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OCTOBER 2012

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Thank you, Father!

 

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

 

I see prayer as a conversation with God. We talk to Him and He talks to us. Sometimes He talks to us through the Bible, sometimes through circumstances, sometimes through other people and sometimes by controlling our minds and putting thoughts and impressions there. We have to be careful when we think God is speaking to us because sometimes Satan convinces us to do things by using all the same techniques that God uses. He even puts Scriptures into our minds. However, he misuses them even as He did with the Lord when the Lord was being tried after his forty days and nights in the wilderness.

Talking with God is a great privilege. However when we pray, we are quite frequently asking God for some need. A conversation with God can certainly be a request since God is able (and willing) to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). However, a conversation should not be a memorized speech nor should it always be just requests. When we speak to our fathers (and God is our Father), they would think it strange if we wrote out our conversation. If we needed our fathers to run errands for us, we might give him a list of things that we need or want him to do. Otherwise we would speak respectfully, but we would also speak normally. We should have a conversation with him.

There are a lot of things about prayer that I do not understand. I do not understand how some Christians can sincerely pray for our current president to be reelected while others just as sincerely pray for the challenger in our system. Whose prayer is the Lord going to answer? Perhaps this difficulty arises because our prayers are not Scriptural. The Lord guides us as to how to pray in these cases. He set an example when He prayed in the garden before his crucifixion saying, "Not my will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42)." In addition, He tells us to pray for those in authority. Perhaps if we were more inclined to obey God in these matters, He just might take the man that we did not want leading us and have him make decisions that are best for us. If the man that the Lord puts in office is really wicked, he might even be turned into a God fearing man just like Nebuchadnezzar was in Daniel 4. This is the best way to pray, and God will no doubt honor those who have these kinds of conversations with Him.

However, prayer should be more than requests. The Bible talks about praising the Lord, blessing the Lord and thanking the Lord. These are the kinds of conversations that we normally have around the Lord's table when we remember Him. We call that meeting a worship meeting, and it is; but we can and should be worshiping at other times. Worship is more than the Lord's supper, it is more than uplifting praise music, it is more than just saying words. It is true devotion seen in true obedience. We should be in the "attitude" of worship all the time. That would keep us from being in the "attitude" of complaining and grumbling. Worship cannot be easily defined, but it can be easily seen in the lives of those who are true worshipers. One aspect of worship is a thankful spirit.

Our verse for today says that praise and thanksgiving are "sacrifices". A sacrifice costs something so praise must not be natural or easy. Sometimes it is very difficult to just say thank you to someone who has done something nice for us. We all want to do something in return. God has given us victory through the resurrection and we are to thank Him for it (1 Corinthians 15:57). He has given us His Son (John 3:16). To the believer in Christ He has given us eternal life (Romans 6:23). We who were without hope (Ephesians 2:12) have now been given hope, that is we have been given a future filled with blessing. But all of these things would be cheapened if we tried to pay for them. They are priceless. The only way to properly value the Lord and the things He has done for us is to say, "Thank you."

This week in my personal prayer time, I am going to spend my time in blessing, praise and thanksgiving rather than in asking even though I have many things that I would like to request. The Lord says in Matthew 6:32 that He knows our needs. So while there is a time and place for asking maybe there is also a time a place for not asking so that we can be solely occupied with praising and thanksgiving. The Psalmist says thanksgiving and praise pleases the Lord more than the sacrifice of an ox or bull (Psalm 69:31). The Lord is a gracious giver, I am going to try to be a more thankful recipient. I am going to just say, "Thank you!"

 

Meditation for the week of October 7, 2012

Number Two's

 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24

 

Most people want to be leaders—they might not admit it, but facts are facts. From the time we are about two years old we have a tendency to want to tell others what to do, and we tend to throw temper tantrums if we don't get our own way. Most two-year-olds like to be "in charge". I wonder if anyone has ever aspired to being a true follower? You can't have leaders without them.

When Eve was created from Adam's side, she was made to be someone that complimented him and made him complete. She was a help "meet" or a help that was appropriate or suitable for him. She messed things up for both of them when she failed to remember that he was the leader and she was the follower.

