March 1, 2011
So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. (Acts 17:17 NASV)
For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ĎTO AN UNKNOWN GOD.í (Acts 17:23 NASV)
Know Thy God
By Don Meadows
Too few people know who their God is.
In ancient Athens it was not a secret. Paul discovered an inscription on an altar which said, ďTo the unknown God.Ē (Acts 17:23) The great apostle told the Athenians they worshiped this unknown God ďignorantly.Ē He didnít mean they were stupid; he meant they were uninformed.
Tragically this still is true. At the time of Paul, Athens was considered a great center for education and knowledge. He was visiting the city and awaiting word from Thessalonica directing him to return to Macedonia to finish his work there.
I can just imagine Paul walking up and down the streets, looking at the great buildings where so many learned men had taught. Amid all the grandeur, however, he could not ignore the many signs of idol-worship and theological misinterpretations.
W. M. Ramsay, in his book ďSt. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, said it finally got to him. His ďindignation (at the theological incorrectness) would not let him keep silence during the short stay which he anticipated in Athens. He began to discourse in the synagogue, and to hold Socratic dialogue in the agora with any one whom he met.Ē (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, Ch. 11, Sec. 1)
No doubt he got a lot of attention in this public square or market place. Finally Paul told them that he knew who this unknown god of theirs was, and he told them the gospel story.
Society today may have much more knowledge than did the ancients in Athens. Still there is an abundance of ignorance about God. You would be startled to know how many people donít know who their God is, and many of these are the very folks who call themselves Christians.
Do you know your God?
Many folk think THEY are God. The reason the church is not flourishing in America today is that ďwe just donít need God.Ē We have jobs, or get assistance, to put bread on the table. For the most part we have adequate housing and drinking water. If we get sick we go to the doctor or the emergency room and, with few exceptions, we get well. We have freedom to go and do what we please. The government doesnít threaten us or shoot us if we disagree with its policies. We can go to church if we want to, wherever we want to and worship however we want to without fear of being killed or jailed. We donít have to go if we donít want to!
See? Why do we need God?
We can give our attention to whatís really important: Sports, sports and more sports. Sex, sex and more sex. Drugs and liquor? Yes, drugs Ė young people, middle-aged people, old people. Drugs and drink take away our pain, our inhibitions, frustrations. Besides, they make us feel good, until they kill us.
Arenít these things our God? Come on, preacher, donít be silly. We know better. Do we? Do we, really? We know these things donít really work when life comes tumbling down. We know better when we see life threatened. We know better when our hearts are broken.
Know Thy God!
The psalmist wrote: ďFor I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah (or pause and think on that). Psalm 44:6-8 (KJV)
Know Thy God! Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. He arose on the third day, victor over sin and death. He is the only way to the Father in Heaven. He is thy Savior. Let him be Lord. Let him rule as King. He is God!
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March 2, 2011
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. Ė Leviticus 25:3-4 (KJV)
God Makes Good Business Sense, Too
By Don Meadows
Ray Riley was one of the members of Countryside Chapel United Methodist Church, which I pastored in the mid-80s. It was a beautiful little church near Convoy in Van Wert County, set in the wide-open, flatlands of western Ohio. The wind blew constantly, but the ground was great for growing a garden and raising strawberries.
Ray was a farmer, as were most members of that church. He and his wife, Mary, were faithful followers of Jesus Christ, and a real inspiration and blessing to Janet and me.
One Sunday I mentioned to Ray that I had seen a certain man working his fields with his tractor earlier that day. Ray shook his head and said, ďHow about that? Well, it just doesnít pay.Ē
I asked him what he meant. He said he used to work his fields on Sundays but learned it just wasnít profitable.
ďWe kept records, good records,Ē Ray said, ďand we made more during the years we didnít work on Sunday. Oh, we worked the same acreage, and did pretty much the same things, but we had a lot more breakdowns. We spent much more on parts and repairs than we did when we gave the machinery Sundays off.Ē
Rayís contended his tractor and other pieces of farm equipment needed to rest. ďNow, we give all our attention to the Lord on Sunday.Ē
When Ray made a statement of fact you could take it to the bank. He did his research, he kept his records and when he formed an opinion it was nearly impossible to get him to change it.
God knows his business, and he knows yours and mine. He has a good head for business. You can take what God says to the bank.
He told the Israelites to give their land a rest. Work it for six years; then leave it alone. It will produce for you and you can eat off it. But, donít work it that year.
This accomplished at least three things. It allowed the land to recoup some of nutrients it needed. It gave the owners and workers a time of rest. It developed faith.
When you obey God, giving up what control you think you have of something it requires faith. You become more aware of your dependency upon God to care for you. You have a new awareness that God does just that.
Janet and I are very careful about tithing Ė seeing that a minimum of one-tenth of our incomes are put into the service of the Lord. We can not afford to do otherwise. When we first started tithing in the 1970s there were times it was a struggle. God, however, always helped us and we never went hungry. There were some times we were thankful to see God work in mysterious ways in providing for us, but it was exciting and rewarding, too.
The first one-tenth of what you make belongs to God. If he doesnít receive it, you are stealing from God. There is an even more astonishing thing to learn. When you donít tithe, you are the one who suffers. God doesnít need your resources. Everything that is belongs to him already. But he wants you to want to become ďfaith-fullĒ in obedience, by trusting him to provide for you.
I know many people who have become tithers over the years. Not a one ever told me they regretted it, or found it was impossible to do. It is a matter of choice, a matter of priorities and a simple matter of faith.
Do yourself a favor. Give your work a rest. Observe the Sabbath. Give it to your workers, your land and your equipment. Allow yourself to experience Godís great faithfulness to you.
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March 3, 2011
Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ďYou know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. ďBut it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. ďFor even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.Ē -- Mark 10:42-45 (NASV)
The Essence of Discipleship
By Don Meadows
Power struggles are especially nasty in the church.
You would think that, as much as Jesus taught about the real mission of the church, people wouldnít fight over who is in charge. Yet, every congregation I ever pastored had at least one person who just didnít get it. They wanted to be boss.
James and John, and their mama, didnít get it, either. They wanted, and she wanted for them, the places of honor in Jesusí Kingdom. Jesus told them point-blank he wouldnít grant their wish, because it wasnít his place to do so. That was a decision for only his Father, his Heavenly Father.
Well, the other ten disciples got wind of their ambition and it set off a squabble. I suppose if Jesusí people could get into a fight, pastors today shouldnít be surprised when their congregations have a go at each other now and then.
Jesus called a time out, and sat them down for a teachable moment. He said the Gentiles act this way, loving the places of power in their dealings with each other. But, hey, guys, weíre different! The one who wants to be first among you will be slave to all of you. I didnít come to be served, but to do the hard stuff, the dirty stuff. In fact, itís going to cost me my life.
That was a different perspective for them. Peter, Iíll bet, filed this moment away in his mindís computer. Later, he would write: ďBut ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.Ē (1 Peter 2:9; KJV)
One church I served was discussing whether to join another church in putting a roof on a church somewhere in Mexico. One of the longtime members, a ďleaderĒ who often voiced his opinion on about everything, said it wasnít such a good idea. ďWhat will happen,Ē he said, ďis that the other church will try to take all the credit.Ē The opportunity to be in real mission work was missed.
