February 1, 2011

Philippians 2:4-8 (KJV)

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Matthew 20:34 (KJV) 

    So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

Real Compassion Goes Deep

By Don Meadows

It’s not enough to have the mind of Jesus; we need his guts, too.

When he wrote to the Church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul spoke of the necessity of being like-minded as the Lord.  Don’t think of yourselves only.  Be like Christ, who was God but humbled himself to become a servant, even to the extreme of dying on the cross.

No one can argue with that argument.  The problem is that too many Christians settle for being “like-minded.”  Their faith doesn’t get far beyond the thinking level.

I love the story Matthew tells of Jesus leaving Jericho.  He had a kind of rock star following.  A large crow stayed close to him and there had to have been a bit of noise.  Two men who were blind began to cry out, and somehow Jesus heard them.

Amazing, isn’t it, how Jesus always heard people who cried out for help.  He stopped, went to them as asked: “What do you want from me?”

“Our eyes, Lord.  We want to see!”

Here’s the part I like.  Matthew said, “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.”

If you only read the King James Version, or a modern translation, you can miss a really important lesson.  I looked up the Greek word translated “compassion” and wow!  The word is “splagchnizomai”.  Don’t even suggest I try to pronounce it, because I can’t.  It means “to make the bowels yearn.”  In other words, Jesus felt pity for them, and he felt it in his guts.

Oh, that Christianity today were a religion that people felt down deep in their guts.  Perhaps we’d do more than switch the TV channel when we saw hungry children.  Maybe more people would be invited in on cold, freezing nights.

Somehow, I fear, we are better at being church members than we are at being gut-level Christians. Is there any relationship to that and vacant pews?

My son in South Carolina got involved a few months ago with helping a family in need.  He went to several churches and was given various reasons why they could not help.  At one of the churches, he recognized the pastor as a fellow who had gone to school with me in Chicago back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  This pastor explained that attendance had been so bad lately that about all they could do was barely pay their bills.

My son looked him in the eyes and said: “I think I know why your pews are empty.  It’s because your heart is empty, too (meaning the congregation).”

That pastor, and several other he approached, got together at a meeting later, discussed this confrontation and the family got the help they needed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not continue to rob God and rob ourselves by focusing on our needs.  It’s important to be wise, of course, but it’s also necessary that we follow our gut when so many people are hurting and lost and crying out for help.

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February 2, 2011

Exodus 15:1  (KJV)

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, "I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."

Then Sings My Soul

God’s people had just escaped 400 years of slavery.  They appeared trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the sea, but God parted the waters and they walked between walls of water on dry land to safety.  Their would-be assassins were destroyed in the waters, so what did the people of Israel do?

They sang.  Read Exodus 15:1-18.  It has been said it’s the oldest hymn on record.  Not even Hollywood, with Charlton Heston, could really capture the excitement of that moment the way a heart-inspired song could do.

My mom and dad took their five kids to church a lot in East Gulf, WV.  We held services for many years in the elementary school auditorium, then in the basement of what was to become the East Gulf Freewill Baptist Church.

I don’t remember any of the sermons I heard.  Neither can I recall the Sunday School lessons my dad and others taught me.  But, I still carry with me the tunes of and most of the words of those Broadman Hymnal songs we sang there. Edna Wallen played the piano.  I suppose we must have sung those songs hundreds of times because the words are etched into my memory.

“Sunlight, sunlight in my soul today.  Sunlight, sunlight all along the way.  Since my Savior  found me and took away my sins, I have had the sunlight of his love within.”  There are dozens more.

Whoever wrote the words to the song in Exodus – Moses didn’t give him or her credit – did so for two important reasons: (1) To glorify and honor God and (2) to make it easier for the nation to remember what had taken place in that place and time of their lives.  They didn’t have computers, email or even printed books at that time to preserve their history, so they did it in a ways that made it easier for them to remember and pass along to their children – music!

Church music is still important for the same reason – we remember something which gets inside of us.  I personally have a fondness of and preference of what we call the “old-time” church hymns – “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Softly and Tenderly,” “Amazing Grace” and, of course, any Fanny Crosby song.  There are others, many of whom in a younger generation, like the contemporary songs.

The important thing, of course, is that it gets inside and becomes a part of you so you remember what God has done in your life.  I know I wrote a little song once which say, “Why should I worry, why should I fret?  The Lord is by my side.  He will walk with me, he’ll never forget.  The Lord is by my side.”

That masterpiece was inspired by my little dog “Clyde.”  He would walk with me each morning and each night, no matter the weather, and was always there for me.  I was just coming off some pretty serious surgery, and for awhile I was not sure whether I would live or die.”  “Clyde,” of course, was not the Lord, but he reminded me of the unfailing presence of God and I gained confidence and strength every time that little short-legged Lasa Apso and I would trudge up Indian Drive in Portsmouth, OH.

How has God been faithful in your life?  I’ll bet there is a song of praise in your heart, too. So write it!  You don’t have to share it with anyone but the Lord, but I am sure both of you will get a great blessing from it.

click on picture

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February 3, 2011

Ephesians 5:15-17 (NASV)

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

There Is An Answer to the Question 'Why?'

As a child, I often asked mom and dad the teenager’s favorite question: “Why?”

Today I find myself asking my Heavenly Father “Why?”  The last time was when the Egyptian crisis erupted across our television screens.  “Why, God?  Why do you allow it?  Why do brothers and sisters insist on fighting each other, inflicting dreadful injuries, sometimes death?  Why?

Many people will offer many explanations why such things happen. But, there is a not-so-complicated reason behind the chaos and turmoil that has been around as long as mankind.  It’s called EVIL.

The Apostle Paul recognized this a long time ago.  He declared to the Ephesians “the days are evil” and cautioned them to be careful, to be knowledgeable about the realities of the world.  He told them to know what the Lord’s will is for all mankind.

It is vital that Christians understand Verse 16 of this passage.  Paul said “make the most of your time.”  The words used here mean to be good stewards of your time.  Consider it like something on a shopping list, and get the best bargain you can with your time.  You do this, he said, because the DAYS ARE EVIL.

He describes evil as being an active, living thing.  It is not docile.  It is an evil which roams about seeking opportunities to do terrible things to God’s cause.  If this evil can cause men and women to be greedy, to lust after power, to take another person’s life, so be it.

As I watch international politics being played out, I see evil thriving. People are being hurt in many ways.  People go hungry because of greed.  People die of curable diseases because of greed and indifference.  People care more for money than they do people.  Look at Haiti, a nation suffering because of the greed of a relatively few number of people.

Christians, we have a responsibility to fight evil, not perpetuate it. We are to be, not foolish, but wise, informed and know the intent of God for his world.

We do this through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide medicine for the sick, education for the ignorant and hope for the desperate.  If we can’t go ourselves, we send missionaries, making certain they have the resources to enlighten those lost in spiritual darkness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, evil is alive. It stalks men and women and boys and girls and you and me.  That’s what this drug culture is about.  That’s why people fight wars.  That’s why crime is rampant.

But, take heart.  Jesus has dealt a fatal blow to evil.  It may wreak havoc for a season, but it is doomed.  Remember, in the words of 1 John 4:4: ‘Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome (lying spirits): because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

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February 4, 2011

Psalm 9:9 (NKJV)

   

The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,

   
                                                                           A stronghold in times of trouble.    