If we are going to have a President, we also need a Vice-President and a chief of staff. If we are going to have number one's, we need to have number two's (and three's and four's and maybe more). If we are going to have people in charge, we need to have people that are submitting to them. I have listened to a lot of good teaching on how to develop leaders. We teach that we should be followers of the Lord and we teach that we should submit ourselves to others. However, I have heard absolutely no messages on how to be a good number two unless it would be in connection with the women's role in the church. But in the church, the emphasis of most ministry is on how to develop leaders in the church, not followers of the leaders. I do not generally get the idea that being a follower is just as important as being a leader. I was in a coffee shop this last week listening to two men holding a Bible study on "elders". I heard them talk about the qualifications of leaders; but I didn't hear them talk about the qualifications of followers, and I listened carefully since I had been thinking about this topic. I think we need to train followers to be good followers just as we need to train them to be future leaders.

Being a follower of the Lord requires self denial since most of us really want to be number one. We want to order others, not be ordered by others. However, good followers make their leaders look good. Women today have trouble accepting their role as followers in the local church and in the home. It is difficult to have a good team in the home when both husband and wife try to take the lead. No company can run efficiently with everyone "doing what is right in their own eyes." Workers need to be properly organized and there needs to be clear lines of authority or confusion results. Thus, we do have to have good leaders. However, being a good follower is just as important as being a good leader. My question is, "Should we only be followers until we get the chance to be leaders? Or could a person please the Lord by aspiring to be a good follower that never wants the pressure and criticism and insight that it takes to be a good leader?"

The Bible talks about the gift of "helps" (1 Corinthians 12:28). Phoebe was a " succourer" or helper or possibly assistant of many (Romans 16:2). She was commended for her role in the work of the Lord. There are many "followers" that know more and are more technically proficient than the people to whom they are subject. But a good leader recognizes his own limitations and uses and develops abilities in his followers that compliment his abilities. He sets the goals and the boundaries and then turns the gifted loose to "help" him accomplish those goals. A good number two or number three knows how to get the job done, but they also know that they are making the "boss" look good, and likely he will get the credit. That is why a good follower has to deny himself by losing his ego and being satisfied when he or she knows that the job couldn't have been done without them.

Number twos in the Scriptures include Joseph in prison and in Egypt. We look at him as number one but he was really making number one look good. Pharoah knew a good man when he was introduced to one. Daniel was a number two even though we like to think of him as number one (See Daniel 2:48). Mordecai did quite well as number two (Esther 10:3). As a matter of fact, number two's in the old testament often appeared to be the number one's even though they themselves were subject to others.

We need to train more number two's. We have plenty of number one's. We make the Lord look good when we are truly His followers. We make the leaders in the church look good when we learn to be good followers of them.

 

Meditation for the week of October 14, 2012

The Lord IS Coming!

 

So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.' (Luke 19:13)

 

The Lord has promised to come again. One aspect of His second coming is given to us in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the church is going to be caught up to be with the Lord forever. This is the hope and the comfort of every true believer. Another aspect of His second coming is given to us in Revelation 1:7. This coming is associated with Israel, not the church. This coming causes mourning, not joy. But the Bible speaks of only one second coming, it does not speak of two. Both of these events are part of that second coming. I believe these two events will be separated by about seven years. The first part of the Lord's second coming removes Christians from coming judgment on the earth. A believer in Christ is saved from all aspects of God's judgment. The second part of the Lord's second coming will be to reveal Himself as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to set up a righteous kingdom on the earth.

When we look at some of the Gospel parables having to do with his second coming, it is easy to want to apply the teaching in them to the church when in fact they are probably dealing with the attitude of the nation of Israel as they wait for the Lord to come and set up His kingdom. But while the interpretations may have to do with Israel, surely there can be an application of those principles to those of us who are awaiting the catching away of the church and who are not expecting to be here on the earth when the Lord begins judging the world for rejecting Him.

One of the principles that the Lord gives us while we wait for His second coming is given to us in our verse for today. We are not to use the second coming as an excuse for not working. This would apply to us in a practical way as well as in a spiritual way. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that if a people won't work, neither should they eat. Now I am certain He is talking about those who can work and not about the handicapped, sick and elderly who cannot work. In this passage, the Lord delivers to his ten servants, ten minas. Each servant apparently got one. I believe this parable tells us that while the Lord is "in the far country", that is, in heaven, we all have equal responsibility to help advance the Kingdom in whatever way we can.

Another principle having to do with the Lord's second coming is given to us in Matthew 25:15 where three servants were given talents. One was given ten, one was given five and one was given one. The talents were to be used according to their differing abilities. They were to do business with the talents while their Lord was gone and they had to give an account when He returned. The principle here seems to be that we each have differing abilities that we can use for the Lord while He is away. We need to be good stewards or our abilities and not be comparing ourselves to others who have other abilities.