Church boards and committees spend a lot of time trying to keep people from getting their feelings hurt or not offend or encounter the wrath of the people who think they are the boss. Itís one of the tactics the devil uses to thwart the work of the Church.
I have decided that people who get mad when they donít get their way share some common characteristics. One, they donít have a lot of influence over decisions at work or at home. Two, they suffer from low self-esteem. Three, the ones who scream the loudest against spending money usually are among those who give the least. Four, many people in the congregation would not miss them a lot if they went to church somewhere else. Five, donít think you can step around issues carefully enough to avoid a clash with these people. They put landmines everywhere because they want one to go off so a stink will get started.
These are the kinds of people who hold back Christians who want to grow. They also influence negatively any attempts to build up attendance, because more people would be a threat to them.
Jesus, I believe, knew all these things. Thatís why he dealt with the issue quickly. He did so with great finesse, and the group moved on to more important things.
Jesus humbled himself even unto death, death on the cross of Calvary, paying the debt of sin for everyone. He said if we are to follow him, we, too, must take up our cross daily.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian who was executed by the Nazis for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler, wrote from his prison cell: ďWhen Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.Ē
Not everyone will be called to yield his physical life, as was Bonhoeffer. Every Christian, however, must die unto himself and find his real life in the Lord Jesus Christ. That means the surrendering of all ambitions to gain power over others to secure the privilege of being the servant of all. This is the challenge of true discipleship. It is the goal of all who would call themselves Christian.
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March 6, 2011
Mark 12:26-27 (KJV)
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
Good News at a Bad Time
By Don Meadows
I appreciate the opportunities presented at funeral services. It is a sacred time.
Yesterday my brother-in-law, the Rev. Frank Fenton, and I officiated at the service for Marvin Kaltenbach, a long-time friend of our family. Probably 50 to 60 people were in attendance.
Frank and I both spoke, and so did Marvinís daughter and son. Their comments were happy thoughts, even though I am sure it was very difficult for them to speak. It was a good time.
Though the dynamics are different at each funeral, yesterdayís were very positive. I enjoyed the moments because they were an opportunity for telling good news at a bad time. The family and friends were very attentive and responded appropriately, sometimes with laughter and sometimes with tears.
The good news was very simple. Marvin had given a witness several times to his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was easy to discuss heavenly and eternal reunion and challenge any person there who may not have had a personal relationship with the Savior.
Jesus was being confronted by the Sadducees, a sect of people who did not believe in a bodily resurrection. They asked some silly questions of the Lord about marriage, andJesus was patient in hearing them out. Frankly, I detect a bit of humor on Jesusí part, as I can see him setting his antagonists up for the knock-out punch.
He referred them back to the Old Testament. ďAnd as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.Ē Mark 12:26-27 (KJV)
God doesnít like dead things Ė especially people. Now, hear me out. He so detests the dead that He has done what none other can do. He makes it possible for someone to never die. Death turns foul very quickly. Death is contrary to the very nature of God; so He does something about it.
He gave His Son to die once on the Cross of Calvary to satisfy the need for atonement for sins. Having done that, God invites everyone to partake of the eternal life made available through Jesus. Life is not contained in human bodies made of the elements of the earth. They are the tents which house the divine life which God has created in every person. When human bodies no longer function, the life they hold is released and returns to God. It was for this eternal life that Jesus gave his earthly life.
Frank and I were able to look Marvinís family straight in the face and tell them truthfully that it was possible to be with him again. To do that, however, they must accept the eternal life offered through Jesus. Through confession of sins and acceptance of forgiveness, a person becomes born again, or anew.
That, my friends, is Good News at A Bad Time. Certainly physical death causes grief and pain and loneliness. It will come to every one of us. But, the experiences of death last but for a season and will end in everlasting joy for those who have accepted Christ.
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March 7, 2011
Numbers 6:22-27 (KJV)
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
Blessing: Another Way to Express Love
By Don Meadows
In the Old Testament, especially, the importance of a ďblessingĒ hardly be overstated. It was serious business.
Remember in Genesis 27 the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob stole his father's blessing that should have gone to Esau, who was the oldest. Isaac grieved to learn he had given the first blessing to Jacob and told Esau it could not be retracted.
ď34And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing.Ē
The blessing was seen as a tangible thing, ordained of God and had certain powers to bring about that which the blessing stated.
I was reading Numbers yesterday and came across God's instruction to Moses about teaching Aaron to bless the people of Israel. It was to be done in a very specific way. The passage of scripture has become a foundation for pastors who often dismiss their congregations from the worship service with these words:
ďThe Lord bless thee, and keep thee:  The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:  The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.Ē Leviticus 6:24-27 (KJV)
A commentary in the Life Application Bible, I thought, is helpful in comprehending the beauty of this passage.
ďA blessing was one way of asking for Godís divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. Its five parts conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and keep them (favor and protect); (2) make his face shine upon them (be pleased); (3) be gracious (merciful and compassionate); (4) turn his face toward them (give his approval); (5) give peace. When you ask God to bless others or yourself, you are asking him to do these five things. The blessing you offer will not only help the one receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage others, and provide a model of caring to others.Ē Life Application Bible, Translation Notes.
So, when you say to someone, ďGod bless you,Ē it is more than mere words. You are invoking the name of God in conveying a desire for positive and joyous things to come into that person's life. Giving a blessing should never be done lightly or carelessly, for it says much about the giver's relationship to the object of the blessing as well as their relationship to God.
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March 8, 2011
Acts 17:18-19 (KJV)
Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Ridicule A Cause for Celebration
By Don Meadows
Donít ever be surprised when you are ridiculed for you faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, expect the media and people in general to make fun of your views and attitudes. It is historical.
The Apostle Paul was in Athens. He seized upon an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the place where higher education was prized. In Verse 18 of Acts 17 we are told that he was among the elite of the university crowd.
Paul was no fool. He realized that he was not likely to win over many of the philosophers and recognized-thinkers of the city. It was, however, quite an opportunity to witness to his faith when he was invited to speak in the arena of respected thinkers.
The Athenians sought entertainment wherever they could find it. When a person of some notoriety came to town, they would turn out to hear him. It was the ancient version of celebrity status that drew them, because they had without doubt heard of this strange Jew.
If you arenít careful you might interpret this passage as suggesting Paul was encountering a friendly audience. Close examination of the text, however, reveals the opposite was true. Note the middle part of Verse 17. ďAnd some said, What will this babbler say?Ē The King James Versionís word ďbabblerĒ is interesting.
W. M. Ramasy, in St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, says: ďIt is . . . a word of characteristically Athenian slang, SpermoloĀgos, and is clearly caught from the very lips of the Athenians. This term was used in two sensesó(1) a small bird that picks up seeds for its food, and (2) a worthless fellow of low class and vulgar habits, with the insinuation that he lives at the expense of others, like those disreputable persons who hang round the markets and the quays in order to pick up anything that falls from the loads that are carried about.