By Don Meadows

Yesterday was a troubling day.  The telephone bill came and seemed unusually high, so we checked and found that some company had decided it could stick its hand into my pocketbook and collect $20 a month for a nothing-service I don’t want and didn’t request.

The telephone company quickly made it right.

When I turned on the laptop to write these thoughts, I discovered more trouble.  The Bible program I use most of the time wouldn’t open.  It had to do with some files that could not be found where expected.

I tried and tried to figure it out; then I decided to reinstall the entire program.  Another bit of trouble.  The King James Version files somehow were messed up on my master disks.  I’ll contact the publisher and see if there is something that can be done to get new master disks for a program that is at least six years old.

Rather than call these things “troubles,” perhaps it would be more accurate to refer to them as “frustrations” or “inconveniences.”  I have at least five copies of the KJV in print, another couple of program on the computer which includes the KJV, but I’ve just gotten used to doing it this way.

Still, I retreated a bit and began searching scripture.  I came across Psalm 9:9: “The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble.” My aggravated spirit was calmed.

My difficulties pale by comparison to the troubles of others – people without jobs, folks with serious and terminal illness, the political upheaval in Egypt.  So many really troubling things affect millions of people.

The Lord is a stronghold in times of trouble.  I have experienced it throughout my life; but I have learned something.  Don’t complain to the Lord and then try to take over.  Wait on his good time; trust in his ability and his desire to give you what you need to see an improvement in your lot.

Paul said something in 1 Corinthians 10:13 which I think applies here.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

There is a difference between “troubles” and “temptations,” I know.  What I want to share with you is that in the Corinthian text Paul says God will make the way of escape.  The words here refer to a multi-colored answer to multi-colored temptations.  Or, God will tailor-make an escape to fit the temptations you encounter.  Likewise, I believe, God will provide unique ways to overcome the unique troubles his people have.

God is alive and active in our world and in our lives.  For the non-Christian that can be threatening.  To the believer, however, it is a comforting truth.

God knows what is going on in your life.  Keep alert; he will speak to you.  He will guide you and lead you and walk with you into the sunlight of victory.

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February 5, 2011

John 4:15

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

Something I Have Never Had

By Don Meadows

This story of the woman at the well took on special meaning for me when I was in prison.  No, I was not an inmate but a regular visiting Bible teacher in the 70’s and early 80’s at the  Chillicothe Correctional Center.

There were perhaps 40 people in the Chapel that night – murderers, rapists, robbers.  You name the crime, they were there.  The lesson that night was on agape love.  Those men, who knew what guilt and sin was all about, were very attentive as I said:

“God offers you a love that is totally giving.  He does not wanting anything back as a condition of offering his love.  He wants only what is best for you, and he will never change.”

A man dressed in white kitchen garb started walking down the center aisle.  Without thinking, I started walking toward him.  The inmates turned in their seats and watched.

“I’ve never had anybody ever love me like that,” the man said, his voice sounding agitated.  In an instant I thought I may have made a mistake by separating myself from the main group.  “I want you to prove to me that such a love exists.  Everybody I ever cared about only wanted what they could get from me.  After they got it, they didn’t give a damn about me anymore.”

I began to walk backward, returning to the front of the chapel.  The inmate continued to walk toward me.  “Have you ever heard of Jesus?” I asked him.  He replied quickly, “I read about him once, in the Bible – Genesis, I think.”

A few of the inmates began to snicker.  “That’s fine,” I told the man.  “Jesus is in Genesis, if you know how to find him.  Let me tell you more about him.”  So, I shared with him the gospel story, of the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.

“Now, I have a question for you,” I told him face-to-face. “Do you want accept this unconditional love of Jesus, or do you just want to have a few moments of feeling like you are loved.  Let me warn you, though.  There are men in this place tonight who are going to watch you, and they may make fun of you, but you have to choose what you want: This love I have told you about, or do you want them to think you're a tough guy or a sissy?”

“I don’t give a damn what they think,” he said, using the language that is so common in a penal institution.  “I want to have this love you have told me about.”

He accepted an invitation to kneel at the altar, and we prayed the sinner’s prayer together.  It was a genuine prayer from a man wanting to experience a love he had never experienced.  When we stood up, he turned and saw 15 or 20 men kneeling beside him.  They arose and put their arms around him, and there was weeping on the part of these so-called criminals who had just witnessed a lost sinner come home.

I never saw the man again.  I don't know if he were released from prison, transferred to another institution or just never came back to the study.  His work, in the kitchen, could have been a problem.  God only knows.

But, I know he was thirsty that night for the water that never runs dry.  He was hungry for the manna that only God can supply.  That night he and those other men touched a part of God’s Kingdom, and I am convinced there was rejoicing by the angels in heaven.

Beloved, God’s mercy is real and never ending.  If you never have accepted his unconditional love, do so today.

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February 6, 2011

John 4:23  (KJV)

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

By Don Meadows

Yesterday we discussed the thirst for living water the woman of Samaria experienced with her encounter with Jesus at the well.  Verse 23 in that passage has stirred my soul, and set my mind to working.

Jesus said God the Father seeks people who will worship him in spirit and in truth.  That forces me to confront the question:  Do I really worship God?

I go to church.  I have gone regularly for the past 35 or so years.  I attended church and Sunday School on and off as far back as I can remember.  But, did I, do I worship God?

I participate in the hymn singing.  There was a time when I even sang in the choir, but then I got to listening to the folks around me and decided it was better if I were in more of a supportive role down with the congregation.  I’ve had no complaints, either.

When I was a fulltime pastor, I offered the pastoral prayer every week.  Pronounced the benediction, and sometimes led in special prayers.  Now, I usually am asked to offer the benediction at the church Janet and I attend.

Yet, there remains that nagging question: Do I really worship God in spirit and in truth.

I carry my Bible to church every Sunday and try to follow along with the pastor when he preaches.  A couple of weeks I took my hand-held computer on which there are four versions of the Bible.  I could flip back and forth between verses, and was really involved in that, but Janet hit me in the ribs with her elbow.  “Stop that,” she demanded, “it doesn’t look right.  You should bring your regular Bible.”

That put an end to my use of technology in the pew.  I didn’t think I was doing any thing disrespectful, or unchristian.  The Word does say, however, that we should avoid even the appearance of doing wrong, so I guess Janet was right.

Now that I am taking my Bible (I use several versions) I can’t say that I feel any holier than I did with the palm-top Bible.  I still flip back and forth tracing references, comparing words and pursuing a complete theological understanding of the texts.  But, am I really worshipping God?

I thought long about that word “spirit.”  What is my attitude?  Do I have the proper intention in coming before a Holy God to adore and honor him?  Were I coming to appease him, or to seek a favor, that might not be worship.  It may even be the opposite.

And what of “truth?”  I believe that means I come before God open to his suggestions for my life.  I don’t come concealing anything, hiding it from God or from myself.

True worship, I have come to believe, is no casual thing.  To really understand who God is essential to true worship. Perhaps more important is to realize who I am and what I am. This may be the first steps to genuine worship.  Unless I understand my need for God’s intervention and participation in my life, I will have no real inclination to worship anyone except, perhaps, myself.  I suspect many people who stay out of church on Sunday actually do that.

