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OCTOBER 2017

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Jesus, there is Something about that Name!

 

Matthew 1:21  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

 

The Irreverence shown to that Name

When people are going to swear today, it is often the name of the Lord Jesus that they use.  While there are other ways to take the Lord's name in vain, certainly this is one way to do it.  People don't say, “Oh, President Trump!” or “Oh, President Obama!” when they want to swear, instead they say “Oh, My God!” or “Jesus!”.  I have tried to figure out why people use the name of a person that they say is a myth, that they say is not the Son of God, that they don't believe in and that they don't think has any power or authority over them to add emphasis to whatever they are trying to say.  Why not use the name of someone whom they think actually existed?  I think it is because rebellion against God is inbred in the heart of mankind.  Using the name of the Lord irreverently certainly seems to me to be unreasonable and illogical.

 

A Coming Surprise

Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus humbled himself but God has exalted Him and someday everyone is going to bow before the name of the Lord Jesus.  Philippians 2:8-11 says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  I believe that those who figuratively raise their fist in the face of the God in whom they say they don't believe, will one day get to find out that they should have bowed while they were alive on earth.  They will bow after they die.  Many will bow during the tribulation period. 

 

The Great Day of His Wrath

We read in Revelation 6:15-17,  “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?"

 

The great day of His wrath is going to come.  It is easy to see that many people love war more than peace when they are in power.  It is good for the economy.  It good for the ego of those who want to be domineering.  We are headed for a day of great calamity.  We have nuclear toys we have never used but when they are used, the whole world is going to suffer.  Most people do not invent things to let them sit idly unused.  Whether future wars in our generation will be the culmination of the prophetic plan or whether it will just be the culmination of the stupidity of mankind, war is probably coming.  The only way to prepare for it is to be ready for our eternal reward.

 

To Those Who Believe

Peter says that to those who believe He is precious (1 Peter 2:7).   We who believe find it offensive when people use that name irreverently.  We wouldn't want our family name used as a curse word, nor would we want the name of our friends and those we respect and love to be used as a curse word.  We certainly don't want the name of the One who died to save us used as a curse word.  I wonder if those who swear using the name of Jesus have really considered what they are doing.  It would be so much nicer if those of us who love the Lord could convince those who hate and disdain Him, to love Him as well. 

 

The Gaithers have written and sung a very precious song:

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

There's just something about that name

Master, Savior, Jesus

Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Let all Heaven and Earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms

Will all pass away

But there's something about that Name.

 

Yes, there is just something about that name!

 

Meditation for the week of October 1, 2017

Properly understanding our Manual

 

2 Timothy 2:15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

Some Things are Hard to Understand

I am convinced that many well-meaning Christians have never been taught how to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  They think that is something that should be taught in seminaries.  But actually each believer should be equipped to do this.  Many translations say that rightly dividing should be translated “rightly handling.”   I personally believe the idea is to properly interpret the word of truth and then rightly apply it to our lives.  It is obvious that there are things that are hard to interpret since Peter says that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).  So how can the person who wants to know and understand God's will, rightly divide the word of Truth?

 

Basic Principles of Bible Interpretation

First of all we need to be absolutely certain that the God has providentially preserved for us is the very God breathed or inspired Word of God.  Just because some of it doesn't make sense to us, doesn't mean that it is wrong.  The Lord says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

 

Second we need to properly understand the audience that each book or section of the Bible addresses.  The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament deals with an earthly people with an earthly land and with earthly promises.  The New Testament primarily deals with a spiritual people with a spiritual land and with spiritual promises.   However, some of the Gospel passages are oriented toward the Jews and their earthly promises and prophecies.  We must distinguish what is for the Jew and what is for the believers of our day.   Believers must be careful not to think we are Jews and that we are still living as Jews under the Law of the Old Testament.   Many promises that I see Christians taking courage in today are really principles that apply primarily to the Jews.  

