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NOVEMBER 2015

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Only Luke is with Me!

 

Proverbs 25:25  As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country.

 

We could Use Some Good News

We could use some good news from a far country today.  It would be nice to see Isis (or Isil or whatever they are supposed to be called) lay down their arms in Syria and around the world.  It would be nice to be able to live in peace with Russia and China instead of dancing around their ships and fighter aircraft that are being used to intimidate us.  It would be great if Israel and Palestine could coexist in peace.  But the news is not good from these countries.

 

Recently, when I booted up the computer, the first thing I saw was news about a plane crash in Egypt.  I think 224 lives were lost.  The next thing I saw had to do with floods in Texas where at least two lives were lost.  Next I went to my Facebook page for a little relief from bad news and I saw a post about Indonesia being destroyed by fire because of the rash destruction of forests that have left peat beds vulnerable to mammoth fires.  I know good news does not sell cereal on the news channels, but does all of the news have to be bad?

 

There is Some Good News

No it doesn't, there is good news.  The good news is not about man's ability to adapt and reform for the better.  There are good people in this world that do a lot of good things.  We thank the Lord for each one whether we agree with their theology or not.  But for the most part religion today does not preach good news, because it won't preach about the bad news.  The bad news is self-evident and is called sin. And the ravages of sin are seen day in and day out.  Policemen are being killed and are killing.  Drug wars are being fought over who gets to control the most territory so that they can “hook' the most people.  Democrats are fighting Republicans.  Republicans are fighting each other instead of trying to use their different points of view to negotiate laws that benefit everyone.  The good news is only good if it can solve these problems. 

 

Some years back I saw a movie called “Miss Congeniality” where Sandra Bullock plays a clumsy contestant in a beauty pageant.  She is really undercover as an FBI agent trying to keep the pageant from being bombed.  Whenever the contestants were being interviewed as to what they wanted to accomplish, the standard answer was “world peace.”  We all want it but we aren't likely to get it.  Families don't get along with each other, neighbors don't get along with each other, so how can countries get along with each other?  I know I am over generalizing.  There are people who want peace and do pursue it,  but that isn't the good news that we are generally getting from our far countries.

 

Good News in the Bible

So after reading the news on that day recently,  I read my Bible.   I know that should have been reversed.  However, I read about Paul who had said the time of his departure was at hand.  He had been sentenced to death for testifying about his change of mind and change of occupation on the Damascus Road.  He apparently testified before Nero and the good news was that he had been delivered from the Lion's mouth.  Though the time of his departure was at hand, that is, his execution date was approaching, he was not going to die by being thrown to lions.  At his first answer all forsook him.  Demas was one who had decided it was better to live than to die and had forsaken him.  But there was good news.  One man who apparently did not stand with him at his trial had not forsaken him.  I was impressed by the statement in 2 Timothy 4:11,  “Only Luke is with me.”  Biblica.com says, “Luke was probably a Gentile by birth, well educated in Greek culture, a physician by profession, a companion of Paul at various times from his second missionary journey to his final imprisonment in Rome, and a loyal friend who remained with the apostle after others had deserted him.”  Paul had one loyal friend, now that is good news!

 

But the news gets better, Paul was expecting an epiphany when he died.  He was expecting that the Lord would be the first person who would appear to Him when he was executed (2nd Timothy 4:8).  He had seen the Lord on the Damascus Road and it had changed him.  He had trusted Him.  And now he was expecting to see him again.

 

If we believe the Bible, this world is not going to get better, it is going to get worse.  I believe the Bible.  But there is good news  The Lord has said  that we personally can have peace.  If we get right with God, we should then be a means of retarding the evil in this world.  Christ did die for the ungodly and we are all ungodly, that is, we are not like God.  So the good news is that Christ didn't die for the good but for sinners--good sinners, bad sinners, all sinners.    But the Lord has promised peace to those who trust Him.  He says in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

 

That is good news!  Be of good cheer!

 

Meditation for the week of November 1, 2015

Are we Living in Religious Babylon Today?

 

Ephesians 4:4-6  (4)There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  (5)  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  (6)  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

One Body

Ephesians is written to a local congregation of Christians but deals with the body of Christ.  The body of Christ is usually associated with the all Christians who have been saved and who will be saved through all time rather than with a local congregation.  Neither is the body the manifestation of the visible church as seen all over the world at any point in time.  That is not to say that the a local congregation does not have some body characteristics as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:27.  But the local church is part of the the full body of Christ.  The body includes the original apostles and prophets which are not part of local congregations today. 