When once I understand my sinfulness, my need to be forgiven, the necessity of Jesus, I start to worship.  That may come some place other than in a church.  But, it’s worship and, I believe, worship in spirit and truth.

Examine your heart, O Christian brother and sister.  What motivates you today to gather with believers at what we call a worship service?  Is your spirit right; do you know and accept the truth of your need for Jesus?

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February 8, 2011

2Peter 3:9 (KJV)

 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

 

Patience Is Proof of God’s Love

By Don Meadows

Without doubt heaven will be a glorious place.  I have tried but cannot even imagine what it will be like.  I have read about the streets of gold, a continuous banquet, the many uses of precious gems and choirs of angels, et cetera.

Somehow all that doesn’t really seem important.  I hear others people get all excited about the rapture of the church, and I wonder: What’s wrong with me?  I don’t want the rapture to take place now!

Of course, I would welcome a world without sickness and pain, where there is no lawlessness or crime, where nations do not war against other nations.  Yet, I pray that God holds back his final judgment for a long time.

This may not sit well with my more orthodox friends, but I believe I have good reason for thinking and feeling the way I do. Too many members of my family, too many friends and too many people I know are not ready to meet the Lord.

Thus, I pray, “Lord, hold back thy judgment a little while longer.

I do believe a judgment day is coming.  That’s scripture.  Christians, however, should not applaud its coming like they’ve won the Super Bowl.  For Christ to come now would mean gain for me, but how many millions of people would be lost?

Jesus said that a person who seeks to save his life shall lose it; the one who loses his life for the kingdom’s sake shall gain it.  Does it not reason that we must use all the time available to work to bring others into the kingdom?  And, if we do that, I propose, it will delay the Lord’s coming even longer.

My reasoning is simple.  The more people who are being won to Jesus will prompt God to provide more time to win more.  Remember, Peter said, God is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come unto repentance.

I believe there is a heaven.  I believe there is a hell.  Heaven is that place reserved for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and accept salvation through his work on the cross.  It’s that place where God himself shall reign.  Hell is a place reserved for the devil and his followers and for men and women who have rejected the offer of grace by Christ.  It will be a miserable place.

God does not send anyone to hell.  I have heard it said that hell is God’s final surrender to man’s ultimate will.  God has done everything he could do to prevent that, even to the giving of his only begotten son to die on the cross, that those who believe on him should have everlasting life.

I am grateful for the patience of God.  I am thankful that the gates of opportunity are not under the control of those who would shut it to millions and millions of people so they could get on with enjoying their heavenly rewards.

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February 9, 2011

Exodus 28:3 (KJV) 

    And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.

 

How Do You Enable Worship of God?

Exodus is not terribly exciting reading beginning about the 25th  chapter.  That is where God begins giving instructions about how the people are to worship him, how they are to construct the sanctuary and even dress Aaron and his sons and the Levites for doing their jobs as priests.

But at Exodus 28:3 I find an exciting comment.  Moses is told to “speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him.”

God enabled many people to have active, important roles in the big task of worshipping him.  Those who knew how to sew were called upon to give of their skills for the work of the Lord.

Worship is not the business only of the preacher and denomination leaders.  Everyone is called to use his or her skills and knowledge to enable others to honor and glorify God.

What would worship be like if there were no music?  At Maple Street United Methodist Church in Lancaster the children were trained carefully by their parents and teachers to read the scriptures each Sunday.  It was a thrill to hear them read with clarity, feeling and in a way that made the texts come alive.  One of those readers today is in seminary at Duke University and will become a United Methodist pastor.

Never dismiss as unimportant the contribution you make each week to the worship of God.  He has given you a special skill, some unique wisdom to be used for his glory and honor.  Oh, you may not get your name in the bulletin or praise from the pulpit, but God see and knows and will honor your faithfulness.

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February 10, 2011

Psalm 31:24 (KJV) 

 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord

Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place

By Don Meadows

In Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” the title character’s ambitious wife hatched a plot to murder the king and have her husband take over the throne.  As Macbeth was about to do the dastardly deed he flinched, unsure whether to strike the knife into the king.  Lady Macbeth told him: “Screw your courage to the sticking place.”

He did.  The king died, and there followed a series of dramatic and tragic events which has entertained audiences for hundreds of years.  What makes the play so successful is that it looks at ambition, deception and unbridled passions in a way that applies to every generation.

King David lived a dramatic life, too.  He knew first hand about ambition, deception and passion.  It caused him a great deal of trouble, but he knew where to “screw his courage to the sticking place.”

The 31st Psalm is a roadmap for anyone walking down a difficult highway.  David understood first-hand what it was like to have people attack him from nearly every angle.  President Obama’s political opposition is a Sunday School picnic when compared to what faced David.  At one point in the Psalm, David cries out: “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.”

David was spiritually and physically sick because of the assaults launched against him.  He confessed, too, that because of sin, he shared the blame for his troubles.

Who among us hasn’t been there before?  Sometimes problems, and guilt, pile so high we don’t see any way things can get better.  We wonder if it is best to just quit trying to do what is right and give in to the pressures and temptations which seem so pervasive.

King David, however, knew there was help.  In the last two verses he wrote:

“23  O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. 24  Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. (KJV)

The Lord “shall strengthen your heart.”  What a promise!

Be of good courage?  Yes, for the Lord has promised strength.   The world may conspire against you, others may assail you, but the Lord, He shall strengthen your heart.

I discovered a truly enlightening comment in Spurgeon’s “PSALMS” (pp. 153-154). The Hebrew word "strengthen" (amats) means to confirm and make one steadfastly minded, fortify, harden, increase.

In a comment in that book, Simeon Ash concludes the Lord makes your heart "hard like a rock that is not afraid of any weather, summer, or  winter, sun and showers, heat and cold, frost and snow; it blusheth not, shrinketh not, it changeth not its complexion, it is still the same."

When we are in our deepest trouble, or at our lowest point, God will strengthen your heart and give you a courage that will carry you on to victory.  Amen!

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February 11, 2011

Acts 7:60 (KJV)

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Do the Work of Forgiveness

By Don Meadows

Probably the hardest of the Christian disciplines is forgiveness.  Receiving it isn’t the tough part; giving it is.

Isn’t it an overwhelming mental picture that comes to your mind of Jesus hanging on the cross.  He cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what it is they do.”  And, Stephen, the angry mob surrounding him, belching out lies of hatred, looked heavenward and said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56 (KJV).  His last words were, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”

Every one has been hurt by someone at one time or another.  We all have felt the flames of anger flare up in our hearts, and something inside shouted for payback.  It’s human, I suppose. Yet, we  who have asked God’s forgiveness of our sins, through the blood of Jesus, must understand, we don’t have the luxury of being human.

Christians are called to be “above human” because there is one who lives within us who empowers us to rise above our instincts and inner drive to strike back.

The prayer that Jesus taught to the disciples is a two-edged spiritual sword.  It is both a comforting prayer and, at the same time, a condemning prayer.  It says, depending on which translation you use, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”  Thus, anyone praying that prayer had best understand that you are asking God to forgive you to the extent you forgive those who wrong you.

One day I pointed this out to a parishioner, who was in a constant tug-of-war with another member of the church.  “Oh, I am going to forgive her,” she hissed, “but just enough to get into heaven.”  What happens if she misses forgiving just one transgression?

