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NOVEMBER 2013

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Bullying is Not New!

 

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.

 

Dictionary dot com, the online dictionary, defines bullying as ďa blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.Ē Our school children were not the first people to be bullied. Bullying was used by the rulers of the Jews to try to intimidate the Lord during His ministry. While the Lord appeared weak, He was not. While he appeared to be one who was just a carpenter, the son of a carpenter and from the despised city of Nazareth, in fact He was and is the Son of God and He came from heaven and went back to heaven. We know that this is not just a problem of the young. All of us have seen adults bully people that they want to control and intimidate as well. 

In the final week of the Lordís ministry, he made His triumphal entry in Jerusalem, offering Himself as King to the Jews. Afterwards He cried over the city, knowing that He was going to be rejected and that destruction was coming because of it. Then he cleansed the temple of those who were making a business of religion by selling animals needed in the temple worship. They were also changing Roman money to Jewish money so that the temple taxes could be paid. All of this was apparently being done at a nice profit. Thus, in cleansing the temple, the Lord was hurting the pocket books of those who were using the temple and the temple worship for personal gain. 

As we go into chapter 20, we find that those who thought they were in authority confronted the Lord. They said in verse 2 ďTell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?Ē In reality they are saying, ďWho do you think you are! What right do you have to disrupt the business that was being done in the temple?Ē And by their questions and demeanor, the threat that He would pay for what he had done was implied. Of course He did pay by being hung on a Roman cross where again the bulls mocked Him. In mocking Him, they were making sure He understood who was boss. However, they didnít really know who was boss!

The Lord used a question to prove to them that they got their authority from the people even though they were not democratically elected. When he asked them whether John the Baptist got his authority from God or man they couldnít answer. John was the Lordís herald, going before the Lord and pointing Him out as the Messiah. If they recognized Johnís authority as God given, then they were doing wrong by questioning the Lordís authority. If they didnít publicly accept John as a prophet, then they would have lost their influence with the Jewish people. So they were getting their authority from the Romans who ultimately expected them to control the people. They couldnít do this if they rejected John the Baptist. So they didnít answer the Lord proving that their authority ultimately came from the people. However, the Lordís authority came from the Father Himself who could say, ďYou are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased (Luke 3:22).Ē 

The Lord humbled Himself, He was gracious and merciful. When He was reviled, He reviled not again. He was always the gentlemen. He spoke with authority when rebuking hypocrisy and when explaining the consequences of not accepting Him. But He never intimidated people that He considered weaker than Himself. He never bullied and neither should we.

Meditation for the week of November 3, 2013

Should we Fear God?

 

Romans 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Fear is from the Greek word phobos. It is from a primary word phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright. The word has been translated: be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror.

 

Fear Defined and Explained

Sometimes fear is looked at as reverence or awe in the Bible. But often the word that is used for fear means terror. 1 John 4:18 says love casts out fear which involves torment. Today we preach about the God who loves us, and we should. But that same God is a God who is going to have a day of vengeance when he destroys His enemies. He has wrath according to John 3:36 and 2 Thessalonians 1:10. When destruction comes (and it will), those who are so self-assured and confident now will be wanting to die. We read about that coming wrath in Revelation 6: 12-17:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath is come and who is able to stand?"

 

Lack of Reverence and Fear is Foolish

Just before the Lord was crucified, He told the Jewish leaders of coming judgment. But they were in control and they had no fear of God before their eyes. So they took an innocent man and condemned Him to death. They mocked Him without considering that what they were doing shouldnít be done to any man. Their own Bible said that they were to love one another. Their own Bible warned against condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free. Even though God had already judged the nation once because of their idolatry and wickedness, they still wickedly crucified an innocent man. But what they didnít realize was that they were crucifying their Messiah. They have already paid for that with the destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman general Titus, but they are not done with Godís wrath yet. When the full extent of Godís wrath is unleashed, men and leaders and kings will want to die thinking that will put them out of their misery. They will not consider that "after death" is the final judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The wrath of God against those who have rejected the Son of God will be final, eternal and terrible.

 

Godís Wrath is Real and Godís Wrath is Coming!

This weekend, the Philippines have experienced one of the worst hurricanes on record. The wise who were in the path of the hurricane fled to safety. The wise who know that hurricanes are likely where they live, prepare for them. The foolish who donít prepare and donít flee, often die in them. It is fairly easy to be casual about a hurricane when the sun is shining and the wind is calm. But when the storm starts raging, I can only imagine the fear of those who donít flee and are caught unprepared in the storm.

Today, many people are living as though the Lord will never judge the Christ rejecter. Many think that they donít need to worry; all things are pretty much continuing as they have since creation. See 2 Peter 3: 4. But as I understand it, when God begins to execute His vengeance, it will be sudden. 2 Thessalonians 5:3 says: For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

Now is the time to take God seriously. God is a God of love, which is why His wrath has not come yet. But it will come! I am glad that I feared God and fled to the Lord for safety.

 

Meditation for the week of November 10, 2013

What is it Going to Take?

Psalm 107:8-9

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,

And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

For He satisfies the longing soul,

And fills the hungry soul with goodness.

 

The Cost of Departure

The children of Israel had rebelled against the Lord and had been taken into captivity. The northern ten tribes were taken captive by Assyria and the two remaining tribes were taken captive by Babylon who also took control of Assyria. Ultimately, the Medes and Persians took over Babylon and Israel was forced to survive in a land that was not theirs. It was not the land for which the faithful longed, because it was not THEIR LAND.

