest saw her and thought she was drunk.  From what we read of Eli, it may be he was drunk.  It is for sure that he lacked discernment.  But Hannah prayed earnestly and her prayer was answered.  She told the Lord that if He would answer her prayer and give her a male child, she would dedicate that child to the Lord for his entire life.

 

God Answered and Hannah fulfilled her Promise

The Lord remembered Hannah and she did have a son.  She nursed him until he was old enough for a man to finish raising him, and then she took him to Eli the priest who raised him.  He seems to have become Eli’s adopted son.  His natural birth made him a Levite but not a part of the Aaronic priesthood.  But he offered sacrifices that only a descendent of Aaron should have offered.  That is why I think he became the adopted son of Eli the priest who was of the lineage of Aaron.  Hannah could say to Eli, “For this child I prayed!”  Then she dedicated him to the Lord to be used as the Lord saw fit.  Samuel still had to come to know the Lord, and that happened when the word of the Lord was revealed to him as recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 3.  Josephus, the Jewish historian, thinks Samuel was about 12 at that time.  Ultimately Samuel became a prophet, a priest and the last judge in Israel.  This was all because of a mother’s prayer.

 

Spiritual Application

While Hannah is a lesson in a practical way for mothers (and fathers) who want to have children, it seems to me that we can make a further spiritual application.  Having physical children is important but having spiritual children is more important.  Rachel prayed in Genesis 30:1,”Give me children or else I die.”  I would like to believe that we as children of God and as congregations trying to honor the Lord would pray that same prayer.  Only let our prayer be for spiritual children.  When Rachel says, “or else I die,” we might argue that is extreme.  But we are certainly going to die out unless the burden for spiritual children is placed in our hearts.  True revival in assemblies will not come from growth that is simply a result of other’s work.  Movement of believers from one group to another is not true revival.  Seeing the Lord using us in producing true children of God through the new birth is.  There is joy associated with new life.  When people trust the Lord, their teachers or leaders change (Matthew 28:19-20.  Their eternal destinies change (Mark 16:16).  Their minds are changed (Luke 24:47).  This only happens when we who are saved are more concerned with souls of men and women than we are with the things of time and sense.  We need to have our occupations changed so that we truly become witnesses unto to the Lord (Acts 1:8).

 

Mother’s Make a Difference

Sometimes I wonder what mothers want for their natural children today.  Do they have their children as an answer to prayer?  Do they want those children to amount to something for the Lord or do they want those children to make their mark in this world?

 

May This Be our Burden

Just as Rachel and Hannah had burdens to produce natural children, we need to have burdens to produce spiritual children.  Too many spiritual children today tend to live for the here and now.  We need to produce children that make a difference for eternity.    May our prayers be that of Rachel, “Give me children or else I die.”  And may our joy be the joy of Hannah who could say, “For this child I prayed.”

 

Meditation for the week of May 10, 2015

Almost is not Good Enough

 

Acts 26:28-29  Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

 

The Apostle Paul

Paul was given the opportunity and responsibility to preach to Kings.  He preached to governors, kings and Caesars.  He may very well have preached to Nero.  Paul was a good evangelist and was the best there was at convincing the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles of his day that Jesus was the Messiah.  He used the resurrection of the Lord to prove his arguments.  He knew he had seen the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9.  However, his best arguments could not convince King Agrippa.

 

King Agrippa

Convincing people of the truth of the Gospel is different that convincing them to buy life insurance or a car.  A good salesman can sell sand in the desert.  A good salesman can “close the deal.”  But only the Holy Spirit using the Word of God can convince people of the truth of the Gospel and cause them to believe it.  And even the Holy Spirit cannot convince people who do not want to be convinced.  As a result King Agrippa told Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”  Almost is not good enough. 

 

Current scholars have questioned whether the quote as found above is the best rendering of what King Agrippa said.  Many take the position that King Agrippa was sneering and was saying, “Do you think that in just a few minutes and with just a few words you can convince me to become a Christian?”  They say that he wasn’t almost persuaded at all.  However, there is good reason to believe that the heart of King Agrippa had been touched and that he knew he should believe what Paus was preaching.  History seems to indicated that he had a lot of Jewish influence in his background.  Paul himself reminds him that he believed the prophets.  Paul’s response in the next verse seems to indicate that he thought King Agrippa was being sincere when he used that word “almost.”  But King Agrippa must have had some reservation when it came to believing the truth.  Since the Jews were asking for Paul’s death, believing Paul would certainly not have made him popular with the Jewish leaders of that day.  He might very well have lost control of his subjects.  My personal opinion is that current scholarship does not address what King Agrippa said in its context and that King Agrippa really was “almost persuaded.”   However we never read of him coming to faith and almost is not good enough.  Believing about the truth is not good enough.  Hoping for a more opportune time to believe is not good enough.  Only faith in the Lord without any reservations is good enough.