We are told in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  With God forgiveness isn’t given in degrees.  It is total.

Perhaps the greatest struggle with forgiveness has to do with feelings and memories.  Have I forgiven someone when I still feel awkward around them and remember what they did to me?

We are not God.  Some things we cannot cast from our memory as far as the East is from the West.  I have resolved this conflict in my heart by deciding that I will never act in any way to hurt another person regardless of how they hurt me.  The past hurt will not be a topic of conversation, for there is nothing to be resolved by it.  On the remembering part, I will do all I can not to dwell upon past hurt in my mind and will, whenever possible, pray for that person’s well being.  I will place everything in God’s hands, knowing he is Lord of all.

I appreciate the way Luke told the story of Stephen’s death. After he had prayed for those who were stoning them, Luke says, “he fell asleep.”

A friend of mine said he had a major argument with a man in his church.  It was over the construction of an outhouse.  “He just made me so mad I couldn’t go to sleep,” my friend said.  “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do you know what so-and-so is doing this very minute?  He is at home, in bed, fast asleep. Who is being hurt by your attitude?’”

My friend said he asked God to forgive him, and to forgive his antagonist.  Know what?  My friend said he got one of the best nights of sleep in his life.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy for you and me.  It is hard work, but it can be done with help from God and reliance upon his Word to make you strong.

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February 12, 2011

Isaiah 40:23-24 (NASV)

23  He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24  Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,

And the storm carries them away like stubble.

 
A Reminder That God Sits on the Throne

By Don Meadows

Oswald Chambers was a man inspired by God the Holy Spirit.  Janet and I each day read his book “My Utmost for His Highest,” a daily devotional that digs deep into your very soul.  Many times it is not comfortable reading because it can challenge your most basic understandings of what it means to be Christian.

Yesterday Chambers based his writing on Isaiah 4:26: “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things …” He noted that the people of Israel lost their ability to see God because they had focused on idols.

To get the scripture context, I backed up several verses in the New American Standard Version Bible.  I was startled.  You see, I was multi-tasking.  Actually, I was reading my devotions and listening to FOX news reporting on the resignation of the Egyptian President Murbarak.  When I saw Verse 23 I did a double-take.

                "He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
                        Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless."

The changes in Egypt are startling.  They will affect world affairs, with a profound impact on Israel and the United States.  It potentially is a world-changing political event.  Yet, there is a sobering, or calming reality.

God is still in charge.  As I listened, and watched, the TV coverage I remembered the many times in Old Testament scripture where empire after empire came to power, and then faded was displaced.

Obviously we have the advantage of reading history thousands of years after it happened.  We can see, and apply, God’s involvement in national and international matters.  But, can we see God at work in world events today?

Years ago I watched a multi-film series at my home church in Proctorville.  It reviewed world history through art, with a message that God was working in all aspects of life.  The title of the series was a question, and it was profound.  “How Shall We Then Live?”

As I watch events in Egypt and listen to the “experts” tell us what it means, I am provoked to ask the question again.  “How Shall We Then Live?”

Does the realization that God is active in your life prompt you to pause and ponder about the paths you are taking?  Do you need a course correction, or are you satisfied with the direction you’re headed?

Really, nothing unique has happened in the world.  We may have different technology to do this or that, but human nature is pretty much the same as it always has been. Governments come and governments go.  People rise to power and they lose that power.  Men and women are born and they die.  Human attitudes, emotions, wishes and desires haven’t changed over thousands of years. 

You and I, however, have a choice to be different.  We can accept Jesus Christ into our lives and focus on Him.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  On that we can depend.

Still, I wonder.  Five-hundred years from now, when people look back at today, will they say about this generation: “Did they not see God at work in their lives?  How could they have missed Him?

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February 13, 2011

Exodus 34:7 (KJV)

Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

The Unintended Victims of Sin
By Don Meadows

 Moses wanted to see God’s glory, so God told him about his mercy.  As the late Paul Harvey was famous for saying: “Now, the rest of the story.”

Though he would show mercy and forgive transgressions, God said there are consequences to sin.  Those who suffer these consequences are not always the ones deserving it.  Sometimes the innocent bear the pain of another person’s disobedience to God.

This is a difficult passage to understand.  God says the sins of a person are visited “upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”  That does not mean God is punishing a person’s children for a parent’s sins; it is the parent who is causing the hurt that is experienced.

There are many obvious examples of this being true.  A parent drinks and drives and a child is hurt or killed.  A parent gambles; a child goes hungry.  A parent is lazy and doesn’t work; a child is branded as a no-good and finds acceptance difficult to find.

Our society today, I believe, is seeing how the sins of the parent are being visited upon children of several generations.  The drug culture that began in the late 50’s and 60’s has produced many children with learning difficulties.  Attention deficit disorder, one could argue, is one of the results of doing drugs years ago by parents, or grandparents.  The children are paying the price.

Not to discipline a child is a sin.  Today we see people in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s who show little or no respect for others.  When I was a kid, there were three people who were considered special and you showed them the highest respect, or else.  They were teachers, preachers and policemen.  It was “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” “yes, officer,” “thank you, ma’am.”  And, if you got a spanking at school, you’d better get prepared because when you got home you were due for another.

I am not for abusing children, but the Apostle Paul said: Ephes. 6:4 (KJV) “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  Those two words “provoke not” mean do not make angry or frustrate your children by lack of training.  Instead, teach them the nature of God and show his instruction for all people by living it.

Sin always comes with a cost.  The ones paying the greater price may be the ones you would want least to hurt – your own children and grandchildren.

So, when you face a decision of whether to sin or whether not to sin, think about it with your heart.  Is the fruit of the temptation testing you worth the price someone will have to pay?  It’s your choice.

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February 14, 2011     

Matthew 27:65 (KJV) 

    Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

Stop Trying to Control Jesus

After the Jewish leaders had Jesus crucified, they still worried.  He said that he would return from the dead; if his disciples steal his body and make it appear his prophecy came true, things will be worse than ever, they told Pilate.

The Roman official’s response seemed logical.  You have a guard.  Seal the tomb.  Make it as sure as ye can.

We know the rest of the story.  The guards were unable to stop the resurrection.  The sealed tomb could not hold Jesus.  And, the plan to keep Jesus under control failed.

Though we rejoice because of the resurrection, is it not so that there are times when we try to keep Jesus under control?  Oh, I am sure none of us does so intentionally; to even suggest this, I suppose, is shocking to some of you.

Think about it, however.  How are some of the ways you might limit the power of Jesus in your life?  Giving attention to temptation?  Neglect of Bible study?  Failure to pray, or prayer that is so superficial that it almost mocks the concept of true prayer?  The list could go on and on.

The conflict, I think, has to do with power.  We feel a need to have control of our lives, to set our own agenda and priorities.  It is in doing the logical thing where we limit Jesus.

After all, we reason, we should organize our lives, take charge and be responsible.  And, we should, except when we “organize” Jesus out of the picture and fail to be obedient to his will for our lives.

Have you ever heard someone explain, “My life is just so busy I can’t find the time to sit down and read my Bible.  I know I should, but, well, you know how it is?”  Or, “I would like to do more at the church, but by the time I finish work, fixing meals, cleaning the house, running errands, repairing this or that, well, there just any time left over for my time alone with God?”

