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SEPTEMBER 2013

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Try It! It Works!

 

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 

Labor Day is the last hurrah of the season. Most of us are getting good and tired hurrying around as we try to make the most of the last holiday weekend of the summer. Come Tuesday we will all be tuckered out and needing a good rest. But of course we wonít get it because we will have to go back to work and the children will have to go back to school. And the frenzied pace of life will continue. Rest! Who needs it? Does anybody get it? Some people are smart enough to take some time to relax and reflect. Even the Lord told his disciples to come aside and rest awhile. In Mark 6:31, the disciples needed to get alone and rest. They needed a good vacation but not one of hustle and bustle. Instead they needed one of quiet meditation where they could recharge their batteries.

If anyone takes time to quietly reflect on their lives and the way we are hurrying on to "an endless eternity", I hope the Lord reminds them of the passage for today. Satan keeps us so busy we often do not think about spiritual things; but for those who do take time to think about where we will be when this life is over, I hope that you will consider this verse. Most people think that have to "do the best that they can" in order to be right with God. But of course no one has ever done the best that they can. So where does that leave us? It leaves us struggling and hoping and worrying that we have "done enough" to be worthy of heaven. Now I know that there are people who say that they donít believe in God who do not struggle and hope and worry. But I am concerned about those who do believe that there is a God in heaven that they will meet some day. For those people, this verse has good news. The struggle need not continue. The worry can be put behind you. Christ has done the work that saves and now all you have to do is "come" to Him and HE WILL GIVE YOU REST." That is His promise. If you have no rest or peace about your relationship with God, you have not "come" to Him.

Of course, this verse is a blessing to all those who are laboring and heavy laden. Christ is a burden bearer. Any time we who have come to the Lord are laboring and fretting and worrying, we are doing something wrong. Even to the believer, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Our problem is that we often try to do the Lordís work for Him and we do not just enjoy the fact that He wants us to simply have faith in Him. Before we are saved we try to do something to make sure God finds us acceptable when in fact that work that saves was finished at the cross (or at least at the resurrection). We just need to relax and have faith in the Lord. After we are saved, we get into the same mind set and try to do something to keep God pleased. Instead, we need to relax and have faith that the Lord who saved us will never forsake us. We need to be confident that His angel is encamped around those who fear Him (Psalm 34:7). We need to be confident that the eternal life we received when we believed is truly eternal and that we will never never perish (John 10:28).

The invitation is still offered. The Lordís rest is sweet. May we all come to Him so that we can enjoy it.

 

Meditation for the week of September 1, 2013

A Foolish Leap in the Dark!

 

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.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?óunless indeed you are disqualified.

 

Lately I must be eating the wrong things before going to bed. I have had some nightmares. Usually I donít remember my dreams, but one I had recently I remember vividly. It had to do with someone I know trying to jump from a roof high above a cement parking lot. Why he jumped, I donít remember, but I do remember what happened when he hit the ground. After he jumped, I kept thinking "How foolish!"

There are people in this life that are just as foolish. They are taking a leap in the dark when it comes to eternity. Apparently, Paul knew some of these people. They claimed to be people of faith, but they didnít know the Lord. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that there were some in the company that did not have the knowledge of God, he is not saying that they didnít know all about God. He is saying that they didnít personally know God. They were not in a relationship of trust with Him. Did they know that they were unbelievers masquerading as believers? In the first epistle to the Corinthians, I think they did. Why anyone would claim to be a Christian in that day of persecution when they knew that they did not believe in the Lord and His resurrection is something I donít understand. But apparently, they had come into the company of the saints to corrupt them. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: ĎEvil company corrupts good habits.í" The company we keep affects the way we think and act. The Corinthians had a lot of problems with the way they were thinking and acting and apparently unbelievers masquerading as believers among them, was one of the reasons that they were having problems.

At the end of the 2nd epistle, Paul again approaches this subject. Only now he is being very personal. The problem may not be "others." The problem may be each of us individually. Some think Paul is just saying that if they examine themselves, they will find out that they are real and that will be the proof of the reality of Paulís ministry. But the second verse makes me think otherwise. It says, "I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare." Paul seems to think that there are sinners who need to be dealt with in that church. And I think he is saying that everyone should examine themselves to make sure they arenít among those who need to be judged. Then Paul goes on to say that in spite of criticism leveled against him personally, He is real and will stand the test.

I am always reluctant to write about this problem of "false profession." The reason being that those who are saved and have a tender conscience often began doubting the reality of their conversion, and they wonder if they have "missed something." If a person "knows" the Lord and "knows" that the Lord died for them they are saved and will not perish. That is what the Lord says in John 3:16. Paul is writing to a class of people who are proud, self-confident and brazen about sin. And I am afraid that the ones who should be examining themselves are usually not the ones who do.

