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SEPTEMBER 2010

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Isn't our God Great?

 

1 Corinthians13:4-7 Love (1) suffers long and (2) is kind; (3) love does not envy; love (4) does not parade itself, (5) is not puffed up; (6) does not behave rudely, (7) does not seek its own, (8) is not provoked, (9) thinks no evil; (10) does not rejoice in iniquity, but (11) rejoices in the truth; (12) bears all things, (13) believes all things, (14) hopes all things, (15) endures all things.

 

Fifteen characteristics of love are given in this essay by Paul on divine love or charity. This is not the reciprocated love that we have for friends, or the erotic love that we have in romance novels. This is the divine love that God has for sinners who do not always respond to His love. This is the love of action, sacrifice and of devotion. This love is expected of Christians. Paul says that we are to pursue love in the next chapter.

(1) Love is characterized by patience. (2) Kindness which is certainly the opposite of cruelty is one of the characteristics of love. (3) Love is not Jealous (which probably involves being covetous). (4) Love doesn't parade itself or, as some versions say, it doesn't sing its own praises. (5) Love isn't arrogant (6) nor is it rude. (7) Love is not self-centered (8) nor does love get angry easily or quickly. (9) In thinking no evil, love keeps no record of wrongs. Thus, plans cannot be made to repay evil with evil. (10) Love is not happy when people practice sin or when injustice prevails. (11) Love expects people to tell the truth and not to be duplicitous, saying one thing and meaning another. (12) Love bears all things which likely means that it is supportive. (13) Love believes all things which doesn't mean all things are believable, but one who loves would not be suspicious of everything that he or she hears. (14) Love hopes, that is love has a positive attitude. (15) Love is able to persevere.

A saved person has experienced this kind of love. John 3:16 says that God SO LOVED the world that He gave His unique Son so we who trust in Christ can be saved from perishing eternally. Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates his love through the death of Christ. God not only loves but God is love according to 1 John 4:16. We could replace the word love in our passage with the Lord Jesus and we would have a comprehensive description of Him. However, I am sure that most of us could not replace the word love with our own names and be honest. Most of us would have to confess that on nearly every one of the characteristics mentioned, we fall short. While that is not something of which to be proud, it does make the true love of God shine so much brighter when we realize that God didn't wait for us to get good so that we could get saved. And even when we aren't good as Christians, He still loves us. Isn't our God great?

The political world is disappointing because those who run for office as Christians usually violate nearly every characteristic in the above list. I have decided to vote for the next person who runs for public office by saying that while he or she would like to have the chance to serve, his or her opponent is really a good person with good qualities and good character who would also do a good job if elected. The religious world is just as disappointing with competition among churches for members and with a covetous desire for money and more money. Sin often is overlooked in the interest of keeping peace and adding members. The social world also disappoints since it is certainly filled with hate and prejudice and the desire to associate only with the the "right" people.

One of the biggest obstacles to preaching the Gospel today is not the unsaved or the cults or the religions of the world that do not believe in the divinity of Christ. I am convinced that the biggest obstacle is Christians who do not demonstrate the love of God in their lives. Probably that is most of us.

Reading through this well-known passage is both convicting and reassuring. It is convicting when I think of how little I really know about and practice divine love. But is is reassuring when I think of the love of God as demonstrated by Christ. The love of God never passes away nor does it become ineffective nor does it fail. He loves all of us no matter what. Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Meditation for the week of September 5, 2010

The End is Near!

 

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.

2 Peter 3:3-4 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."

 

What does Peter mean when he says that the end of all things is near? Is he referring to the end as mentioned in his second epistle when he says, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2nd Peter 3:10)?" Or could he be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman general, Titus, in 70 A.D.? Or is he referring to something else? Whatever event he was referring to, it was sobering and Christians should be driven to our knees because of it. The problem is that doomsdayers have been preaching the end of the world or at least the end of our civilization for years and it hasn't happened yet? So why be concerned that it will happen?

