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MAY 2018

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Paradise

 

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2Co 12:2-4)

 

Contrast between the Earth and Paradise

Paradise is a word that is used for the parks of Persian kings and nobles.  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word garden is a similar Hebrew word that is translated paradise.  So paradise was first experienced in the Garden of Eden.  Paul seemed to experience it in an out-of-body experience that he describes in our passage above.  The repentant thief that died beside the Lord was told that on that day he would experience paradise with the Lord.  So paradise describes places of peace, beauty and bliss.  Paradise is not always found in the same place.

 

This earth is not a paradise at the present time.  There was a paradise at one time in the Garden of Eden but Satan managed to get Adam and Eve to spoil that beautiful place by questioning the Word of God.  "Yea hath God said?" is a question that has spoiled men and women and the beauty of this earth down through the ages.  The Garden of Eden had good food, it had good scenery, it had good company but it had one tree that stood out.  It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  There was but one command in the Garden.  God said, "Don't eat of it."  Of course, that meant that Adam and Eve had to find out why they shouldn't eat of it and in violating that command they were excluded from paradise.  Paradise didn't change but Adam and Eve could no longer enjoy it.  They were put into a world of thistles and thorns and sorrows and hard labor.  Their children fought and one killed another.  And that is the present world in which we live.

 

Paul's Experience

This world is not paradise.  However, there is a paradise for the truly repentant, born-again Christian.  Paul saw it.  He heard inexpressible words, that is, words that cannot be expressed.  He heard words that were not lawful for him to utter which probably means that they were simply indescribable.  He saw something that his natural ability could not describe or explain.  This may have occurred when he was stoned at Lystra.  He was thought to be dead but he got up and went back into the city. You can read all about it in Acts 14. 

 

The Repentant Thief

Two thieves died on crosses beside the Lord.  You can read all about them in Luke 23.  One was saved and one was lost.  According to Matthew and Mark, they both started out reviling and criticizing the Lord but one came to his senses and in faith asked the Lord to remember Him when He came into his kingdom.  Now how was a dying man supposed to be coming into a kingdom?  Obviously, the thief who knew he deserved what he was getting and that the Lord did not deserve to be crucified realized that there was a Kingdom beyond this life.  There is an eternal Kingdom of which the Lord was King.  The thief wanted to be part of that.  So he pleaded for mercy.  He couldn't make things right with those he had harmed.  He couldn't prove his faith by living a life for the Lord because his life was ending.  But He got to go "with the Lord" to paradise.  The cross was cruel but it was only going to last for a few hours.  Eternity was forever, and the thief was promised a place there by the Lord Himself.  One thief committed the unpardonable sin, the sin of unbelief and was condemned eternally.  One thief turned to the Lord confessing his sin and believed on Him and was saved. 

 

One Sin

One sin was all that it took for Adam and Eve to lose paradise.  One sin is all that it takes for us to lose paradise.  Our sins are the reason that we deserve to be banished from paradise.  But unbelief is the sin that actually banishes us.  All the rest of our sins and iniquities are forgiven once we like the thief admit that we deserve banishment from paradise but in simple trusting faith look to the Lord for salvation.

 

Paradise must be a beautiful place.  We may have seen beauty on this earth.  We may have had it good.  On the other hand we may have seen evil and wickedness and lying and cheating on this earth and we may have been exposed to the ugly side of this life.  But paradise is available.  It is just beyond the last bend in the road and just over the last hill.   Don't miss out on it!

 

 

Meditation for the week of May 6, 2018

Mother's Day for the Hurting!

 

To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

 

A Different Perspective

Mother's day is a big deal for most people.  It is one day when mothers are shown that they are valued and loved.  We know that the world would not exist without them.  Normally we think of a mother as nurturing.  However, not all mothers are good and not all mothers are nurturing.  While it is nice to be able to have a day to recognize mothers, it is a day that reminds us there is a lot of sorrow in this world.

 

The First Mother

Eve of course was the first mother.  Because she "messed up" in her desire to be "as gods" she brought sin into the world.  Her husband loved her and went along with her rebellion.  He was not deceived according to 1 Timothy 2:14 which meant that he knowingly went along with Eve in order to keep from being separated from her.  By being deceived by Satan, she lost the blessings of paradise in the Garden of Eden, she produced children in pain and sorrow, and her first born son turned out to be a murderer.  I am sure that with hindsight she would loved to have had a "do-over."

