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OCTOBER 2006

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2 Corinthians 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

 

Supposedly seeing is believing. However, I do not believe that saying is really true. If I had seen the Lord’s miracles, I am sure that I would have tried to figure out what sleight of hand magic trick He was performing. I know that when faith healers say that they are performing miracles today, I usually assume that they are deceiving us in some way. So we can see a thing and not believe it.

On the other hand, there are many things that we do not see that we do believe. For example, I have never seen my brain or heart or lungs but I do believe in them. I have never seen George Washington or Abraham Lincoln but I do believe they existed. I have never seen the north pole or the bottom of the sea but I do believe they exist. In some cases, I have seen pictures that others have taken, and I have heard others say or write that these people and places exist. When I believe them, I am believing in that which I have not seen. Why should it be so hard to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in the same way? We do not have pictures of Him, but we do have witnesses that have written about their acquaintance with Him. Just like the bottom of the sea must logically exist, a creator God must logically exist since we didn’t just happen any more than our cars or houses or clothes just happened. So it should be easy to believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Things that we do not see are probably more important than things we do see since those things are often associated with eternity, spirits or angels and God. In 2 Kings 6, when the King of Syria had the city that Elisha was in surrounded, Elisha’s servant said, “What are we going to do?” Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes might be opened and, when they were, he saw the Lord’s army of horses and chariots of fire surrounding and protecting Elisha. When Daniel was praying in Daniel 10, there was an unseen battle going on in heaven that hindered the answer to his prayer for three weeks. Some of us have experienced these “three week” delays. We are told in the new testament that Christians wrestle against principalities and powers and wicked spirits in heaven (Ephesians 6:12). But we who are saved are also told that we have angels that minister unto us (Hebrews 1:14). Thank God for the unseen ministering spirits that have been given to us just as they were given to Elisha..

I have not seen heaven or hell but I believe in them. I have not seen beyond the grave, but I believe in eternal existence. Believing in things that are not seen helps me understand things that otherwise would be very confusing. It helps me understand the depravity of the human heart and why countries are constantly fighting rather than cooperating with one another. It helps me explain death which seems like such an ugly end to created beings that are so beautiful. It helps me understand the love that God had for me, and it gives me a reason to believe that the future is going to be better than anything we can imagine if we are really trusting in the Lord’s blood to give us forgiveness of sins. It also gives me a reason to preach the Gospel when I realize how bad the future is for those who reject the Christ of God that they have not seen with their own eyes.

 

Meditation for the week of October 1, 2006

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

 

Last week, I met a young lady at a coffee shop who wants to go into Christian ministry. I asked her if she understood that the Gospel was free and that she shouldn’t charge for it. She said, “You have to, how else can you make your living?” When I pointed out that if we were going to do the Lord’s work we should probably do it His way, she agreed. She then wanted me to give her the Scriptures that convinced me that I shouldn’t charge for the Gospel. She indicated that no one had ever talked to her about this aspect of Christian work.

Paul made tents at times to provide some of his own funds and to set an example for some who didn‘t want to work while they waited for the Lord‘s return (See Acts 18:3, 20:34; and 2nd Thessalonians 3:8-9). But ministries in the New Testament were also supported by individuals and by congregations of Christians that wanted to be partners in this work. In Luke 8:3, certain women are mentioned which helped to support the Lord. Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, Suzzana and “many others” are named. In 2 Corinthians 11:7-8, Paul made it clear he never charged the Corinthians for his services. He “robbed” other churches to serve them. Sometimes that is still the case today. Many places that have the ability to help and who benefit from certain ministries, do not have any desire to partner with those doing the work.

We need to teach our children that our giving is to the Lord and that there may be works that the Lord wants us to support besides the congregations with which we are associated. The Lord commends remembering the poor and the widows. He also promised to bless those who remembered Paul personally, even when he was in prison (See Philippians 4: 16-19). But as good stewards we need to know how the ministries that we support handle their money.

