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But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous
generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except
the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three
nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three
days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will
rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because
they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah
is here. (Matthew 12:39-41)
If we were to prepare a curriculum on evangelism, we probably would not
include Jonah, and yet Jonah had great success.
He was disobedient and saw sailors saved.
He was recommissioned and preached a message that he did not want
to preach and saw a whole city saved.
I wonder what would have happened if he had been a willing
Why did Jonah resist His call?
The Assyrians were a ruthless bunch and Nineveh was its capital.
No doubt Jonah had seen and heard of the cruelty of the
Assyrians. As a prophet he
likely knew that ultimately, they would be the instrument God would use
to punish the nation of Israel for worshiping the same gods that the
Canaanites before them had worshiped. There is no doubt that Jonah was
not interested in seeing the city of Nineveh saved from destruction.
To put it simply, Jonah did not like the Assyrians and possibly
even hated them.
What happened when Jonah refused to obey?
fled from the presence of the Lord and paid a fare to go down.
And that is always what happens when we disobey God.
It costs us and we go down. Usually
we end up in a pit of despair. Jonah
certainly did. But in
Jonah's case, the Lord used his disobedience to see a bunch of sailors
come to faith in the Lord. They
wanted salvation from a storm. They
got that and they also got eternal salvation.
When Jonah told them his story; and when the sea was calmed by
casting him into it, they
realized that His God was real.
know that Jonah was thrown overboard and was swallowed by a great fish.
Jonah, of course still needed to go to Nineveh to preach. but he
needed an attitude adjustment. God
preserved him by having a great fish swallow him when the sailors threw
him overboard to calm the sea. In
the belly of that fish he realizes that "Salvation is of the
Lord." God saved the
sailors, God was saving Jonah, and God would save the Ninevites.
gave Jonah a second chance. A
person would think Jonah would have been happy for that,
but he wasn't. He
went to Nineveh and preached just eight words, "Yet forty days and
Nineveh shall be overthrown." He
didn't preach a message of love or of hope.
He preached about coming destruction.
When the Ninevites heard his message they believed God and showed
it by fasting and mourning. When
they believed God about the coming destruction, they looked for a means
of salvation and they found it. God
didn't destroy them. They
were saved. But Jonah was still angry with God.
He complained because he knew that even though Nineveh deserved
to be destroyed, God would be merciful to them.
This caused him to go down into the pit of depression.
He wanted to die. This
is his second pit. But his
preaching had been effective.
a person cannot run from the presence of the Lord.
Second, God can use our disobedience to fulfill His purposes.
Third, we need to keep the preaching simple and we need to preach
about sin and coming judgment. Fourth,
if God can do such miracles with one who disobeys and is angry, maybe
there is hope that he can use some of us who perhaps are a bit defective
Meditation for the week
of October 2, 2016
What do we Know of Contentment?
Philippians 4:11 Not
that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I
am, to be content.
Contentment, What is it?
This Greek word for contentment is only used here in the Bible.
I am not enough of a Greek scholar to know if variations of the
same word are used elsewhere, but whatever Paul was talking about in
this letter seems to be a unique experience as far as Christians are
concerned. I suspect that if
the truth were known, most of us are not really content--no matter what
our circumstances are. I
confess. I have trouble
Whenever I think of contentment, I think of a slogan on some canned
milk we bought when I was young. It
said, “From contented cows.” Now
I don't know if there are other kinds of cows; but when I would see cows
in their summer pastures, laying down under shade trees, chewing the
cud, I always thought of that slogan.
The cows had been fed, they were keeping cool, they were relaxing
and they were chewing the cud. That
is, they were digesting what they had previously eaten.
Maybe that is really what Paul means by contentment.
This chewing the cud would speak to me of meditation on the word
of God. So maybe if
Christians were being fed good spiritual food, if they were keeping
their cool and relaxing, if they were meditating, maybe they would be
able to say, “I have
learned (by experience) in
whatever state I am to be content.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the state of
contentment as follow: Pleased
and satisfied: not needing more. In Philippians 4:6, Paul admonishes
Christians not to be anxious. I
assume a contented person would not be an anxious person. He goes on to
mention the value of prayer in keeping us from being anxious.
He then tells Christians how to think.
The qualities mentioned can only be found completely in the Lord
Jesus, so I suspect he is really asking us to keep our focus on Him.
If we commit things to God in prayer and live a disciplined
thought life, we will have the peace of God.
This peace of God comes from a God of peace in this chapter.