 

In Ephesians 4, verse 4 deals with the work of the Holy Spirit.  Verse 5 deals with the work of the Lord while verse 6 deals with the work of God the Father.  Verse 5 has been bothering me.  It says there is one Lord.  We who believe in the Lord believe that.  There is one baptism and I take that to be water baptism after we are saved so that we can please the Lord.  But there is also one faith.  This is not saying that there is more than one way to believe or that there are different kinds of believing.  This is saying that there is one body of truth that we believe.

 

One Faith

Where do we find that ONE FAITH?  Well obviously, we find it in the Bible.  How come is it then, that we who call ourselves Christians are so divided over the basic doctrines of the Bible?  We are divided on how to be saved.  Some think that we do good to get saved, others think we get saved to get good.  Some think that God chooses certain people to be saved and others think that God chooses the saved to be His people.  Some think we can lose our salvation and some think our salvation is secure because it depends on what Christ did for us and not what we do for Christ.

 

Christians are divided on the doctrines of baptism, the doctrines of church order, the doctrines of prophecy, and I could go on and on.  So what are we to do?  Should we throw up our hands and admit that we cannot know the will of God?  Should we admit that because of the confusion we cannot have heartfelt convictions?

 

Confusion came into this world when men began to seek God in their own way back in Genesis 11.  They built a tower in Babel that was their way of worshiping deity.  God saw the tower and said, “ENOUGH!”  He confused their languages and scattered those who were living in Babylon through the earth.  But sin and confusion has always been linked in the Bible. 

 

The Guidance of the Holy Spirit

I personally believe that God gives us the means to know and understand the Bible.  He tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13).  That means that an unsaved person is not going to be one who can be guided by the Holy Spirit since the Holy Spirit only indwells those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:8).  Much of our Bible interpretations today come from people who have never given evidence of having been born of the Spirit.  They were never convicted of their sin, they never saw their lost condition, they never realized that they could do nothing to save themselves.  They never realized that all they could do was believe God when He said that Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:6-8).

 

But even we who are saved come to the Bible with issues that keep us from fully understanding the Biblical record.  We are from different backgrounds.  We all have different prejudices.  And there are areas where the old adage is true, “Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.”  That is why we constantly harp on that word “repentance.”  The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to change our minds where we are wrong if we are open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  I believe that when we come to the Lord in a prayerful attitude, when we are open to the realization that our prejudices may be wrong, when we read the Bible in context and compare Scripture with Scripture, the basic truths of Scripture will open up to us personally.  We may not be able to convince others that we have found the truth, but that is not important if we can convince God.  I have followed these principles for years, and it has caused me to change my mind on several important issues.  And I have found that simple people who love the Lord are often closer to a spiritual interpretation of Scripture than those who think that they have read and studied everyone on an issue.  God can and will guide all of us into all Truth.

 

Warning

We are all going to given an account to God one day and I want us to be able to give that account with a good conscience.   Let us believe that if we want to know the Truth on any issue, the Holy Spirit will guide us into that Truth.  Authors and preachers may help us but ultimately we have to be convinced that “God says” what we believe and that we aren't depending on what man says. 

 

Meditation for the week of November 8, 2015

It Will be Awesome!

 

Ezekiel 1:28  Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.

 

The Beauty of the Rainbow

A rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day can be a thing of great beauty. The rainbow reminds us that God still remembers His promise not to destroy the earth by a universal flood again.  But it also proves to us that God is an artist who paints beautiful pictures for us.  Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord and he likened it to a rainbow on a rainy day.

 

Glory Means Different Things

The word glory is used to mean different things in the Bible.  The word was used to ascribe praise and honor to God when the angels said “Glory to God in the Highest” at the Lord's birth..  The word often has to do with beauty and majesty.  For example glory is used that way in Matthew 6:29 where the Lord says, “And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (lilies).”  It often seems to be associated with splendor or brightness as it is in the vision that Ezekiel saw and as it is when Peter, James and John saw the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration.  In 2 Peter 1:17 Peter says,   “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"  In Matthew 17:2 we read, “And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

 

Astounding Biblical Sights

There are some sights that I am sure must be seen to be appreciated.  I think Moses would have said that was true when he saw a bush that burned but was not consumed in Exodus 3.   I am sure that was true when Manoah and his wife (the parents of Samson) saw the  Angel of the Lord ascend into heaven on the flame of fire that was consuming the sacrifice on their altar.  I am sure that must have been true when Elisha saw the chariots of fire that took Elijah alive into heaven in 2 Kings 2.  It must also have been true when Elisha and his servant were in Dothan surrounded by the Syrians.  The servant said, “What are we going to do?  Elisha said to the Lord, “Show him.”  And suddenly the servant saw the chariots of fire that surrounded the city protecting them.  That must have been an unforgettable sight.  In each case that I have mentioned there was an outshining of the glory of God.  Usually that outshining was likened to a flame of fire.  But Ezekiel's vision was likened to a rainbow on a cloudy day.  I would personally rather see the rainbow than the fire.  To me the rainbow speaks of hope even though destruction is being prophesied by Ezekiel while fire speaks of the coming righteous wrath of God.

