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NOVEMBER 2005

 

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Hebrews 6:

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself,

14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

 

Patience is not one of my virtues. I am like the fellow who, when he prayed for patience, told the Lord that he wanted it NOW. This passage reminds us that the Lord makes great promises but sometimes those promises are not fulfilled when we expect them to be fulfilled. Abraham had been promised a child through Sara. Since Sara was barren when the promise was made, believing that God would perform this miracle required a great deal of faith. However, when the promise was not being fulfilled as expected, Abraham and Sara helped God fulfill His promise by producing a child through Sara’s servant. This turned out to be a mistake. After Abraham finally aged to where he could not produce children naturally, then God fulfilled His promise as He had said and Abraham and Sara produced the promised child, Isaac. When the promise was finally fulfilled, there was no longer any hope that the promise could be fulfilled naturally (Romans 4:18-19).

The Lord’s promises are often fulfilled when all hope is lost (Acts 27:20). When Paul was sailing to Rome and a storm arose that was about to destroy the ship, he certainly shouldn’t have been able to drown in the sea when the Lord had declared that he must be a witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). However, for a time it looked like the Lord’s promise to Paul that they would be saved was not going to come true. But come true it did!

When we think of the promises of God that assure us of salvation, many of us profess to be saved without ever realizing that we were lost and could do nothing to save ourselves. As a result our testimonies are full of what we did and there is very little in them about what Christ did for us. I personally was not able to trust in Christ until all hope that I would ever understand how to be saved was lost. While I believe that everyone who wants to be saved can be saved, I don’t believe any of us are truly able to trust in Christ alone until we find out that we cannot trust in anything else or in any one else including ourselves. The Lord comes to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10, Luke 15:6). I never tell people that they CAN be saved “right now” because I don’t know if they are ready to rely completely on the Lord so that He can get all the credit in their salvation. But I do tell them that they NEED to be saved right now. However, many of us have to learn this lesson that we first learn in order to be saved over and over again when it comes to daily dependence on the Lord.

Some of us are waiting for God to fulfill promises that He has made to us. In some cases, we have seen Him fulfill similar promises for others and we may have seen him fulfill these promises for us in the past. But today it may seem as though there is no possibility that the promise that we have been given is going to be fulfilled. However, the Lord doesn’t want us saying that WE made the right decision or that WE are being blessed because of our faithfulness or righteousness. Of course we should try to make good decisions and we should be faithful and righteous, but the Lord wants our complete trust and He wants all the credit. So we need patience to wait on God when it seems as though all hope is lost. That is just the point we need to get to for the Lord to get all the credit when He fulfills His promise. And the Lord will fulfill it (See 1 Corinthians 10:13). He says that He cannot lie in Titus 1 and verse 2, so His character and reputation depend on Him being true to His promises. But we need to wait patiently when it seems that the Lord has forgotten us.

 

Week of November 6, 2005

Philippians !:1-3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship (partnership) in the gospel from the first day until now.

Luke 8:3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others (were with Him), which ministered unto him of their substance.

 

Fellowship is sharing or partnership. In the Bible, Christian fellowship is experienced in different ways but it is always associated with the desire of believers to worship and serve the Lord together. We may have friends in the world but we are admonished not to be partners with the unsaved people of the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). It is my observation, that most of us are partnering with the world where we shouldn’t and we are not partnering with Christians where we could.

Recently, I met a friend who asked me how a preacher friend of his was doing. He volunteered that this preacher was special to him because he had been led to the Lord through him. My friend knew that this preacher was a traveling evangelist who depended on gifts from congregations and the Lord’s people to pay his personal and ministry expenses. He also knew that this preacher never made an appeal for funds when he preached but that he preached the Gospel freely. So I asked my friend if he had ever supported this preacher financially. He told that me that he never had. So my friend thought that the preacher was special and yet he didn’t have any desire to partner with him in the work that was instrumental in his own salvation. This just does not make sense to me.

I have often thought about our own ministry and I wonder why the people that have professed to be saved through my wife’s and my efforts have for the most part taken very little interest in the practical aspects of this ministry. Our partners often do not directly benefit from our work. Even most congregations where we speak want to pay for our services rather than sharing in our work. One congregation asked me how much I thought I should get for a week of children’s meetings. I told them that if I calculated my value the way a doctor or a lawyer would, I would have to include all my experience and schooling in my calculations. Then I would have to consider my travel time and travel expenses and the time that I gave to background study as well as my direct preparation for the meetings. Of course, most congregations that pay for services only consider the value of the hour that you preach (or the five hours in the case of a vacation Bible school). I told my friends who asked me what I was worth that I didn’t charge because they couldn’t afford to pay what I was worth. However, as they had opportunity, I hoped that they would partner with me in my work. When people pay for the services of a preacher, they get their best deal when they pay the least amount possible. When people invest or partner with a worker, the more they invest the higher their return since their share of the profits or benefits will be greater.

I notice that it is getting fashionable for singing groups who claim to be doing the Lord’s work, to charge for their tickets. Recent charges in ads I have seen range from $15.00 per ticket to about $40.00 per ticket. I expect most of these auditoriums will be full. I wonder how many Christians would consider these concerts valuable if they were free because saved people partnered with these ministries in their work. Obviously then the poor could hear the Gospel as well as the rich. But today Gospel ministries and church organizations are big businesses. People have lost the joy of giving to the Lord and sharing or partnering in His work by freewill devotional giving to ministries that preach the Gospel freely.

I have a hard time bringing myself to charge for that which is free. The Lord told his disciples, “freely ye have received, freely give (Mark 10:8).” One of our joys is to have saved friends and Christian congregations share or partner with us so that we can honestly tell the unsaved that the Gospel is free.

