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MAY 2016

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Betrayed by a Kiss

 

Proverbs 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

 

Showing Affection and Love

A kiss is a way of showing true affection and love.  In the Bible, New Testament Christians were to greet one another with a holy kiss.  I am not sure what a holy kiss was but it was probably on the cheek and not on the lips and it may have been male to male and female to female.  In our Western Culture we have replaced the holy kiss with a hand shake.  I really wonder if we shouldn't do what the Lord asks and greet one another with a holy kiss so that we don't keep the person we are greeting at arm’s length.  In some families and churches, I see that a hug is often substituted for the handshake but again that is not as :”intimate” as a holy kiss.  I think it is really hard to kiss someone that you don't really like and it hard to be kissed by someone you don't really like.  Continuing the scriptural admonition to greet one another with a holy kiss might force us to deal with the anger and divisions that seem to exist in Christian circles.  If we weren't willing to kiss or be kissed, in a holy way of course, it would be obvious to all and perhaps the underlying issues could be addressed.  Having said that, I am more than willing to stay with the handshake.

 

The Kisses of Betrayal

A kiss from a true friend is a wonderful thing.  But a kiss from a supposed friend is often deceiving.  I am sure that most of us have felt betrayed by people who professed their love for us.  Perhaps they didn't kiss us literally, but they said that they loved us and then went on to betray us.  Now I know this sort of thing should never happen in Christian circles, but it does.  A true friend will give you constructive criticism.  A true friend will do it in an environment that will not embarrass you.  They will do it in a kind way.  A true friend wants what is best for you and will be there for you even when that involves some “wounds.”  But the enemy often “kisses” in order to deceive the person being kissed, and then they attack and try to destroy the person kissed.

 

Joab used a kiss to disarm Amasa.   In 2 Samuel 20:9-10 we read, “Then Joab said to Amasa, 'Are you in health, my brother?' And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.  But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab's hand. And he struck him with it in the stomach, and his entrails poured out on the ground; and he did not strike him again. Thus he died.”  He was betrayed by a kiss.

 

Judas used a kiss to betray the Lord.  In Luke 22:47-48 we read,   “And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'"  Amasa was deceived by Joab but the Lord was not deceived by Judas.  He even called Judas a friend in Matthew 26:50.  But still for Judas to pretend to be a close friend and then to use the kiss as a means of betrayal is almost mind boggling.  This was a man with absolutely no moral compass.

 

What about Us?

Could any of us be a Judas or a Joab?  I have often wondered if Joab was a “saved” man in the New Testament sense.  He betrayed a relative and a person who was competing for his position as King David's five star general.  And yes, I think it is possible for Christians to be empire builders who are more concerned with their position and their prestige than they are concerned with the things of the Lord.  When they do this, they certainly are not walking in fellowship with the Lord, and it may be true that they have never really came to know the Lord as their Savior.  However, Judas was a son of perdition from the very beginning and the Lord knew that.  His betrayal was a complete rejection of the Lord.  His world view was self-serving.  He was using the Lord.  And no Biblical born-again Christian can be a true Judas.  The Lord was not deceived by Him.  What He did was not a surprise to the Lord.

 

A kiss can be a good thing.  In the Song of Solomon it is used to express the love of the couple.  In Psalm 2:12, it is the thing God desires for His Son.  Psalms 2:12 says, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”  The kiss here is not the kiss of a Joab or the kiss of a Judas but the kiss of one who truly loves and worships the Lord.  And the Lord gets angry with those who are not willing or who feel they are unable to love the Son in this way. 

 

Most of us do not spend time analyzing the people who kiss us, or hug us, or say that they love us.  We are in such need of affirmation that we tend to accept those expressions of love on face value.  And I think as Christians we should.  While that leaves us vulnerable to hurt and we may be deceived with a kiss, hopefully we will never do that to others.  And surely, we will not do that to the Lord.

 

 

Meditation for the week of May 1, 2016

What About the Singles?

 

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

(1 Corinthians 7:34)  There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband.

 

The First Mother

Another Mother's day has come and gone.   Mothers were honored and extolled and praised as they should be.  We couldn't be here without them.   However, not all mothers wanted to be mothers and not all mothers are good mothers.  For example, looking at mothers in the Bible we have Eve who was the mother of all living, but she also was the source of death that came into the world.  She made one bad decision that has affected all of her children ever since.  She wanted to be "as gods knowing good and evil."  She not only got that knowledge but she found out what it was to experience good and evil.  Cain, her first born son, killed his brother. Cain wanted to worship God his way, Abel wanted to worship God God's way.  So Cain's murder was the first religious persecution and Abel was the first religious martyr.   I am not sure that I would call Eve a "good" mom. 