 

I always try to look for the principles that we believe in the Gospels, for examples of those principles being developed in the Acts of the Apostles, for teaching in the epistles (letters) and for confirming illustrations in the Old Testament.  However, I believe the epistles are the backbone of Bible interpretation for believers today.  The letters written by the New Testament authors explain how the rest of the Bible fits together.  If we find it in an epistle, it is an explanation of Biblical Truth for us today. 

 

We always interpret in context.  We need to interpret a verse in the context of the chapter, the context of the book and the context of the Bible.  We let the simple explain the difficult and not the other way around.  All interpretation should be consistent with the truth of John 3:16 and with the truth that we are to love God and love our neighbor—truth that is found in the Old Testament and in the New. 

 

Problems of Interpretation

The Bible is a spiritual book and will never be understood properly by one who is not “born of the spirit.”  The Bible should convict the unsaved of their sin, and it will warn them to flee from the wrath to come.  However, until a person bows to the Truth that they are lost and that only Christ can save them, the Bible will for the most part be a closed book to them.  God is a God of order and if we won't believe the simple truth of the Gospel, we aren't going to be able to properly understand truth that was written for a believer.  If we are living a rebellious life as a Christian, we won't have a clear understanding of Biblical truth.  Since most people want to become experts in the Bible without letting the Holy Spirit teach them precept upon precept as they are ready for the teaching, many turn to religious teachers that are not saved and that are not living in fellowship with the Lord for their teaching.  Some of these teachers are well-educated but they teach the logic of the natural (unregenerated) man rather than the spiritual truth of the Bible.

 

In order to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus we have to repent—we need a mind adjustment.  The reason is found in Isaiah 55:8-9 which says,   "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Just as we needed a mind adjustment in order to trust Christ for salvation, we often need a mind adjustment to understand and apply truth that makes absolutely no sense to the natural person but that makes perfect sense to the spiritual person.  

 

Application

There is no short-cut to proper Bible interpretation.  It starts with coming to faith in the Lord for salvation.  It requires earnest prayer.  It takes time.  We can get a lot of help from others but ultimately we need to be taught by the Holy Spirit and we need to develop our own convictions.  We also need to remember that letters by the New Testament writers were understood by the recipients without teachers coming along and telling them what the epistles “really meant.”  We need to have confidence that with some help with language and the customs of the day, that we too are intelligent enough to understand the messages found in these letters.  Understanding the letters will help us understand or rightly divide the Word of Truth.

 

Meditation for the week of October 8, 2017

What is it Going to be like to Face Christ As the Judge?

 

Rev 6:15-17 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?"

 

The Wrath of the Lamb

How many of us have seen an angry lamb?  We know that rams can get kind of feisty but lambs are usually fairly docile.  But the Lord is looked at as a lamb.  Isaiah says He was led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).  John the Baptist calls him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  But there are those who are going to experience the Wrath of the Lamb--the One who died as the meek and lowly Jesus.

 

I know that there is a difference of opinion as to the the timing of what happens in the Book of the Revelation.  But let me assure you that what is promised will happen.  Just as God promises eternal life to believers in John 3:36, He also promises that His wrath presently abides on the unbeliever (that is, the Christ rejecters).  The picture of kings, great men, rich men, commanders, and mighty men hiding themselves from the Lord when He comes to judge is a sobering sight.  Today, we have leaders all over the world who are posturing for war.  They seem to think that they personally are invincible, but when they face the Lord, they are going to cower in fear.  Then they will want to hide, but then it will be too late.

 

Using Religion as a Club

In Revelation 13 we are confronted by two men.  One is described as a beast rising out of the sea (likely the Mediterranean Sea).  His power will be the outgrowth of kingdoms that have dominated the world scene historically.  This man wants to be worshipped as God.  I doubt very much if he believes in God, but I suspect that he uses religion to get the worship of people who believe lies. There is another man who rises out of the land.  He is likely a Jew.  He gives his allegiance to the first man and convinces the nation of Israel to accept and worship the first beast.  Both of these men are antiChrist.  Both are doomed.  They control the world for a while.  They have power over commerce; you can't buy or sell without the mark of the beast which means you aren't going to eat unless you are marked as his.  These men have political power and they have religious power.  You would think that they were winners.  But we read that they are captured by the Lord and imprisoned in a terrible place.  Revelation 19:20 says, :"Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone."  Now I don't know if this is a literal lake or an allegorical lake.  If it is literal it is bad.  If it is allegorical, it is worse because God is using something we do understand to explain something we don't understand.