 

People Today

The Bible says in Matthew 7:14, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  I don’t think we understand how few there are that really find that narrow gate.  As a Gospel preacher, I see many evangelists who “short-cut” the work of the Holy Spirit.  They use altar calls, the sinner’s prayer, baptisms, church membership, good works and many other techniques to convince themselves that that people to whom they are preaching are coming to faith.  Paul never used any of those techniques.  No matter what techniques we use, the only people who can truly claim the title Christian and who are truly saved are those who believe in or trust in the Lord Jesus.  I talk to many people who are Christian-like in their lives who have clearly rejected much of the Biblical message.  They want to believe some things that the Bible says, but they don’t want to believe all that the Bible says. 

 

My Personal Conviction

I personally believe all that the Bible says.  I don’t understand it all.  I find that I have misinterpreted the Bible at times.  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between what is allegorical and what is literal.  But without reservation, I try to take the attitude that if it is in the Bible, then God said it.  And if God said it, I need to try to understand what God is saying to me today through whatever passage I am reading and studying.  I certainly do not accept a lot of the things that Christians say the Bible teaches today.  I don’t accept a lot of things that people who claim to be Christians are doing today that seem quite unchristian.  But I am completely persuaded that Christ died for my sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).   Even if I were tortured and was forced to say I did not believe that Christ did that for me, in my heart of hearts, I would still believe in Christ.  There was a day when I was not almost persuaded, but I was completely persuaded.  Like Paul, I wish that everyone to whom I preach was not almost but altogether persuaded.  However, while I can present the Gospel, I cannot convince anyone of the Truth of the Gospel.  I cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit when it comes to persuading those I love to believe.

 

  Meditation for the week of May 17, 2015

What a Story She Had!

 

John 8:9  And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

 

Things that the Lord Remembers

The Lord made a promise after he destroyed the earth with a flood.  His promise was that He would never do that again.  He has set a rainbow in the clouds as a memorial to that promise.   In Genesis 9:16 God says, “The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  Does God forget?  He does not forget in the sense that He loses His memory.  But there are some things that He chooses not to take note of or memorialize or punish any more.  The sins of the redeemed are included in things that God chooses not to remember in that sense (Hebrews 8:12).

 

God doesn’t really need a rainbow to be reminded of His promise, but from time to time He takes note of that promise and broadcasts it to the world by setting a beautiful rainbow in the clouds.  While He doesn’t need reminding, we do.  After a lot of storms and floods, it is always nice to see a beautiful rainbow and to be reminded that God in heaven will never again allow the whole earth to be destroyed by a flood.  But it is also nice to know that the beauty of the heavenly rainbow reminds us of the risen Lord and His glories.  The empty tomb and his promise to come again, remind us that the sin question has been settled for those who trust in the Lord.  And the Lord is in heaven as a constant reminder that the sacrifice that saves is now a finished work. 

 

Things that We Remember

This is Memorial Day weekend.  We will remember and honor veterans who have died for their country and for the freedoms that we enjoy.  We should probably also remember that violence begets violence and war begets war and that death in wars will not cease until the Lord comes.  We should be reminded of the depravity of the human heart and of man’s willingness to shed the blood of others.  We will honor the veterans as we should; but if you are like me, you will wonder why it is necessary to kill and maim in order to survive in this cruel world.

 

We will also remember our loved ones who have died.  We haven’t really forgotten them but in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we need a time to spend in reflection.  Most of us aren’t really occupied with our loved ones who have died in our day to day activities unless their deaths have been recent.  So we need a time of reflection when we set other things aside to honor and reflect on their lives.  We don’t want the memory of our loved ones to fade away.  We want to tell our children who may never have met some of them about their lives.  We don’t want their lives to be meaningless and remembering or memorializing them is one way we give meaning to their lives.

 

Those of us who have been told about the Lord and who have met Him by faith will never forget that day either.  Before we met the Lord we were “dead in trespasses and sins.”  After we met Him, we were given a new life of devotion to Him.  We were set free from the domination (not from the temptation) of sin.  We may not remember the dates on the calendar when we met Him, but who can forget what it was like to be found by the Lord, the Savior of the world?  I wonder how many of us reading this today have a story to tell?  The woman taken in adultery in John 8 had quite a story.  She was caught in the very act of sin.  Men hypocritically condemned her.  When she stood alone before the Lorde expecting His condemnation, she received His love and understanding.   She was not given a license to sin, but she was given a powerful reason to love this One who could forgive sins.  What a story she had!  I suspect it was a difficult story to tell because the story had no meaning without telling about how she had been “caught.”  But she had a story and she had a Savior.  She had a memory that would be a blessing to her the rest of her life.