During the 60's we were concerned about nuclear war. Nearly every public building had a fall out shelter to protect us from nuclear radiation. We don't seem to be concerned about nuclear war now, and yet I don't think the danger is passed. We still do fire drills and tornado drills with our school children but I don't know of any school that teaches safety in case of a nuclear war.

The current trend is to be worried about global warming. Of course, no one is sure if global warming is part of the natural trends of nature or whether we are killing ourselves off with greenhouse gases. Apparently, the earth has always gone though cycles but some environmentalists think that if we continue producing greenhouse gases, the end is coming. The polar ice caps are going to melt and the ocean is going to rise and storms are going to become vicious. They say that civilization as we know it cannot survive.

There are many other doomsday scenarios that we can be concerned about. But I do believe that the end is near or at hand. However, the end in the Bible that we in this generation need to be concerned about is the end of this age that started with the establishment of the church in Acts 2. The end of this age will usher in a tribulation period that will last for seven years and while the earth won't be totally destroyed, just about anything that doomsdayers are concerned about will happen. Not only will there be war, there will be pollution, earthquakes and death by unusual diseases. Some of the wars will most likely be nuclear. Dictators will use religion that they themselves do not really believe in to control people much like some types of so-called Christians and some types of Muslims and some types of Hindus are doing today. God has determined that nothing needs happen for that day to be ushered in so it is near in the sense that it is imminent or ready to happen, even though it is not necessarily about to happen immediately.

I believe God when He says that terrible times are coming and that they are even now ready to happen. We don't need the Bible to see that our increasing population, the rivalry among tribal groups, our intense desire to control one another economically and through religion are all things that will likely lead to catastrophic wars. People will be looking for a man to bring peace to a troubled world, but just as the Jews chose Barabbas to save them, the world will choose an evil dictator who will end up bringing war rather than the peace he promises.

We may not fully understand just how the end that is coming will come. We may not understand how soon it will come even though we know that when the end comes, it will come suddenly. But one thing we do know is that the only place of safety is in Christ. Those who have trusted in Him will be saved from this day of wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Those who ignore their sin and believe that all things are going to continue as they always have are going to be surprised one day to find out that an old archaic book called the Bible really did have the answers. They will find out too late, however, and they will find themselves calling 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 (Revelation6:16-17)?"

 

Meditation for the week of September 12, 2010

Having Fun

 

Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was vanity.

 

Having fun doesn't seem to be a good thing in the Bible, yet it seems to be the goal of our lives in our present society. I like to ask my friends when we are supposed to be having fun, "Are we having fun yet?" Many times we are searching for fun and it turns out to be anything but fun. And even when fun is fun, Solomon, the preacher in Ecclesiastes, realized that fun left him as empty as if he were chasing the wind.

Belshazzar lost his kingdom during a drunken party one night in Daniel 5. Vashti lost her position as Queen because of her husband's drunken party in the first chapter of Esther. John the Baptist lost his head because of Herod's birthday party in Matthew 14. Revelry and partying are the source of many sorrows in the Bible and are condemned. Now I know that we often associate fun with good wholesome activities like family vacations and I am sure that the Lord would encourage such activities. I believe that everyone needs to be able to look forward to something that they can enjoy every morning when they get up. Life is not all about hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.

However, our God-given purpose in life is not to have fun. Our purpose in life should be to glorify God and to serve Him. Daniel took his life in his hands when he "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself (Daniel 1:8)." Daniel intended to remain separate from the idolatry of Babylon by avoiding food that had been offered to idols, and I am sure that his commitment to the Lord was not "fun" even though everything turned out well for him.

Our purpose as Christians should be to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1)." A living sacrifice is going to require discipline. It will be costly. And while it will be satisfying and will have eternal benefits, it will not be fun.