 

Mothers for whom Mother's day may not be a Blessing

Some mothers can't have children for one reason or another.  Others have tragically lost children.  That happened in my own family.  Others have children that have pursued lifestyles that are not a credit to them or their moms.  Some moms never hear from their children, even on Mother's day.   Mother's day makes those situations very painful particularly when others are rejoicing in their children and in their own mothers on that day.  When we go to church services where the moms are given roses or carnations by their children, how must that affect those whose children have died and those whose children have rebelled and those who can't have children? 

 

Mother's day has to be hard as well for those who have lost their moms, especially if they have lost them recently.  If the mothers were true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, there is joy in KNOWING that the mothers are enjoying the presence of the Lord in heaven.  But that doesn't make the grieving on earth any less severe. 

 

Biblical Mothers

Mary must have been a good mother to the Lord yet she was told that a sword would pierce her own soul also by a spirit-filled man called Simeon (Luke 2:35).  She was at the cross when the Lord was crucified.  She likely understood that this was necessary for God's plan of salvation to be just and at the same time merciful, but I am sure that her heart was broken by what was so cruelly done to her Son.

 

Timothy had a good mother and a good grandmother.  They laid the foundation for his own faith in the Lord and for his faithful service to Paul and to the Lord.  We thank God for mothers like this because most of us are predisposed to believe what we have been taught as children.  I believe our view of God is often settled long before we reach the "rebellious teens."  Fathers tend to develop our concept of God; mothers tend to develop our relationship to that God.  If a father is a disciplinarian, if he is mostly absent, our God who is also a father will likely seem to be like that.  But whatever concept of God we have, reverence for that God will often be taught by mothers.  Of course I am generalizing, but I believe that what I am saying is often true.

 

Mother's Day

Sometimes I think Mother's day does more harm than good.  Many women pretend to be happy when they are really hurting as they see what they perceive to be other happy families.  Most of us probably failed in trying to seek out and encourage those who were hurting this Mother's day.  

 

Many mothers are doted on on Mother's day and forgotten the rest of the year.  I am glad for those who have living mothers and who make every day Mother's day.

 

I am also glad that where the family relationships are broken or where there has been a loss that causes sorrow the Lord tells us that He can turn sorrow to joy.  He did it for the disciples when they saw the resurrected Lord after His crucifixion.  And He can do it for any who find this world to be a place of sorrow.  The Lord says, " Weeping may endure for a night (we are in the night season), but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)."  The night has grown dark, sorrow is everywhere.  Evil is everywhere.  But joy will come when the Lord comes for those of us who have our confidence in Him.

 

  Meditation for the week of May 13, 2018

Deception and Evil and Impostors

 

But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:13-17)

 

Truth is in Short Supply Today!

Christians believe that the Bible is divinely inspired.  But wait, some of them don't.  Christians believe that Israel is to be protected and defended and all costs because they were given special promises in the Old Testament.  But wait, some of them don't.  Christians believe that you can know for sure that you are going to heaven.  But wait, some of them don't.  Christians believe that they should be actively involved in politics.  But wait, some of them don't.  Christians believe that abortion is wrong.  But wait, some of them don't.  Christians believe that the practice of homosexuality and intimate relationships outside the marriage bond is wrong.  But wait, some of them don't.  So what are we to believe today? 

 

Truth is not Relative

Many people believe that truth is relative and that it depends upon circumstances.  They say you must find your own truth and I must find mine.  Now we can find our own beliefs and opinions but saying that we can find our own truth is another way Satan deceives. It makes each person his or her own god who defines truth.  But truth is always based on verifiable fact.  And it is true that as a Christian I believe the Bible is true based on internal validity checks.  If the Bible accurately describes me and my heart, if it accurately tells us about the Lord's first coming, if it gives us good principles for living, then I am willing to accept the Bible as bedrock Truth.  However, before questioning the veracity of the Bible, a person should know what the Bible says and how to interpret it.   AND MOST PEOPLE INCLUDING CHRISTIANS DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS.  What they know is what someone has told them the Bible says. 

 

For years the formal church kept the Bible from its congregants.  When I was young and the Gideons gave out Bibles in our elementary school, some children could not read them but had to take them home and put them away somewhere.  They were told that only someone trained to read the Bible could properly interpret it.  Some churches believe that church doctrine is more important than Bible doctrine.  Unfortunately, the protestant churches who at one time renounced the idea that only a properly educated person could interpret the Bible have now gone down the road of professionalism in understanding the Bible.  If one does not have a seminary degree, one cannot teach in most churches.  Unfortunately, many seminaries are teaching people to accept a clergy system that the Bible condemns. They are producing a professional paid clergy that tells people what to believe.  Most preachers have produced book after book.  One preacher that I recently read about had produced and published 70 books.  Now I submit to you that God only produced 66 books and he combined that into two volumes.  What preacher has 70 books in him?  Devotionals books and books on customs and language are needed and helpful.  But what is most helpful is getting alone with God and prayerfully reading the actual manuscripts in perhaps several versions.    Most people, who have been convinced that the Bible is based on verifiable fact, still do not know what the Bible says.  They have read the 70 books and have neglected the 66.