ďHence, as a term in social slang, it connotes absolute vulgarity and inability to rise above the most contemptible standard of life and conduct; it is often connected with slave life, for the SpermoloĀgos was near the type of the slave and below the level of the free man; and there clings to it the suggestion of picking up refuse and scraps, and in literature of plagiarism without the capacity to use correctly. In ancient literature plagiarism was not disapproved when it was done with skill, and when the idea or words taken from another were used with success: the literary offence lay in the ignorance and incapacity displayed when stolen knowledge was improperly applied.Ē (Ch. 11, Sec. 2)
A member of one of my churches didnít appreciate my style of preaching or my theology. I visited in his home one day and he asked me, ďWhy do people from West Virginia and less-educated people tend to be Ďholy-rollers?íĒ I was still going to school at the time. I donít believe he meant it as a compliment.
Jesus said in Matthew 5: 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Ē (KJV)
Donít be surprised, or even irritated, when the ACLU (Anti-Christ Legion of Ugliness) tries to pull down the Ten Commandments from public places, or have Christian crosses removed from hillsides. When someone makes a nasty remark about your faith, or even the Christian Church, relax and rejoice. Something apparently is being done right, in Godís eyes, or they wouldnít be picking on you.
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March 9, 2011
Psalm 51:17 (KJV)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
A Dirty Face or Broken Spirit?
By Don Meadows
Today is Ash Wednesday. Millions of Christians throughout the world will observe it by going to church. Many of them will bow before an altar and allow a pastor or priest to smear ashes across their foreheads.
The ashes traditionally are the burnt leaves of last yearís Palm Sunday branches. The service is a somber one, and it is meant to reach inside a personís soul and touch the very core of their awareness of two things:
1) It was from dust and ashes that we were created and to dust and ashes we shall return.
2) We are heartily sorry for our sins and place on ourselves a symbol of penitence.
As is too often the case, the significance of the service lasts about as long as it takes to wipe the ashes, mixed with olive oil, off our faces. Then we go on our merry way, doing the same old stuff we did before. We feel good about having bowed before the Lord, humbling ourselves in public and supporting the preacher in his work.
David was all too familiar with symbolic gestures. When Nathan the prophet pinned him to the mat over his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder conspiracy against her husband, David confessed his sins. He didnít do it in a public show that happened once a year, or every other month. He acknowledged it to God and took responsibility for it.
In the 51st Psalm, he said something startling. He told God, ďAgainst You only have I sinned and you are right to judge and punish me.Ē When we cause hurt to someone, we sin against God. Sin against God is always serious, however trifling we think it might be. All sin puts us outside the fellowship of God; we must have someway of restoring that relationship if we are to be happy again.
I personally believe that much of the unhappiness in todayís world is because of the brokenness between people and God. Most of them may not know it, but while the human nature is to sin, the divine nature put in each of us by God causes us to grieve when we are outside of our Fatherís will. Thus, people seek to dull the pangs of guilt through drugs, alcohol, sex, materialism or whatever.
Going to church wonít do it either. One may listen to a thousand sermons preached; hear five thousand hymns sung; be absolutely reverent as a million prayers are prayed by others. It wonít satisfy.
God wants honesty. ďThe sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise,Ē David said. God wants us to be really sorry for our sins, so sorry that we would do anything to avoid committing them again.
One of my favorite comic strips shows Dennis the Menace sitting in the corner in his little rocker. He turns around, looks at his mama and asks, ďDo I just gotta say Iím sorry, or do I gotta be really and truly sorry?Ē When Janet and I were doing weekly ministry at the prison in Chillicothe, many of the prisoners there would readily confess they were sorry. Some of the really honest ones, the ones who had truly found Christ, admitted that what they were sorry about was that they got caught.
If there is sin in your life that has not been confessed, tell it to the Lord. Allow His Holy Spirit to convict and convert you so that you feel guiltís pain. Then, leave it to Jesus. Go on your way a changed person.
There is nothing to be gained by having a black mark streaked across your forehead. It wonít hurt you either to share a special time of confession with other Christians. Search deeply into your heart, though, and allow it to be cleansed by the shed blood of the Christ.
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March 10, 2011
Numbers 11:33 (KJV)
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
Lustís Lingering Lesson
By Don Meadows
Lust is good at disguising itself. When we hear the word ďlust,Ē images of carnal desires spring into our minds. Donít be fooled.
The people of Israel learned the hard way that there are other kinds of ďlust.Ē While wandering through the wilderness, they got tired of the same food all the time. There were just so many ways, I suppose, to fix manna. They complained. Back in Egypt, they said, we ate well. We want meat.
Be careful what you ask for; you may get it. And they did. God sent quail. Boy, did He send quail. Numbers tells us: ďAnd the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.Ē (11:32; KJV) And they ate, and ate and ate.
ďAnd while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.Ē (11:33; KJV) And they buried a bunch of them, too, the ones who ďlustedĒ after the meat.
The Hebrew word used here is ďavah,Ē meaning to wish for, covet, (greatly) desire, be desirous, long, lust (after).
That they hungered for meat was not the sin. That they allowed their hunger to tear their hearts away from God, or detract their faith from trusting Him to provide was the sin. In todayís materialistic world itís a lingering lesson we would do well to learn.
What is it that we want so badly that we lose focus of our relationship with God? Money? A fine house? The best clothing possible? New car every other year? Power? Yes, sex? An insatiable craving for more and more sports? The possibilities are endless.
What we donít want to see is that what ever dominates our thinking and time becomes our god. Remember the Ten Commandments:
ďThou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.Ē Exodus 20:4-5 (KJV)
God will never tolerate His people giving their allegiance to something else. He wants them to rely upon Him, trusting Him to do what is best.
Examine your life today. What is at the top of your list in the craving department? Does it border on lust? Oh, not the sensual kind of lust, but the coveting and wishing kind which can so easily begin to dominate your life?
ďBut seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Ē Matthew 6:33 (KJV) Now, that doesnít mean all the things you desire, but the things that you seek first, i.e., things of the kingdom of God.
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March 11, 2011
Mark 14:61-62 (KJV)
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
By Don Meadows
In Matthew 14-55-61, Jesus shows us how to deal with rumors, gossip and lies that get bounced around about us. Several people testified that they had seen and heard Jesus doing some outrageous things. Some of the stuff had a smell of truth, but bore an awful stink of mostly lies. Youíve seen and heard it before, I imagine. Anyway, Jesus didnít respond to it at all. Mark says he held his peace and answered nothing.
When it happens to us, the first thing we do is go on the defensive and begin to deny it. Better we just let it be than to fan the flames of untruth into a bond fire of confrontation. ďOh, I just wish I had kept my mouth shut!Ē is a thought many of us have, unfortunately too late in most situations.
Jesusí reaction was different when the chief priest questioned him about something that was true.