As I said, it all sounds reasonable and logical, but they are just excuses for doing the things I really want to do.  They are arguments we put forth for trying to keep Jesus under control so that He won’t mess up the things we really love in our lives.

The next time you catch yourself explaining a lack of spiritual discipline, remember the Jews and soldiers. They couldn’t control Jesus.  And neither will you.

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February 15, 2011     

John 8:12 (KJV)

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 Plant Teaches a Lesson

By Don Meadows

Lessons about the truth of God can come in unexpected ways.  Who would have thought a trip to the bathroom would provide one of those “Wow” moments?

A couple of Christmases ago Janet and I needed to find a temporary place for a large plant we had in the family room.  We got the plant in 1996 from our son, Donald II.  It was sent to a mortuary in Beckley, WV. when my mother died.  The plant was a tiny thing then, fitting in a small planter.

No matter where we put the plant, it seemed to thrive and out grew several pots.  It was I who suggested we “temporarily” put it in the circular bathtub just off our Master Bedroom.  Though there are no windows, we calculated that the skylight would provide adequate lighting for it to grow.  Boy, were we right!  It has grown so large that now it takes up about one-fourth of the room.  It won’t be easy to get it out of that room, either.

Many times I look at the plant and am amazed at how many new branches and “baby leaves” appear on it.  There seems to be nothing that will stop its growth.

The other day, however, I noticed something new.  A young branch had grown at an angle and curved upward to meet the light coming in from the overhead skylight.  The “Wow” thing then struck.

Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery that he did not condemn her.  Then, Jesus said to the Pharisees standing around to condemn him and the woman: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Rather than get the message, the Pharisees continued to argue and, without doubt, went away unconvinced and still judging Jesus unfairly.

Those Pharisees didn’t have the sense of a houseplant.  The plant seeks the light, feeds upon it and grows upward closer to its source.  The Pharisees walked away from it.

Hopefully, you and I will be like that plant but in a spiritual sense.  Jesus is the light which shows us the way to live as he wants us to live.  It may require a change of directions sometimes, but if, like that plant, we will bend our wills to seek the greater light of God, our lives will be greatly blessed and we will experience wonderful growth.

(Click on the above picture to make it larger)

 

February 16, 2011     

Exodus 39:1 (KJV)
And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the Lord commanded Moses.

“As the Lord Commands”

By Don Meadows


        Many times in Exodus, but especially in Chapters 39 and 40, we see repeated the phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses.” It has to do with the building of the tabernacle and fashioning the garments that were to be worn by Aaron and his sons as priests.
        The people were careful to do as Moses instructed them. Moses was careful to relate to the people what God had instructed him. Why there was such a demand for exactness and why so elaborate were the tabernacle and the garments is hard to know. Perhaps it was to remind the people of two things:
        First, that God deserves our best, and
        Second, that it is important to follow the instructions of God carefully.
        I suppose I will betray my age, but I appreciate these verses in Exodus. Though ancient, there is an important message for us today. That is, God deserves our best and our careful attention.
        A woman asked me one time, “Preacher, what do you think about women wearing slacks to church?” I replied, with tongue-in-cheek, “It sure beats not wearing them.”
        I don’t believe that God pays a lot of attention to what we wear and don’t wear to church. I do believe it is important that we pay attention to what we wear. We are not to dress in a way that calls attention to ourselves. I’ve seen ladies, both young and more mature, come into the sanctuary with skirts so high that it was difficult not to look – whether you were a man or a woman. That, of course, is not right.
        While I will be quick to defend anyone’s right to wear what they deem best, I do think we have become too casual in our attitudes of how we offer ourselves to God on Sunday morning – or any other day, for that matter.
        When men come to church in their casual shorts, unkempt facial hair (I’m not ‘ouching’ beards), carrying a cup of coffee while munching a donut, that is too casual, in my view. I believe it says something about our respect for God’s holiness when we take time to present our best-selves in worship. Were the President, or a noted celebrity, coming to our church or to our home, wouldn’t we go a bit out the way to make a good impression?
        Again, I know how dogmatic this can sound. There is a church not far from us whose pastor wrote a relative that if she did not wear a dress to all church functions, she was not welcome there. That is going too far, I think, especially since I am aware of some of the circumstances leading up to that letter.
        However, that said, I still believe we have become so casual about God’s holiness that we have perhaps tried to bring him down to our level. Thus, we lack humility, we aren't as sensitive as we ought about our sinful nature in his holy presence.  Maybe we think of God as just our buddy with whom we powwow once a week.
        Please, don’t read into this what is not intended. Just be the best you can for God for he gave his very best for you.

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February 17, 2011

Leviticus 3:7-8 (KJV)

If he offer a lamb for his offering, then shall he offer it before the LORD.   And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron's sons shall sprinkle the blood thereof round about upon the altar.

 That Really 'Old-Time Religion'

By Don Meadows

I love animals, and when I read in Exodus and Leviticus how they were to worship God with sacrifices, I cringe.  Whether it was a peace or sin offering, it seems the poor animals always picked up the tab--with their lives.

It intrigues me that when a person brought a sacrifice to be offered they would lay hands upon the head of the poor beast.  Then they would kill it “before the tabernacle of the congregation.”  After that, Aaron’s sons would do their jobs of sprinkling the blood about the altar and burning the flesh in specific ways.

I assume that all of this was done openly.  This would accomplish several things:

1. It would tend to make the people more aware of the humiliation of sin.

2. It would remind others of their need to sacrifice and pay penitence to God.
3. It would serve as a public example to all of the need to be cleansed by God of one's sins.
4. It would remind the people that death is the only payment for sin.

Imagine having to hold an animals head while its throat was cut, then feel the very life drain away.  The tough part would be in knowing it was your fault that it had to die.

The worship of God is much easier and simpler today.  We go to church, toss something into the collection plate, “say” the Lord’s Prayer in unison, sing some hymns (hopefully in unison), listen to the preacher’s sermon and eventually shake a few hands as we walk out and we’re done.

Or are we?

If we worship God in truth and spirit, as Jesus says we must, we are far from being done.  I believe those who offered sacrifices in Old Testament times were expected to think about the cost of being cleansed.  Sure, for many of them sacrificing their animals became routine.  They went through the motions of religion, week in and week out, year in and year out.

You and I, too, would be wise to remember the price of our sin.  It was not an animal which died.  We caused the death of a man.

When I read or hear of someone causing the death of another person, by accident or whatever, I shudder to imagine what kind of feelings that causes in the pit of one’s stomach.  It would be one of the most horrible things I could imagine.

Yet, I caused the death of Jesus.  He was the Lamb led to the slaughter, sacrificed as the atonement for my sins, your sins and the sins of every person in the world.  Yet, I treat it so casually, so matter-of-fact.  Were I but to have looked upon his face as he grimaced when pain shot through his twisted body, maybe I would take Him a little more seriously.  Could I have heard his gasping for breath as he hung there on that cross, maybe I could appreciate the breath of the Holy Spirit that was given to me when I awakened to my need for Jesus’ forgiveness.

Sin is not a private matter.  Sin that a person thinks is hidden affects the whole world.  It especially hurts families and those closest to the one who opposes God. 