 

Other Mothers with Problems

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was the mother of a child born after she was too old to have a child.  She had been promised this child but she took things into her own hands in order to see that promise fulfilled. She convinced her husband to produce a child through Hagar, her maid.  That lack of faith is the source of tribal problems yet today.  She couldn't wait.

 

Rebecca, the wife of Isaac,  favored Jacob over his twin brother Esau.  Esau was the firstborn but she convinced Jacob to deceive Isaac into giving him the blessing that normally belonged to the firstborn son.  There have been tribal problems between their descendants down through the years.  She showed favoritism.

 

A brave Mother

Abigail, the wife of Nabal who was a fool, had to take things into her own hands to save her family from destruction under the hand of David.  Some say she didn't disobey her husband but to me it appears that she definitely did and she definitely should have.  Her husband was a fool but she was wise.   She saved many lives and kept David from doing something that he would later regret.  While wives are supposed to submit to the Godly decisions of their husbands, there are times when they have to use some God given common sense.  Abigail did this.

 

Mothers who were a Blessing

Hannah prayed for a man child.  She promised the Lord that she would dedicate the child to the service of the Lord all the days of his life if God would answer her prayer.  The Lord answered her prayer and she produced Samuel, the last of the judges who ruled and guided the nation of Israel.  Samuel was dedicated to the Lord by Hannah and he apparently became an adopted child of Eli the priest at that time. He became a prophet and a priest and was one of the best judges that Israel had in the day of the judges when every man started doing what was right in his own eyes. She was blessed and she was a blessing.

 

Mary became the mother of the Lord.  The Lord called her blessed.  But she was there when her Son was crucified.  She was blessed and she was a blessing but her blessing came with great sorrow.  Simeon had told her in Luke 2:35 that a sword would pierce her own soul also.  Obviously he was referring to the sorrow she would feel when the Lord was unjustly crucified. 

 

Those who Are Not Mothers

Then there are those who have not married or who are married but do not have children even though they would like to have them.  Are they any less important than the married with children?  No, in fact they are free from the “distraction” of trying to please a husband while also wanting to serve the Lord. (See 1 Corinthians 7:35.)  The blessing of marriage and motherhood is great; however, the blessing of being single may be greater.  We value our single gals who were not given a flower by their natural children on Mother's day.  In many cases they have become nurses, teachers, social workers, day care providers and missionaries who have blessed more children than a married women will ever bless. 

 

We thank and bless our mothers, but we also thank and bless all single women on this Mother's Day.

 

Meditation for the week of May 8, 2016

Where Is the Compassion?

 

Matthew 27:35-36 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: "THEY DIVIDED MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS."  Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.

 

Matthew 27:54  So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

 

Compassion of the Roman Soldier

One has to wonder what it was like to be a Roman soldier who crucified supposed criminals in the Roman system of justice.  Roman soldiers by this time were for the most part professionals.  They had volunteered for their service and were being paid.  Many were in for the long term and most were in the service of the Roman Legion for at least 20 years.  They had to see horrible things. Today we won't let a dog suffer, but under Roman rule, causing a criminal to suffer was the norm.  I am sure that most of those who were crucified were guilty of some crime.  But were those crimes so abhorrent as to require this kind of suffering and pain?  In the Lord's case, these soldiers knew that he had been found innocent by the Roman governor, Pilate.  Did they ever consider that a mob might one day unjustly charge them with a crime and that they might themselves end up on a cross?  Did these soldiers have any compassion?

 

Sitting down they kept watch over Him there.  For some of these soldiers, this likely was their entertainment for the day.  In our day, we watch violence on TV and read about it in the newspapers and our kids play games of violence.  In the good old days we did play cops and robbers with toy guns; but, today, our children are exposed to fantasy games that are much more realistic than the toys some of us had.  I am not sure cops and robbers was a good thing back in my day, but the violence that seems to be entertainment for our children is certainly not good.  But these soldiers didn't have to be involved in make-believe games of violence because they were not only involved in cruel wars but they were involved in cruel police actions.  Crucifixion was one of them.  So they got to watch the Lord react to his suffering on the cross.  I wonder what went through their minds.