ďArt thou the Christ, the Son of the BlessedĒ? Mark 14:61 (KJV)
The Lord reacted: ďI am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.Ē Mark 14:62 (KJV) The high priest torn his clothing and said, in effect, ďweíve got him right where we want him.Ē
Jesus answered because to have remained silent would have been a denial of his true identity and sabotage his mission. He knew the costs of answering truthfully Ė his life. He also knew the costs of not answering Ė disobedience to his heavenly Father and the eternal damnation of you and me. He came to die for the sacrifice of redeeming you and me from our sins.
Jesus would not compromise. Here, I believe, is an awesome example for us as individuals and for the Church as a whole. Donít compromise the truth. Yet, how often have we tried to avoid controversy by not telling the whole truth, just enough of it so we canít be accused of lying? I have heard it said that a half-truth is a whole lie.
The Church, the Body of Christ, including the United Methodist Church, has too often tried to be both of the world and of Christ. It just wonít wash Ė or at least it wonít come clean by any of our efforts. It will take the Blood of Christ to bleach out the crimson stain of sin, and denominational leaders need to start dipping for they have either encouraged it or tolerated it.
Local congregational leaders need to take stock, too. How often have they tolerated an ugly situation in their midst just because they didnít want to confront it and clean it up?
Truth isnít always pleasant. Sometimes it hurts. There are times when people may leave a denomination or a local church. Chances are that is what a congregation has been waiting on so it can begin to thrive.
My friends, donít deal in half-truths or false accusations in your midst. Remember what Jesus said in Johnís Gospel: "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 (NASV)
By telling the truth, Jesus was set free to be our Savior. It cost him his physical life, but gave to you and to me eternal life. Amen.
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March 12, 2011
Mark 15:40-41 (KJV)
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.Ē
Thank God for the Women
By Don Meadows
The gripping tale of the crucifixion of Jesus in Markís Gospel preserves for us a fact of immense importance Ė the faithfulness of the women.
Those who had declared their loyalty so intently earlier Ė the men -- had run off. Mark, however, observes that certain women were close by when Jesus died, as were ďmany other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.Ē
Thank God for the women of The Church. They were important in Jesusí day and they are important today.
Ask any pastor. If it were not for the women of the congregation, the ministries of the churches, or most of them, would cease to exist. I could give you 200 names of women who have been instrumental in the work of the churches I have pastored.
To be sure, there have been many men who have been faithful, too; but the women have touched so many people in so many ways. At Lancaster it was primarily the women who made possible the Wednesday Community Kitchen, where the doors were opened for anyone and everyone who wanted to eat a good, home cooked meal. And, fellows, how many potluck dinners would there be without them?
Clothing giveaway drives, Christmas bazaars, missions financing and awareness? We fellows may lend a hand, but it is the women who plan, do the work and tell us how to help. This doesnít even recognize how often the creative minds of women have made money to keep the church doors open.
It also has been true that women have been the spiritual leaders in most homes. Oh, there are exceptions, of course, but without the sensitive nature and nurturing of women many children would grow up with little or no exposure to the Church or to Jesus Christ.
In the early church they were invaluable, despite the unfortunate interpretation of some that the Apostle Paul felt negatively about them. He, in fact, recognized the important roles they had in the success of the Church. He wrote to Timothy, ďWhen I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.Ē 2 Tim. 1:5 (KJV)
This ďunfeignedĒ faith of women over the centuries has helped the Church survive. It is this faith which continues today to be one of the strengths of thousands of small, medium and large congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Thank God for the Women.
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March 13, 2011
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NASB)
ďThere is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven; A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.Ē
You Lost An Hour! What About Eternity?
By Don Meadows
There are some exceptions, of course, but you are not one of them. YOU remembered last night to set your clocks and watches ďaheadĒ an hour for Daylight-Savings Time. We lost an hour. Weíll get it back I think sometime in November.
Itís supposed to give us more daylight hours to do things. Another reason, they say, is that it conserves energy, which is good for our environment and our pocketbooks. I donít know about the latter, since it seems that each month my electric bill goes up and I understand the power company is seeking approval for a rate increase. I hope they get it at the same time I get my raise from Social Security.
None of that is what I was meaning to talk with you about today. It just slipped out. But, time is an important thing to consider, especially the last hour of a personís life. The Bible says there is a time appointed for everything, even for dying.
As I watched the television report the tragedy in Japan I could not help but wonder: How many of those people were ready to die? Each day I read the newspaperís obituaries and pay particular attention to the young people whose deaths are reported. By young, I mean less than 50 years of age. There seems to be more and more of them lately, especially in the under 30s bracket. Many of those are listed as having died at their residence.
Many of those deaths, I am told, are drug related, overdoses. Then there was that young man who went into a store in Portsmouth recently to steal money. Within minutes of making the decision to enter the store that young man lay dead. Was he ready?
I heard a story once about a group of students talking to their Rabbi teacher. ďSir, when should a person repent?Ē
The aged teacher continued to walk, the students following him. He thought for what seemed to the students an eternity, then stopped and said: ďA man should repent on the last day of his life.Ē He resumed his walk.
ďBut, sir,Ē another student broke the silence, ďno man knows when the last day of his life will be.Ē The Rabbi again stopped, turned and looked them in the eyes and said: ďThen, today is the day you should repent.Ē
If you know the day and hour and minute your heart will stop beating and your brain cease functioning, you can put off a decision about accepting forgiveness for your sins and all Jesus to take up residence in your heart. The rest of us need to remember what Paul told the church in 2 Corinthians:
ď. . .we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain -- for He says, "AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU"; behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is "THE DAY OF SALVATION" 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 (NASB)
Last night you lost an hour of time. Donít lose eternity.
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March 15, 2011
Numbers 21:33-35 (KJV)
And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei. And the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.
Claim Victory before the Battle
By Don Meadows
Many people regard the Old Testament, especially the first five books, as a bloody testimony to the harshness of God. They question how a God who professes to be Love can be so heartless.
If you look deeper than first glance, you will discover that God uses Israel to bring judgment upon many nations; He also used other nations to punish Israel for its sins.
Unfortunately our Bible doesnít give an account of all the things God may have said to these nations who did not know Him. We are not privileged to know the ways God tried to win them into being a loving and obedient nation. What we have, then, is the judgment at the end.
In the few verses above, we know that Og, king of Bashan, went out to fight against Israel. He was accompanied by ďall his people,Ē which tells me Ogís kingdom was pretty determined to destroy Israel.
God, however, told Moses not to fear. ďI have delivered him into your hands,Ē God told Moses. Catch that? Before the fight God told Moses that Israel would prevail, and Og and the people of Bashan would perish.
Israel was reassured by God because, at that time, they were in good standing with God. Not long before this, youíll recall, the people of Israel were rebelling against God because they didnít like the food. God sent poisonous snakes among them. They learned in a hurry, confessed to Moses they had sinned and asked Moses to intercede with God on their behalf.
Repentance brings right relationship with God, and right relationship brings blessings. God was on their side, this time. If things seem constantly to be going wrong for you, look deeply at your walk with Jesus. Is it where it should be, or is there a problem you havenít confessed? If you are in right relationship, fear not, for victory is yours.
But wait! There is more. Note that God told Moses, ďYou shall do to him (Og) what you did to Sihon.Ē In other words, God will do his part; we must do ours. The victory is won, but it still has to be fought.
