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SEPTEMBER 2011

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Labor is Good, Rest is Commanded!

 

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.  (Exodus 20:8-11)

 

We have celebrated Labor Day once again this last weekend. Labor is commended in the Bible. Even before the fall, Adam was to tend the Garden of Eden. I would suspect that involved some labor. But after partaking of the forbidden fruit, tending turned into toil. However, God always commends those who labor so long as they also remember to rest.

The question is often asked, "If we are to keep the Sabbath, do we keep Saturday or Sunday as the day of rest? Jews religiously keep Saturday while Christians somewhat carelessly keep Sunday. Who is right and how do we "keep the Sabbath" and get our rest as Christians?

I believe that the Sabbath has never changed. It is still the seventh day and it is still Saturday. Most calendars that we use agree with me.

Some say that we are to keep the ten commandments as Christians. Nine of the ten are brought into the new testament as moral truth for our day. As a matter of fact the requirements of the new testament are higher than that of the old. For example, murder becomes hate (see 1 John 3:15). However, we are not under the law and when we say that we keep the ten commandments we give ourselves a problem with the one requiring us to keep the Sabbath. The Lord kept the Sabbath but not as the Jewish tradition required since they had added extra Biblical regulations. He kept it as He Himself designed it, and He kept it as a Jew. In Acts 15, the Gentiles were admonished to keep four things from the Jewish law and tradition. They were to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. Keeping the seventh day or Saturday was not one of the things mentioned. So as Christian Gentiles (non-Jews) we are not bound by the Sabbath. What about Jewish Christians? Should they keep the Saturday Sabbath? The book of Ephesians would make it clear that there is not a Jewish church and a Gentile church. There is just one church, so what was required of Gentiles would be the same thing that is required of Jews in the church.

New testament teaching concerning the Sabbath is that when we believe we enter into the Sabbath rest of God (Hebrews 4:3-4). The old testament Sabbath is an illustration of the new testament truth that we don't work to be saved, Rather we "rest" in the work of the Cross (Matthew 11:28). It is also a picture of the millennial rest of God that will be ushered in when the Lord sets up His physical kingdom.

Why do Christians "keep the Sabbath" on the Lord's Day or the first day of the week? I personally do not. I think that the Lord has given us a principle that we should dedicate a day to Him, and it should be a day of rest. None of us actually keeps the Sabbath on Sunday since we cook, buy gas, and go to restaurants which would all be prohibited under the Sabbath rules of the old testament. But because the Lord was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, that day seems to be the day that early Christians used to remember Him and worship Him (See Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). The Sabbath is still Saturday and Sunday is the first day of the week or the resurrection day. That is the day Christians use to worship corporately, and they dedicate this day to the Lord. We do not put new wine into old bottles (Matthew 9:17), that is, we don't worship in this dispensation using the rules of the old dispensation which didn't work for the Jews and won't work for us. So I personally try to give Sunday to the Lord, but I do not consider myself to be keeping the Sabbath when I do.

Labor day reminds us that summer is pretty much gone. God says our labor is good, but he also says rest is necessary. God labored more than He rested. We should labor more than we rest. However, the best rest of all is when we rest in the truth that Christ died for our sins.

 

Meditation for the week of September 4, 2011

Satan is Real!

 

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly." (John 13:27)

 

Many of us remember certain events with absolute clarity. I remember when I first heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember hearing the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded with a teacher on board. Most of us remember the events of September 11, 2001. I was in my study when my wife came back and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We thought there had been a terrible accident. But as we watched events unfolding on television, we saw the second plane hit the Trade Center. The world as we knew it had changed.

I was at the gym later in the day. Some of us were discussing what had happened. I remember remarking that there were people that didn't believe God existed, but after the events that had taken place that day, it should be difficult for anyone to believe that Satan didn't exist. As a result of his diabolical mind, nearly 3,000 innocent people were taken into eternity in a most inhumane way. Since then about 4,500 US troops have died in Iraq, a war that resulted because of our fear of more terrorism. Depending on whose statistics one believes, there have probably been 100,000 Iraqi deaths in that war, most of them innocent civilians. Why have people hated each other in this way down through history?

Satan is an adversary. That seems to be the meaning of his name. He is evil, he is a murderer, he is lawless, he is a liar. He is seen in the Bible as a serpent which seems to make him a cunning quiet enemy at times. He is also seen as a dragon, which makes him a public political adversary at times. Many find it easy to blame God when tragedies like this occur. We should be blaming Satan and not God. Because men would rather believe the lies of Satan instead of the truth of God, God has allowed men to suffer at his hand.

Satan entered into Judas and caused him to betray the Lord Jesus. I think that means that Satan took complete control of him. Apparently the same thing was true of Osama bin Laden. He didn't care whom he put in eternity so long as his hatred and poison could be unleashed on people he did not know but who belonged to a political system that he despised. I personally think that the reason for his evil attacks were to show the world that he was "boss". But the "boss" has died and and he has found himself in the torments of hell. He certainly wasn't "saved" since he had rejected Christ and everything that the Lord represented. One wonders if he really believed in the "religion" that he used to deceive his followers. I personally do not believe he did. There certainly was not a bevy of beautiful virgins awaiting him on the other side. He found out the hard way who the "boss" really is.

Because of the events of 9/11/01, I know that we are not in the millennium as some think because Satan is not only alive, he is not bound like he will be for the thousand year reign of Christ. Revelation 20:2-3 says, "he (the angel) laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while." This world will not get better and better until the Lord comes. Evil men and seducers (imposters) will grow worse and worse during this day of grace (2 Timothy 3:13).