In Ezekiel, over and over the Lord warns Israel of coming destruction because of idolatry. But He also tells the Israelites that when the destruction came, then the people would know that "I am the LORD." They would realize that the Jehovah or LORD who had originally delivered them from Egypt, the One who had fed them in the wilderness, and the One who had defeated their enemies in war was the One and Only God. What He wanted was their loyalty and worship. He did not want to share that with lifeless worthless idols.

 

The Blessing of True Restoration

Now in this passage, some of the Israelites are able to return to their land. And when they do, they now understand that Jehovah is God. More than that, Jehovah is THEIR GOD. He blesses those who are faithful to Him and He satisfies.

 

Application to Believers Today

Why does it take calamity for us to understand who the Lord really is and to understand where blessing is found? While Christians today should be looking for heavenly promises and not earthly promises, the church is so mired in earthly ambitions and concerns that we have become lukewarm. We think we are rich when we are poor. We are blind and donít know it. The Lord is standing outside the door to His church and is just waiting for someone (anyone) to invite Him into the church. Of course I am describing the conditions of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-22, but we are much like them today.

I have been saved now for 50 years and I have watched the so-called worship of the Lord go from spirit-led to performance-led. Much of our worship seems to see the Lord as an onlooker that we talk about and not as a participant to whom we talk. I have seen preaching go from that which convicts to that which entertains. Our preachers used to be trained by other preachers who believed and practiced the simplicity of the Gospel and in the pattern of the Church as found and taught in the New Testament. Now our preachers must be seminary trained by teachers who do not practice New Testament principles, and in many cases they do not preach a clear "how to be saved" Gospel. I have seen people go from having the Lord and the meetings of the church taking a preeminent place in their lives to barely being able to give the Lord an hour on some Sunday mornings. We have gone from Christ-centered to self-centered. We are told to go to the church of our choice when instead we should be led to a church of the Lord's choice. What is it going to take to make us realize that we have been turned aside from the manna that the Lord miraculously provides for those who are just passing through this world to the leeks, onions and garlics which taste good (to some people) but which can only be found in Egypt where the people were in bondage?

The people in this Psalm had gotten back to the Lord. They had found out what Ezekiel meant when he said that then they would know that Jehovah was who He claimed to be and that only He can truly satisfy.

 

My Prayer

We have all been disappointed with the things that we thought would satisfy in this world. My prayer is that we who claim to be the Lordís and who claim to believe that Jesus is Lord, would all desire to experience the satisfaction that only the Lord can supply. May we long to be filled with His goodness.

 

Meditation for the week of November 17, 2013

Agonizing instead of Asking

James 4: 2-3 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

What is the Problem?

The problem is that these Jewish Christians were not asking the Lord to meet their needs. Instead, they were taking things into their own hands. One could wonder if people who fight and war, murder, feed the wrong appetites and who are friends with the world are truly saved. Whether they are or not, James seems to think that his audience has been born again by the word of truth. (See chapter 1 verse 18}. Thus, he seems to be approaching them as Christians who need to consider why they are in poverty when they are trying so hard to obtain what they want in their own way. Jews have always been willing to fight for what they think is theirs and James seems to be saying that instead of fighting for their rights, they should start praying to the Lord. He says they have not because they ask not.

How Should they Ask?

They should not be asking in a self-centered way. They should not be asking for things that are sinful. That is really the thought found in Psalm 66:18. David says that the Lord will not hear if he regards iniquity in his heart. This does not mean that we have to be sinless to pray although confession of sin is required for the kind of fellowship that we need in order to pray. But we certainly cannot pray for that which is sinful or which is iniquity. In addition, James says we cannot expect the Lord to answer prayers if those prayers are simply designed to fulfill our own lusts or pleasures.

To Whom should They Pray?

Over the years I have always tried to pray to the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus. Praying in the name of the Lord Jesus just simply means that His authority is being recognized in the prayer. My name allows people to cash my checks. And I have always felt that the Lord lets us go to the Father to cash the checks He authorizes. That is why we pray in His name and for His will as we understand it. More recently I have realized that it is perfectly permissible to pray directly to the Lord as well. Paul did that on the Damascus Road when he was first saved. He said "Lord, what do you want me to do (Acts 9:6)?" The last prayer in our Bible is addressed by the apostle John to the Lord, "Even so come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20)." Peter addressed the Lord directly when he got that sinking feeling while trying to walk on the water to the Lord. For me, praying directly to the Lord who saved me, the One who has said He is my friend, the One who has personally revealed God to me, makes my praying more personal. I try to visualize the Lord listening as I pray now. I donít think it matters as to whether we pray to the Father or whether we pray to the Lord since they are both God and they have one mind, but I find my praying to be more "real" when I pray to the Lord Jesus.

The Blessing of Prayer

I am one of those people who have a hard time depending on others. I am a person who wants to fix problems and I want to fix them now. But the blessing of prayer is that if we ask we will receive. We donít necessarily receive immediately but we do receive. In the millennium, the Lord will answer before people call on Him (Isaiah 65:24). I donít believe the millennium has come, but while some complain about delayed answers, I have experienced answers for prayers that I should have prayed but didnít.

Conclusion

So what is the lesson? I believe that I have likely missed out on many blessings because I did not ask. Sometimes I have felt all alone when In fact I was not all alone. The Lord was right there taking care of me. It would have been nice if that care had been the answer to prayer. Then in addition to not being alone, I could have said "thank you."

Meditation for the week of November 24, 2013