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SEPTEMBER 2018

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Are We Happy?

 

Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! (1 Kings 10:8 NKJV)

 

The Queen of Sheba

Solomon was on the throne of the Kingdom of Israel.  He was known for his wisdom and for his riches.  His reign was glorious in every way.  The Queen of Sheba heard about his wisdom and came to see if what she had heard was really true.  She tested him with “hard” questions.  She saw the order and glory of his reign and came to the conclusion that what she had heard was only half of the truth.  The reality was twice as good as what traders passing between the countries had told her.  But what impresses me is that she saw happiness in the kingdom.  Those serving Solomon were not complaining and bitter.  They were happy and I dare say they were blessed.

 

The Difference between Happiness and Blessing

I have tried to do research on these two words that are often used interchangeably in different translations in the Bible.  I am not a good linguist, but I think this is what the “experts” are saying.  We can be happy without being blessed but when we are blessed we should be happy even when circumstances could make us unhappy.  Now I know that there are people that God blesses that are not happy.  But that is not the way it should be.

 

Happiness can be attributed to things that do not bless.  For example, many people get happy on the weekend by drinking and suffer for it on Monday.  They are not really blessed.  Blessing is a happy condition that results from a right relationship with God.  God blesses us (and makes us happy) as explained in the beatitudes.  We bless God when we worship Him and praise Him.   Likely most unhappiness in life results from disobedience to God fueled by unbelief in His promises. 

 

Are We really Happy?

I like to see people that are happy.  Recently I was in a church service where I saw people expressing their happiness because of the music that they were enjoying.  Some of these people never look happy in a preaching service—possibly because they are not oral learners and possibly because they don't relate to the message.  Now the music did not bless me but it blessed many who were there.  It blessed me to see them happy.  I think that we could say that they were being blessed since the music was Christ-centered.

 

The Queen of Sheba was happy when she saw the happiness of King Solomon's servants and subjects.  Now obviously King Solomon is representative of the type of rule that this world will experience when the Lord does establish His righteous reign on this earth.  That kingdom has been foretold and it will come.  Looking forward to it is one of our blessings.   The pattern prayer in Matthew 6:10 refers to this Kingdom when the Lord says, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   The people in that kingdom will be blessed and happy.

 

Summer's End

We have come to the end of another summer.  Last winter I was looking forward to the Spring and the Summer.  I kept thinking of nights with cool breezes and days when we could enjoy outside activities.  I had hoped to do some important things for the Lord.  But the summer is gone and the necessary responsibilities of life have eaten into what I thought would be an enjoyable summer.  We have done some enjoyable things but truth be told I am frustrated by how quickly summer has gone and how little I have really enjoyed it.  But am I unhappy?  No!   I remember when I passed from death unto life (John 5:24) in a spiritual sense and I trusted my soul to the Lord for eternity.  That is where true blessing and happiness is found.  Things may not go as I want them to go day by day; but, even so, the Lord has greatly blessed me and my family.  I may be frustrated at times, but I am happy.

 

We can truly say as Johnson Oatman has penned:

 

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. 

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

 

Meditation for the week of September 2, 2018

What About the Gift of Healing?

 

Surely He has borne our griefs (infirmities) and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV)

 

The Apostolic Church

When the Lord was here on this earth, He healed to prove that He was the Son of God.  The Lord gave that gift to his disciples (first to the twelve, then to seventy others, then to some others in the early church according to 1 Corinthians 12:28)  so that their preaching would be with authority.  Jews looked for signs and this was one sign that should have convinced the Jewish nation that the Lord was God and that His disciples had the Word of God. 

 

Does that grace or gift of the spirit exist today?  My quick answer is no.  Does the Lord heal in a miraculous way today? My quick answer is yes.  But no man can heal today the way the Lord healed (He healed all who came to Him).  No man can heal the way the apostles healed who also seemed to be able to heal all who came to them or were brought to them (See Acts 5:12-16).  1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that there were special gifts of the spirit that were necessary in the infant church that were not necessary when the church matured.  Paul says that as in infant he did things that infants do but when he matured and became a man he put away the things that he did as an infant  (1 Corinthians 13:11).  He is using his personal experience as a picture of the maturing church.