 

What Men have Seen

When the Lord was on this earth, most did not see His majesty and kingly beauty.  That is why Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:2 that when Israel saw the Lord, there would be no beauty that they would desire Him.  He didn't come from the right city, he didn't have the right parents, and he didn't come rich.  Instead he came poor.  He didn't come with an army.  He didn't sound like or look like one who could overthrow the Romans and establish Israel as a self-governing nation again.  The Lord was willing to veil his glory.  He was found in fashion as a regular man.  When he was reviled he did not threaten.  Instead of fighting, He was willing to die a horrible death.  Most of us have trouble getting the vision of the crucifixion out of our minds.  Today when we hear of atrocities in the wars currently being fought in the middle east, when we read of beheadings and of the killing of innocents, we forget that times have not changed.  The Lord was a truly innocent man dying at the hands of those who cruelly envied His following.  But the cross was not a scene of glory and beauty, it was a sin of darkness and shame. 

 

What Christians Expect to See

But the Lord was raised from the dead.  God proved that the Lord Jesus had satisfied His righteous judgment.  God proved that the Lord did not die for His own sins, instead He died to bear the punishment that we deserve.  And to those who believe in Him, He is going to appear the second time for salvation from the presence of sin.  Hebrews 9:28 says, “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of (the) many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  I believe that second appearing will be an epiphany or a coming in splendor.  To unbelievers He will appear to judge the earth in righteousness.  They will see the splendor of fire.  To the believer, his coming will be one of hope and comfort.  We will see the Lord in His majesty and we will be His bride.

 

After the resurrection, the disciples saw the resurrected Lord.  Thomas and the other disciples saw Him in the upper room and His body had been changed since he could appear miraculously in their presence.  But I personally believe that we who are saved are going to see the Lord in the outshining brightness of His glory, beauty and majesty. He will be clothed with light.  It will be awesome.  It will be beautiful.

Meditation for the week of November 15, 2015

The Solution for a Troubled Heart!
 
John 14:1  "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
 
Hopelessness!
Recently we had terrorist attacks in Paris and of course it reminds us that we had a major terrorist attack in the US on 911 of 2011.  We had the Boston bombings.  We read about the plight of refugees fleeing Syrian that no one wants to help because there are likely terrorists trying to get into our counties by pretending to be refugees.  We not only have international terrorism but we have gang wars in our cities.  Frankly, the world is a scary place.
 
The reason it is scary is because humans who were made to represent God decided to believe Satan rather than God.  They seemed to think that they should have the ability to decide right and wrong instead of leaving that to the God who created them.  Ultimately, Adam and Eve had two children.  One decided to obey God and offer to Him the worship that He wanted.  The other decided to worship God his own way and was angry when God didn't accept His sacrifice.  Instead of “repenting” and offering the proper sacrifice, Cain who had offered a sacrifice of his own choosing, decided to kill his righteous brother Abel who had been obedient.  And so murder entered into the world and we have had religious wars ever since.  Some of those religious wars are unbelievers (Cain's) against believers (Abel's).  But many of those wars have become nonsensical wars of unbelievers against unbelievers. Because dictators have generally used religion to control people. One has to wonder if the dictators and their followers  have any fear of any God.  Paul seems to summarize what has happened to societies that have turned away from God in this way in Romans 3:10-18:
 
“As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE;  THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD.  THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE.  THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB; WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY HAVE PRACTICED DECEIT; THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;  WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS.  THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD;   DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS;  AND THE WAY OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN. THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.
 
Thank God for a Remedy!
Romans 3 seems pretty dismal and concludes that all of mankind (not just some of mankind) is guilty of sinning against God.  But fortunately we also have good news:  Romans 3:26 says that God is  just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Sinners who are guilty can be declared righteous through faith in the Lord Jesus.  But even for the believer, life has become scary.  That is why I am glad for the truth of John 14. 
 
Thanksgiving!
I am always thankful this time of the year because it was at Thanksgiving time in 1963, that the truth that Christ had died for the ungodly gave me peace.  President Kennedy's death forced me to face my own mortality; and, frankly,  the world was a scary place at that time.  We had failed at the Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba.  Then we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and things were really heating up in Vietnam.  I realized at that time that if there was anything to this business of being “saved”, I needed to find that salvation  And if there wasn't anything to the business of being saved, I needed to quit worrying about it and get on with life.  But I am glad I came to the conclusion that there was something to this business of being saved.  I am extremely thankful ;that for the last half century, I have been encouraged by the words of the Lord, “Let not your heart be troubled.” 
 
