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NOVEMBER  2018

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Is There any Word from the Lord?

 

Then Zedekiah the king sent and took him out. The king asked him secretly in his house, and said, "Is there any word from the LORD?" And Jeremiah said, "There is." Then he said, "You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon!"  (Jeremiah 37:17 NKJV)

 

Babylon is going to Win

Ten tribes of Israel were in captivity because of their idolatry.  The two tribes of Judah had done as bad or worse than the ten tribes and now they were about to go into captivity.  The kings of Judah did not want to give up their prestige and authority so they did not listen as prophets including Jeremiah told them that the captivity was coming.  They were told to change their ways starting with the rulers, but they didn't listen.  Now one of the vassal rulers under Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah, asks Jeremiah if there is a word from the Lord.  Jeremiah knows that there is but also knows that Zedekiah isn't going to like what he hears.  But Jeremiah is faithful and tells Zedekiah the truth.  He says that Judah needs to submit to Babylon and the people who submit will live.  Resist and you will die.  This message weakened the hands of those who wanted to resist the Babylonians and so Jeremiah who told the truth ended up in a dungeon.

 

Is There any Word from the Lord Today?

Yes there is.  But again most people don't want to hear it because judgment is coming.  The apostle John tells us, “ 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 has come, and who is able to stand (Revelation 6:12-17 NKJV)?'”

 

Notice, kings and the rich and the mighty will finally have to acknowledge who is in charge.  But it will be too late.  This is the earthly judgment that is coming on a Christ-rejecting world.  When things are going reasonably well, we think that we can do as we please and get by with it.  But God has made it clear, if you reject Him as your divine creator and His Son as your divine Redeemer, you will suffer for it.   This, however, is suffering on the earth.  The Lord says again through John the Baptist, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36 NKJV).”  I believe that since the believer has everlasting life, the contrast dealing with the wrath of God goes beyond what happens on earth to what happens to a person eternally. 

 

What are We To Do?

Christians who have truly acknowledged their sin and have trusted in the blood of Christ to save them, should recognize that while we live in the world we are no longer of the world.  We are square pegs trying to fit into round holes.  We need to make sure that we keep our own lives pleasing to the Lord and we need to quit assuming that we can reform a Christ-rejecting world through politics.  The political systems of the world either have dictator rule or majority rule.  There may be a few benevolent dictators but they are few and far between.  The representative governments that have majority rule have forgotten that the majority is generally wrong in the Scripture.  It is a broad and crowded way that leads to destruction and many travel that road.  The few travel the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13:14).  It was a crowd that wanted to crucify the Lord.  Since we can't reform the world, we need to preach a message of regeneration.  In order to be believable, we need to come out from among them and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17).  Paul tells us that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).  Instead of us changing the world, the world will change us if we get involved with it.  The only way we can be salt and light in this world is to be different and sanctified (separated and set apart for the Lord).  Then and only then will our word and witness carry weight.  Only then will people believe us when we say that we have the truth and we believe the truth. 

 

Unbelievers also should listen to a word from the Lord. John 5:24 says, “"Most assuredly, 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.” 

 

Conclusion

Yes judgment is coming.  Believe the “word from the Lord” and live.  Reject it and there will not only be judgment in this life but there will be eternal judgment.  Really things are just that simple.

 

Meditation for the week of November 4, 2018

Following the Instructions

 

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV)

 

The Road Map

Sometimes we look at the Word of God as a road map.  To use a road map we need to know three things.  We need to know where we are, we need to know where we want to go and we need to find the road or roads that take us from where we are to where we want to go.  In the Bible there is only one road that takes the lost from where they are to where they want to go and that road or way is faith in Christ.  Of course in order to follow Christ to our destination or heavenly home, we need to follow the written instructions in the word of God.  They are simple but unfortunately there are people who think they are Christians who have never followed the instructions.  People think that they can be saved without first being lost and that is not how God works.  We don't have to get lost to be saved; we have to find out that we are lost to be saved.  Most people who find out that they are lost look for God's way of salvation. Usually the lost have no trouble trusting in the Lord by trusting in the truth that Christ died for them.

