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NOVEMBER 2017

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I Couldn't have said it Better Myself!

 

Hebrews 1:1-3: 

(1) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  (2)  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  (3)  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

 

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews starts out with a summary description of the the Lord Jesus that certainly sums up what we who trust Him really believe about Him.  I couldn't have said it better myself.

 

First of All

God has spoken to us through creation, conscience, dreams, prophets and circumstances.  Likely I have missed some ways He has spoken to us.  But the most important message we have is the message that was sent to us in the person of Jesus, the Son of God.  He is not only the messenger, He is the message.  Today we don't have Him present with us, but we do have the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth and that reveals Him to us through the written Word of God.  That Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.

 

Who is the Son?

He is the heir of all things.  He is the one to whom this Whole universe has been entrusted.  He made the ages.  He perfectly expresses the glory of God and the essence of His person.  Hie has the first word and the last word. His Word has the power to create and the power to destroy.  This worthy One is the one who has purged or cleansed our sins.  This cleansing is available to all but is only effective for those who believe or trust in Him as we see in the rest of the book.  He is now exalted to God's right hand which means He is in the seat of authority.

 

This is the One who died for me and purged my sins.  Every Thanksgiving season, I am reminded that I have a lot for which to be thankful because it was just before thanksgiving day many years ago that I realized that the Lord, the One who created all things and upheld them by the word of His power, had declared that His salvation was offered to all if we could or would just trust Him.  I didn't have to wait to be saved because the Lord had already died to save me.  I found peace, I found Christ. 

 

But isn't “Believing” Too Simple?

Trusting or believing isn't too simple but it is hard because we all have problems taking God at His word.  Most of the truths in these first few verses of Hebrews are challenged by those who trust in themselves and their own reasonings.  I don't have time to deal with their objections here but they all lead to one end.  They lead to rejection of Christ and His claims and His salvation.  However, the alternatives make no sense to me.  If people don't worship “self”, they often worship the things God has made rather than the God who made those things.  They worship, the sun and the stars and “the ancients” and so on.  Many say there is no God and worship science which basically tells us that nothing made something without a divine creator being involved.  I realize that the Bible has been misused and misinterpreted, but when we rightly divide it (or rightly understand it), its explanation of this world and its ages make far more sense than any other explanation that I have heard.  Plus, I like the fact that there is a God who has taken a personal interest in me and who knows me by name.  I like the fact that when I depend on promises that He has made to me in this life, He has not failed me.  I cannot imagine a life without the Lord Jesus.  He tells the truth.   I believe Him, and I hope you do as well.  The children's hymn sums up the thoughts that I am meditating on today:  

Isn't He Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful
Isn't Jesus, my Lord, wonderful!
Eyes have seen, ears have heard,
It's recorded in God's word.
Isn't Jesus, my Lord, wonderful!

 

Meditation for the week of November 5, 2017

Character Counts

 

1 Samuel 10:27  But some rebels said, "How can this man save us?" So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.

 

God's Choice

We are often told that Saul was the choice that made sense to the children of Israel and that he was man's choice to be king.  However, the Bible says that he was God's choice.  In 1 Samuel 10:24 we read, “And Samuel said to all the people, 'Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?'” So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!"  It is true that he was taller than most and likely looked regal; but at the same time, he didn't see himself as kingly material when Samuel first presented him to the people.  Of course later because of disobedience, he was rejected by God.  But when we first meet him, he is the one that the Lord has chosen to save Israel from their enemies.  But there are always those whose heart God has touched and those who are rebels that resist the mind of God.  The rebels said, “How can this man save us?” 

 

Today

I find it interesting to compare the attributes of the Lord with the attributes of Satan.  The Lord was full of grace and truth.  He was humble.  He died for us in order to save us.   In spite of God's hatred for sin, God loved sinners and was willing to sacrifice His own beloved Son in order to show that love while still maintaining the truth. The Lord was willing to submit to that plan as God's Son.  Satan on the other hand is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  At times he appears as a bear who looks harmless but who is certainly dangerous.  He is called the Devil because he is evil.  He is called Satan because he is an adversary.  He is called a serpent because he is a subtle cunning deceiver.  He is a liar and the originator (father) of lies.  He is a murderer.  But yet people follow him and in many cases they know that they are following evil.  In other cases they are deceived by Him because of what he seems to be offering them.

 

The Lord cast out demons of men and women who were controlled by demons in the New Testament. Demons are Satan's angels.  We would call people controlled by demons mentally ill and that is probably true; but the real problem is often Satanic.  We know that hallucinogenic drug use is one way Satan and his minions take control of people.  But the problem is that many of the people who are controlled by Satan appear to be leaders who can “get things done.”  But Satan is a destroyer and is called that in the book of the Revelation.  In contrast, the Lord Jesus did not come to destroy but to save. 