Wow! Paul almost acts like a spiritual counselor.
He gives us the key to getting rid of anxiety and living in a
state of contentment or satisfaction.
The Misunderstood Verse
4:13, Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens
me.” Paul was not
superman. Paul was not
spider-man. Paul could not
do all things. But he could
do all the things that are mentioned in this section of Scripture
through Christ who strengthened him.
Paul could be abased, he could abound.
He could be full, he could be hungry.
He knew what it was to have plenty and how to suffer because he
had unmet needs. He could be
content, but the only reason he could do these things is because of
Christ who strengthened him. It
wasn't a situation where he was striving to achieve these goals.
He recognized that through prayer and through proper disciplined
thinking he could have the peace of God and it would come from the God
My wife is having surgery as I write this for a bulging
disk. Many people have given
us advice—well-meaning advice I might add.
But ultimately, we had to make a decision.
Should she do it? And
if she should do it, what doctor should do it and which of two surgeries
should she have? There were two surgery paths suggested.
There were other doctors that could have been consulted.
We finally asked the doctor we were seeing to consult with
another of his colleagues and then schedule the surgery that he would
schedule if my wife were his mother.
We have prayed about this, and we have agonized about this.
We probably shouldn't have agonized, but we have.
My wife certainly cannot continue living in the pain that she has
suffered over the last six months. We
have together after much prayer committed this to the Lord and we are
going to believe that the surgeon He has sent us to is the right
surgeon. We have
prayed and now we are going to think about our blessings and about the
Lord's care and we are going to expect a positive outcome.
Frankly, I am at peace. I
am satisfied with the decision we have made.
We are trusting that the Lord who loves us has guided us in the
right way. I am
content. I think my wife is
for the week of October 9, 2016
is Really Pretty Simple
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
The Corinthian church had problems.
I am always encouraged when I read the letters that Paul wrote to
the saints or set apart ones at Corinth.
We tend to complain about the problems in our churches today, but
would you recommend a person fellowship today with a group of Christians
who were getting drunk when they remembered the Lord?
I don't think so! But
that was just one of the problems in this church that had abundant gift
and ability but that was divided and that tolerated immorality in the
church. So our problems tend
to pale in comparison and I realize that while the problems need to be
addressed, we are not unique in our day.
I don't suppose that should be encouraging but it is.
It is sort of like having a problem with a compulsive sin and
then finding out that you are not alone.
Knowing that others also have the problem and are trying to deal
with it always seems to be encouraging.
After addressing the problems, Paul teaches that the solution is a
thing called love or charity. If
they had love for God and love for one another, they certainly wouldn't
be behaving in the manner described in the letter.
Chapter 13 becomes an essay on love.
It is one of the most loved and one of the better known passages
in our Bibles. It is sort of
the high point of Paul's writings in my opinion.
In the essay, he tells us how we can do everything right, but if
we do it for self instead of out of love, we are profitless as far as
God is concerned. Then he
gives 15 characteristics of love. We
could truthfully put the Lord's name in each one of those descriptive
statements about love but could we put our own there?
Could the Corinthians put their names there?
At the end of the essay, he says that faith, hope and charity or
love are abiding or lasting or eternal.
But the greatest of these is love.
Faith, Hope and Charity
Why should we love God and love our brothers? I think Chapter 15
gives us the motive for that love. Chapter
15 verses 3 and 4 summarize the Gospel which is the object of our faith.
Then in chapter 15 verses 51-52 Paul encourages us with the
"mystery" of the rapture where we who are saved will not all
die but we will all be changed. The
coming of the Lord is our hope. Because
of that hope we should live charitably toward others.
After all the Lord loved us and gave himself for us. That is why
Paul concludes the essay with the statement that now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but
the greatest of these is love.
Petula Clark recorded a song in 1974 that summarizes what Paul has
been saying. Others recorded
this song but I remember the version she sang:
the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
Just for some but for Everyone
my wife had surgery on her back. It
was eight hours and a big deal. There
were a few hiccups but mostly everything went well except she developed
excruciating shooting pain in her right leg when she sat down or got up
or twisted it just right. After
bringing her home, the pain got so bad about 9:30 one night that I
called the hospital in order to talk to the doctor.
The answering service didn't want to call him because it was
after hours. I told her that
I had been told to call if we needed him and we needed him.
She said ok and in less than 5 minutes he was on the phone and
told us to go to the emergency room and we would talk to the
Physician’s Assistant that had been working with him on our case. When
we got there he showed up as well. It
was interesting to watch the two doctors try to help Geneva.