 

Martyrs during this Period

Rev 20:4-6 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

 

Those who were the losers in the eyes of those who think they are the winners actually are the winners.  They live and reign with the Lord for a 1000 years.  On them the second death has no power.  They have it made.

 

When is all this Going to Happen?

Some think it is already happening but I don't think so.  I really do believe that the Lord has delivered saints of our day from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  The things written in Chapters 6-19 of the book of Revelation occur after the catching away of present day saints to spare them from the judgments of the unbelievers on this earth.  If the current hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, and mass shootings are not part of this period, what must the judgments of this "tribulation" period be like?  I really believe our President is going to back off his nuclear posturing because nuclear war would destroy our planet and I see a Biblical future of over one thousand years for it.

 

However, when the Lord begins to judge, losers are going to be winners and winners (so-called) are going to be losers.  I am a present day loser and I am glad to be one.

 

Meditation for the week of October 15, 2017

What should a Christian look Like?

 

(1 Corinthians 15:32)  If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE!"

(1 Corinthians 15:33)  Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."

(1 Corinthians 15:34)  Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

 

(Ephesians 5:1)  Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

 

We know that a Biblical Christian is one who trusts in the Lord for eternal salvation and for preservation in this life.  Salvation is a gift that we receive and not a work that we do.  However, because only God can see the heart, we who claim to be Christians need to look like Christians by the things that we do and say.  When the Lord was having Jesse's sons pass before Samuel because one of them had been chosen by God to be the next king, the Lord said to Samuel, "For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart   (1 Samuel 16:7) .”  I don't think this was a criticism, I think it was a statement of fact.  God can see the heart (that is what motivates us and what we love), but man can only see the way a person behaves and looks.  We base our judgments on outward appearances.  Some times those judgments are based on our prejudices and other times those judgments are valid evaluations based on the way a person acts.  My question is, "What should a Christian look like today?"

 

A Christians should be Content

Paul says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:6-10).”

 

Getting ahead should not be our goal in life.  Being God-like should be our goal.  Being rich is not a sin but sinning to get rich is certainly not 'like Christ."  The Lord didn't even have a home to live in and He owned the cattle on a thousand hills.  Matthew tells us that the Lord said to one who wanted to follow Him,  "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head  (Matthew 8:20).”

 

A Christian's words should be Gracious

 Paul says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29).”  Our words should build people up and not tear them down.

 

A Christian should be Peaceable

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord  (Hebrews 12:14).”  The Lord blesses peacemakers in the beatitudes.  I think one aspect of holiness (or a sanctified life) is the desire to be peaceable rather than disagreeable.  Not too long ago I was in a Bible study and the person I was with was going on and on about something he didn't understand.  Of course he thought he did understand it.  I tried to stop him on several occasions to explain this concept to him (one that I have explained many times before).  Because he thought he was the expert on this matter and I thought that I was, I finally raised my voice to get him to stop and let me talk.  But because the gospel is not a debate, it is a fact, I should not have done that even if I never had a chance to get a word in “edgewise” as they say.  I am sure that those listening to our conversation did not see a “peaceable” Christian in me during that exchange that afternoon.

 

A Christian should tell the Truth

It is impossible for God to lie but for some people they lie when the truth would do better.  Our faith in Christ is based on the fact that He has not lied to us.  When He says, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life,” you can take that promise to the bank (John 3:36).  But since Christians are the ones who tell others about the Gospel, how can they be believed about eternal things if they are not believable in this life?  I am reasonably confident that we have all lied but this should not be the character of our lives. 

