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October 2008

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Watching Things Happen

 

Acts 8:26

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert.

 

I am told that are three kinds of people. There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened. We are all supposed to be self-starters who make things happen. But I like it better when I am in the right place at the right time and get to watch things happen.

Philip was directed into a desert to meet a man who was already reading his Bible and had already gotten to Isaiah 53 in his reading. This man was hungry for the truth and Philip was able to explain to him the way of salvation. He preached unto Him Jesus. The man was saved while Philip was talking to him and proved it by being baptized. Often we who try to make things happen look and look for an opportunity like that. But when we are guided by the Lord to that kind of an opportunity, it causes us to rejoice and to just stand back and say "wow!"

I often go to a local coffee and bread shop to study in the afternoons. I have found that if I have a Bible out and my computer booted up, people often approach me and ask what I am doing. This gives me an opportunity to talk to them that I wouldn't get by going door to door and handing out literature. I don't make things happen, I am just there and available so that when the Lord wants things to happen I can be involved. Late last week, I needed to get some things done and the phone had been ringing off the hook at home. I thought I needed a quiet place to study. I knew that if I went to my usual coffee shop I might not get anything done. So I changed locations. I was working on some notes on prayer for a message that I would be giving over the weekend. While I was at this spot where almost nobody knows me, I had three people approach me and ask me what I was doing and whether the Internet was available. Two of them didn't give me opportunity to share the Gospel with them but the third person was a hostess in the restaurant with a little down time. She not only asked me what I was doing but wanted to know what I was going to say when I spoke on prayer. I found out that she was going to a church that calls itself Christian, however, many would call it a cult. Before we were done talking she asked me if I would print my notes and give them to her. I couldn't do that because I didn't have a printer available but I was able to email them to her right then while we were talking.

After she left I said, "Wow!" I had been directed to a new fishing hole and the Lord had led someone to me who had an interest in Spiritual things. I wish I could say that she stayed with me until I could ask her if she believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but that didn't happen. But I still felt a little like Abraham's servant who was sent to find a bride for Isaac. When he had prayed and had found Rebeka as an answer to prayer he said, "Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren (Genesis 24:27)."

When we make things happen, sometimes we do things our way instead of the Lord's way. I find it comforting to know that the Lord can still lead us to people who are hungering for the Truth if we will just let Him. Watching things happen can be so much more fulfilling that making things happen.

 

Meditation for the week of October 5, 2008

Wisdom is calling

 

Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.

Proverbs 1:24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded.

 

Wisdom has called and we have refused! It doesn't seem logical that anyone would refuse the wise choice or the wise person who could give wise counsel. But Eve did in the Garden of Eden and it has affected all of the rest of us. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived apart from the Lord, began to worship pagan gods in his old age.. They were gods who did not put him on the throne. They did not speak to him and commend him for asking for wisdom. They did not do him good, instead they led to the dividing of his kingdom. Was this wise? No! Are we wise when it comes to the decisions we make?

Right now, we are reaping the consequences of poor decisions in the financial markets. Short-term gain does not always lead to long-term profits and those who wanted to get rich quick have now thrown this country into economic turmoil. It appears that the wisdom and perspective of those who went through the banking crises of the Great Depression were gone from the decisions being made by banks. Most people with any business wisdom know that when prices are too high, at some point they are going to come down. That is a truism. So now we are seeing the housing market come down and the banks are reaping the consequences of some poor loan choices. But unfortunately, when we make bad choices, we affect more than ourselves. In this case the whole world is being affected.

Because of the war in Iraq, because of the present banking crisis, because of the uncertainty of who our current presidential candidates really are and what they really believe, it would be easy to say, "Let us eat, drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15)." After all we are just going to die and the generation after us isn't going to respect what we have done anyway. Solomon, who wrote Ecclesiastes, was quite discouraged when he looked at life after he had quit enjoying the Lord, and he said all was like the wind. It was empty and emotionally vexing.

The Lord tells us that the wise man builds His house or life on a rock and the foolish man builds his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). I don't know how people survive mentally who think that this life is all a product of time and chance and that when they die, they cease to exist. I am glad that I do not believe that. Some people say I am emotionally stunted and intellectually challenged. But I say that until they can replace the confidence I have in the Lord and His Word with something better, they should just leave me alone. My Rock, the Lord, gives me peace in troublesome times. My Rock assures me of unconditional love. He treats me the same no matter what company He is keeping. He is not partial and He is always the same. He loved me enough to die for me and then He said that He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell me so that I would always know His joy, His presence and have His wisdom. How can anyone top that? It it wasn't true, I wouldn't want anyone to take that away from me unless they could prove to me that believing what I believe was harmful to me or to someone around me. And so far nobody has proven that to me.

In these troublesome times, the best part of what I believe is that it really is true. The Lord says in John 14:1, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.." I do. Wisdom has cried and I have listened. I am prepared for whatever comes. I hope you are too.

 

Meditation for the week of October 12, 2008

Passing the Examination

 

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? --unless indeed you are disqualified.

 

Some nights I can't sleep and I lay awake thinking about things that bother me. Sometimes I think about what it will be like for unbelievers to wake up in hell and to find out that the Bible was reliable, that Christ was who He claimed to be, that John 3:16 was a passport to heaven and that they foolishly rejected the truth. What will it be like to be in eternal torments knowing that you could have been saved?