Were we required to lay out our sins upon a public altar and would we hold the head of the one sacrificed for us as his life slipped away, perhaps the awfulness of sin might be better understood.

I have sinned greatly against my Lord, and I am so sorry for it.  There is nothing I can do to make up for it, except confess it and ask forgiveness.  God is merciful and, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, has forgiven me.  But this I can do: I can fight against temptations, seek help from the Holy Spirit and do everything humanly possible to avoid hurting my Lord again.  I know I will slip, but I won’t do it as glibly as I would once have done.  The cost is just too awful.

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February 18, 2011

I have several Bible programs in my computers.  They contain many books for research, study and inspiration.  One of these is “Thru the Bible Commentary,” by J. Vernon McGee.I hadn’t gone far  -- actually just into the preface --  when I discovered something a gem.  It was a poem.  So, today, I would like to share that with you and believe it will speak to you in a special way.  -- Don Meadows

WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE THROUGH

I supposed I knew my Bible,
Reading piecemeal, hit or miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah,
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third),

        Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs—

Yes, I thought I knew the Word!
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn through a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book—
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude impatient look—
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through!
 
—Amos R. Wells[1]
 
[1]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

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February 19, 2011

Mark 3:11-12 (KJV) 

    And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.

 

Do You Know 'About' Jesus or Do You 'Know Him'?

By Don Meadows

Jesus was going about the countryside healing many kinds of illnesses and delivering people from unclean spirits.  The more he did the larger the crowds became.

Some in those crowds wanted to be healed of physical problems.  Some came to be cleansed mentally and spiritually.  Others were there out of sheer curiosity.  They wanted to see what new, strange thing this man might do.  It was good entertainment, and it was free.

Included in those crowds were unclean spirits.  They recognized Jesus.  Jesus recognized them. They fell down before him and declared him the Son of God.  Jesus was not impressed.

In Vs. 12 Jesus orders them to be silent. He knew their mission. It was to sabotage his mission of being Messiah.

The people were looking for Messiah.  They wanted a military hero, a conqueror who would unseat the Roman rule. He came, however, to unseat the sin that rules the heart.  He came to bring them spiritual freedom and eternal life.  It would take time, and Jesus knew he didn’t have a lot of time.  It would be a scant three years or so.  Then would come the cross, which to the people would seem a pitiful failure of this man who so aroused the crowds.  Many of them would even  demand his death.

All of this begs a question.  What do you seek from Jesus?

It’s a desperately critical question.  I assume you know who Jesus is.  Many times I have talked to folks about their relationship with the Lord.  They declared, with a lot of pride, that they know all about Jesus.  They learned about him when they were kids going to Vacation Bible School, Sunday School or whatever.  They know, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

As we see in Verse 11, the evil spirits knew about Jesus.  Of course, he is the “Son of God.”  So what?

What the evil spirits were not prepared to do was surrender to Jesus.  They were not about to confess they were wrong, that they had sinned and that they wanted his forgiveness.  Neither did they want to be “converted.”  They didn’t want to go in a new direction.  They were happy with things just as they were, thank you.

Later in Mark’s Gospel is the account where Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. “As they were walking along, he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ ‘Well,’ they replied, ‘some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.’  Then Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’  Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah.’"  (8:27-29 (NLT)

There is no getting around it.  When Jesus comes into your world he asks for a personal relationship.  He doesn’t want you to know about him.  He wants you to know him.  That requires conviction, or a realization that you need him as your savior.  That involves confession, or admission that you have sinned and fallen short of what God wants for your life.  That involves conversion, or a willingness to turn from your evil ways to the ways of Jesus.  That involves discipleship, or a determination to become so informed about Jesus’ love for you that you want first to please him.

Be better than the evil spirits.  Know Jesus in truth, and spirit.  Don’t settle for just knowing about him.

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February 20, 2011

Psalm 37:21 (KJV) 

    The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.

 

Pocketbook:  Window Into A Person’s Soul

By Don Meadows

If you want to look into a person’s soul, pay attention to his or her pocketbook.  It will reveal all a great deal about their character.

This isn’t a personal conclusion.  It’s from God’s Word.  Read Psalm 37:12-29.  It speaks volumes about what a person is, and where he or she is headed.

Today’s economy is a terrific thermometer for a person’s character.  How does one use his money?  What does he do to get it?

Again the newspaper screamed out the ugly truth.  Three men, one of whom was armed with a gun, broken into a couple’s home and robbed them.  It’s no isolated event, people blatantly taking from others in illegal ways.

Dishonesty, however, can be disguised, especially from one’s own eyes.  This is the most-dangerous kind of robbery, at least from a spiritual perspective.  David in this 21st verse of Psalm 37 says that those who borrow and don’t pay back their dept are wicked.  The righteous, by contrast, show mercy and provides for those who need help.

The wicked one spoken about is he or she who “borrowed” with no intention of repaying.  However, the one who borrows with the best of intention and fails to pay back can also be guilty of sin.

The sin was conceived long before the repayment wasn’t made.  If someone buys something they can’t afford, that is an invitation to disaster.  Lack of management and mismanagement of what one has also is contrary to God’s expectations.

I know.  I have been there.  Let me say, though, that I have never, to the best of my knowledge, ever failed to repay a debt.  Sometimes it took longer than planned, radical adjustments had to be made, but the debt was cleared.

Circumstances can change.  In many instances those changes can be devastating. That can make it very difficult to meet obligations, but a person remains obligated to be honest.

There are those rare times when circumstances make it impossible for a person to do what they want to do.  We, as a society, need to have avenues of help for legitimate needs.  And, there are times when people fall victim to situations over which they have no control or responsibility.

Churches once were more proactive in meeting legitimate needs within a community.  Need and poverty became political issues, and churches very willingly gave up the call to look after their neighbor.  As a consequence, the Church, God’s whole community, has suffered greatly, I believe.

The challenge for all of us is to be capable of distinguishing between real need, abuse, misuse and enabling.  In the search for this truth it is important to seek the mind of God and, hopefully, find his heart, too.

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February 21, 2011

Acts 2:23 (NLT)

But you followed God’s prearranged plan

 

It Is No Secret What God Can Do

By Don Meadows

Cheer up, my fearful brother or sister.  God wins.  His Kingdom is safe, and we who live in the Lord Jesus Christ are heirs to that Kingdom.

Man will never learn.  Opposing God is futile.

Peter took on those being critical of the ones on whom the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost.  They’re drunk, many of the Jewish leaders sneered.  That’s ridiculous, Peter retorted.  Then he climbed into a spiritual pulpit.

“People of Israel, listen!” he shouted above the noise to get their attention.  “God endorsed Jesus by doing many miracles, wonders and signs among you.”  Then, Peter got serious:

“But you followed God’s prearranged plan.  With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him.  However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not hold him in its grip.”  (Acts 2:23-24 NLT)

The Jews and Gentiles thought they putting an end to Jesus.  In fact, they were doing the opposite, unknowingly becoming instruments in the plan of salvation.  It was all prearranged by God, according to Peter.

God is still working his plan in today’s world.  The Christian community agonizes over many things.  The ACLU’s opposition on displaying the Ten Commandments or prayer in schools seems like real challenges to God’s rule.  The public’s acceptance of abortion or same-sex marriage stirs up the hearts of conservative Christians as an affront to God’s will.  The list can go on and on.

