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NOVEMBER 2006

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2 Chronicles 32:24-26

In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign. But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

 

The Random House International Dictionary of 2006 defines pride as, “a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” Here in Hezekiah’s case, pride is described as having one’s heart lifted up. Normally pride causes us to exalt ourselves.

Pride caused Eve to want to be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5-6). While I am a firm believer in getting a good education, a desire for knowledge and wisdom can be caused by pride. Sometimes we want to have all the answers and our educations make us judgmental. We may begin to think that we are the standard by which the rest of the world should be judged. A good education will teach us facts and how to think and reason properly. A good education will give us tools so we can be creative, but it does not give us the moral authority to declare what is right and what is wrong. That authority belongs to God, and a good education will include Biblical knowledge and wisdom.

Prejudices are often associated with pride since it is easy to have pride in our race or skin color or social standing or intellect or even in the fact that we are saved while others are not. Pride often leads to sin since it is pride that keeps us from bowing to authority and that keeps us from learning from others mistakes. How many times have we or someone we knew said, “He (or she) is not going to tell me what to do!” Pride often keeps us from being truly reconciled to one another when offenses have occurred because the offender often thinks that what they have done is justified. Pride often keeps us from seeing things from the other persons point of view.

In the Bible, leaven or yeast seems to be a picture of pride. Yeast puffs up and it affects the whole loaf that has it put in as one of the ingredients. In 1 Corinthians 5:6, leaven is associated with moral evil. In Galatians 6:9, leaven seems to be associated with false doctrine.

Hezekiah seemed to fall victim to pride when the Lord blessed him. Possibly his pride was because the Lord had healed him and given him a mighty sign that he would add 15 more years to his life by having the sun dial go backward instead of forward. When Hezekiah repented, he is described as humbling himself which is the opposite of being lifted up.

Pride is usually the reason most of us have trouble coming to saving faith in Christ (see Psalm 10:4). We have trouble trusting in the Lord because we do not want to be accountable to Him. Most of us think we are fairly intelligent and that we are pretty good. Finding out that we don’t think right and that we don’t act right as far as God is concerned is humbling.

About the time we think we have pride under control, we find ourselves proud of our humility. In Proverbs 16:18, we read, :“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” When we are filled with pride, for whatever reason, we are living life in the danger zone. That is reason enough to humble ourselves; to be realistic about our abilities and accomplishments; to submit ourselves to God and to one another, and to avoid a great fall.

Meditation for the week of November 5, 2006

Matthew 14:30-32

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

 

The Bible encourages us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That probably doesn’t mean that we should pray every minute of every day, but it probably means that we shouldn’t give up when we pray about something and we don’t seem to be getting an answer. Some people think God answers prayers that are repeated over and over again. Some people think real praying occurs when we speak in tongues and nobody but God understands what we are saying. But real praying occurs when there is an immediate need and when the prayer is short. If Peter had prayed a long formula-based prayer, he would have drowned before he got to his, “In the name of the Lord, Amen.”

I like to think that this actual historical event is an allegory representing life from the cradle to the grave. The disciples were going from one side of the lake to the other. I like to think of the ship as representing the fellowship that we enjoy in the church. To get into the boat you need faith in the boat. To get into the church, you need faith in the Lord. The fact that it was dark and in the fourth watch makes me think that this represents the darkness of the church age when the Lord is in heaven just before the day is about to dawn or just before the Lord returns. The mountain that the Lord was praying in represents heaven where he is our advocate and great high priest.

The trip across the lake was stormy and that is often the case in this life. After we are saved, we often find ourselves tossed by the waves of a contrary wind. And it often seems like the Lord isn’t there when we need Him. But He was watching and He came to where they were. Peter wanted to test the reality of who this person was by asking for permission to walk on water which he did in response to the Lord’s command to “come”. Peter had more faith than I have. I don’t like to jump off the high board at a swimming pool where I can see bottom and the pool is calm and a lifeguard is present. But Peter walked on water for a little while. Then he got his eye off the Lord and on the storm. That is when he got that sinking feeling and cried out to the Lord, “Lord save me.” Peter was already one who believed in the Lord, but as his disciple he needed to be preserved. The Lord did not fail him.

Do you notice how that the wind ceased when the Lord and Peter got into the boat? When life seems difficult and when everything that can go wrong seems to be going wrong, we need to pray the short prayer of Peter and then make sure that we have included the Lord in our circumstances and in our company. His presence gives peace. His power still the storms. The One who died to save us, certainly is not going to forsake us when it seems that we are going to drown in the stormy lake as we journey by faith through this life

 

Meditation for the week of November 12, 2006

Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

 

Once Paul found out that Jesus was Lord and that he had been persecuting the One that he should have been worshipping, his first question was, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Paul had been doing what he thought was right and now he wanted to do what the Lord told him was right. He had been serving the religion of man and now he wanted to serve the crucified but risen Christ. Paul had truly been converted. His “new birth” was evidenced by this question.