 

Discerning People

If evil men and impostors (some versions say seducers and others say those who pretend to be something that they are not), wax worse and worse, how are we to know them?  A little common sense helps.  But we cannot recognize a counterfeit unless we have studied the real deal.  Study it.  Please.  That will keep us from following those who lie, who cheat, and who bully whether they are leaders in the religious world or in the secular world.  We need to be following or imitating those who are good and not those who are evil  This was true in the apostle John's day and it is true now (see 3 John 1:11)..  We need to be identified with the truth in our practical lives if we are going to be able to convince others that we have the truth in our spiritual lives.  And I want people to believe me when I tell them that there is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6).”  How will someone I love believe that I am telling them the truth about eternity if I practice and justify lies and liars in my personal life?

 

A Different Bible

I have spent many years reading and studying the Bible.  I read helpful authors but mostly I read the Bible.  I believe that if we are really saved (born of the spirit), then with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can understand the basic message.  We do need a good concordance, a good dictionary, some helps with customs and history and some maps.  But mostly we need to read the Bible.  We need to compare Scripture with Scripture.  We need to understand that the Old Testament was written for us and the New Testament was written to those of us who are alive today.  

 

I am a wee bit confused as to what Bible many Christians are reading today because it is not the Bible that I am reading.  We can all be wrong but we cannot all be right in our understanding of the Bible.  And I for one would like to be right.  I do not want to be deceived and I don't want to deceive anyone.  I want to preach with the authority of "Thus says the Lord."  Whether that truth is accepted or not, I still want people to know that what I am preaching is the actual bedrock message of the Bible.

Meditation for the week of May 20, 2018

The Rainbow causes God to Remember

 

It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 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." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."  (Genesis 9:14-17 NKJV)

 

We  Remember

This weekend we are remembering.  We remember that ever since Cain killed Abel, men have been destroying each other.  Often it is over religious disagreements.  Many are saying that the US needs to turn back to God as though we can sign people up to “believe”.  One would think that Christianity was a big club and that with proper persuasion, Christians can get others to “sign up.”   But true worship is a personal heart matter and the heart is evil and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). One cannot force people to “believe.”  All Christians can do to help this nation is to preach the Gospel and pray that one by one people will understand their sin and turn to the Lord and trust him for salvation.  The rainbow reminds us that there was a time when people lived a long time but they didn't get better and better, they got worse and worse.  When God saw that the imagination of men's hearts was only evil continually and when He saw the violence in the earth, He regretted having made man. He decided to destroy civilization as it existed.  He wanted to start over.  Civilization needed a new birth.

 

The Rainbow

After destroying the earth with a flood (and yes, the Lord did do that), He changed the nature of things so that instead of the earth being watered with a mist, it would be watered as it is today—with rain and in some cases storms.  But He put a beautiful thing in the clouds.  He called it a rainbow.  Every time we see a rainbow we are reminded that God has promised that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood.  He has told us that it will be destroyed by fire one day, but not by a flood.  Peter tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10 NKJV).”

 

People didn't believe Noah as he built his ark on dry ground.  People don't believe Peter either.  But God keeps his promises.  The earth will never again be destroyed by a flood.  But the earth is going to be destroyed by fire. 

 

This memorial day weekend, in the area where I live, we have been remembering a devastating EF5 tornado that destroyed a good share of Parkersburg and areas on to the east several years ago.  We have also been remembering loved ones that have died, and we have been remembering soldiers that have died. 

 

But God has been remembering as well.  This weekend we have had some storms with beautiful rainbows in them.  They remind us that God sees those rainbows and remembers that He has made a promise.  (Now I will let the theologians discuss why God would need to be reminded of His promise, but that is what the text says.)  God keeps His promises.  He is not like some we know that simply do not keep their promises.  The promise that God has made me is found in John 3:16-18:

 

This is God's Provision

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

 

This is God's Desire

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

 

This is God's Results

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 

My Prayer

Lord, may we remember that we are all sinners in need of salvation.  We give thanks that our sins and iniquities are not memorialized or remembered when we trust Christ.  We would look at the rainbow and be reminded that You always keep your promises.  You promise eternal life to the believer in Christ.  You promise condemnation to those who reject Him.  Help us to remember that You do keep your promises.  Sometimes You take your time in fulfilling your promises but You can be trusted.  Amen.

Meditation for the week of May 27, 2018