 

Some Roman Soldiers were Affected by this Crucifixion

One thing that they weren't used to in their crucifixions was a period of complete darkness.  Those three dark hours had to cause them to sit up and take notice that this crucifixion was different.  Then there was the earthquake.  The earthquake and the things that had happened put the fear of God in the soldiers that had crucified the Lord.  We don't read of any of the chief priests who had their mind changed about Who the Lord was at his crucifixion, but some of the Roman soldiers had their minds changed.  The chief priests tried to perpetuate the lie that the Lord had been stolen away after the resurrection.  They were simply not interested in the truth.  Causing an innocent man to suffer didn't affect them.  But watching the Lord and seeing the things that were done affected the soldiers who had to be hardened to this sort of thing. 

 

Where is our Compassion?

Watching the Lord will always affect on us.  For the believer, Hebrews 2:9 says,  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”  For the unbeliever we are reminded of the prophetic statement of Jeremiah which likely refers to the devastation of Jerusalem after Babylon had destroyed it.  But the statement surely applies to the Lord as well.  In Lamentations 1:12 Jeremiah says, "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like my sorrow, Which has been brought on me, Which the LORD has inflicted In the day of His fierce anger.”

 

The Lord had compassion.  A group of hardened soldiers apparently had compassion.  Many of the people watching smote their breasts--they had compassion.  However, religious leaders of the Jews did not.  But do we as Christians have compassion today?  Do we have compassion on those who are passing by the cross as unbelievers and who will one day experience the eternal wrath of the Almighty God because they have rejected the only One who could and would save them?  Are we among those who are ready to kill those who disagree with us and who bully us for our faith or are we among those who are grieving over the hardness in this world and the willingness of people to take sacred life?

 

I hope that today as we figuratively sit down and watch Him, we are a people whose hearts have been touched.  Not only should we grieve because of the need for the death of the Lord and for the suffering involved in that death, but we should grieve for those who do not understand what this black day in the annals of human history really means.

 

May we be a people of compassion

 

Meditation for the week of May 15, 2016

Telling it Like it Is!

 

John 8:21  Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come."

1 Thessalonians 4:16  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

 

The Great Deception

Try going to your preacher and asking him or her if it is possible to know for sure that you are going to heaven.  Generally they will say, “No! No one can know that for sure.”  But then go to a funeral that is preached by that same person and you will generally find that they are confident that the person in the coffin is in heaven.  I find that strange.  I tell people BEFORE they die that they can know for sure that they are going to heaven.  But after they die, when I am preaching the funeral, I make it clear that I don't know for sure if the person is in heaven or not.  In many cases, based on their verbal testimonies and their lives, I am quite confident that the person trusted in Christ and died “in Christ” and did not die “in their sins.”  In those cases I will say so.  However, many times I preach funerals where the person in the casket has not left clear testimony that they had trusted in Christ.  In those cases, I preach the Gospel and tell the audience that if this person is in heaven, then this is what they believed BEFORE they died.  I think we should know where we are going BEFORE we die and the preacher should be careful with that issue AFTER we die.  No preacher can put a person in heaven after they die.  Only faith in the Lord can assure us of heaven and He does that BEFORE we die.  John 5:24 is pretty clear on this point.

 

The Lord's Plain Teaching

In John 8 some very hypocritical religious leaders of the Jews had brought a woman to the Lord who had committed adultery,   She was obviously guilty as she had been caught in the very act.  They must have had cell phone cameras or security cameras in that day as well.  Notably they didn't bring the man who was involved.  The Lord listened to the charge against the woman and then said that the one without sin among them should carry out the justice required by the Old Testament law and should cast the first stone.  When the Lord said that the person without sin should cast the first stone, I personally believe He was saying that the person without THIS SIN that they were charging her with should cast the first stone.  Interestingly, they must have believed that the Lord knew all about them, because everyone left from the oldest (who likely had the most sin) to the youngest.  Then the Lord Who was not guilty of this or any sin forgave her and charged her to quit her sinning.  She must have breathed a sigh of relief and no doubt a great burden was lifted.  I suspect she might have had a different perspective on life, and she certainly must have thanked the Lord.  I think she might have been “born again.” 

 

But the religious leaders who did not believe in the Lord were not done.  They kept challenging the Lord's teaching and the Lord is very plain.  They were going to die "IN THEIR SINS.”   Since the Lord was going back to heaven and since He says, “Where I go ye cannot come,” He is telling them that they are going to die and go to hell.  After all there are only two eternal destinies and purgatory is not one of them.  Neither is there a “limbo.”  Think of it, religious leaders are going to die in their sins, and a sinner is going to die in Christ.  When we are “in Christ”, God does not see our sins, He sees Christ.  Those in Christ have their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb, that is, by the death of Christ. 