Then we have a parable in Matthew 20:1-16 where laborers are hired to work in the vineyard. Some are hired early in the day and some are hired mid-morning, some at noon and some near the evening. He had promised the first hires a denarius for the day. But he paid all the hires the same thing. Here we see that the Lord gives us all equal opportunity to be fully rewarded for serving him whether we are saved late in life or early in life. The same opportunity for reward is also available to those saved late in this dispensation rather than early in the dispensation.

We learn then that we who are believers all have the same responsibility to use our differing abilities while the Lord is tarrying. We all have equal opportunity for a full reward no matter when we are saved. We should not be like the five foolish virgins who are sleeping rather than "occupying" while they are waiting for the Lord (Matthew 25:5). Those who are not taking their responsibilities seriously and who have no love for the Lord--considering Him to be a "hard man" (Matthew 25:24), are going to be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 25:30). That is the destiny of unbelievers.

The Lord's return is almost never preached on as a motivating reason for dedicated service to the Lord today. While unbelievers are saying "Where is the promise of His coming? (2 Peter 3:4)", we who are truly saved should be encouraged to do business for Him while we wait for His coming. After all, the Lord IS coming!

 

Meditation for the week of October 21, 2012

Call Me Satisfied!

 

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalms 107:8-9)

 

Have you ever been out hiking on a hot day when you ran across a stream of clear cool water coming out of a rock formation? Do you remember how satisfying it was when you put out your hands; and, after letting the water cleanse them, you put some of that water to your mouth? There is just nothing like a clear cool drink provided by our Creator on a hot day, is there? But wait, some of us carry something better with us now. It may be Gatorade or some energy drink, but for many of us water provided by our Creator just does not satisfy any more. Yet the Lord said that the water that He gives will satisfy forever (John 4:13-14). But does it really?

When the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, they came to the Red Sea and the Lord used the Red Sea to separate them forever from the Egyptians who wanted to enslave them. The Red Sea opened up for the Israelites and closed over the Egyptians. The Israelites were miraculously delivered, but after being delivered they were hungry and thirsty. Then the Lord miraculously gave them water and manna. The manna was bread from heaven. In Exodus 16:31, we are told that manna tasted like wafers made with honey. In other words, it was almost good enough to be dessert. They ate that bread for nearly 40 years and at the end of the 40 years they thought that this manna tasted like pastry made with oil (Numbers 11:8). They were tired of it and they wanted some of the stuff that stinks that they had eaten in the land of Egypt (leeks, onions and garlic). The Lord tells us that He is the true bread the comes down from heaven In John 6:35 Jesus says to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." But is our hunger and thirst really satisfied?

I can identify with the children of Israel. They were a people who experienced great miracles but never expected the next one. They were bored with their lives in the wilderness, they were bored with their miraculous food, and they were bored with their miraculous water. They forgot what the burden of Egypt was like and how it felt to be liberated from that bondage. They started looking back instead of looking forward, but in looking back they forgot the burdens and only remembered the pleasures. They kept asking the "what if" questions. What if we lose our jobs? What if gas goes to $5.00/gal? What if I lose my health insurance and get sick? When we begin asking the "what if" questions and when we begin to look backward and not forward, when we begin to look down instead of up, when we begin to look at and compare ourselves to others who seem to have it better, we are in danger of expecting men to help us rather than the Lord. We won't lose our salvation, but we will lose our power, our joy and our strength. Jeremiah says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man." He also says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." (See Jeremiah 17:5-7.) Is the Lord really the One Who satisfies?

Paul kept looking forward, not backward. He said, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14)." We need to remember what it was like when we were unsaved, without God and without hope. We need to remember that our journey as Christians is an adventure with the Lord and that when we follow where He leads, there is excitement and joy when we see His protecting care and mercy to us in this life. There may be times when the journey becomes long and the food become boring, but I will take that to the stinking garlic of Egypt any day.

People are different. When my wife and I go out to eat, I want to buy something that I know I will like. She likes to buy something "different" that she hasn't tried before. I understand that we are all different, but when it comes to spiritual things, I will take the tried and true over the exciting and new any day. Call me boring if you want. But you will also have to call me satisfied.

 

Meditation for the week of October 28, 2012