Today, many ministries are big business. Ministers live in fancy houses and drive fancy cars and beg for money. They tell their donors that the Lord will bless them by more than returning to them what they have given. Unfortunately, that type of giving is not a gift. That is an investment. While it is true that we reap what we sow and that we are blessed by giving, the Lord never intended for us to give in order to get. He intended for us to give because we want to be “partners” with the Lord and with his workers in this important business of preaching the Gospel freely. The Philippian epistle is really an acknowledgement of a gift that the Philippians had sent to Paul. Paul considered them partners with him and uses the term fellowship in that sense in Philippians 1:5. They didn’t pay him for his services, they participated in his work. This is something that the unsaved should not do, and that is one reason why I personally have never taken a collection when I preach the Gospel.

I do have friends and congregations, however, that through prayerful consideration have decided to partner with me in the work that I do. They have made it possible for these meditations to be made available without a charge. They know that making the Gospel available as a free gift still costs and, out of devotion, they want to be partners in doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way.

We know that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. We do not DO to receive the gift of salvation. We just trust in the Living God who gave His Son as the sacrifice for our sins. If we have enough confidence in the Lord to save us in this way that doesn’t really make sense to the natural man, it is only reasonable for us to trust that same Lord to support His work in a way that also does not make sense to the natural man.

 

Meditation for the week of October 8, 2006

Isaiah 34:16 Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read.

Psalm 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light.

 

One preacher that I enjoyed listening to when I was younger always made me wonder why I hadn’t seen some of the points he was making on my own. His preaching was simple and informative. One day he told us that he had been reading his Bible through every six months for over 30 years. Then I understood why his preaching made sense. He knew the Bible in its context and he was able to use the Bible to explain the Bible.

Today we are getting all kinds of messages about what the Bible says. The only way we can sort these messages out is by reading the Bible. It takes time and prayer and there is no short cut. Some people ask me, “What Bible should I read?” I tell them there is only one Bible but many translations of the original languages used to write the Bible. Normally, I encourage them to read whatever version they are used to as most are quite clear on the basic doctrines. I certainly have my preferences and I know that some translations are simply not reliable. However, I try to help people find a translation that they can understand, and I encourage them to read it, rather than getting technical about what is wrong with the translation they are reading. I figure that if God can use what I say about the Bible, and what I say is certainly not divinely inspired, then perhaps he can use a translation that is not perfect either. We need to encourage and not discourage regular systematic reading of the Bible.

When I do personal evangelism, I used to try to figure out if I was talking to a saved or unsaved person and then I tried to tailor my discussion to what I thought I discerned. If I was talking to an unsaved person, I tried to give them a clear presentation of the Gospel. While I still do that if I can, today I spend more and more of my time trying to convince people to read their Bibles. If they are saved, they will be blessed, and if they are unsaved the Bible will convict them of that. I try to convince people to read passages that will be helpful. I often ask them to read:

1. Isaiah 53. It tells of the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins 700 years before it happened. I don’t usually defend the Bible any more, I present it and let God defend His own Word. But usually little defense is needed if the reader can see that God planned the events at Calvary years before they happened.

2. John 3. It tells us of a must that most of us do not understand when we first hear about it. Ye must be born again. And that message was given to a clean living religious man, not to a man who had lived immorally.

3. Romans 3. It tells us of this terrible thing called sin that has caused us all to be separated from God. But it also tells us that God is just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus.

4. Ephesians 2. It tells of a people who were dead and are now alive spiritually. It is the testimony of people who are saved. It tells how they once walked and how they were saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. It tells how we are not saved by doing good, but that God wants those who are saved to do good.

The verse that convinces me that this is the right approach in a society where people can read is Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I try to read the Bible through once a year and that has given me a wealth of information to draw on when I preach. It has also slowly but surely clarified my thinking on many topics that seem to be controversial today. It has changed my mind on some things that I thought I knew, and it has given me convictions where I didn’t have them before. Reading the Bible continually reassures me that I am saved. There is no substitute for getting light or understanding from the reading of the Word of God.

 

Meditation for the week of October 15, 2006

Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

 

I enjoy sleeping. Sleeping is good if it isn’t done at the wrong time and if it isn’t used to escape the realities of life including the need to work.

From a spiritual standpoint, it is possible to be sleeping when we should be awake. We are in good company when that happens since Peter, James and John slept when the Lord was transfigured, and they slept when the Lord was agonizing in the Garden. Peter must have been a good sleeper since he was also able to sleep when he was in prison in Acts 12:6. Most of us would likely have been awake in that prison. Perhaps he could sleep because the Lord had told him that he would die when he was old on a cross (John 21:18-19) and not by a sword as had been the case with James. Depending on God’s promises can bring a wonderful sense of peace.

