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NOVEMBER 2014

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One Man!

 

Romans 5:15  But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

 

Does one man or one woman make a difference?  Yes they do!  They can make a big difference for good or for evil. 

 

This wise woman saved a city

2 Samuel 20:22  Then the woman in her wisdom went to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. Then he blew a trumpet, and they withdrew from the city, every man to his tent. So Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem. 

 

One woman in her wisdom saved a city.

 

Esther saved a nation

Esther 4:16  “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

 

Esther’s guardian Mordecai said that all the events leading up to this point was so that she could be the deliverer of the Jews who were in captivity under the Medes and the Persians.  She was willing to risk dying in order to save her people.  And of course, because of her they were saved.

 

David saved a nation

1 Samuel 17:45  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

 

David, a shepherd, was willing to use the ability God had given him in caring for sheep to resist a very big giant in the valley of Elah.  He did what Saul a man of war would not or perhaps could not do. 

 

But one man’s disobedience has also made a difference

When Adam sinned, he affected all mankind.  By one man’s offense many (or all) died.  We could mention others who had great influence in leading others into sin.  Achan who took what belonged to the Lord in the battle of Jericho comes to mind.  In Joshua 7, there were 36 men of war plus Achan’s family who lost their lives because of his covetousness.  Achan’s family may very well have known that treasure had been hidden in Achan’s tent, but the soldiers who died surely did not know why they were being defeated.  Another person who comes to mind is Korah who wanted a position in Israel that belonged to Moses.  He and his family and those who supported his rebellion died in the events recorded in Numbers 16.    

 

The grace of one man

I really enjoy the stories of those who stood against family and friends and popular opinion to be a blessing to those around them.  And of course the best story ends on a cross where the grace of One Man (the Lord Jesus) has been offered to the many so that sin doesn’t have to win.  In this life, the majority is usually wrong.  The popular way is generally not God’s way.  What seems right is generally not what is right.  The Lord stood against the mob.  The mob was led by religious people.   All his disciples forsook Him and fled.  When He suffered on that cross, He suffered alone.  Even His Father forsook Him.  But it was all that He might defeat the power of darkness and sin and offer grace to sinners.  Grace is a gift that we don’t deserve.  The Lord died so that sinners might live.

 

The Lord was a real man and that one man made a difference. In a practical way, are we going to be that “one man” or “one woman” who makes a difference in a world that has by and large rejected the true Messiah?  If we are going to make a difference, it won’t be by forcing an unbelieving world to live like Christians.  It will be by showing unbelievers in this world how to become Christians.  It will be by proclaiming the grace of God so that sinners can receive the grace that God offers through His Son.  And that grace is eternal life.   Individuals can be changed and freed from the bondage of sin, but the world is under the dominion of Satan and will not be changed until the Lord Himself comes to rule in righteousness.

   

Meditation for the week of November 2, 2014

Prioritizing God’s Way

 

Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

Busyness

Likely we were all busy today.  We were all busy this week.  We have been busy all year.  But did we give the highest priority to being busy with the Lord’s work and with His desires or did we give the highest priority to “getting the things done that need to be done?”

 

Getting Ahead

We have been raised in a competitive capitalistic society that says that if you want to “get ahead” you need to set goals and work hard and never give up.  If you do that you are supposed to be successful.  Now I am all for hard work and I am for “success” (whatever that is), but God’s ways are not our ways according to Isaiah 55:8.  God tells us that if we put Him first, He will put us first.  Maybe we wouldn’t have to work so hard if we tried the formula that has been given to us.