Satan the destroyer, the deceiver, the evil one, the adversary is still deceiving the nations and the political systems of this world. I hope that he hasn't found a foothold in the hearts of any reading this meditation. Because Satan entered into Judas, the Lord was crucified. But that apparent defeat has given the believer in Christ victory. We who have believed in the Lord may go through terrible trials in this life; however, we are prepared for anything that this real living evil created being tries to do to destroy this earth and those living on it.

 

Meditation for the week of September 11, 2011

Give me Neither Poverty or Riches!

 

Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches-- Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

 

As a practicing CPA, I saw these principles in action that Agur wrote about. Often people came to me when they were starting a business asking for help and advice. Since most of them borrowed money to start the business, they were somewhat stressed as they worried about paying it back. Then they would reach an equilibrium where their income pretty much balanced with their expenses which would include a nice salary. Then some of the businesses would "take off" so to speak. When they did, the owners became stressed once again because now they worried about losing what they had earned, and they had to worry about being good stewards of monies that they really didn't need. Sometimes they became self-sufficient and proud and made mistakes that they would not have made when they were poor.

The principle in this passage says that we are happiest when we have enough to meet our needs but not more than enough. Solomon had more than enough and that may have been one reason why late in life he lost his loyalty to the God who had given him wisdom and riches.

Most people are motivated by money. There are other things that motivate us as well; but whether we are poor or whether we are rich, money motivates. The poor are concerned about "getting ahead" and "laying up for a rainy day." However, when we try to get ahead, we never know just how far ahead we should get. Of course, if we lay up for a rainy day, it usually rains. The rich are usually concerned with getting richer.

There are people who are not motivated by money and they just can't understand how the rest of the world works. I had a missionary friend who was like that. As long as his bills were paid he was satisfied. One day we started talking about some problems he was experiencing and I asked him how money was affecting the problem. I told him something I had been told years before, "Look for the dollar!" He couldn't imagine that money was involved until he realized that he was having trouble with a missionary that needed him to leave the work he was doing so that the new missionary could come and be supported financially. He just didn't think that way and couldn't believe others would.

Most wars are fought over money. Most political "sides" are taken over money. Often family problems develop over inheritances and money. Divorces can get really messy because of money.

Even though money is a great motivator, it is fleeting and is always left to others when we die. One person asked a friend of a rich man who had died, "How much did he leave behind?" The friend answered with one word, "Everything!"

The new testament is clear that money is a tool and is not to become a god. We are to use money to help the poor. Our money is not our security, our only security is in Christ. Money can make an "earthly" people out of us, but the Lord wants our "treasure to be in heaven". Our focus is to be on the heavenly or spiritual and not on the the things of this earth. We can get overly concerned with "winning" and with the power and prestige that comes from having a lot of money.

I have heard evangelists say to people who have recently come to faith in the Lord, "Your fortune has been made!" That is certainly true. they have eternal life and they will never perish. Their sins are forgiven. They have become a people whose goal is to please the Lord and not to live for time and for money that is so fleeting. We just need to be careful that we don't get sidetracked and let money become our great motivator after we are saved.

 

Meditation for the week of September 18, 2011

From What Have we Turned?

 

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.  (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

 

The Thessalonians who had been involved in idol worship turned from it when they were saved. They turned from something worthless to something valuable. They turned from something dead to something living. They turned from something with "no hope" to something with "hope" as they waited for the living and true God's Son from heaven who had delivered them from the wrath to come.

The Romans needed to turn from immorality. The Thessalonians turned from idols. The Jews needed to turn from a false practice of a religion that had rejected their own Messiah. What have we turned from? I am glad that this verse not only deals with the negative but it also deals with the positive. They turned from idols to serve the living and true God. God doesn't just ask us to turn from what is wrong, He gives us something good in its place. He doesn't empty our cups without filling them with something better. He doesn't take away that which does not satisfy without giving back the "living water" that satisfies forever.

We have three enemies, Actually, we really have one manifested in three ways. We have the world which is the society organized by Satan and that is opposed to God. In contrast, the church is the society organized by the Lord. We have the flesh which is the sin principle that will be in us and with us for life. It is manifested by out of control appetites. In contrast, the Lord provides us the Holy Spirit Who wants complete control of us, that is, He wants to "fill" us. We have the devil who according to Ephesians 2:2 is the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. He is represented by an attitude (spirit) of rebellion against God. In contrast, the believer is being conformed to the image of Christ. Satan presently controls the world and uses the flesh to do this. When we turn from idols, we are really turning from the worship of Satan who uses many things that we consider legitimate today to keep us from the unhindered worship of the Lord.

What did we turn from when we came to that crossroads in our life where we realized that down the broad road lay total destruction, if not in this life, then surely in the next? What did we turn to? Many of us were not saved out of total immorality because our parents wouldn't allow it, and in my case my funds weren't sufficient to do much partying. I have often asked myself what my life would have been like if I had never come to trust the Lord. While I never wanted to be rich, I certainly would have liked to have had a cabin on a lake with a nice boat or two. If we define Idolatry as anything that replaces our worship for the Lord, the cabin and boat could have become my idol. I would like to have had things comfortable and pleasant in this life and I would have been occupied with the clean part of the world (if there is such a thing) and with pleasing the flesh. It would have been nice to be accepted by all my "friends" because I was "successful" and because I associated with the right people. That lifestyle is still attractive to me to this day. But because I turned to something rather than just from something, I have had a very satisfying life without the cabin and the boat and the so-called friends.

We can tell what people worship by what is important to them. What do they talk about? How do they spend their money? What excites them? Where do they spend their time? Have we really turned from idols to serve the living and true God?

 

Meditation for the week of September 25, 2011