It appears that there are some people who like to call themselves Christians or "followers" of the Lord who really have no interest in the eternal aspects of the Gospel. In some cases they use "religion" to make money. In other cases they like to use religion to control people. In some cases they just like to see if they can convince those who are real to use their liberty to sin against God and against their own consciences. I think most of these people know what they are doing. We need to be careful not to associate with people whose doctrine is divisive as in the Galatian epistle and whose lives prove that they have no conscience about sin. This is the case in 1 Corinthians 5 where Christians are told to put away from them that evil person.

Once we separate from those professing Christians who are not real we need to pray for them. Apart from a real change of mind, one day they are going to jump from a roof and land on the pavement. Of course, I am speaking of taking a spiritual leap in the dark and dying without ever trusting in Christ.

 

Meditation for the week of September 8, 2013

Let's Think about Eternity!

 

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:3 that the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (myths or fanciful stories). Have we come to that day?

We have a lot of evangelical preaching available to us today, but because I spend most of my time studying the Bible using dictionaries, many versions of the Bible as well as background material involving customs and language of the day when the passage was written, I don't have time to listen to a lot of this preaching. When I do, I find myself concerned. I am not concerned about what is said because much of it is good. I am concerned about what is not said. In order to keep from being offensive, we have changed Biblical terminology. We very seldom use the Biblical term "saved" for a believer in Christ. Sometimes I hear the word "repent" but it is often used to mean something other than the Biblical concept of repentance. We hear a lot about specific sins that we consider to be very immoral and we fail to preach the Biblical concept of "sin" which is personal problem of each one of us. "Hell" or eternal damnation is something the Lord dealt with in depth but which current preaching avoids. The word that I think has generally been lost in our preaching today is the word "eternity". We may speak of eternal life although generally our preaching has to do with having a personal relationship with the Lord now (which is good) rather than preparing for eternity. But ETERNITY is a concept we should be emphasizing in our preaching today.

The Lord is described as the One Who is, Who was and Who is to come (Revelation 1:8). His name Jehovah means the ever existing One. The Lord is eternal and in trusting Him we are preparing for eternity. Much of what we are hearing today, tries to prepare us to live in the here and now. We call that practical ministry. We need ministry that helps us live now, but we aren't ready to live until we are ready to die. We aren't ready to die until we have prepared for eternity. That is practical ministry. The blessing is that when we "believe on or in" the Lord Jesus, His gift to us is eternal life.

How long is eternity? We cannot fathom this concept because eternity has no beginning and it has no end. Time is just a little hiccup from the standpoint of eternity, and yet the Lord uses time to help us understand this concept. In Revelation 20:10 we read, "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." This verse always bothered me in my unsaved days because day and night forever and ever is a concept I can understand. It is longer than a thousand years, because beast and the false prophet have already been there a thousand years when the devil is cast into this lake of fire (See Revelation 19:20). Obviously, those who end up here are not annihilated. According to Revelation 20:15, all who reject Christ as their Savior for whatever reason are ultimately thrown into this lake of fire. We might not like to define eternity future as unending time, but that is a concept I can understand, and it seems to be a concept that the Lord uses to help us understand eternity.

Because eternity is so long and time is so short, we should not and cannot avoid the term when dealing with the doctrines of the Gospel. That there is an eternity is a logical concept that needs no defending. Many people think that humans only exist for time and when they die it is all over. God says otherwise. I would rather believe God than believe the opinion of a mere mortal who has not yet died. The crowning sin that has the wages of death associated with it is unbelief. The blessing is that the gift of God which is eternal life is still available to those who will believe in the Lord.

Again, the GIFT OF GOD is ETERNAL LIFE and I can assure you that that is a gift that is worth having. It's value is immeasurable because it is eternal.

 

Meditation for the week of September 15, 2013

An Earth Where Righteousness Dwells? Really?


2 Peter 3:12-13 Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.


Has there ever been a time on this earth where true righteousness has prevailed? It was not true when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. They were given one command and they violated it. Many years later, God looked down from heaven on the children of men and saw violence in the earth. Menís hearts were evil. So God said, ďI will start over,Ē and He destroyed the earth with a flood (and, yes, I believe He destroyed the actual earth with an actual flood and that only eight people survived that destruction.) God has promised us that He will never again destroy the whole earth with a flood, and He has given us a rainbow from time to time to remind us of that promise. We have had terrible floods in Colorado, New Mexico and Mexico this past week. I wonder if any of those people saw a rainbow. That would have reminded them that although they may have suffered terribly, the current destruction caused by weather that seems out of control is not THE END.