After the fight, thereís more. You must ďpossessĒ the land. In other words, you must be a good steward of what God makes possible for you to possess. So many times we fail to follow up our victories. God grants a person great victory, only to have that person become complacent or fall back into their old ways. Make no mistake; God will bring judgment and punishment upon those whom He loves. His love demands it.
Three things I believe this scripture tells us. First, listen to God and trust His Word. Secondly, obey God and finish what He has told you to do. Third, be a wise steward of the trust God has placed in you by giving the victory. Have faith in God; He has faith in you.
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March 16, 2011
Psalm 116:15 (KJV)
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Joy and Sorrow: Both Blessings
By Don Meadows
It just never occurred to me that Morgan Fortney would die. But, I got the word last evening from Convoy, OH., that Morgan died after having a massive stroke last Thursday.
I doubt that anyone reading these comments this morning have any idea about whom I write. Morgan was a member of Countryside Chapel in Convoy, near Van Wert. I pastored that church in the late 80s. Morgan was more than a member of my church. He was my friend. He and his wife, Mary, went to Annual Conference with us several years, and they stay with us another several years in our travel trailer after we had moved.
Morgan was one of the most humble men I ever knew. He and his wife were always ready, able and willing to do what anyone, or the church, needed. They were quiet, yet strong. They spoke up when necessary and knew when silence was the strongest thing to say.
Such people, such Godly people, you just never think about dying. Oh, you knew they got sick some time, but they always regained their health to serve another day. You took them for granted, and that was a good thing.
A couple of weeks ago, Morganís sister-in-law Peg Fortney died suddenly. So this family has two deaths to mourn. Let us be in prayer for them.
The Psalmist offered words of comfort to those who grieve. The New Living Translation says it this way: ďThe Lord's loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die.Ē Psalm 116:15 (NLT)
I am not sure I am very enthusiastic about that translation. Yes, the Lordís loved ones are precious to him. Everyone, believer or unbeliever, are precious to God. Thatís why Jesus came, to save them. I canít accept, however, that God grieves over the death of those who believe upon him. He may feel compassion for those who suffer the loss of that loved one, but God welcomes home his child with great joy.
Perhaps the old newspaper reporter is coming out in me, and I quibble with words. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, but he wept because of the lack of faith on the part of those who mourned.
Today, I mourn my loss of a friend and brother, Morgan Fortney. I ache for his dear wife Mary, knowing what a life-changing event this will be after well over 60 of being married to this man. But, I celebrate his victory of going home to be with his Lord, whom he loved so much. Precious, I believe, in Godís sight is that homecoming.
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March 17, 2011
Acts 16:30 (KJV)
Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
An Earth-Shaking Question
By Don Meadows
The earthquake struck without warning. Inside the room people were singing, unaware of what was about to happen. The fellow who was in charge had fallen asleep, but the shaking and noise awakened him; he knew the consequences and wanted to avoid them.
So, he unsheathed his sword and was about to kill himself. From inside someone shouted, ďDonít do it. Donít harm yourself. We are all here.
ďSirs,Ē he yelled back. ďWhat must I do to be saved?Ē
One can only imagine the horror that the people of Japan experienced as the earth shook and the tsunami struck their island. Surely they did everything possible to save themselves. Tens of thousands couldnít.
Complicating the crisis are the nuclear power plants unable to be properly maintained. Radiation contamination will threaten them for many years to come. No doubt they, too, are asking the question, ďWhat must we do to be saved?Ē
Fear knows no boundaries. Even the width of an ocean wonít contain it. In the United States, the news channels tell us, many people are trying to buy Iodine. Itís supposed to help ward off thyroid cancer.
That jailer in the prison holding Paul and Silas in Philippi wanted to be saved from the Roman government. Probably he rightly perceived that there was divine intervention in freeing Paul and Silas, and he wanted to be on the right side of the power that acted on their behalf.
People in California and other states want to prevent physical sickness. No one can blame them.
What is truly amazing, however, is that people wait until a mortal danger faces them before they act. Then they will go to the lengths necessary to get help to preserve the physical life, which may or may not be in danger.
And yet there is a reality we all face that is certain. Death. You proclaim it to people, and they donít listen. You officiate at a funeral service, with the body of a loved one or a friend lying right there in front of them. And they walk away, to return to their usual routine.
We go to doctors to delay death as long as possible. We wear seat belts in cars (or should) to protect us just in case. We do this. We do that. Parents begin at their childrenís birth to worry about their safety and their future economic and social happiness. But, do they take care of the one inevitable thing that will happen in that childís life Ė death?
Do they get eternal life insurance for them? Do they teach them how and what to do to help themselves?
Paul and Silas had an answer for the jailer. ďThey said, ĎBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.í And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. Acts 16:31-33 (KJV)
Other earthquakes will strike. Tsunamis will wash ashore and wash away lives again. I donít know how you will die, but I do know ďIt is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:27-28 (KJV)Friend, are you saved today for all eternity? If not, why not ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart and take away your sins and give you a new life?
June Stevens had long black hair and a reputation of being a former nightclub dancer. That always intrigued me as a boy of five or six years old. Every now and then I would catch a word or two when the women of the East Gulf (WV) Freewill Baptist talked about it.
I always thought it would be kind of nice to see her dance; I had no idea what a nightclub dancer did that would generate so much conversation. My curiosity never got so bad that I ever said anything, because back then there were some things one just never talked about.
June was about as sincere a Christian as I have ever met. She loved the Lord, and she was not shy about saying so. She loved to sing, which I thought probably was related to her dancing talent. I used to write gospel songs for her. She would read them carefully, look at me and smile and say, ďDonnie, that is a great song.Ē It would make my day, and I loved her dearly.
I remember writing a song before Wednesday prayer meeting, showed it to June and got the usual spiritual boost. Dad was walking by, so since June said it was good I showed it to him.
ďWell, the words are fine, Boogie (his name for me), but most songs have words that rhyme.Ē My world, and gospel song writing career, took a nosedive.
The reason I started thinking about June Stevens, I suppose, is that I was reading about Anna, the prophetess in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus there. You remember the story, where Simeon pronounced a blessing and said he was then ready to die because he had seen his Lord.
Well, Anna also recognized Jesus. Luke says, ďAnd she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.Ē Luke 2:38 (KJV)
June Stevens was like that. She had a very special relationship with the Lord. Anyone who gave even the slightest indication of wanting to know more could be assured she would give them the truth about her savior.
We need more Annas and Junes in this world today. They loved people and wanted people to be saved. They werenít pushy, just caring.
I believe there are still people today who have a burden on their heart for the lost. So, cheer up, my friends. Someone is looking out for you.
March 19, 2011
Numbers 27:15-17 (KJV)
And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
Godís Work Shall Move Forward
By Don Meadows
Things were happening quickly with Godís people. Moses was about to die. Israel was getting new leadership, and the people were about to enter the Promised Land. The sequence of events is recorded pretty much matter-of-fact, but one can imagine the emotions and uncertainties involved.