Frankly, I am to some extent an obsessive compulsive controller.  As a result, I have a hard time not being troubled at times.  I tend to believe Murphy's law that if something can go wrong it will go wrong.  In addition, I assume that if something does go wrong it is probably my fault.  That may have had to do with the way I was raised because it seemed like a lot of things ended up being my fault back in those days.  But even though I can look at things very negatively, what would life be like without the promise, “Let not your heart be troubled?” 
 
The Hope of the Christian
I don't know how people who believe that when we die it is all over get through the day.  I realize many of them are very moral and have higher ethical standards than many people that call themselves Biblical Christians even though the Bible charges all with sinning.  But Paul says that they are “without hope.” For the believer, no matter what life throws at us, we have the Lord's promise in this chapter that He is coming again for us and that He is preparing a place for us in the Father's house.  We don't have to worry about the place that has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). 
 
Every day is a day of thanksgiving for me.

 Meditation for the week of November 22, 2015

Where are the Profits?

 

Ecclesiastes 2:11  Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.

 

Black Friday this year does not seem to be very black.  The sales on the day after Christmas seemed to be very weak compared to expectations.  Black Friday is the day when most retailers begin to show black instead of red as their bottom line on their income statements for the year.  No wonder the secularization of Christmas is so important.  If it weren't for Christmas and all the buying and selling that goes on this time of year, our economy would go bust.  This is the way the world wants to celebrate and remember the Lord Jesus.  And of course they want to turn a profit doing it, just like those merchandisers that the Lord threw out of the temple when He cleansed it. 

 

The Importance of Profits

Last year the coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes was on the verge of losing his job.  He wasn't winning enough games.  This year, he is Iowa's hero since up until now his team has won 12 games straight.  Now the seats in Kinnick stadium will be filled.  Alumni will open their wallets and will give generously to the University.  Winning teams produce profits.  Profits make a great University, at least it would seem that way.  One has to wonder how much the academic programs profit from the “scholarly and nonprofessional” pursuit of football at the college level. 

 

This year the coach of the Iowa Cyclones did lose his job.  He wasn't winning enough games.  The University was losing money on their investment in him.  Of course to fire him, they are going to lose a great deal more money because they will have to buy out his contract.  I think that will cost the University 4.5 million dollars.  I am not sure but what losing is more profitable than winning for the coach since he will likely find another job--just not as head coach of a football team. 

 

But win or lose, what does it really matter?  Ultimately, we are all going to die and the things of time are going to be footnotes in the history books.  And whether a person wins or loses at football, at business, at all the wars presently producing profits for the capitalists running the wars, the end of all men is the same.  Apart from the return of the Lord, it is the grave!  And once there, does all this important stuff that we spend our time and energy and money on now really matter?

 

Proper Preparation does Matter!

Many people think that  there is no life, no consciousness, and no God after death.  If that is true, then what does this 70 to 80 year life span really amount to?  The richest and wisest earthly ruler that the world has ever known said it is all chasing after the wind.  Of course, it there really is a God to meet and an eternal existence beyond the grave, what happens on this earth is still grasping after the wind.  The Lord, the wisest man who has ever lived, said this in Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

 

You see the problem has to do with the present time verses eternity.  Time for us is measured in years, days, hours, minutes and seconds.  I was always taught that in eternity, there is no time, but I have come to question that because in Revelation 14:11 we read,   “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."  No rest day or night!  That is an earthly measurement of time.  Imagine the horror of winning at the game of life and losing one's soul for ever and ever and ever. Imagine having a mind that will be able to remember all the times God tried to reach you, and you rejected His warnings. No doubt you will be a believer then, but then it will be too late.

 

Do Overs!

Recently, I spent time with some children on tests in the Bible.  There is one test that we all need to pass.  It is found in 2 Corinthians 13:5 where Paul tells those who claim to be Christians, “ Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”  We talked about different kinds of tests with the children including ones that you got to do over when you failed the first time.  The Hawkeye coach has passed his test at least for the time being.  Next year may be a different story.  The Cyclone coach has failed his test.  But these tests don't really matter in the light of eternity.  And the test for eternity is not a do-over.  A person has one chance to get it right.

 

The intelligent person may realize that since eternity is so long and time is so short that, “yes,” we need to be prepared to meet God.  However, the world says there are many Gods, “Which one should I believe?”  That is a good question.  Me, I am going to believe the One who died for me and who bore the righteous wrath of God so I could go free.  I am going to believe the One whose tomb is empty.  I am going with the Lord Jesus Christ.  I see no profit in any other decision, and I see a great loss for those who turn away from His entreaties to trust Him.

 

Meditation for the week of November 29, 2015