 

In the thirteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, there is a man who is called a beast who will be energized by Satan.  People will follow him thinking that he can solve the problems of the world.  He will control the economy since they can't buy or sell without his mark.  He will control religion since he will demand worship, and he will control the world politically.  People will follow him, but he will be a destroyer.  In the eleventh chapter of the book of the Revelation, there will be two faithful witnesses who do miracles and who tell the people the truth who will be hated.  The beast will be able to overcome and kill these two witnesses.  So who is the winner and who is the loser?  When the two witnesses die people party.  But these two are caught up to heaven while the beast that killed them ends up being cast into the Lake of Fire forever and ever and ever and ever.  Those who follow the beastt are condemned with him.

 

Character Counts

Whether we are looking for a political leader, a business leader or a spiritual leader, character counts.  In this day and age, it seems that people think the liars and the bullies are the ones to trust with our well-being.  If we trust in those who act like cunning serpents or like ferocious lions, we will end up being destroyed.  We need to put our faith in the Lord and not in man to save us.  I know the skeptics in our world are saying, “How can this man save us?”  After all the Lord died on a cross and never raised an army  He never even had a home of his own. But this man Who could have called twelve legions of angels to save himself, didn't do that in order to save us.  He may not save us from current political problems, and he may not save us from unemployment, and he may not save us from sickness (although He has the ability to save us from all of those things).  But He will save us for eternity and He is the only One who can.  He didn't come into the world to condemn the world, He came to save the people in this world (John 3:17). 

 

We all need to have our confidence for both time and eternity in the only One who can save us.  Don't be deceived by Satan and those who serve him.  Character does count.

 

Meditation for the week of  November 12, 2017

He left All!

 

Luke 5:27-28  After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me."  So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

 

Publicans

Matthew (Levi) was a tax collector.  He was a Jew who was collecting taxes for the Romans who ruled (occupied) Israel at that time.  Tax collectors usually bid on the right to collect taxes from an area and then anything that they collected over and above the bid was pure profit to them.  The Roman government was assured of the money from the bid, and the tax collector was assured of making a profit if he could collect more than the bid.  This was why tax collectors were despised by the Jews.  They worked for an occupying force (in the mind of a Jew) and profited at the expense of their fellow citizens.  I am glad that our current system of taxation does not work that way   For many years I filled out tax returns as a CPA, but I never collected any taxes for myself.   However, the cost of preparing the return is sort of a surtax.  Paying someone to tell you how much you owe and then having them fill out your return does not really endear you to many people—unless they were expecting to pay on April 15 and you were able to get the government to refund some taxes to them.  Nevertheless, very few people pay their taxes with joy and most would like to throttle those who are publicans—even if they are honest publicans.

 

When the Lord called Matthew from this profitable but despised occupation, he left all and followed the Lord.

 

Following today

I am not sure who people really follow today. I used to hear people quote the Bible and tell me what they had personally enjoyed from their meditations.  Now I hear people quoting Biblical scholars—some of which are good and some of which are not so good.  We follow people religiously who do not preach that all need to be saved by repenting and believing.  Some of them believe in universal salvation.  Some believe that God chooses us to believe rather than choosing believers to be his holy people.  Some find any kind of so-called baptismal rite to be acceptable to the Lord.  Some believe no baptismal rite is also acceptable.  Some think baptism or ordinances save.  Some believe organized churches save.  And we think that in reading and following these men and women we can distinguish between the truth and error in their teaching.  We believe that those that we are disciplining as young Christians will be able to distinguish truth from error when they read what some of these people have written.

 

The Lord tell us that to follow Him, we will have to deny ourselves.  Matthew did that.  We find that in denying ourselves we will have to worship “outside the camp.”  That is where the Lord died.  The Lord should have been crowned King in Jerusalem.  He should have been able to worship and teach in the temple.  However, religion had turned the temple or house of prayer into a den of thieves.  Religion wanted a political deliverer in Barabbas.  They didn't want to follow a man who wouldn't raise an army and take up arms against the Romans.  They didn't know their own Scriptures that clearly said the Messiah would suffer before He could reign.   The Lord died outside the camp of formal Judaism and we must be willing to serve and worship Him there as well.  Rejection is tough, but true Christianity does not make us popular with the religious world.

 

Following the Lord is not like joining a club or following a political party.  I was asked recently how there could have been mass conversions historically in some of the South American countries.   I had to point out that scripturally there is no such a thing as a mass conversion even though multitudes were saved at one time in the early part of the Acts of the Apostles.  But there were many who did not believe.  There may be mass joining or association with with formal churches whether they be protestant or Catholic but conversion is a heart matter.  It requires conviction.  One has to be convinced that they are believing the truth.  Then and only then will one want to deny themselves, leave all, and follow the Lord.

 

My Personal Experience

I frankly did not leave all and follow the Lord the moment I was saved.  But through a series of events over a period of time, my wife and I came to the conclusion that I should sell my business and “follow the Lord.”  In doing so, I left the profession for which I had prepared, I left financial security, I left my comfort zone.  I was determined to keep the Gospel free and to never charge for it.  I was determined to keep the doctrine of the Gospel simple and pure but to not short change people into believing that something they did would save them.  I wanted people to understand that their salvation was a result of what Christ had done for them and was not a result of what they had done for Christ.  I wanted them to quit following men and I wanted them to quit substituting loyalty to denominationalism and nondenominationalism for loyalty to the Lord. I wanted them to be so sure that they were saved and following the Lord that if they were ever to see me make a mess of my life and faith that they would still be sure that they were following the Lord.  I wanted them to get their eye on the Lord and not on me. 