I have noticed that many of our Bible camp brochures, our Daily Vacation Bible Schools, many conferences and crusades all emphasize the "fun" that the participants are going to have. This is particularly true if we are trying to encourage the younger generation to come. If "fun" is the appeal, how are we going to teach the discipline and the sacrifice? When are we going to be honest in preaching the Gospel that being a Christian is satisfying, but it is not always fun? What kind of converts are we going to produce?

I have bad news for those preaching the Gospel and for those who are considering the claims of the Lord. Being a Christian is not always easy and it certainly is not always fun. Right now, there are people dying because of their faith in countries where cruel religions are practiced. Often we lose friends, even Christian friends, if we have convictions about what it means to follow the Lord.

But I also have good news for those preaching the Gospel and for those considering the claims of the Lord. Looking for satisfaction in self-centered fun is like chasing the wind, but the good news is that the Christian's rewards are eternal. We have hope, that is we have something to look forward to after this life is over. We have a purpose in life that satisfies. The Psalmist says, "For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness (Psalm 107:9)."

Fun is way over rated. It is fleeting. It often involves sin, and it is all that unbelievers have to get themselves through life. Glorifying our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, by believing in Him; and then worshiping Him by serving Him, is often not fun but is always satisfying. And the rewards are out of this world.

 

Meditation for the week of September 19, 2010

A Matter of the Heart

 

1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world.

 

John is black and white when it comes to salvation. A person who is saved, keeps the commandments, walks in the light, does not sin, and does not love the world. I wonder how he would view most of us today?

When we confess our sins we are keeping the commandments. We keep or guard the truth even when it condemns us. But we keep them instead of throwing them away like we would the garbage. A person who is saved walks in the light and shows it by loving his brother. He may not always like his brother, but he cannot be like Cain who hated his brother and murdered him. A person who is saved does not sin as defined by John. He believes in the Lord and He loves his brother as commanded in 1 John 3:23. Those are the characteristics of the saved and those are commands that we do, we don't just try to do them. And if there is some failure. we confess our sin in that area and in that way keep those commands as the guide in our life and as the basis for our fellowship with God and with one another. I actually think that John is saying that we might not always act like we are "born again" but once we are the wicked one cannot touch us. That is, in our heart of hearts we will always believe in the Lord and love our brother.

But what about this matter of loving the world? The world is the the society that has been organized by Satan. It is the society that crucified the Lord. It is the society that murders those who believe in the Lord even yet today. It is the society of unbelievers. Some of the world is vicious and cruel. We have no problem being separate from that part of the world. But what about that part of the world that appeals to us? That part of the world knows how to suck us in with the lust or appetites of the flesh (desires with which we are born). It also knows how to suck us in with the lusts or temptations that come from what we see (things we wouldn't want if we hadn't seen them somewhere). It also knows how to appeal to our desire for importance and honor. The pride of life or boasting is not the character of one who demonstrates God's love by not parading himself or singing his own praises (God's Word,1 Corinthians 13:4).

The unbelieving society or world is in conflict with the church. The church is the society of believers in the Lord that God has on this earth where the Lord is the head and where that order is shown symbolically and practically (see 1 Corinthians 11). It is the place of fellowship, protection, teaching and encouragement for those who see themselves as strangers and pilgrims just passing through this world (1 Peter 2:11). The church is not the world reformed, it is distinct from the world. The world cannot be reformed, all we can do with it is to come out from it and be separate so that the the Lord can be the father to us that he wants to be (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

I wonder how John who sees things as either black or white would view us and our churches today? Would he see us as loving the world or as being separate from it? Would he see the present day church as thinking like the world or would he see us as having been corrupted by the thinking of the world? Would he see our present day churches as alternatives to the world or as being so culturally relevant that they are just like the world? Do the things of the world motivate us, or is it serving the Lord that does that for us?

According to John, a real "born again" Christian does not love the world. He doesn't belong in the world, he is a square peg in a round hole. This is a sobering thought, because I believe John was divinely inspired when he said that if we love the world the love of the father is not in us.

 

Meditation for the week of September 26, 2010