 

So What do We Learn?

Obviously, it is important to know one's eternal destiny before dying.  This Bible was written so we could know.  It was not written to leave us in doubt.  That is why we read words like “surely,” and “surely surely,” as well as “this is a faithful saying,” etc.  This is why the apostle John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13.)”

 

We also learn that the justice of the Old Testament has been satisfied by the death of Christ on the cross.  When this justice is rejected people die in their sins.  When this justice is accepted by faith in the Lord Jesus people die in Christ.  John 1:17 reminds us, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  I am glad that I live in New Testament days and know the One who provides grace without giving up truth.

 

Maybe preachers should get as honest with their parishioners as the Lord was with those who listened to Him.  On the other hand, maybe we have a lot of preachers who are like the religious leaders who were condemning the Lord.  Maybe they answer the way they do because they are still “in their sins.” 

 

 

Meditation for the week of May 22, 2016

Neither Shall they learn War Anymore!

 

Isaiah 2:1-4

(1)  The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

(2)  Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.

(3)  Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

(4)  He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

 

Remembering those who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

On this Memorial Day weekend, we will be remembering those who have died to protect the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.  We will remember people who made the ultimate sacrifice.  They gave their lives.  This will be a day of patriotism and a day of pride as well as a day of sorrow.  Those who died never got a chance to live the kind of life that they died to preserve.  Many did not have families.  Many who did have families left them behind sorrowing  While there is a sense of pride in remembering the faithful, in my mind this is one of the saddest days of the years.  Why should people have to kill other people?  Why should leaders have so little empathy for the lives of those that they send into war?  Why can't we live together in peace?  The answer to that question is a three letter word that we really don't like.  That word is SIN.

 

Sin

Sin has infected us all.  Wars are fought for many reasons but ultimately wars are fought out of a desire for control and power.  Most wars have been fought on religious grounds—that is, religion has been used as the excuse for the war.  I know that God used war to cleanse the promised land of infidels in the Old Testament, but we live in the New Testament times when infidels are supposed to be convicted and converted through the preaching of the Good News and not physically killed.  I know that one of the great arguments against New Testament Christianity has to do with the wars of the Old Testament.  But I have to leave that to God and to His justice.  It didn't make the Jews as a nation faithful to God and the infidels were not converted.  In other words, the Old Testament wars didn't provide a paradise then and they won't provide one now.  And yet the world is filled with people using war to wipe out cultures that do not believe as they believe.  It is obvious that they aren't as worried about their God as they are worried about their own ability to have power and control.  Even the Jews that crucified the Lord after the notable miracle of the raising of Lazarus 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 (John 11:47-48)."  They didn't deny the reality of the Lord's miracles, but they weren't concerned with the good He could do.  They were concerned with their own “place.” 

 

Peace will Come

The Lord did something that was not logical in His day and is not logical today.  He said that to win we must die  And while we should remember those who died to protect our freedoms today, will we also worship and remember the only innocent One who died to put away our sins?  He is the One who died so that we might live eternally with Him in heaven.  True peace comes with trusting Him for time and for eternity.  The day will come when there will be peace on earth. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.”  That day is future, it is not now.  But right now, we can have the peace that passes all understanding.  We can know the God of peace.  We can be sure that while in the world we  will have tribulation, the Lord has overcome the world. 

 

Let us Remember

Yes, let us remember our fallen soldiers.  Let us grieve however over their need to die.  Better yet let us remember the Lord who also gave His life. Thankfully, the grave could not hold Him.  He was raised from the dead.  Someday, He will reign on this earth.  I believe that by that time I will be enjoying the blessings of the Father's house that has been prepared for believers.  But my war is over. The Lord will one day give the earth the peace that this earth cannot achieve through local, state, national or world government.  All of those governments are governments of sinners for sinners.  But the Lord will provide a righteous government for a righteous people. 

 

Be assured, one day we will not have to remember fallen soldiers because the earth will have world peace.  And rest assured that what we believe is a heart matter and true converts of any religion cannot be made by force.  There is an old saying that declares, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”  But the Gospel does change hearts and it can change nations.  Wars will never succeed in bringing about peace.

 

Meditation for the week of May 30, 2016