They ordered some tests, gave her some medication and then
admitted that they didn't understand why she was having the pain.
But even though those doctors had just recently met my wife, the
concern that they showed in that emergency room showed true charity that
went far beyond the fact that our bills will probably bankrupt Medicare.
Our doctor is trying to do everything possible to keep from
having to open her up again to see if there is something wrong that the
CT scans and X-rays are not showing.
But they were examples of the kind of care and concern that we
should all be showing one another.
what the world needs now is love, sweet love.
Not just for some but for everyone.
And the real example of true love is seen in the Lord Jesus as He
SUFFERED for our sins. The
Christian life is really pretty simple.
We need faith in the Lord, we need hope for the future and we
need to love one another. This
meditation is reminding me not to foul up that which is so simple and so
Meditation for the week of
October 16, 2016
I am Jesus!
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone
around him from heaven.
Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said,
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick
against the goads."
So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You
want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into
the city, and you will be told what you must do."
In this passage we have the story of Paul's conversion from Judaism to
Christianity. He was
converted from a religious zealot to a follower of Christ.
He was converted from a man who was forcing his religion on
others to one who preached the Gospel and expected the Holy Spirit to do
the convicting and converting. He
was the persecutor, but now he became the persecuted.
His life took a 180 degree turn that day on the road to Damascus.
Paul never got tired of telling what happened to him.
He knew why there was a MUST in John 3:7 where the Lord says,
“Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"
Paul knew how he was born again, he knew where he was born again
and he knew when he was born again.
Of course we are not given the date when this experience
occurred. But it did occur,
and Paul remembered the experience
Have we actually been Converted?
Many of my friends cannot relate to Paul's experience.
They say it was unique and that they don't remember becoming
Christians. They say that
they don't need to remember that because they know they are Christians
now. They say that they know
that they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am concerned about my friends who say that because we are not
born Christians, we are born sinners who are children of disobedience.
We have to be born again to become Christians.
We are lost before we are saved or born again.
We are converted when we are born again.
I realize that this experience is not as dramatic for children as
it would be for adults. But
finding out one is lost and about to be condemned eternally, and then
realizing that Christ died for us so that our sins can be forgiven is a
hard thing to forget in my mind. I
often wonder how people are going to respond when they meet the Lord and
He asks them, "What makes you fit for heaven, why should you be
allowed through the Pearly Gates?"
What answer will people give?
To tell the Lord that you always believed because of the way you
were raised, or that you grew up in a church and were baptized as an
infant and that you tried to do right just isn't going to cut it.
All of those answers give the glory to something man does.
Answers that will please God are answers that give all the glory
to the Lord Jesus.
Paul's meeting with the Risen Lord
Paul had thought he was doing right in persecuting the Christians.
He was also trying to advance in the political ranks of the
Pharisees, a sect of Judaism. But
his religion had become cruel. Not
only had it caused an innocent man to be crucified, but now it was
trying to stamp out the followers of this man.
Why? Because the
Pharisees wanted to control the people.
And just like today, they were using religion as a club rather
than as a means of salvation and service to others.
But Paul had held the clothes of those that stoned Steven in Acts
7. He had seen a man who
prayed, "Do not charge them with this sin."
Paul certainly wasn't living his life in that forgiving way.
Likely Paul had heard the Lord preach in the temple since Paul
was a Pharisee and would likely have celebrated the feast days by going
to the temple. Paul may even
have witnessed the crucifixion of the Lord though I am perhaps using a
little sanctified imagination when I say that.
He surely heard others that were there say that the Lord had
cried, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
That was certainly not Paul's attitude or life. So when he began
thinking about these things, his conscience began to bother him.
It was hard for him to kick against the goads, sticks that are
used to prod the oxen into moving. But
even so, wasn't the Lord dead?
When Paul heard those words, "I am Jesus", all of a sudden
everything he had believed about this Man was proven wrong. Jesus
was the Messiah. He
was alive. Paul had been
wrong in persecuting his followers.
Paul was stopped in his tracks.
On the one hand hearing those words had to hurt.
On the other hand hearing those words gave his life purpose and
hope that he had never had before. Hearing
those words and believing them, changed everything.
What is your Story?
Paul never got tired of telling this story.
My story is different but I never tire of telling it either.
However, I get concerned when I preach it publicly to people who
claim to be Christians and they get exasperated with me.
They say we should be teaching the Christians how to be
Christians. Reminding them of the great change that should have occurred
in their life is redundant and boring and just not needed.