But, let us take comfort.  God knows exactly what is going on, and He will deal with it.  His justice will prevail.

Our task is the same as that of Peter and the early church witnesses.  We’re to tell the story of the Good News, call people to repentance and stand ready to receive them into fellowship when they see the true light of Jesus Christ.

As we struggle to be faithful witnesses, we must not forget what Paul tells us “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 KJV)

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February 23, 2011

Mark 6:3 (KJV) 

    Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

 

Just Say 'Ouch' and 'Amen'

By Don Meadows

These weren’t just ordinary folk.  They were his people, the ones around whom he had grown up.  You would have thought they would have been excited, even proud, that Jesus had turned out the way that he did.  But, they weren’t.  Mark says, “And they were offended at him.”

It’s not because he was a carpenter and one of them that they were offended, as some commentators have observed.  I don’t believe it was because they thought that Jesus had “gotten bigger than his britches,” as they used to say back in West Virginia.

They were offended, I believe, because in his teaching and preaching he was right on target, and they didn’t like it, especially from one of their own.

The Greek word for “offended” is skandalizo.  It’s the word which gives us “scandalize”, and it means to entrap or trip up. Jesus was not a hometown boy anymore. In the next verse he says, “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Jesus was a preacher and prophet, there to proclaim truth and to confront people with their sins.  His teaching and preaching had entrapped, tripped up their ideas about themselves.

One thing I learned in nearly 30 years in the pastorate, when Jesus is alive and real in the midst of people – yes, especially “church people” – offence is bound to happen.  It’s not comfortable being angry at God, so the preacher usually catches the brunt of the “offense” that is really caused by the Holy Spirit.

A woman said to me once, as she was leaving a worship service, “Preacher, if you don’t quit preaching about me every Sunday, I am going to quit coming here.”  I didn’t know then what she was talking about.  I still don’t, but she did and does.  Her problem was not with me; her problem was with Jesus.

Be careful if you go to a church where the preacher never gets close enough to where the soul is that discomfort doesn’t result.  He or she probably is not listening to the Holy Spirit or obeying Him.  A greater tragedy might be they do not know the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “For the time will come when (the people) will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4:3-4) (KJV)

Somehow Christians in the church have come to perceive Jesus as this nice, sweet man who makes every thing peaches and cream for everyone.  When I first entered fulltime ministry, I thought it was going to be wonderful working in an environment where people loved each other.  Boy, did I learn a lesson about reality quickly.

Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 (KJV)  When that sword is swung and strikes truth is causes pain. We never appreciate a suggestion that we are wrong.  This is especially so in and about church matters.

If the person in the pulpit ruffles your feather sometimes, don’t take offense.  Take inventory.  Check out where you are with scripture.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the truth; and if you discover you need a course adjustment, admit it to yourself and to God.  Let God work wonderful change in your heart so you are the disciple you want to become.

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February 24, 2011

Acts 3:19 (KJV)

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

 

Common Routine, Uncommon Insight

By Don Meadows

We do some things so often, and in the same way, we hardly think about it.

Have you ever gone from one place to another and, when you got there, hardly remember driving?  Or brushed your teeth, shaved or showered and just did it without given a thought?

Last night was garbage night.  I put the can beside the road at night so the garbage man can pick it up early on Thursday.  He usually picks up about 8 a.m., but he can come earlier or later.  The company says to have it out by midnight, because sometimes they might come as early as that.  And, I don’t want to let the garbage pile up for a week.

As I was wheeling it down the driveway, I stopped and thought:  I was acting out physically what I should be doing every day spiritually.  I was getting rid of the garbage, the stuff we no longer want, need or will begin to smell if we keep it too long.

Peter called for repentance by the Pharisees criticizing folks at Pentecost. Be converted and have your sins blotted out, he said.  In other words, take the spiritual garbage in your lives, set it down beneath the Cross of Calvary and Jesus will pick it up and get rid of it.

When the garbage company hauls away our trash, guess what?  I don’t think about it anymore.  That’s what God wants you to do with your sins.  Give them to him and let him put them where they will never come back to smell up your life.

It would be silly if I were to follow the garbage truck to the dump and take back my trash.  Yet, many of us do that very thing where our sins are concerned.  We confess them but still hang on to the guilt they cause.

That’s exactly what the devil wants you to do.  He would like to convince you that your sins are so awful that you could never be forgiven.  Don’t fall for that trap.

Once I got a desperate call from a wife.  Her husband was dying and was in terribly spiritual agony.  When I got there, and he and I were alone, he began to confess things to me that he had done as a teenager.  “The Bible says people who do things like that ought to be stoned to death.  I just know God will never forgive me for that,” he said, weeping the entire time we talked.

I remembered that statement in Hebrews: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12 KJV)

He said he had confessed his actions as sin many times, but still had no peace.  We prayed again, and claimed God’s promise of forgetfulness, as well as his promise of forgiveness.  A peace came over him in a wonderful way, and he died comfortably just a few hours later.

Friend, if God forgives your sins, and remembers them no more, what right do you have to hold on to them?  Are you God?  Will you do what he won’t?

Take out your spiritual garbage every day.  Be done with it.  Guilt about confessed sin does not come from God. It comes from the enemy who is trying to rob you of the joy and confidence of your salvation.  Remember the words which worked so well for Jesus: “Get thee hence, Satan.” (Matthew 4:10 KJV)  In other words, “Get away from me, Satan.”

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February 25, 2011

Psalm 40:17 (KJV) 

    But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

 

“I Was Just Thinking About You”

 By Don Meadows

One of the greatest compliments a person can give to another is to say simply, “I was just thinking about you.”

That may be just the thing that someone needs to make tolerable a bad day.  It is hard to imagine how many people there are who feel that no one cares, that they are adrift in a tiny boat on a stormy sea all alone.  Does anyone know? Is there anyone who cares?

Usually there are people there who know and do care, but it’s not easy to see them.  That’s because you are so overwhelmed by your situation that you can see little beyond the moment.

I know. I’ve been there.  It’s a place you don’t want to be; it’s a place where no one can stay.  It can kill you, emotionally, spiritually and, even, physically.

Many times they, who find themselves imprisoned by this isolation, try to survive by using drugs, alcohol or engage in promiscuous living.  It may seem to work for awhile, but, alas, that eventually fails.  And the pain grows.

David felt that way many times, I believe.  His Psalms pulsate with emotion.  Sometimes he is absolutely jubilant; other times he is emotionally in the pits.  Yet, in both extremes his heart is not far from God.

In Psalm 40:17 he seizes upon a truth that the child of God can claim.  Whatever my circumstances, “the Lord thinketh upon me.”  I am His; He thinks about me.  Not only that but he is my help and deliverer.”

I think about my three boys all the time.  They are now grown men, but a day doesn’t go by but what I don’t think about what they must be doing, what they are thinking.  I wonder what is going on in their lives at that very moment.  Are they safe?   Are they happy?  And I wonder, do they ever wonder?

Of course they do.  How can I be so certain?  Because I love them, and they love me.  Love is never alone.  You may not always realize it, but love never leaves you alone.

That’s why David was so confident.  He was “a man after God’s own heart.”  He knew God loved him, and he loved God.  In those moments of darkest gloom, his thoughts turned to God and he was never disappointed.