Week of November 13, 2005

Ezekiel 11:12 And ye shall know that I am the LORD: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.

 

What is the LORD going to have to do to convince the world, the Jews, the church and perhaps us that He is the one and only living and true God? The phrase, “ye (or they) shall know that I am the LORD,“ is found about 75 times in the old testament.. Sometimes, it is the unbelieving nations that will have it proven to them that the LORD is who He claims to be. Often it is the nation of Israel that needs to be convinced. By Ezekiel’s day, the nation of Israel that was once the worshipper of Jehovah had departed so far from the LORD that God was about to judge them. When that judgment came, God said that they would know that Jehovah was still on the throne and was their God.

In the new testament God tried something new to convince the world that He is LORD. Instead of judging those who sin as He often did in the old testament times, He judged our sin on the Lord Jesus who was sinless so that unbelievers could become convinced of the truth. He is trying to convert unbelievers into believers. He wants us to be convinced through grace and mercy that “I am the Lord” rather than through wrath and punishment. In John 12:32 He says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Now it is the cross that God is using to convince the world of the truth. But instead of unbelievers becoming believers, we seem to have professing believers accepting the doctrines and the practices of religious unbelievers just as the Jews accepted the worship of the unbelieving nations around them.

In Ezekiel, the nation that once believed no longer does. In the new testament we have groups that call themselves Christian churches that are questioning the basic values of Christianity. Some would even question whether the Bible is really the Word of God in its entirety. I am wondering what it will take for all of us to be reminded that the church is not ours but the Lord’s and is composed of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word. Salvation and regeneration are still necessary to become a part of it. Baptism (or immersion which is what the word means) to identify us with Christ after we are saved is still required to show our loyalty to the Lord. The Word of God is still our rule for faith and practice. We do not have the right to do as we please, we have the responsibility to do as the Lord pleases. Do our churches in the western world make the Lord happy or are they designed to make us happy? Would the Lord even feel welcome in our churches today (Revelation 3:20)?

The nation of Israel had every reason to believe in the LORD because the LORD had revealed Himself to them in a special way and had made them the focal point of the worship of Himself in the pre-christian world. When they turned away from the LORD, they were without excuse. We who claim to be believers in the Lord today have every reason to believe that Jesus is the Christ (and thus that the LORD is Jehovah). We need to be careful not to depart from the faithful worship of the one true God (Hebrews 3:12) Who in love laid down His life for His friends, that is for us (John 15:13).

Do we really understand who the Lord is? Some days I wonder if I am worshipping the LORD of this Bible or a fictional person that I would like God to be. It is my purpose to find out Who God is and to worship Him the way He wants to be worshipped through what has been revealed in the written Word of God instead of finding out Who God is by the judgment that is coming on this unbelieving world.

Week of November 20, 2005

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love (as a friend), I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth (has charity for) he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

 

This is the thanksgiving weekend, a time to reflect on our blessings. Those of us who have come to know the Lord Who provides us hope for eternity as well as forgiveness of sins thank God for His love. Love in the Greek culture was sometimes the love of a friend. Sometimes it was the love of duty, that is, the kind of love or charity that is morally right just as hate is morally wrong. Sometimes it was the love of things and sometimes it was the love of lovers. The new testament never deals with love from the perspective of lovers but it has much to say about the love of friends and the devotional love of duty.

One way that we know God loves us is because He says so. In John 3:16 and Romans 5:6 he expresses His devotional love or charity for us. This love may not be returned and it can be a love without a relationship. However, when the Lord says he loves as a friend, He normally uses that word for His disciples and for those with whom He has a relationship. Lazarus whom He raised from the dead was one He loved as a friend (John 11:3) and one for whom He had charity (John 11:5). It is nice when people show charity to you because they actually like you or think you are special and have a relationship with you. With the Christian, the Lord expresses that kind of charity to his friends in a most unexpected way. He shows it by His chastening.

Chastening is not punishment for sin. In 2 Corinthians 2:6, the punishment that was inflicted by many was more properly censure or rebuke. Punishment is the legal penalty that must be paid for sin when the law is broken and it looks backward. Chastening always looks forward in the sense that it is training or discipline that is designed to instruct, purify, strengthen and correct us. Our sin was punished in the technical sense when Christ died and we cannot be punished for that sin as well unless we reject what Christ has done for us. But the Lord can correct us and sometimes we use the word punishment for that idea even though we really shouldn’t. Chastening is often designed to make the good better, sometimes it is designed to correct the one who has become undisciplined. Either way the chastening of God is proof that the Lord has charity for us in Hebrews 12 and that He is our friend and has a relationship with us in Revelation 3.

When problems come into the life of a believer, we should recognize that we are not being punished but the Lord may be correcting us. However, correction from an earthly father does no good unless he tells us what we have done wrong. I cannot see how spiritual correction from our heavenly Father can do us any good unless He tells us what is wrong. I realize that most of us can think of things for which God might want to correct us, but unless our chastening is obviously correction, the Lord may be taking the best and making it better. A good athlete who breaks curfew might be asked to do 50 pushups as correction. Another athlete may be coached or disciplined to do those same 50 pushups just to condition himself. Either way, God proves his devotional love and his personal love through the chastening circumstances in our lives.

I am glad that the chastening of God proves that He has charity for me and that He is my friend. Knowing in this practical way that God loves me is the rainbow when it is raining. It is that clean smell after a thunderstorm. It is the beauty of a sunrise and the promise of a new day as dawn comes after a dark night. It is the sweet peace of reconciliation after an argument with one you love. I try to remember this on days when I wish God didn’t love me quite so much.

Meditation for the week of November 27, 2005