 

Making Worship a Priority

Today, I looked around at our meetings of the church.  I am one who believes that the Lord appreciates it when we put Him first in the week.  We usually do that in our assembly meetings by “remembering the Lord.”  This is a time when we don’t preach the Gospel (though you can’t remember the Lord without being reminded of the value of the cross and of the love of God).  We don’t feed the poor at the meeting.  We don’t usually get a doctrinal understanding of the deep things of Scripture at this meeting.  We just pause for a while to say thank you.  Is that putting the Lord first?  I think it is because He is the one who has asked us to remember Him by taking a loaf of bread and a cup of wine and sharing that in a symbolic meal with other Christians.  The Lord’s dying request was that we do this in remembrance of Him.   So if we love Him and if this is the desire of His heart, it would seem that we would want to be involved in something so simple that pleases Him.  However, there seems to be many reasons tor being absent from this meeting.  After all, our kids need to be playing volleyball, we need to prepare for company, and we only have Sunday to catch up on the things we let go all week, right?  Wrong. 

 

The Urgency of Salvation

We know that a proper relationship with the Lord requires us to “repent and believe the Gospel.”  I don’t believe anyone has ever trusted the Lord casually.   When we find out that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that the end of the road is eternal destruction without the salvation provided for us at the cross, most people find that knowing for sure that they are right with God becomes extremely important.  They begin reading their Bibles and talking to those who can help them, and they may even go to evangelistic meetings.  They begin to “seek first the kingdom of God.”  Once they put the Lord and their need of salvation first, it usually isn’t long before they truly trust the Lord who died for them.  I don’t think anyone ever “gets saved” until they put the Lord and His claims on them first. 

 

The Blessing of Right Priorities

We know that we who are saved are called to serve in some capacity.  And most of us will, as soon as we get the kids through college, as soon as we retire, as soon as we take that trip we have been planning for ages.  We really do have good intentions, but life happens and gets in the way of our good intentions.  I am one of those people who serve the Lord in what is often called a “full-time” capacity.  And I find myself letting the Lord’s work get in the way of the Lord’s work.  We get so busy with our plans that we forget to let the Lord tell us what He wants. Instead we begin to tell Him what He wants.

 

Yes, the principle is clear.  Put the Lord first in order to be saved.  Put the Lord first once you are saved.  The Lord doesn’t want second place, He wants the preeminent place.  And I intend to make it my business to do just that—starting tomorrow!  Tonight I have some things to do first.

 

Meditation for the week of November 9, 2014

Surely!

 

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

 

Eve had a choice.  She could believe God who had said she would die if she ate the forbidden fruit or she could believe Satan when he through the serpent said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4).”  Satan said that she could not surely depend on what God said.  God said she could.  And history proves that God was right and that He meant what He said.

 

Who are we Going to Believe?

Your political persuasion will likely determine what news channels and talk shows seem credible to you.  All of them have some truth, all of them have some lies.  Some of the lies are intentional and some are unintentional but they still tell their stories from their point of view.  It seems to me that the political system in our country has proven that most people have no trouble lying when they think it will benefit them.  One of my friends once described this process by saying, “Half the lies that you hear aren’t true!:”  Yet many of us choose to believe one set of lies over another because that set seems to make sense to us.  I think many choose their “Gospel Truth” the same way.  They choose to believe those religious leaders who provide them gods whose messages they like.

 

Today, one of the gods that lies to us over and over is a thing called “science.”  I have watched the way that word has been used in connection with the current Ebola crisis.  The “science” did not support a 21 day isolation period for one nurse returning from West Africa.  The “science” may not have supported a 21 day quarantine but common sense did and so did her supposed “love for her brother.”  But the word science was used as if it was the Gospel truth with regard to this deadly virus.

 

Science is used to convince our university students that there is no God.  Common sense says that there is intelligent design in our universe.  Common sense forces us to realize that all men have faith, but they do not all have faith in the Living God who has revealed Himself through creation, through conscience and through Christ.  But many have faith in the great god called science which changes its mind about how to treat disease, about how the universe came into existence and about a multitude of other issues.  But the “intelligent” among us believe science over God.  And they believe science over good old common sense.

 

What am I going to Believe?

In the book of Acts, Paul was on a ship that was about to sink.  He had warned the captain not to set sail but he was a preacher.  He was not a sailor.  And what he said was not what the captain and the centurion who was in charge of Paul the prisoner wanted to hear.  So against Paul’s advice they set sail.  Now in the middle of a terrible storm, the Lord gives Paul a promise and he is told that lives will not be lost.  Paul says, “Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me (Acts 27:25).”