Please never forget this:  God loves you is always thinking about you.  He gave his only begotten son Jesus to die as the price of redemption for all of us.  Today his Holy Spirit is here to touch and guide each of us to the fullest measure of joy and happiness.

We need not feel alone.  We can feel the love of an almighty God covering us with his protection.  Remember, He is thinking about you right now!

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February 26, 2011

Leviticus 18:24-25 (KJV)

    Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

 Some Laws Valid for Eternity

By Don Meadows

The ancient laws of the Israelite people are not all that out of date.  Read Leviticus 16:29-18:30 and you will review a lot of “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots”.

At about 18:6 the law giver turns his attention to sexual matters.  The listed prohibitions cover about ever possible scenario for sexual deviation.  God explains his standards as necessary for the wellbeing of his people.  He tells Israel that the people who occupied the land they are going to get did these things, thereby defiling the nations and the land.  And, he said, he was proclaiming judgment upon them and “the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.”

As I was about to write this, I turned off a TV program dealing with “Porn: The Business of Pleasure.”  It explored the problems the porn industry is facing today with people stealing their stuff over the Internet.  Also, there is so much amateur smut being distributed for free that “for-profit” producers must come up with new marketing schemes if they are going to survive.

Today sexual sin is no big deal, but it is a big market.  In real life, people live together without marriage and it is fast becoming the norm.  It is routine for single men to father babies with single women and hardly anyone notices.  Disgusting television dialogue is routine.  “Two and A-Half Men,” perhaps one of the vilest shows ever produced, is said to be the most-popular sit-com ever.  If one good thing has come of the Charlie Sheen fiasco,  it’s that the producers have gotten tired of his corporate-trashing mouth and decided to hold off new production.  But, I don’t pick on just the entertainment industry.

The Church is not exempt.  The West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church recently hired an openly-gay man to be its treasurer.  It has set off a firestorm within the ranks.  Several congregations have pulled out from the denomination and dozens have declared they will not pay their apportionments, or set restrictions on how their contributions may be used.

Do we no longer believe that God is aware of what is going on?  How can people violate God’s most-basic laws and believe judgment won’t come?

This also sends a frightening message to those who are living their lives not unlike the pagans in Moses’ day.  It says, does it not, that even though God’s Word prohibits what is going on, we don’t care.  We welcome you as part of us.

Does God really mean it when he says he wants his people to be holy, as he is holy? Then why are we becoming like those whom God says we are win to his kingdom and not join their kingdom?

I know.  This sounds terribly judgmental and is not very politically correct.  But, is our calling to be politically correct or biblically obedient?  Do church leaders really believe the Bible is God’s Word anymore?

God promised Israel if she would obey his laws, they would be his people and he would be their God.  I believe he wants the United States of America, and every nation, to be an example to others about what righteousness means.  It gives me pause to realize, if the land of other nations “vomited” out its inhabitants because of their “iniquities,” America could be next!  I believe the symptoms of a sick nation are everywhere

My prayer is one of thanksgiving for the millions of Bible-trusting Christians in the Church today.  I pray also that the Church and the nation would confess their sins, repent and live obediently to the glory and honor of Jesus Christ.

 

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February 27, 2011

Mark 8:37 (KJV)

    Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The Home that Won’t Depreciate

By Don Meadows

While Janet and I were eating lunch yesterday, we heard a report that people who were trying to refinance their homes were discovering the value of their property had gone down.  I am not quite sure what is new about that, but it did get me to thinking.

When we bought our home about six years ago, we bought what we could afford.  We bought it to live in hopefully for the rest of both of our lives.  I really don’t know if our property has appreciated or depreciated in value.  All I know is that the payments come monthly, and we have about 14 years left to pay it.  I hope God sees fit to allow me to do that.

We did not buy our home as an investment for the distant future.  My home of the future was bought and paid for nearly 2,000 years ago, and I understand it is quite a place.  It has a terrific view. I will be able to see the face of Jesus.

I do not begrudge anyone who wants and lives in a fine home.  There is nothing wrong with having nice things, so long as you get them honestly and not at an unfair expense to someone else.

Every one of us, however, must be careful lest we become “owned by things” rather than the owner of things.  It happens.  Tragically, I have watched husbands and wives work so hard to buy a beautiful home, new car, fine clothes and the best life has to offer only to discover they have lost the most important things.  It will amaze you how many couples get the stuff they want only to lose each other.

Worse yet, some people allow the pursuit of things to become all consuming that they find less and less time and interest in God.  Eventually their souls become cold and their relationship with the Lord almost non-existent. That’s when the devil springs the trap, and heartbreak is not far away.

A young college student came to my office many years ago and asked if we could talk.  “Of course,” I said.  “What would you like to talk about?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said.  “I just want to talk to someone.”

She explained she had the best things in life – new car, clothes, all the spending money she wanted, freedom to do what she wished.  “But, my mom and dad both work all the time.  They do it for me, I know.  But, Pastor, what I really want is them.  I just want to be able to talk with them, to eat with them.  Oh, I know they love me.  But, they don’t give me what I really need and want – themselves.”

So many parents teach their children how important it is to work to provide for all the stuff life has to offer. But they fail to teach those children about the most important thing.  Eternal life.  How many children may die and go to hell because their loving moms and dads didn’t teach them how to live forever?

Friends, Jesus ask the crowd following him a profound question.  “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  A man and woman will sell their soul a lot cheaper than what Jesus paid for it.

Jesus bought for all of us a never-ending life.  He paid for it with his life on the cross.  His death satisfied God’s demand that a pure, unblemished Lamb be offered to atone for sin.  Jesus was that Lamb.  He was sacrificed.  He died.  And he rose again, to deal death a death-blow.  That gift is available to anyone who will accept it, by confessing his or her need for Jesus’ forgiveness and saying, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

Please, won’t you do that today?

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February 28, 2011

Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

Where’s Your Heart, Anyway?

By Don Meadows

I just watched a portion of the Academy Awards Program.  It wasn’t as entertaining as it was revealing.  It reminded me something about myself.

I am getting old.  I say this because most of the people on the program I have never heard of.  That doesn’t really bother me so much as the next revelation.  When it came to the memorials sections -- you know, where they show the people who died the previous year -- I knew more about them than the living people. The same is true about ministers.  I know more dead ones and retired ones than I know who still stand in the pulpit every Sunday.

As I watched, and listened, to those folks who won Oscars, I am sure they were sincere in their happiness about winning.  They have reached the top, so to speak, in their profession.  They will, because of the rewards, be remembered for a long time in the entertainment profession.

What does it really amount to?  Those little statuettes will be placed upon a shelf and looked at from time to time.  They’ll also be helpful in getting better financial deals in the future.

But, the problems so many people in show business have these days cause you to wonder if success is a blessing or a curse?  The attainment of fame, gaining of financial wealth and becoming the object of picture-taking nuts has to come at a big cost.

Jesus reminded those following him to keep things in perspective.  He had just taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer.  Next he warned them to seek and keep true riches.  “Lay up treasures in heaven, whether neither moths nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Then came what I call the stinger.  “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”  That upon which you place the highest value will control your passions and your actions.  It will get most of your attention.

Be careful, Christian.  Keep your heart in the right place.

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