 

What About James 5:14-15 which says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15 NKJV).?" This passage deals in particular with sicknesses that were the result of sin in the person's life.  This often requires confession of sin and the need for counseling and confession to those who are elders in the church.  However, it should be noted that this book was the first epistle written in the new testament age and it was written while the apostles and prophets and others in the church were still using the gift of healing to persuade the Jews that the Lord was indeed the Messiah.  I am perfectly in favor of elders anointing the sick and praying for them (and the anointing may be ceremonial or it may involve the application of current medical techniques), but I do not believe we should expect the same result that the apostolic Christians were promised when we do this.  The miraculous gift of healing has passed away with the maturing of the church but the Lord will still honor an honest confession of sin. In addition, some honest Biblical counseling may be the cure for a sin-sick heart. 

 

But The Lord Does Heal

In Luke 4:18, the Lord says, "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED (Luke 4:18 NKJV).”  Our verse for today says, that He has born our griefs but the thought is that He has born our infirmities.  We know that sin cause sickness.  In particular sin breaks hearts.  The Lord has a cure for that kind of sickness.  He also has a cure for spiritual blindness.  And He heals everyone who comes to Him by faith.  Broken hearts can be filled with joy and blind sinners can have their understanding opened.  When that happens, the person will rejoice in the fact that they have been delivered from the "burden" of their sin.

 

Conclusion

If you are sick with cancer, if you have a broken bone, if you have diabetes, pray about it and go see a medical doctor or talk to a nutritionist.  But don't expect some man or woman to be able to heal you miraculously.  If you do get a spontaneous miraculous healing, thank God!  However, remember that whether we are healed by natural means, by doctors or miraculously, the Psalmist reminds us that it is the Lord who heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  Every disease may not get healed but all the diseases that we get from which we are healed, are healed by the Lord.

 

The Most Important Healing of All

Since sin does break hearts, if there is anyone reading this who is sick because of a broken heart, I can assure you that there is a cure in the Lord.  He died not only to bear the punishment that we deserve because of our sin, He also wants to put a new song in our hearts.  King David says, He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD  (Psalms 40:2-3 NKJV).  Trusting in the finished work of the cross is the only cure for a heart that is broken because of sin.  And I believe that the Lord will heal every broken heart that recognizes that they have sinned when they come to the Lord for forgiveness and reconciliation and peace.  The Lord is still healing the brokenhearted.

 

Meditation for the week of September 9, 2018

What is Christian Fellowship?

 

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 NKJV)

 

In our congregation we have a gathering to celebrate the Lord's Supper and then we break for a time of "fellowship".  I often hear that we are going to have "fellowship" at a social function.  Now I am all for these activities, but as I have been studying the Biblical concept of fellowship, I think we are selling the concept short. Since I believe that the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers are four fundamental pillars found in every new testament gathering that identifies as a local church, I have often wondered if coffee and donuts is one of those pillars.

 

Definition

Fellowship is defined as a friendly association, mutual sharing, acting as though we are one in Christ, partnership, agreement, and/or communion.  It is certainly should be experienced in all of the functions of the church but the word seems to be used in a different way in Acts 2:42.  Some have suggested that the verse should be translated and they continued steadfastly in THE fellowship even though the definite article is implied and is not actually included.  I understand that in the Greek language it is possible for a passage that might be translated with the indefinite article to be translated with the definite article because it is implied (that is, it makes sense).   So in this case “a fellowship” could be translated “the fellowship”.  I think that makes sense in this case.  When the early Christians were saved and identified with the Lord in baptism they became a known group.  They were of “this way.”  They were called the sect of the Nazarenes.  They were called Christians.  But they were a distinct people and those who were saved did not try to hide their associations.  They continued steadfastly in the fellowship.  They were no longer a part of the world, they were a part of this new thing called the church and they did everything that they could to identify with and be faithful to that group.  Some have said fellowship is really people in a ship.  They have to work together to make the ship go.  In the ship is safety.  Outside of the ship is a watery grave.

 

Ways the Word is used in the New Testament

As I have looked at the usage of this word in the new testament, eating together is implied in some cases but the primary focus is on being in agreement, working together, worshiping together, and praying together.  In Philippians 1:5, the word describes a financial gift given to Paul.  In 2Corinthians 6:14, we are to separate ourselves from unbelievers because light and darkness cannot have fellowship or communion, that is, they can't coexist.  Sometimes the word is used to explain the support given to the work of the Lord in terms of prayer and perhaps in a commendation to those who might not know the workers.  Usually the implication is that those who give others “the right and of fellowship” are in total agreement with the work that they are doing.  (See Galatians 2:9).

 

We tend to limit our concept of fellowship to social interactions that usually involve a meal but that is not the primary way we express our fellowship.  We express it by being in agreement and by being loyal to the church that God is building in the broad sense and by supporting the local church that we are called to support in our local community.  That means that when we can we support all the meetings of the church and all of the work of the church. 