However, if the early new testament church was sleeping, then what about us today? It has been nearly 2000 years since the Lord told His disciples that if He went away, He would come again (John 14:3). This truth has been the hope of the church since the Lord was taken up into heaven. It has motivated the church to work in such a way that we might not be ashamed at his coming (1 John 2:28). But today, many are trying to explain away the literal coming of the Lord to save us from coming judgment on this earth. When the Lord says our salvation is nearer than when we believed, He is not referring to salvation from the penalty of sin that we obtain upon believing in the work of Christ when He became the sacrifice for our sins. No, He is referring to our being saved from coming judgment. And judgment is coming. I wonder if we really believe that.

Wars in the middle east are predicted as part of the judgment that occurs on earth before the Lord sets up His literal kingdom that will last for 1000 years. So when wars start or when earthquakes and natural disasters occur as predicted in Matthew 24, we tend to get excited for a little while. And then we sink back into our comfortable recliners and go back to sleep. The church seems to be asking, “Where is the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:4)?” This was supposed to be the question of unbelievers. I have always believed that the Lord could return at any time for the church, but now we are being taught that the church has to go through some of the predicted events of the tribulation period. That means that we don’t have to stand ready for His return because it cannot occur until after some of the prophetic events of the book of the Revelation are fulfilled. Of course, I still believe that the Lord could return at any moment.

We need to take heed to the warning that was given nearly 2000 years ago. Otherwise, our churches may be well attended after the Lord’s return with those who were not prepared. And while all who miss out on God’s salvation will have only themselves to blame, yet some of these people may sit in our church pews and never be warned because we don‘t really believe in the truth that the Lord could return momentarily! It is unlikely that the unsaved are going to get prepared for the Lord’s return if we who claim to be saved are sleeping when we should be awake.

 

Meditation for the week of October 22, 2006

Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

 

In the Bible, the firstborn son got a double portion of his father’s inheritance and became the leader of the clan when the father died. The firstborn in a family wasn’t always the first to be born since this became a title of honor and respect and that honor could be lost. In 1 Chronicles 5:1, we are told that Reuben’s title as the firstborn was given to Joseph because of immorality on the part of Reuben. We know that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew in Genesis 25:33. As a result, Jacob became the firstborn in that family even though he was born second. Since I was born fourth in our family, I never did like the idea that privileges in many families were given based on birth order. But of course if you aren‘t the first born, while you might not be the preeminent child, neither do you have the responsibilities of the first born son. You don’t have to learn your father’s trade, you don’t have to take care of your unmarried sisters or your mother should she be widowed, and you don’t have to be the clan boss.

The Lord is the firstborn in the Bible. That means He is the preeminent one. He is the one who leads the family of God that we become a part of by the new birth. His responsibilities included creation as well as redemption. He made us and then bought us back when we were sold into sin. In this way He provided for the rest of us. As the firstborn of creation, He did the creating. And all of creation was for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11). He is the firstborn of the dead, that is, He is the first one to be raised from the dead never to die again. Others were raised from the dead but all of those before Christ died again. He is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). He is the preeminent Son in the family of God.

Many of us have a problem with thinking we are preeminent while the Bible says that Christ is preeminent or most important. We make decisions by asking what is in it for us. And the Lord wants us to ask what is in it for the Lord. Many are told to go to the church of their choice when we should be asking where the Lord would have us to go. Often we hear that doctrine is divisive and so we should avoid any doctrine that is controversial. The Lord says that we should continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine since that is how we learn Who Christ is and how to be pleasing to Him. I often hear that it really doesn't matter as to whether and how one is baptized. God says it does since this is one way we honor His firstborn. And again, we were created for His pleasure not for ours. The Lord should have the preeminent place in our hearts and in our families and in our congregational gatherings. Instead of us being “me” oriented, we should be “Him” oriented. Instead of taking so much to each other, we should spend more time talking to His Father about Him.

We often act like two year olds who think that everything revolves around them. In fact everything should revolve around the Lord. He created us and He redeemed us when we failed. So He owns us twice. He deserves to be first.

 

Meditation for the week of October 29, 2006