 

We who are saved also remember the Lord.  We do it often according to 1 Corinthians 11:25.  It is done with other Christians.  In 1st Corinthians 11 they were coming together to eat the Lord’s Supper.  When the church came together in apostolic times it seems that this was one of the things that they did.  It was a priority with them.  This keeps the memory of the Living Lord alive because those who believe in Him will be doing this until He comes.

 

Conclusion

As we remember loved ones and veterans this weekend, I hope we will also remember the Lord in our church gatherings this Lord’s day.  I hope we can also remember meeting the Lord and hearing those words, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

 

Meditation for the week of May 24, 2015

Unbelievable! 

 

John 11:47-48 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

 

The Miracle

Lazarus the friend of Jesus and the brother of Mary and Martha has just been raised from the dead.  No one there at the time could dispute the reality of this miracle because the sisters, the disciples and the mourners were there as eyewitnesses.  In addition, the Lord had waited four days after Lazarus died and was buried to raise him.  Even the Pharisees accepted the fact that this miracle occurred.  The only problem was that it proved that this Jesus had the power of life and death.  John the Baptist had said that He was the Son of God and the disciples said He was the Messiah.  But unfortunately, that didn’t fit with the plans of those who had political power.  They were the leaders of the Jewish worship, but they only used religion to control the people.  It is obvious that they did not have faith in the God that they said that they worshipped.  And now, the One who was proving Himself to be very God was getting in the way of their plans.  So they conspired to get rid of the Lord.  The unbelievers believed in His miracles but they did not believe in Him.

 

Faulty Thinking

If the Lord could raise Lazarus from the dead could He not have dealt with the foolishness of the Pharisees?  Of course He could have.  But He came to die, not to reign.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:11 that the Spirit of Christ testified prophetically of the sufferings of Christ and of the glories that would FOLLOW.  Isaiah had called the Lord a Man of Sorrows in Isaiah 53:3.  Psalm 22 speaks of the piercing of his hands and his feet.  All of the lambs of the Old Testament point to a substitutionary death to put away sin.  The Lord had to die.  But before He died, He had to prove that He was Who He claimed to be.  And this notable miracle was the miracle of all miracles.

 

Others in the Bible raised the dead.  So the Lord could have been considered to be just a great prophet.  But the Lord had claimed to be one with the Father, the Son of God, the eternal Word, and the Creator.  This along with His miracles, particularly with this miracle, should have made the Pharisees sit up and take notice.  But they were more concerned with their position and authority than they were with the welfare of the people.

 

My Thinking

I wonder what my attitude would have been if I had seen this miracle.  I am a skeptic and very suspicious.  You could easily convince me that  911 was a government conspiracy to start a war in Iraq.  You could convince me that the murder of President Kennedy was a government sponsored plot.  Now I want you to take notice that I didn’t say that what I could be convinced of  is actually true, but these things do go through my mind.  So if the Lord had been available and I had needed healing or a child raised from the dead, would I have come to Him and let Him do what He had proven He could do?  Or would I have been afraid that in coming to the Lord, I would be opening up myself and my family to demonic oppression if not demonic possession.  I don’t know.

 

I notice that those who really believed in the Lord, came to Him and listened to Him.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus had him in their home on numerous occasions.  Nicodemus came at night and listened to what the Lord had to say.  I am glad that faith doesn’t come by seeing miracles though they can be a real attention getter.  Faith comes by hearing what God has to say.  John 5:24 is clear on that point as is Romans 10:17.  I am glad that it is the word of God and not the miracles that convince me that the Lord is the Son of God and that He is ready, willing and able to save to the uttermost all who come to the Father through Him (Hebrews 7:25).  

The Real Miracle

Because of our willingness to put ourselves and our pride and our reasoning ahead of what God says and shows us, it is a miracle that anyone truly comes to real faith in the Lord Jesus.  Most of us don’t want to be confused with the facts because our minds are already made up.  We don’t want the Lord to move us out of our comfort  zones in this life.  So we don’t trust Him, either for time or for eternity.  But trust Him we must, because that is what He wants.  And trust Him we can, if we just come to Him and listen to Him with an open mind as He speaks to us through His word.

 

Meditation for the week of May 31, 2015