Our verse for this week talks about the coming of the Day of God. The Day of God seems to be different from the Day of the Lord which is associated with the Lordís second coming. That second coming involves both a rapture and a revelation. The rapture removes Saints before the Lord's wrath falls on this earth during the tribulation period. The revelation of the Lord is where He descends to the Mount of Olives and sets up a righteous reign on this earth for a literal thousand years. But even during that reign of righteousness which begins with people who are true worshipers of Jehovah, people are born that have the old sin nature. While sin will be judged immediately and while the Lord will judge righteously, by the end of the millennium, people will still be deceived by Satan and will go back to their evil ways of war and rebellion (Revelation 20:7-9). Because Satan will be bound for a thousand years, evil will be restrained, but evil will not be eliminated. But when we reach the Day of God, we have reached the eternal day when there will be a totally new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. The old earth that we know will be destroyed by fire.


Years ago I took a class in astronomy in college and found it fascinating. One day our instructor told us that our sun was basically a hydrogen bomb where the fusion was controlled. He said that our sun was in the middle of its life cycle, but at the end of it, the fusion would be uncontrolled. As a result, our sun would explode and would vaporize the nearest planets including the earth. He said that this probably wouldnít happen for millions of years but it could happen tomorrow. At the time, I thought, ďWow! Peter, an unlearned fisherman, knew things that I was learning by getting an ďadvanced education.Ē Many scientists try to discount the truth of the Bible and as a result they are like fish swimming upstream. They might get there, but they are going to have a hard trip. It would be so much easier to believe God and swim with the current. Answers would be clearer and research would be much more productive.


I believe that Christians are to be salt and light in this world. We are to leave a good taste behind us and we are to provide the light of the Gospel to a dark world. But we need to remember that a world where true righteousness exists is going to require the destruction of everything we know and in many cases love. I sometimes wonder if we who call ourselves Christians, will find ourselves ďat homeĒ in this new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.



Meditation for the week of September 22, 2013

The Best Story Ever

 

James 4:14 Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

 

My mom recently passed into the Lordís presence at the age of 95. In a few more weeks she would have been 96. Up until the last few years she had been able to enjoy life. She could read, cook, converse intelligently and pretty much take care of herself. She raised nine living children. She had heartaches since she buried two daughters who died young. She had joys. But her life is over. It was a long life and a healthy life by our standards: but as far as James is concerned, it was little more than the vapor that rises from a boiling tea kettle that vanishes so quickly.

I have been looking at different peopleís gravestones. In many cases, they include the year of the personís birth and the year of the personís death with a dash in between. Think of it, a personís whole life can be represented by a dash. A person may have been rich and lived a life of luxury, but ultimately all that is left is that dash. A person may have died with the most toys, but ultimately all that is left is that dash. A person may have lived in poverty and there too all that is left is that dash. That dash has been kind of depressing me lately. The good, the bad, and the ugly all come to the same end. What is life all about, anyway?

If I our existence is over when we take our last breath, then obviously making the most of this earthly life should probably be our goal. We should eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we must die. But wouldnít that be a dismal life? No matter how long and enjoyable life is, no matter what a person accomplishes, no matter how many children a person has, ultimately the totality of that personís existence would be represented by that dash.

I am glad that I believe that there is more to our existence that this life. Man does not have the ability to explain where we came from and where we go after we die. When we listen to the learned pontificate on this issue, I just remind myself that they havenít died yet and so their opinion is no better than mine. But there is a person who came from heaven and who went back to heaven who can make sense of that dash that represents life. He tells us that He loves us even though we are by nature separated from Him by sin. He calls Himself Jesus and He says He is God. Witnesses tell me that He was raised from the dead after His crucifixion. And He says that through faith in Him and His death we can prepare for an existence that will never be summed up by a dash. That existence is called eternal life. It begins the moment we trust the Lord and it continues throughout the endless of ages of eternity. For a person like that, when they die, they go to be with the Lord which is far better than the dash that represents this life (See Philippians 1:23). I donít know all that is involved in eternal life, but I know that it is going to be marvelous. To see the Lord, to see angels worshiping Him, to be in a place where there is no more sin, death, sickness or sorrow, now that will be heaven. That is what is in store for those who sought the Lord and found Him during their short time here on earth.

For those who reject the Lord, well now that is going to be another story and I donít have to tell you that that story does not end well. Momís life is over. A new chapter in her existence is just starting and that story is a story she cannot presently tell us. But the Lord gives us a glimpse of that story on the mount of transfiguration. Paul gives us a little glimpse when he tells us of being caught up into the third heaven and witnessing things that He was not allowed to tell us. All I know is that momís story has not ended, But because she trusted the Lord and had her sins forgiven while she was struggling with life down here, her story is going to continue unfolding for ever and ever. Her story is going to be the best story ever.

 

Meditation for the week of September 29, 2013