 

The Recipe

This time of the year, our cooks are going to use their chemistry skills to create culinary masterpieces for our Thanksgiving Day feasts.  Many of these cooks are going to use old family recipes.  However, in many cases, the culinary masterpiece is not going to taste anything like what grandma used to make.  In some cases, that will be because grandma didn't write the recipe down and so the instructions are not clearly remembered.   In other cases the person using the old family recipe hasn't really followed the instructions.  When that sour cream chocolate cake “falls” it may be because the cook didn't use the right amount of sour cream.  When the pie crust is hard instead of flaky, it may be that the cook decided to substitute margarine for lard.  When the custard doesn't seem to taste just right, it may be that the cook thought the recipe called for too much sugar or they may have substituted a cheap vanilla for the real stuff.  But when all of these recipes turn out to be subpar, is it the fault of the recipe or the fault of the person who “substituted ingredients” or was careless in following the recipe?

 

I am afraid that we are prone to treat the Bible like some people treat the old family recipes.  And then we tend to blame God when the church becomes more of a social organization than a living breathing testimony for the Lord.  In some cases the church becomes big business even though the Gospel is free.  We wonder why our young people are disenchanted with the church.  We wonder why everyone says that they are Christians but no one seems to want to talk about becoming a Christian.  I personally wonder if the Lord would be comfortable in most of the gatherings where people say they are worshiping the Lord.  Are we changing the recipe for salvation, for church testimony and for the crucified life following salvation that God has given us?  

 

The Value of Doing it God's Way

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 NKJV).  To me, this is a scary verse and should cause a lot of self-examination.  What does the Lord really want?  He wants us to believe on Him.  That is fundamental.  Then He wants our worship and affection.  Our worship and affection is seen in our following the instructions.  We had to follow them in order to be saved and we need to follow them after we are saved.  He wants transformation in our lives and not our willingness to be conformed to the world, particularly to the religious world.  He wants to be first and not last. 

 

Let's all read, study, and follow the instructions.  We will love the resulting culinary masterpiece that will result.

 

Meditation for the week of November 11, 2018

Choosing not to Remember

 

No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:34 NKJV)

 

Definition

The word remember is used in a number of ways.  Sometimes we say “remember the veterans” which means don't forget them.  Sometimes we say that we are going to remember our veterans on November 11 which means that we are going to have a memorial service giving honor to them.  We can't recall them to mind since we never met most of them but we can memorialize or honor them. 

 

We often remember things we ought to forget and we tend to forget things we ought to remember (like the names of people to whom we have been introduced). 

 

Sin of Israel as a Nation

In our passage today which is quoted twice in the Hebrew epistle, the Lord makes it clear that the nation of Israel did a lot of offensive things after they had been singled out as a holy people for the Lord's glory.  They had been delivered from a nation that worshiped worthless idols.  Their deliverance had been miraculous and remarkable.  It was hardly unforgettable.  All that the Lord asked of them was to worship Him the way He wanted to be worshiped and to not turn aside to the idolatry of the people in the land of Canaan.  The Canaanites were being cast out of the land because of their idolatry and the ensuing immorality that went with that kind of worship.  God wanted Israel to be faithful to Him and to Him alone.  But the Israelite men found the women of Canaan attractive and the man-made worship of their man-made idols to be pleasurable to men and women alike even though at times that worship was extremely cruel. 

 

How could the Lord ever forgive a nation that had been so blessed, that had seen such miracles, that had been so miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage, when they spurned Him?  He was the One who had proven Himself to be true and real and faithful to them.  How could He do that?  Frankly from a human stand point, I don't know.  But He can and He will.  There is a day coming when the old sins of Israel will never be mentioned in God's presence again.  It is not that He will have Alzheimer's.  It will simply be His decision to forgive and to never remind Israel of their rebelliousness again.   I believe that day is still future, but it is a day that is coming.  He will simply “not remember” their sins any more.

 

Application to Us

I am sure that there are some things in each of our lives we would just as soon forget.  But when we get depressed, when things don't go well for us, we find those things “come to our remembrance” and often haunt us.  We wish we could go back in some cases and do things over.  We remember.

 

There are some people who have bullied us and who have lied to us and who have taken advantage us of us.  Some of them have tried to make things right but most of them have not.  Since we are told to forgive if we want to have the kind of fellowship with the Lord where He will answer our prayers, we try to the best of our ability to put the past in the past and to forget.  But if you are like me, when we see some of those individuals, we find ourselves being haunted by their meanness.  Have we forgiven them properly.  Probably not.  Our justification usually is that we may have forgiven a person but we don't trust them and we don't want to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to their bullying and meanness again. In other words, we remember.

 

Application to the Lord

When we say we have forgiven, it is often by simply looking the other way and not because we have properly and righteously dealt with the harm others have done us.  However the Lord has loved us to the point where He has and can righteously forgive us.  He bore the punishment we deserved.  There is one sin he will remember however.  That is the sin of rejecting the righteous forgiveness He offers each one of us because of the cross.  When we reject Him, He says He will forget us forever.  A Christ rejecter will not be found in the Lamb's book of life.  They will suffer eternally in a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.  They will be forgotten forever.  The Lord will not remember them. 