 

I have not achieved my goals perfectly.  But please, please, ask yourself, have you left all and followed Him?  Is your church loyalty greater than your loyalty to the Lord?  Are you still waiting for your father to die so that you can use your inheritance to follow the Lord (See Luke 9:59)?  Are you still waiting for a good bye party so that your friends and relatives can fund your new endeavor (Luke 9:61)?  Or are you willing to leave all and follow Him?  Great reward awaits those who are willing to do this.  Those rewards will not necessarily be seen in this lifetime but remember eternal rewards are forever.

 

Meditation for the week of November 19, 2017

Then Shall They Know

 

Ezekiel 7:4  “My eye will not spare you, Nor will I have pity; But I will repay your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst; Then you shall know that I am the LORD!”

Ezekiel 34:27  Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

 

Israel, the People God Redeemed Loved and Chose

This nation was chosen by God to represent Him on earth.  He revealed His plan of salvation through them, He fulfilled His promise to send the Messiah to save them.  The Messiah was Himself a Jew.  They were indeed a blessed people but they constantly turned away from God as a nation and worshiped the gods of the nations around them.  But as I have read through the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, one refrain keeps being made.  That refrain is, “Then shall they know that I am the LORD.”  The Lord in this case is the personal God of Israel.  It is loosely translated Jehovah in our Bibles.  It means the One Who is, and  Who was and Who is to come.  Jehovah is the ever-existing One.  He doesn't want to share His glory with idols. He wanted Israel as a nation to know Who He was and to trust Him.    He wants people today to know Who He is and He wants our trust.  But unfortunately, He doesn't get that trust from most of the people in the world that He Himself has created.

 

Jehovah is revealed through Calamity

The prophets said that judgment was coming on the nation of Israel because of their idolatry.  That judgment had one purpose, "Then shall they know that I am the Lord."  With Israel, a day is coming when they will be restored to the land and to their covenant relationship with Jehovah.  When they are restored, “Then shall they know that I am the Lord.”

 

It seems to me that there are nations that are going to know that Jehovah is Lord, but for many of them it will be too late.  Their judgments are going to prove that Jehovah was speaking to them.  In some cases they will be restored to a place of blessing in the future, but in many cases they will not.  But they will know that their punishment came from Jehovah.  I believe that those who reject the Lord today and who are condemned eternally for it, will realize that "Jesus was Jehovah or the Lord" and that they could have trusted Him.   Knowing that they could have been saved will be one of the torments of their eternal destiny. 

 

Today?

I wonder how many people who call themselves Christians today really know that “Jehovah” or Jesus is really Lord?  Many people think they became children of God when their parents “baptized” them.  Others think that they have always been Christians. Others think that their good works will save them. Some understand that they need to be saved and they understand that being "saved" or “born again” are a point in time experience but they say that can't remember the experience.  It is true that just like the birth of a baby is a process that ends with a deliverance, the birth of a new born Christian is a process that ends with a deliverance.  That deliverance comes when we trust or believe in the Lord Jesus.

 

When I speak of being saved (delivered from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin) and when I speak of being born again (delivered for a new life in Christ),  I am usually challenged by some who say that they know that they are saved but don't remember the process that led to their deliverance.  They tell me that they don't remember their first birth so why should they remember their “new birth.”  They remind me of the Lord's attitude toward children and how he allowed or suffered them to come to Him.  Most will agree however, that children, in their innocence represent the kind of faith the Lord wants adults in their maturity to have.  Children do not need to be saved before they are able to make their own decisions about their relationship with the Lord, but after they reach the age where they can accept or reject the Lord Jesus, they need to be saved.  John is quite clear in his first chapter of his Gospel that we become children of God only by trusting in the Lord (John 1:12).  Paul makes it clear that before salvation we are all children (or offspring) of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).  Children and those who cannot reject the Lord are “safe” but not saved.  When people can respond to the Gospel they need to be saved.

 

Can one be Saved and Not Remember the Experience?

Israel as a nation will remember their experience of repenting and believing before they become the center piece of the Lord's millennial reign.  I hope those who say they are saved but who don't remember the experience are right.  I wouldn't want people to wake up in the eternal burnings knowing then when it is too late that “I am the Lord.”  As a preacher, I cannot be faithful to what I understand salvation and the new birth to be, and overlook the need to preach that we need to know when we found out that “I am the Lord.”  Of course we can't always remember a date, but for me the experience was cataclysmic and I wouldn't trade places for five minutes with someone who doesn't remember being lost and confused and convicted of their sin and then getting the peace that comes with truly trusting the Lord. 

 

Meditation for the week of November 26, 2017