 

Are we “In Fellowship?”

The early church lived in a communal way where every member of the church had their practical needs met.  Some have pointed out that Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 proved that communal living didn't work.  But all it proved is that Ananias and Saphira were hypocrites.  They were not under obligation to sell land and give it all to the church as Barnabas had done.  But the fact that people took care of each other, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people who were continuing steadfastly in fellowship were really in fellowship.  I don't suppose that there will ever be a time when Christians again continue steadfastly in fellowship the way the early church did. 

 

God never intended for Christians to survive apart from Christian fellowship.  We are sheep, not lone wolves. However, we need to ask ourselves, are we attending church or are we continuing steadfastly in the fellowship of our local congregations?

 

Meditation for the week of September 16, 2018

The Coming Liar

 

And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. (Revelation 13:14 NKJV)

 

Coming Deception

Whom does one believe today?  We have false prophets.  We have lying leaders.  We have people who tell us that they are our friends who turn out to be our adversaries. 

 

It is interesting to watch those who deceive because there is a pattern in the way that they do it.  First they flatter.  If that doesn't work, they lie.  If they are caught in the lie, they confront.  This is the pattern of many people in this world today, particularly those who want to control others.  Unfortunately, often religious leaders are at the forefront of these lies and tactics.  Those that aren't at the forefront will often give their loyalty to liars if they think the liar will have the power to benefit them.  That is why a deceiver is coming that is better than anything we have seen yet!

 

The Coming Deceiver

The Jews were told by the Lord, “I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive (John 5:43 NKJV).”  The Jews called the Lord a deceiver.  After his crucifixion, they went to Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' (Matthew 27:63 NKJV)."  And yet, the Lord told the truth.  Witnesses saw the empty tomb and they saw Him after He was raised from the dead.  Our relationship with others depends on our ability to depend on what they say.  The Lord said things that the disciples weren't ready to accept, but everything the Lord said was the truth.  The only way we can know that we have eternal life is if the Lord always told the truth.  I am convinced that He did!

 

Today, people believe whom they want to believe.  The one who tells them what they want to hear is often the one that they believe.  However, there are some people that I want to believe but because I have been so burned by them, I will always have a hard time believing what they say. The reason that I can believe the Lord is because He has kept the promises He has made that I can test.  He has been faithful to me and my family in more ways that I can describe.  So while I can't prove that He will keep the promises He has made about things I can't prove, I am willing to trust Him to keep those promises as well.  That's called faith.

 

The Coming Kingdom

I believe that the Lord is coming to set up the Kingdom that the Jews were hoping for in His first coming.  But before that happens, Christians who have been truly born again will be gone.  They will be saved from the terrible things that are coming before the Lord sets up His kingdom. They will be "raptured."  But it is only those who have been truly born again who will be gone.  Those who are depending on something other than the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord to take them to heaven and who have their confidence in something besides the Lord will be left behind.  I hate to be a prophet of doom, but I suspect most so-called Christian churches will be able to operate quite well when the Lord takes the faithful believers to be with Himself.  Those left behind will be afraid of what is coming because I believe a generation of young children will be taken in the rapture.  Unbelievers who call themselves Christians will want to arm against an unseen intruder who has had this power.  So the stage will be set for a powerful man called a beast in Revelation 13 to take the world stage. 

 

But there is a problem.  The Jews have never wanted to submit to a Gentile ruler, and they won't want that during this tribulation period.  So another beast arises "out of the land" and he is a Jew.  Because of his ability to do signs and miracles the Jews will believe him and align themselves with the first beast who I believe will promise them peace.  They will become idolaters in violation of the commands that Moses gave them when they were delivered from the bondage of Egypt.  The Jews have always been convinced of spiritual truth by signs while the rest of us are convinced by wisdom or logic. The signs this second beast who is a Jew will be able to do will convince the Jews to receive this man who has come in his own name.  But the Jews and the rest of the world are going to find out that this man wants to be worshiped as God.  As a result, there are going to be great wars fought because people will have believed the Liar rather than accepting the One who told the truth.

 

I believe the Christians' willingness in our present day to set aside common sense and truth in the interest of promoting morality through the political and the legal system is a subtle trap of Satan.  While the country has moved to the dark side, the only solution is to preach the truth.  The truth is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.  The truth is that the only One who told the truth, died on a cross because of religious leaders.  The truth is that Christians need to recognize that there has to be conviction of sin before people can trust the Lord to save them from the consequences of their sin.