 

But for those of us who understand our sin, when we fail, we are told to confess our sin and He will be just in forgiving us.  And He does that over and over again because we fail over and over again.  Not that we should but we do.  And it is nice to know that the Lord forgives and never recalls forgiven sins to mind.  He does not have them written down since they have been blotted out of His book.  He has not built a monument to remind Him of them.  He does not remember.

 

Meditation for the week of November 18, 2018

They Have it Good!

 

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV

 

Death seems so Final

I have received word this week of two more friends who have passed into eternity.  That makes five in the last two months.  One was younger than me, two were about my age, two were older than me.  But they all died.  Where are they now and what are they doing?  All of them said that they knew that the Lord Jesus had died for them and that He was their Savior.  Based on what they said and based on what the Bible says, all five are now “absent from the body but present with the Lord.”  Death is not final.  Death is not the cessation of existence,  it is only the cessation of life on this earth.

 

Where is the Lord?  

He ascended into heaven after having been raised from the dead and showing Himself to the disciples for forty days (see Acts 1:9-11).  Stephen saw Him in heaven standing at the right hand of God as he was being killed for the faithful preaching of the Gospel in Acts 7.  So I take it that all of my friends are now “in heaven.”  Do they have a body?  They do not have their final glorified bodies yet as that will be given to them when they are changed at their resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51).  The first part of our present chapter implies that we are clothed upon the moment we die but what kind of clothes will that be?  I do not know but I do know that in every passage where someone is seen after they die, they do not appear to be naked; but they do seem to be recognizable.  The rich man in Luke 16 who died and went to hell recognized Abraham, a man he had never met on this earth.  Peter and James and John recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. These were men that they had never met on this earth.  So what kind of a body awaits those who die as they await their bodily resurrections?  I do not know.  All I know is that the dead are conscious and seem to know what is going on in the earthly sphere.  Moses and Elijah talked with the Lord about His coming crucifixion (Luke 9:31).  The present body of a Christian is described as sleeping but the person is not the body.  The person who inhabited that body does not sleep.  For the unsaved, they are tormented and awake in hell.  For the believer they depart to be “with Christ” which Paul says is “far better (see Philippians 1:23).”

 

What are They Doing?

We are not given a lot of information as to what the Christian who dies during this present dispensation does after death.  We are told about martyrs praying for vengeance during the tribulation period.  We do know that the bride prepares herself for the wedding feast during the tribulation period or the early part of the millennium (Revelation 19:7).  But we are not told what Christians who have died do in heaven as they await the rapture and the resurrection of life.  I do suspect however from Luke 16 and the story of the transfiguration of Christ that they are interested in what is happening on earth.  I do not think that they become guardian angels though I do believe in guardian angels.  At some point rewards are given out in heaven and I personally believe that happens the moment a Christian dies.  In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul says, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day (the day of his execution which he knows is coming), and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (epiphany) (2 Timothy 4:8).” I believe the first thing a Christian sees upon death is the Lord—a person who is saved has a true epiphany. They see Christ in heaven much like Stephen did.  Paul would have been thinking about the day of his death when he refers to that Day in this epistle.  That day may include the judgment seat of Christ or the day of rewards but if so Paul was expecting that to occur when he died. 

 

So while I am speculating, I think that Christians who die see the Lord and get their rewards and then in some way take an interest in what is happening on earth.  It only makes sense that they spend time worshiping the Lord and perhaps serving Him in some way.  But whatever their occupation is, they are present with the Lord.  And Paul says that is “far better.”  Better than what?  Better than this life that is for sure.

 

Somehow I do not think anyone who has died “in Christ” would ever want to come back to this earthly scene.  I have often wondered how Lazarus in John 11 felt about being raised from the dead so that the Jews could again make plans to kill him.  However, I am sure that the unsaved dead would give anything to come back to earth and have a second chance to trust in Christ. We know what they are doing after they die.  Luke 16 says that they are tormented in flames and they are praying that their friends and relatives do not come to their place of torment.  But second chances are given on earth.  They are not available after death.

 

I think my friends are resting from their earthly labors and are enjoying the blessings of being present with the Lord.  They don't have to worry about storms and fires and diseases and political intrigue. They don’t have to pay bills, make hospital visits or go to funerals.  They have a retirement home that is like no other.  They have it good.

 

Meditation for the week of November 25, 20018