Moses was told he would not enter the land of promise. He lost his cool back in the wilderness, youíll recall, and struck the rock to bring water. Moses was supposed to speak to the rock. Also, he kind of took credit for the flow of water, robbing God of all the glory for the miracle.
God would permit Moses to go to the top of mount Abarim to see the land which he was giving to the children of Israel. Then you will die, Moses was told.
Moses did not protest. Instead he asked God to provide a leader for Israel who would be a good administrator and military leader. Moses knew possession of the land would be a difficult task and that Israel would need a strong leader. God told him to select Joshua, ďa man in whom is the spirit.Ē
This whole episode makes me think of the appointment of a new pastor to serve a local church. Many things are happening which are not easy to see, but they have a real impact on the future success, or lack thereof, of the church, the congregation and the pastor.
The first thing we see is that the Lordís work is to go forth no matter who is in charge. Moses had been ďthe manĒ for a long time. He had enemies and fought several battles, all with the Lordís help. On the other hand, he had cultivated a huge following. But the time had come, God decided, for Moses to turn over the reins to someone else.
Congregations must remember that a churchís identity must never be tied to one person if it is to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Pastors who build churches around themselves are working self and not God. If Jesus Christ is not primary to the congregation, the congregation is outside the will of God.
Programs of that congregation may show outward signs of great success. It may have wall-to-wall people. It may be a tremendous success as a social organization, but it is a miserable failure as a church.
God told Moses to take Joshua to the priest for anointing because he is a man ďin whom is the spirit.Ē The first requirement of a pastor is that he or she walk in the Spirit of God. That Spirit always will seek the glory and honor of Christ Jesus. A primary thrust of bringing that glory is the winning of new souls to the Kingdom through repentance. Thus, a congregation without zeal for evangelism is a disobedient church. Its members need to humble themselves and call upon the Lord for forgiveness.
Moses also was told to leave something of himself for the new leader. ďAnd, thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient,Ē God instructed. Numbers 27:20 (KJV). Preachers must work for the success of those who follow them, not set them up for failure. And incoming pastors must build upon the strengths of the previous pastor and honor his or her service to the Lord
Beware of the pastor who puts down his or her predecessor. Such a person is very insecure and trying to build his or her own self-esteem. A pastor in whom resides the Spirit will discern the God-centered work of the previous pastor and honor that.
Interesting about this passage flows in Numbers. After God had given Moses all these instructions, and Moses obeyed, the Lord resumed teaching how the priests were to make proper sacrifices.
Friends, ďGodís Work Moves Forward.Ē It does so because it is of God and it is eternal.
March 21, 2011
There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. Matthew 10:26b (KJV)
Let There Be No Shame
By Don Meadows
Jesus told his disciples they would face opposition. He had been called the prince of demons. You can expect worse, he told them.
Donít worry and donít be afraid. The time is coming when the truth will be seen. Lies will be revealed as lies; truth will be recognized as truth. What I tell you, preach it from the tops of houses.
What we should fear, this passage teaches me, is doing anything which will bring us shame by betraying the faith that binds us to Jesus. You can hide nothing; it eventually will be revealed.
A few days ago I learned to have a little more respect for the power of shame. Janet and I were in the Krogerís parking lot when I spotted a niece walking toward the store. I called out her name, she turned and walked back to the car to say hello to Janet.
They were talking about a dog the niece had just adopted. She takes in nearly every stray that comes to her home, especially those that are hurting. This one, she was saying, had suffered a broken jaw somehow, and was in poor condition.
I was standing on the other side of the care from the niece when I began coughing. I donít know why but the cough got worse. All of a sudden my pants fell to the ground. The girls were talking, so I stooped down quickly, pulled them back up and they started laughing.
I looked around the parking and no one seemed to be paying any attention, so I guessed I had escaped a huge embarrassment.
Sunday morning as I walked into church my brother-in-law Fred Fenton, the nieceís dad, said: ďIím going to buy you a pair of suspenders.Ē I pulled my jacket aside and told him: ďIíve already got a pair, thank you.Ē
I doubt, however, there will be any laughing when the secrets of sin are revealed. Men and women whose sins arenít covered by the blood of the lamb will stand with heads hanging down, not wanting to look up and see the sorrow and sadness on the saviorís face.
Donít be afraid, Jesus said, of those who can humiliate you or even take your life. They canít take your soul. Fear them not, because you are under the watchful eye of your heavenly Father, who is so full of love that He notices when a little bird dies. He knows every hair that is on your head. Instead, cling to Jesus. If you claim him in this life, he said, he will claim you in heaven.
You are loved so much. Trust that. And hold up your head. Let there be no shame.
March 22, 2011
Numbers 32:23 (KJV)
But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.
Beware the Breaking of Vows
By Don Meadows
I risk calling attention to my age, but I am going to say it anyway. Back in my younger days if a person gave you his word on something, you could count on it being as good as gold.
There, Iíve gotten it out of my system. But, itís true. Somewhere, somehow the worth of a personís word has depreciated. Now, youíd better get it in writing; even then, you may end up in court, if itís serious enough.
Israel was about to enter into the Promised Land. They were going to have to fight to take the land they had been promised by God. Everyone was expected to do his or her part.
The children of Gad and Reuben raised cattle. The land in the area of Gilead was ideally suited for their needs, so they asked Moses that it be given to them rather than land across the Jordan River. It upset Moses, and he read them the riot act. If you read the full account in the 32nd chapter of Numbers youíll see that he told them the story why the Jews were forced to wander in the wilderness some 40 years.
The children of Gad and Reuben said they knew the story and had no intention of deserting Israel. If Moses would give them permission to locate their families in Gilead, the fighting men would go into the Promised Land and fight just like everybody else.
Moses agreed to that, but with a stern warning. Youíd better keep your word, he said; if you donít you will be sinning against the Lord. He added for emphasis: ďAnd be sure your sin will find you out.Ē
It is becoming very rare when a person will take another personís word as a guarantee. Also troubling, and perhaps worse, people seem to take less and less seriously the vows they make to God.
The first example I can think of is in marriage. When a man and woman come to a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and ask his or her participation in the act of marriage, something sacred is taking place. They are asking that minister to live visibly the spiritual work that God is doing when he creates from two persons one flesh. The vows a man and woman exchange are vows made to each other and to God. Then come those oft-repeated words, ďWhatsoever God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.Ē
Sadly the bride and groom and wedding party do not really think about those sacred vows. Their focus is on finishing with the photographer and getting to the reception. Then the honeymoon.
I know of one divorce where the judge decided which side was granted the divorce on the flip of a coin Ė two out of three. A marriage was ended, a family broken and the ďwinnerĒ was decided on a coin flip. So much for the sacredness of Godís miracle of making of a man and woman into one flesh until death separates them.
Divorce is not the only time vows made to God are broken. How many promises are made to God if he will just intervene in a sickness, a business problem or a relationship?
There is a thing you are taught in seminary about the ďtheology of history.Ē Simply stated, it goes like this: When things are going badly for people, they will turn to God. Things improve, and pretty soon they forget all about God and revert to their old ways. Guess what? They find themselves again in the same old messes. Guess what? They call upon God again. And on and on it goes.