Sometimes, we know what the Lord would have us to do because he has clearly told us. We are to be baptized; we are to show forth his death in the Lord’s supper; we are to be separated from unbelievers in our lives so that their decisions do not become our decisions; we are to gather with other Christians for support and fellowship; and we are to preach the Gospel. However, there are some areas in our lives where the Lord’s will is not so clear. But we should still ask the question, “Lord what will YOU have me to do?”

Recently, I was at a Senior Center for a Bible study. Afterwards, we were served their Thanksgiving meal. In past years, the manager of the center would ask the person leading the Bible study group to give a public blessing on the food. However, the last couple of years, the manager has not asked us to do this. We asked the current manager if we could this year. She said that it was up to us. Whatever we wanted to do was fine with her. That would seem to have given us an open door so that we could publicly honor the Lord. But all of a sudden those in the Bible study group had differing opinions as to whether we should thank the Lord publicly.

Some thought that we might antagonize those who play bingo and who complain that those of us who enjoy conversation after the meal is over are interfering with their game. Some thought that we should be bold in our testimony and let them “not listen” if they didn’t approve. I had to make the final decision since I was being asked to bless the food. I asked the question, “Lord what will YOU have me to do?” My conclusion was that we are to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). I really doubted if our being confrontational was going to lead anyone to Christ, and I suggested to the others that if we exercised our freedoms, then when other religions decided that they wanted to practice their faith in public in the facility, it would be hard to complain. It was my judgment that we needed to be cooperative, not confrontational; and if we did not exercise our “rights” we would be better able to resist other religions coming in and exercising their rights. So I did not bless the food publicly. Of course we did bless it privately at the close of the Bible study when we were together in the room where the Bible study is held. I believe the Lord gave us guidance.

I wonder how many times, I have made my decisions thinking I was pleasing the Lord when in all honesty, I made the decision based upon what I wanted to do. We often think that if it pleases us it pleases the Lord, and yet many things that please the Lord do not please us since He thinks differently than we do (Isaiah 55:8). He asks us to die in order to live, to live for eternity and not for time, to consider others better than ourselves, to be humble and not proud. These are not the things that normally please us.

If we are willing to be obedient even when we don’t know where our decision will lead and even when the decision is not the decision we would like to make, I am confident that we too can know what the Lord wants us to do and that we can be delivered from self-will in our desire to serve the Lord.

Meditation for the week of November 19, 2006

Ecclesiastes 11:8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.

 

Solomon authored the major part of three books. Proverbs is the practical wisdom of a spiritual man and seems to have been written when Solomon was enjoying fellowship with the Lord. The Song of Solomon is a poem that expresses the spiritual wisdom of a spiritual man who is in fellowship with the Lord. Ecclesiastes seems to be the worldly wisdom of a man who had lost his fellowship with the Lord in order to enjoy this life and now realizes that he has made some great mistakes. Solomon shares his experience with us so that we can avoid those same mistakes.

Solomon tells us is that no matter how many houses we build, no matter how much pleasure we enjoy, no matter how much honor we get, there will be dark days. Some think those dark days occur in this life and are days of trial. Some think those dark days are the days we spend in the grave after we die. Either way, Solomon was depressed and says that everything in life is simply like chasing the wind. I find that interesting because Solomon had everything that most of us strive for in this life.

I believe that Solomon was truly saved but that he made some bad choices. However, the Lord has certainly shown us that we who are saved do not always enjoy the blessings that God has in store for us on this side of eternity. Solomon was raised by David who was always loyal to the worship of Jehovah. Solomon had heard the voice of God speaking to him as he began his earthly reign. Even so, Solomon made it possible for his wives to introduce the worship of other Gods into the religious life of Israel. He likely did it to please the women whom he had married in order to establish peace treaties with the nations around him. He probably thought that in a practical way it made sense. But what he did was wrong. If a man of his intellect and background could do this, could we? Of course we could, and then we too could end up as depressed as he ended up.

What does he advise us to do at the end of his life? His advice is to remember our Creator in the days of our youth before the evil days come. That we have a Creator to me is self-evident. Who that Creator is and how to worship Him may require some honest searching, but to know the One who made us and to look forward to meeting Him after we die is the only thing that makes sense out of this life of guns and wars and hate and crime and famine and disease. Solomon seems to understand at the end of his life that a life without God is an empty life. I believe it reduces us to random blobs in a random universe that makes absolutely no sense. But a life where we know and trust in the Living God of heaven is a life that can satisfy even when life doesn’t make sense. And I will admit that life often doesn’t make sense.

I am thankful that I have enjoyed a relationship with the Lord for over forty years. Looking back, the years have passed very quickly. Much of life happened while I was just trying to survive and has amounted to nothing. But I believe that Paul was divinely inspired when he gives us great hope in the future by telling us that to depart and to be with Christ is far better than living down here (Philippians 1:23). That is the cure for the days of darkness and gives us something for which we can be thankful.

Meditation for the week of November 26, 2006