I do not understand how Christians can ever tire of telling about
how they met the Lord or of hearing how others met Him.
I never tire telling people how I met my wife.
I suspect those who get the most exasperated do not have a story
to tell. And if you don't
have a story to tell, I wouldn't trade places with you for five minutes.
In those five minutes, the Lord might decide your time on earth
is ended. Maybe a person can
be "born again" without a story to tell, but I certainly
wouldn't bet my soul for eternity on that.
for the week of October 23, 2016
The Mark of the Beast
Revelation 13:8 All
who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been
written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the
I know some of you are waiting for me to tell you what the mark of the
beast is and how you can recognize it.
I am not going to do that because I cannot do that.
But the day will come when those who have taken that mark will be
damned forever. A Christian
is marked or sealed by the Holy Spirit.
But the day will come when a man energized by Satan will make
sure that buying or selling in the market place cannot be done without
his EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card.
Some people will take the mark because they will say that they
have to in order to eat. Many
will take the mark willingly because of the power that this man wields
and because he has a second lieutenant doing miracles to prove that this
man is "some great one." (See
Acts 8:9). But the world
that has rejected the Man of Sorrows will accept the Man of Sin. (See 2
Thessalonians 2:3). Even
with all that power, ultimately he will go into perdition and perish at
the hand of the Lord.
I am thankful that I believe that i will not see the day when that evil
beast is worshipped by the whole world.
I know that there are many who have different views of Bible
prophecy and I respect that. I
used to be dogmatic about how the plan of God would play out; but I have
learned that in this area, sometimes it takes hindsight to realize that
God meant what he said and said what he meant.
However, I do believe that Christians are going to be delivered
from the wrath to come (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10),
and that they will not see the evil day that is coming after the
Lord takes the church home by way of the rapture.
However, that does not mean that we won't see evil in our day
much like the evil of the day when this beast reigns on the earth.
I am sure that many people thought Hitler was this man.
I know I would have thought that too except for the fact that the
Christians were still present on earth telling people that their
political solution was in Christ and not in a man.
But how did Hitler convince so many people to follow him and how
will this man do the same?
Sheep Going Astray
Isaiah 53 verse 6 says that all we like sheep have gone astray.
I think the Lord is saying that we tend to follow the leader and
if the leader is wrong we follow him or her anyway.
The story is told of a student who was trying to learn math.
He could do addition but he could not do subtraction.
His teacher knew that his family raised sheep so she tried to use
sheep as an illustration to help him.
She said, "Johnny, if there is a pen with four sheep in it
and one of them finds a hole and gets out of the pen, how many sheep
will be left in the pen?" She
expected him to say three. But
he said none. She said to
him, "Johnny, you don't understand subtraction."
He said, "Teacher, you don't understand sheep."
He knew if one went through the hole the others would follow.
Absalom in the Old Testament is a lesson in how Satan and those
energized by Satan work. He
came between David, the rightful king, and the people.
He kissed them and judged their issues in ways that pleased them.
In other words, he professed his love for them and told them what
they wanted to hear. He
became powerful and many followed Him.
He was also very attractive and people were drawn to him.
But ultimately, he was destroyed and many were destroyed with
When we have people who lie and repeat the lies over and over
again, when we have people who tell us what we want to hear, when those
people are attractive and charismatic, it is easy to follow leaders who
are destined for destruction. So
what is the solution?
is a verse in the Bible that says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and
makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD (Jeremiah
17:5)." There is
another verse that says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me (John 10:27)."
Men who want to deceive us can.
All of us are like sheep that can be led to the slaughter.
But the Lord will never deceive us.
He may tell us things we don't want to hear.
He may discipline or chastise us, but when we follow Him we will
never be deceived. Instead
of being a part of the coming destruction, we will be part of an eternal
home in the Father's house (John 14).
How do we know that the Lord is telling the truth?
Deep down in our hearts we know that He gives us what we need and
not always what we want. The
liar will always promise people what they want whether he or she can
deliver on the promise or not. But
ultimately we find that God gives and the liar takes.
God cares about us, the evil people in this world care about
themselves and their power. Fortunately,
God has used evil for good and he can still do that.
But our confidence should not be in sinners and liars.
Our confidence needs to be in the one "gave Himself"
sheep we need to be following the right shepherd.
We should not be following the hireling who really has no love
for the sheep. We should be
following the shepherd who gave His life for the sheep.
Meditation for the week of
October 30, 2016