Moses said, ďBe sure your sin will find you out.Ē There are consequences to sin, and wise is the person who learns that early in life. Then there are those who say, ďWhy fret, if God forgives you of sins, letís go on sinning and keep asking for forgiveness.Ē A church member told me one time that she had learned it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.
The Apostle Paul addressed this very issue in his letter to the Romans. ďWhat then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?Ē Romans 6:15-16 (KJV)
In other words, if you yield to the devil, he will become your master. The wages of sin is death Ė physical death, spiritual death, relationship death. Obedience to God, on the other hand, leads to right living and life through Jesus Christ.
We all have broken our word to each other and to God. There is forgiveness, but forgiveness is granted to those who do not intend to keep on sinning. Repentance means turning and going a different direction.
Think carefully, my friends. Those times you have broken promises to God need to be recognized for what they are: Sin. It must be confessed, ask forgiveness because you are truly sorry and accepted that forgiveness. This is the Word of the Lord.
March 23, 2011
Numbers 33:55-56 (NLT)
But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live. And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.
Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go
By Don Meadows
Do you remember that little childrenís song: ďOh, be careful little feet where you go?Ē There is a lot of Bible reasoning in it.
God was quite clear. He told Moses to tell the people of Israel to wipe out the inhabitants of the lands they were being given. Destroy them and their stuff, or you will be sorry. It seems rather strong language, but God wanted his people to have nothing to do with those who had polluted the lands with their evil practices.
One of the hardest things for a new Christian Ė or even longtime Christians Ė to do is apply this edict from God to daily living. It is difficult because we are less than totally committed to God, and unconsciously still desire the things which are forbidden. We enjoy flirting with sin, getting some kind of rebellious thrill seeing how close we can come to partaking of the forbidden without crossing the line.
Too many, unfortunately, do cross the line and find themselves in full-blown rebellion to Godís authority in our lives. Eventually they ďcome to themselves,Ē like the Prodigal Son did, and realize how much misery they are experiencing.
One thing every parent with any sense at all is concerned about is whom their children choose as their friends. Good friends donít often cause worry. Bad friends, on the other hand, well . . .
When a person gets into trouble, where do we first look? Thatís right! We look at the crowd he or she runs with, and offer this advice: ďYouíve got to get some new friends if you are going to stay out of trouble.Ē
Our drug culture today is ripe with this dynamic. People Ė not just young folks Ė begin to experiment with their friends. What starts out as being exciting recreation grows boring, so you try something a little stronger, a little more dangerous; somewhere along the line, what began as curiosity has become big-time addiction.
I make no pretenses of understanding the drug culture. I smoked for about 17 years, mostly a pipe. God convicted me that it was a sin, and, by the grace of God, I quit. I havenít smoked anything for more than 35 years. I have gained a lot of weight, but that is another confession.
It is not easy driving out that which stands in your way of total obedience to the Lord. In fact itís nearly impossible if you try to do it by yourself, be it a habit, the wrong friends or whatever. But there is good news. Throughout the Bible God reassures his people that he is in the fight with them. This 33rd chapter of Numbers tells us that God said: ďYou must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy. Numbers 33:52-53 (NLT)
Did you catch the promise? ďYou shall . . . because I have.Ē God will supply whatever you lack to do the job, if you (1) trust him and (2) honestly want to be obedient to him.
My niece has been taught from early on that R rated movies are inappropriate for her to watch. She was at a friendís house one night, and an R rated movie came on the TV. My niece politely excused herself and went into another room, explaining, ďI think this is something I shouldnít watch.Ē She was in her teens when this happened.
It comes down to a matter of choices. Do we choose to be obedient, to please our heavenly Father or do we insist on having it our way? God told Israel to get rid of the sin-traps in the lands they were to possess, or they would live to regret it. They didnít and they did.ďOh, be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little lips what you speak.Ē God wants what is best for you, but you have to make the choice.
March 24, 2011
2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Questions Raised by A Robin
By Don Meadows
I have heard for as long as I can remember that ďthe early bird gets the worm.Ē That may or may not be true, but I will tell you a truth I do know. The hard working bird gets the worm.
I watched a robin at work the other day. It would dig its beak into the ground and toss about bits of grass and dirt. Then it would cock its head from side to side, dig some more and after three or four repetitions of this, a long, luscious and, I presume, a juicy worm came out of the ground and slid down the birdís throat.
I told Janet what I had seen. She was a school teacher, you know, so I was confident she could give me some insight. She said when the robin cocks its head from side to side itís listening for the worm to make noise underground. I asked her how she knew this, and she said she had read it somewhere. Well, thatís good enough for me.
Watching that robin work so diligently caused me to think of Paulís letter to the Thessalonians. Paul believed in a person taking care of himself so he wouldnít be a burden to others. He reminded them that they had been taught ďthat if any would not work, neither should he eat.Ē
He meant, of course, that if a person were lazy and wouldnít work he shouldnít be given a free ride. Wow! Would that ever cause some heated discussions in our society today.
Where we live there are many people on assistance. Some really need the help, and I donít begrudge it to them. Then there are those, far too many, who are just on the take and work very hard at not working. Many of them manipulate, mislead and defraud the system. It amazes me that so many people have so little respect for themselves that they do such things. It is frustrating that we have so weak a system of checks and balances that it is allowed to go on so blatantly.
No one is really helped in these cases. You and I, as taxpayers, are harmed. Society as a whole is hurt. Even those who do such things are victimized because they are not helped to become productive citizens. Accountability would compel them to develop lifestyles in which they could take pride, and have more self esteem and teach future generations the joys of honest pay for honest work.
At one time churches had a powerful influence on the lives of all people in the community. I can recall numerous times the church where I grew up helping people. That is, the people who truly needed help. If a person, or family, was abusing the help being given they would be visited by someone in the church. Usually, it got straightened out.
Today, however, the church has abdicated much of its influence in the neighborhood because it is easier to let government do it. Government programs grew, red tape piled up, regulations were written and recipients found ways around them and now we have a welfare mess. Yes, the church must shoulder much of the blame for the conditions of society today.
So, what is the solution? It is not to be found in some new governmental program. The bottom line is a spiritual problem. The hearts of men and women must be won to desire being like the Lord Jesus Christ. This will bring about new definitions of caring for oneself and others. Justice will have a new face, where people will want to treat others fairly, whether one is an employer or an employee. Legitimate needs will be met, but frauds will be recognized and dealt with properly.
But, Don, you say, you are asking for a perfect world. Yes, I am, and the reality is we live in a sinful, fallen world. Thus, we must look to Jesus. Only he can bring about that world for which we crave.
Impossible? With man, of course, but with God all things are possible. I do know this: it has to begin with someone. Why not you? Why not me?
March 25, 2011
Proverbs 18:22 (KJV)
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
And God Has Smiled Upon Me
By Don Meadows
Funny, isnít it? The older you get the more you think of the wisdom of your Mom and Dad. Both are gone now, but Iíll never forget what my Dad said to me when I introduced Janet. He took me aside and said, ďDonnie, that woman is a jewel.Ē Mother echoed that conviction many times in the years to come.