 

That is my position.  I believe God.  I realize that we believe whomever we want to believe and if Satan is offering you God like characteristics and temporal pleasure, it could be easy to believe Him.  I don’t fault Eve. I understand her.  God doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear.  But I am convinced that eternal bliss is better than anything Satan can offer us down here on this corrupt earth.  I choose to believe God.  I have never been able to see a “down-side” to doing that. I like God’s “surelys”.   I am not so fond of the “surelys” of Satan that raise questions about the certainties of God’s promises.

 

Surelys on which we can Depend

A believer in God can take heart in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

I like the surely of John 5:24, “Most assuredly (Surely, Surely) I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

 

So whom are we going to believe?

 

Meditation for the week of November 16, 2014

Forbidden Fruit and Sorrow!

 

Lamentations 1:12 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.

 

This life is a life of contrasts.  It has hills and valleys.  It has joy and sorrow.  We have joy when a healthy child is born even though pain and sorrow are involved and we have sorrow when years later that child that has grown up and lived life and done many things and that has loved friends and family, dies. 

 

Why is there Sorrow?

The Bible says that sorrow is the result of willful disobedience against God.  Eve had it good in the Garden but she believed Satan and ate forbidden fruit.  The fruit that was to make her wise and like a god and that was to give her pleasure, ultimately caused her to bear children in pain and sorrow.  Her husband became a man of toil who worked ground that brought forth thorns and thistles.  When we see sorrow, we are always reminded of the reality of sin.

 

The Sorrow of Jerusalem

Our passage has to do with Jerusalem and Jeremiah’s lament or cry of sorrow over her destruction.  Jerusalem had been a city to be envied by all other cities.  God had placed his name there.  Solomon had a prosperous peaceful reign that was the envy of the kingdoms of the world.  There was a beautiful temple there.  The people had been blessed by the God that they said they worshipped.  But unfortunately, they ate forbidden fruit and thought that the “grass was greener” on the other side of the street.  So instead of being faithful to the God of creation who had become their deliverer from the bondage of Egypt, they began to worship the gods of the land that they had entered.  Instead of realizing that the God is a jealous God and does not want the things He has created to be worshipped as god, the people turned to idols that were for the most part the worship of nature.  They sacrificed to the Queen of Heaven and to Baal’s among other gods.  Because the nation as a whole turned away from the worship of Jehovah, God turned away from them.  Ultimately, God became so angry that he had Babylon destroy the city and the temple.  And now this once majestic city is sitting naked and destitute.  Jeremiah now laments, “Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?”  In other words, he is saying that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple should make people realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God who blesses those who worship Him, and He takes vengeance on those who turn their back on Him. 

 

The Sorrow of the Cross

If the sorrow of the city of Jerusalem  makes the traveler sit up and take notice, what should the sorrows of the cross do to those of us who are traveling through this life?  The only man who never sinned, the one who had compassion on the multitudes, who healed lepers, who turned water to wine, the one who knew that each of us needed to turn from our unbelief to a living faith in Him, is the one who died on an old rugged cross.  The religious bullies of his day decided that they would show Him who was boss.  But now we get to pass by the cross in a figurative way as we read about the Lord who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  As we pass by, “is it nothing to us?” 

 

The Sorrows of Those eating Forbidden Fruit Today

If God would destroy His beloved city Jerusalem and if He would send His son to a cross to save those of us who deserve to be destroyed, what is going to happen to those who in pride set themselves up as gods who know good and evil today?  What is going to happen to those who know the story of the Gospel and still refuse to bow in humility before the One was willing to bear the punishment that they deserved?  The consequence of rejecting the Lord caused Jerusalem to be destroyed.  What will be the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit by not being obedient to the truth of the Gospel?  What will happen to those who believe that God will not or cannot deal with that pride and unbelief?