 

Evil company corrupts good Habits

What does Paul mean by this?  He is saying that the company we keep is going to affect the way we act.  Evil company will likely lead us into evil “habits” or behavior.  Good company will be a help to us in being Christ-like.  People today are playing follow the leader in most areas of their lives and in many cases they are following leaders who do not have “the knowledge of God.”  In other words, they have never been regenerated by the new birth.  They have never repented and believed.  But because they appear to be successful, many people imitate them to their own sorrow.  I often wonder what the Lord would say if He were present today in our religious gatherings.  Would He call us scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites or would call us his faithful servants (Matthew 25:21)?

 

We need the fellowship of others who are godly because those who become our friends will have a great influence on who we become. 

 

We need to choose our company wisely.

 

Meditation for the week of October 22, 2017

Do We always Rightly Divide the Word of Truth?

 

Jeremiah 17:5-8  Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

 

The Curse and The Blessing

In reading this passage without looking at context, I would assume that if we trust in the Lord things should go well in this life.  If we trust in men things are not likely to go well with us.  Now we all trust in men for some things.  We trust our auto mechanics, our dentists, our doctors, our lawyers and we should be able to trust our parents, our friends and the elders and deacons in our congregations.  But I think that trusting in this verse has to do with worship since those who trust in men have hearts that depart from the Lord.  Here the trust in man seems to be in opposition to trusting in the Lord.

 

But even if we understand that trusting in the Lord is the trust that means we worship Him and that trusting in man is a trust that is substituted for trust in the Lord, how can we explain martyrs and the persecuted church today?  Why are those who have left all to follow the Lord persecuted and not prospering?

 

Usual Explanations

I asked my friends for help with this problem.  Maybe these verses are only a problem for me because most of the people that I thought would have good answers didn't even try to answer this question.   Others spiritualized their answer.  That is, they basically felt that martyrs were having an inner joy and peace that we don't know about.  It is also true that down through the years, martyrs have often been the means of spreading the Gospel.  They didn't see the results of their dedication but those following them did.  So the fruit that didn't cease for them was for eternity and not necessarily for the here and now.  And that is how I have looked at this promise over the years.  Yet, when reading the promise, it seems that whether the fruit is practical or spiritual, it still should be fruit in this life.  A righteous person should be like a tree planted by the waters and should not cease bearing fruit. 

 

New Testament Promises

The New Testament promises to the righteous do not seem to be the same as this Old Testament promises.  Following the Lord involves a cross which is a place of death to this world.  That place of death is spiritual for all as well as literal for many.   The Lord says in the world we will have tribulation, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Even in trying circumstances, He will give us peace.  Many religious leaders and politicians want us to put all of our hopes in them but those who want us to follow them rather than to the Lord are charlatans, wolves and Antichrists.  Revelation 13 describes one such man who is going to come on the scene after the rapture of the church.  He will be both a religious leader and a politician.  People do follow men even today to their shame and ultimate eternal destruction. Mobs followed religious leaders in the Lord's day and they cried for the Lord's crucifixion.  But following the Lord does not necessarily bring blessing in this life. That was even true for King David in Psalm 37 and for Asaph in Psalm 73.  The blessings of the true believer are eternal.  There is an afterwards when it comes to our relationship with the Lord and that afterward is where our reward, our hope, and our Lord is. 

 

So what is the Interpretation of our Passage?

First of all, the passage is written to the remnant of Judah.  The northern tribes are already in captivity because of their idol worship.  Judah is being promised that if they will worship the Lord as He asks to be worshiped then they will be blessed.  Their blessings will be national and practical. Of course they didn't do that and they too were taken into captivity.  So the promise is primarily to Judah and not to New Testament Christians.   As we have seen it wasn't always true individually with Old Testament believers either.  If we assume that trusting in the Lord is going to keep the wind at our back, and that the road is going to always be downhill and that there will be no sickness or illness, and that our children will always be bountiful and will prosper, then I think we are going to be disappointed.  But the Lord will not have failed us; we will just have failed to understand the context of the promise being made.

 

We can't take Judah's physical promises as our own.  But trusting in the Lord for time and for eternity will always bring ultimate blessing and is the right thing to do—even if our cross becomes a literal cross.

 

Meditation for the week of October 29, 2017