Another thing that bothers me is that when I listen to how people are saved today, the language has changed. We used to hear people tell us how they found out they were lost and how they came to trust in the truth that Christ had died for them. Now we hear people tell us about what they have done to be saved. Sometimes they say, "I did it." No doubt many of these people are saved but aren't expressing that truth very clearly. However, I worry about the people who give these kinds of testimonies and then do not want to get baptized (and the word means to be immersed), when people complain about the people who brought the Gospel to them as is the case in our chapter, when people have more interest in the ball games on Sunday afternoon than they do in the worship of the Lord on Sunday morning. When people we know do not seem to have a love for the Lord and respect for those who preached the Gospel to them, we have to wonder if we who preach the Gospel are being faithful to them. I am always reluctant to question people when they say they are saved, but Paul wasn't. He says "Examine yourselves, make sure that you pass the examination." Those who don't pass are called reprobates and a reprobate is simply one who fails the test.

I am still a firm believer in the fact that salvation is a point in time experience that only happens once. I believe that whether we are younger or older when we come to Christ we go through a crisis experience. When we find out we are not right with God, we begin to be "troubled" or concerned. The Bible says salvation is like a birth and a birth always involves labor pains. Sometimes labor is prolonged and difficult and sometimes it is not but no mother ever forgets giving birth. Some have told me that they don't remember their first births so they don't need to remember their salvation experience or new birth. I wouldn't trade places with someone who can't remember the events associated with their salvation for 5 minutes. I wouldn't remember the date of my salvation if it hadn't happened so close to President Kennedy's assassination but I don't think I will ever forget the wonder of finding out that I was waiting for God to save me when Christ had already died to do that. I rested on that truth that afternoon. The lyrics of the Johnny Cash song, "I was there when it happened" express my sentiments on this issue.

 

Yes, I know when Jesus saved me,
The very moment He forgave me;
He took away my heavy burden,
And He gave me peace within.
Satan can't make me doubt it,
It's real and I'm gonna shout it;
'Cause I was there when it happened,
and I guess I ought to know.

 

Because of what is at stake, it would make sense if each of us took a little time today to examine ourselves and to make sure that we have passed this most important test. Our destinies for eternity depend on getting this right.

 

Meditation for the week of October 19, 2008

Expect Great Things

 

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

In the collection of stories called Arabian Nights, there is a story about Aladdin. He manages to find an oil lamp which when rubbed releases a powerful genie who is ready to do anything for Aladdin. Of course, this is a story that all of us could fantasize about. While this story is a myth, we have a story that is true and that is better.

Paul prays for the Christians in Ephesus in this letter that was written from prison. He prays that their inner person or mind would be strengthened. He also wants them to enjoy the love of God which is beyond comprehension. He wants them to be controlled or filled with all that God is and offers, not just with part of the blessings available to them. Then he tells them about something better than a genie in a bottle. They have a God, that is the mighty One, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly about all that we ask or think.

Now, I don't mean to be a spoil sport, but wasn't Paul sitting in prison when he prayed this prayer for them? Did Paul enjoy prison? Probably not! So some would say that God was able to do what Paul and the Ephesians wanted but that He didn't always do it. However, if we are filled with all the fullness of God, then we will want what He wants and we will expect our miracles to be in keeping with His plans and objectives. We might not pray for release from prison but perhaps for a fruitful prison ministry while we are there.

Do we have confidence that our creator God really did send His only son to reveal God to us? John tells us that the Word was made flesh and we beheld His glory, the glory of the unique Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Do we really believe and trust in the truth that this unique Son of God was also the Son of Man and that He had the right and the power to die for our sins? If we do, we have already been recipients of blessings that far exceed the blessing of any religion man has ever devised. We have peace of mind, we have hope for the future, we have a God who bears our burdens instead of asking us to bear His. He saves those who trust Him.

If we are saved by grace through faith, we can expect blessings that far exceed our measly expectations. Oh, we can't pray for God to harm our enemies, because that is not His way (See Matthew 6:44). But we can pray for Him to change them so that they are no longer our enemies. We can't pray for him to remove death from our lives because that is not the way things work since Adam sinned. But we can pray for him to use death to help the unsaved to see the importance of the decisions that they make concerning the Lord. We do know that those who die "in the Lord" go to a place where there is no more sin, no more death or sorrow or pain, and no more night. I suspect that there are many more things that He wants to do for us that are in keeping with His will and that are in keeping with His love.

Is there a burden about unsaved loved ones on your heart today? He is able. Is there a burden about sickness? He may not heal the sickness but he will certainly not forsake you during the illness. And He just may cure you as well because He is able! Is there concern about financial situations now that the financial markets are in turmoil? The Lord has said with regard to our needs that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Believe it, because He is able. We may have great concerns about the future when we consider war and man's inhumanity to man, but just as the Lord was with David when he went down into a valley and fought the giant Goliath, He has promised to be with us. I take his promise to David personally when he says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me (Psalm 23:4)."

Aladdin's lamp is a myth but the Lord is real and available. He is able to exceed our expectations.

 

Meditation for the week of October 26, 2008