 

We eat forbidden fruit when we believe the lies of Satan and turn away from the worship of the One and Only True God.  What is going to happen to those who know the Truth but who turn away from it because they think they are themselves gods who know good and evil?  Their sorrows are going to be eternal and indescribable.   But their sorrows will not change any one’s mind because by then it will be too late.

 

 

Meditation for the week of November 22, 2014

Keeping the Main Thing, the Main Thing

 

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.

 

I heard a good sermon this weekend.  One of the seven points had to do with Timothy fulfilling his ministry and keeping the main thing, the main thing.  I got to thinking, “Just what should the main thing be in our preaching?”  Now as I remember the answer that this preacher gave, he basically said that the preaching of the Gospel was the main thing.  With that I agree.  He said sin was the problem and Christ was the solution.  Excellent!  The message was designed to get Christians to spread the word and that was good.  But the “how to be sure you are saved” part of the Gospel was missing.  He preached about the Gospel but he did not preach the Gospel to his audience.   Anyone who thought that they had a general belief in God could have gone away satisfied without really realizing that each individual must have a time in their lives when they trust the Lord in a personal way in order to be ready to die.

 

What is the Main Thing?

I am convinced that the musicians on the stage thought that the main thing was the music.  They had obviously practiced hard to move the audience in a very emotional way.  But could a person have come to faith through their music?  I don’t think so.  But often music and the kind of music that we present at our preaching services becomes the main thing.  It is not!

 

Is preaching on certain sins the main thing?  We certainly need to preach on certain sins which are prevalent in our society today.  But if we get everyone to agree that those sins are wrong, people will still go to hell if they don’t turn to the Savior and trust Him to put away the penalty that their sin deserves.  We can reform the people without providing them the freedom that comes with being made a new creature in Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.   The Gospel message doesn’t just address some sins, it addresses all the sins of us all.   Without the whole message of the Gospel which involves the need to be saved from all of our sins, we have not kept the main thing the main thing.

 

What was the Main thing as far as Paul was concerned?

Paul knew that the time of his departure was at hand or near.  He had said in 2 Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  I am convinced that the day he was referring to was the day of his execution. 

 

We can argue that the main thing is to “equip Christians” for the ministry and we certainly need to do that.  Some think that the main thing is expository preaching.   Others think the main thing is topical teaching that meets the current day to day needs of Christians.  While all these things are good and while they are all needed, the main thing to remember is that in any church of any size we have with us those who have never been brought to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.  We need to remember that today is the day of salvation.  We preach these things from time to time to the unsaved but do we understand as Christians that the main thing is to be concerned with whether those in our audience are ready to meet God?  Do we love our neighbors enough to put aside what we want to hear on a Sunday morning so that we can be faithful to those who are not ready to die, and who may not know that they are not ready?  We need to remember that the unsaved may not have another chance to accept the Lord as their savior.  It would be a shame to have people come to our meetings and to send them away without making it clear that we all need to be saved and we all can be saved by believing in the Lord.  Would they believe that we believe what we say we believe?   How would the Lord evaluate our preaching if people came to our meetings who needed to be saved and we didn’t tell them that we knew how to get to heaven?

 

The Main thing became the Main thing at Thanksgiving time for me

I remember struggling with these issues before I came to trust the Lord personally.  I thought I believed but I didn’t know that I was saved (which meant that I had not believed in or trusted the Lord).  When President Kennedy was assassinated, the main thing became the main thing for me.  I wanted to know I was ready to meet God if there was any way to know that.  After struggling with these issues that solemn weekend, I found out that God says that Christ died for sinners.  He says in John 3:36 that he who believes in the Son (that is he who trusts in the truth that Christ died for sinners) has everlasting life.  I realized that if God says it, I could depend on it. 

 

That thanksgiving weekend the main thing had become the main thing.  When Paul tells Timothy to preach the word in this last epistle penned just before he was martyred, I cannot help but believe that the main thing on his mind was how he was saved.  Now he wants Timothy to faithfully preach that word to others.  Being prepared to die is the main thing and knowing that one is going to die would obviously keep the main thing the main thing.

 

Meditation for the week of November 30, 2014