 

Coming Destruction 

I believe it is time for those of us who are saved or "born again" to quit trying to change or reform the world.  We need to realize that our commission is to "make disciples, baptize, and teach."  Our mission is clear and I personally believe that we are being side-tracked into wasting our time on things that we cannot change.  However, if we carry out our commission, we will change destinies for eternity.  More importantly, we will be pleasing the Lord.

 

 

Meditation for the week of September 23, 2018

Eternal Conscious Punishment

 

And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:11)

 

The Saved

Recently I went to the funeral of a man who had trusted the Lord Jesus as his Savior when he was fourteen years old.  This man went on to prove that he really believed what he claimed to believe at that time.  At his funeral, much was made of the heaven that he is now enjoying.  While his friends and family will certainly miss him, I am sure that nobody would want him to come back from the bliss of heaven since he suffered much toward the end of his life.

 

While we were thinking of his blessings, I was thinking about the end of many who had died and were having funerals at about the same time.  Many of them likely never came to terms with their sin and likely had never trusted the Savior.  For them the Bible speaks of eternal conscious punishment forever and forever.  It is almost too much to comprehend and it is something no one wants to think about or preach.  So often preachers tell people before they die that no one can know for sure where their souls (their eternal beings) will go after they die; yet at their funerals, most of the time, the preacher is quite convinced that the person in the casket will be in heaven.  I believe the Bible makes it clear that the matter of where we go after we die can and should be settled with certainty before we die.  The Bible was not written to leave us in doubt about these things.

 

The Lost

So what does the Bible say about eternal conscious punishment?  The place of the unsaved dead is described in various ways.  It is a place of outer darkness.  It is a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.  It is a place that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.  However, those who believe the lie of the great deceiver, share in his ultimate punishment.  When we preach the Gospel, often people say that God is a God of love, and a loving God would never consign anyone to eternal conscious punishment.  And because various descriptions are given to the place of the unseen dead and ultimately of the final destination of those who reject the Lord Jesus, it is assumed that eternal conscious punishment is figurative and not literal.  However, if these descriptions are figurative, it must mean that the real thing is something that we cannot comprehend or understand.  I would assume that the real thing would be worse than the figurative description, not better.  Many people argue that fire and darkness cannot coexist, but I think if one would talk to firefighters, they would agree that they often coexist.  Notice that in our passage, there is smoke and in forest fires and house fires there is smoke that keeps people from seeing.  You will also notice in our passage, that annihilation is not in view.  People do not burn up like tinder and cease to exist.  They are tormented and have not rest for ever and ever.

 

Is God a God of Love?

Yes, God is a God of love.  That is why he wants everyone to be saved and provided a sacrifice for our sins.  He is just and the justifier of everyone who believes in or trusts the Lord Jesus (Romans 3:26).  He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:4)."

 

Does God get Angry?

Sometimes we read about God's wrath and sometimes we read about His anger.  His wrath often refers to the period of coming judgment before He sets up His kingdom.  But the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever even now (John 3:36).  

 

Yes, God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).  Who is considered wicked in the Bible?  Sometimes the word wicked represents lawlessness. Sometimes the word evil is used, but in every case wicked people are taking their marching orders from the wicked one who lies and murders.  That wicked one energized the Jewish leaders to crucify the Lord.  And of course that wicked one is the Devil, or Satan sometimes referred to as a serpent.  Satan is at enmity with the Lord and desires to destroy anything that will give the Lord glory or pleasure.  When we believe the wicked one rather than God, we not only act in wicked ways, we let our rebellious nature rule in our lives.  But basically God is angry with the wicked because they have rejected the love of God that is offered in the person of His Son. 

 

Is there Really a Place of Eternal Conscious Punishment?

Yes, there is.  God doesn't want to put anyone there.  I don't want to see anyone go there.  The Christians who preach the Gospel do not like speaking about this place because it is so horrible and so eternal.  But the reality is that people will be going there today.  It breaks our hearts when we realize that this is the truth and I believe it breaks the heart of God to send people to this place.  But God's love for His Son is such that it would not be "fair" to send Him to the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin and then let people go to heaven who have rejected Him and who never wanted Him in their lives.  Heaven would be an awful place if those who reject Christ are somehow allowed to be there.  That is not going to happen of course.  So now is the time to make sure that you are in a right relationship with this One that we who are saved love.

 

Meditation for the week of September 30, 2018