Each day I realize more and more just how perceptive they were. I am among men most blest. Janet and I were married June 9, 1977, within walking distance of where we live now. Someone burned down the church where we exchanged our vows, but each time I look at the property I remember it so clearly. Seeing how I was 20 minutes late showing up for the ceremony, many of her brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews (and she has many) remind me of the day often.
I remember her walking down the aisle, crying because she was afraid something had happened to me. I remember Laren Reincheldís yellow dress and hat. I will never forget Laren Reincheld because she is the one who introduced me to Janet.
ďDon, I know where there is a good woman,Ē she said one day in Rome, Ohio. ďI am going to call her and see if I can give you her number.Ē I called that number; it was the best telephone call I ever made. As we were talking, a cuckoo clock went off in the background. Weíve had it repaired several times over the years, but it so special that I canít imagine not being able to hear its tick, tick, ticking and cuckoo sound.
My Dad was so right. Janet is a jewel, a precious gift to me from God. She has moved into a different house with me nine times during our marriage. Our tours of life have brought us back to the place and very property on which she was born. The other day I officiated at a funeral, and the burial was at the Scioto Furnace Cemetery. Within a stones of that new grave are the grave sites of my mother-in-law Cora Fenton, who is buried beside her husband, Ed. I never met him. He died when Janet was something like 18 months old, and she has no memories of him.
I donít know the exact site, but close by is a piece of ground where Janet and I will rest some day. It is so comforting to know we shall be side-by-side until we are called forth by none other than Jesus Christ himself.
You see, Jesus is and has been the focus of our lives together. Oh, there have been some difficult times, but never have I ever regretted my oneness with this woman. I have never been afraid, either, because I know that she loves the Lord more than she loves anyone or anything Ė including me. I know she loves me as much as is humanly possible to love another person and would do nothing to hurt either me or Jesus. That, my friend, is security.
How different this world would be, how much happiness could husbands and wives know if their marriages were ďfoundationedĒ on Jesus. I know, that is a made-up word, but it says to me that our lives together are build on a solid rock of faith and trust in the Lord.
Please, donít tell me any jokes making negative remarks about a wife or mothers-in-law. The Bible says a wife is an extension of a husband and a husband an extension of a wife. I am so fortunate to be married to a sincere Christian woman who becomes more precious to me each day. The older we get the more beautiful she becomes, because I can see rmore and more into her heart and it is filled with love.Thank you, Janet, for being my wife. Thank you, God, for allowing it to be. Amen.
March 28, 2011
Matthew 9:17-27 (KJV)
And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
Blessed Are the Caregivers
By Don Meadows
Many of the stories about Jesus astound us. I am talking about the miracles he performed, especially those involving healing. We read them over and over, gaining new gems of truth with each reading.
The boy who was healed of the ďdumb spiritĒ (given above) is one such example. There is the one about the woman with the issue of blood. The little girl Jesus raised from the dead and Lazarus being called from the tomb are popular ones. People healed of blindness, the demoniac freed of a legion of spirits and on and on it goes, truly astounding accounts of our Lordís work.
In his pastoral prayer Sunday morning at the church Janet and I attend, Pastor Larry Moore said something which was one of those ďOh, yesĒ experiences. He prayed for the caregivers who tend people at home, in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers. It hit me then that in all these Bible stories there were caregivers.
That dad who brought his son to Jesus had been a caregiver since the boy was born. How he, too, must have suffered trying to find help but was not able to do so for years and years. Everywhere he turned he met failure. Then he came to Jesus.
Caregivers are special people. Most of them we donít think of as being special. Too much of the time, we donít think of them at all. They just go about their caring, saying nothing about it, year in and year out.
My grandmother lived near a family where a man was bed ridden as long as I could remember. His mother took care of him. She fed him, cleaned his messes, bathed him and never complained. I donít even think she thought of herself as a caregiver. She was just being a mother. It never occurred to her to do anything else.
Elsewhere on this page there is a picture of a book written by Rebecca Alspaugh of Lancaster. ďBecky,Ē as we called her, was for several years the organist at Maple Street United Methodist Church, which I pastored. There is no way to express what a caring person she is. Her book, ďWho, Who Said the Wise Old Owl, Reflections of a Caregiver,Ē comes close. The Book, only 56 pages which offer 38 observation, is easy reading. Sometimes you will laugh, then cry and most of the time say, ďI know exactly what she means.Ē Obviously, I encourage you to get a copy. Information on how to do that is given with the other article.
But, back to caregivers: The dad who brought his boy, or those who brought a crippled man to the Lord, or those who made a way for the blind man to get to Jesus, were doing what comes natural. Yet, it is a supernatural moment Ė no, a sacred moment -- when people work in concert with the Holy Spirit to care for someone who needs help.
Mother Theresa was once asked by a journalist how she could work with the sick and dying day in and day out, how she could tend to their injuries, their sores and messes. She replied simply, ďWhen I care for one of these people, I see only Jesus.ĒGod bless those of you who are caregivers. No one may give much thought to what you do, but God knows. He sees each time you wipe a brow. He knows each time you give a sip of water. He watches every time you clean up a mess. And, I believe, He smiles and nods his head and whispers, ďWell done, my good and faithful servant. For inasmuch as you do it unto one of the least of these, you do it unto Me.Ē
"For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."
Ė Matthew 7:14 (NASB)
Stay on the Path
By Don Meadows
One of the earliest, and easiest, of temptations for the Christian is that of trying to earn ones way into favor with God. It comes about so subtlety and slowly it is difficult to realize you have succumbed to it. Many believers may go through their entire life and never see it.
Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50) The Apostle Paul put it this way, ď . . . by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.Ē (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Every born-again Christian has a basic understanding of the salvation plan of God. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. This includes my sins and your sins. We accept the reality that we are sinners and need the forgiveness of God, which comes through that atoning death of Christ.
Then comes the rub. We enthusiastically set out to worship God through our Sunday rituals and service to others. We do it all ďin the name of Jesus.Ē If we arenít diligent, however, we get more and more into ďGod-workĒ and the temptation takes root.
We begin to think in terms of scoring points with God through our efforts. The chorus to ďThe Old Rugged CrossĒ says something like, ďSo Iíll cherish the Old Rugged Cross, Ďtil my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross, and exchange them some day for a crown.Ē
Donít get me wrong. I love that song, and understand what the writer is saying. Yet, I have to ask myself, ďWhat trophies? How many will it take to earn that ďcrown?Ē
I was having trouble getting one of my web pages to do what I wanted. I contacted ďtechnical supportĒ at the place where the sites are hosted. His response startled me.
ďDonít forget the path. You have to set the path right. Change the location to where you want your form results saved.Ē
Folks, as preachers say, ďThatíll preach.Ē Donít forget the basics. Stay on the right path. If you stray, even with the best of intentions, change the location to where you want your soul saved. Resist the temptation to take your eyes off Jesus and focus on your own goodness, evidenced by your works. That is hypocrisy.
Staying on track involves regularly associating with other believers. Through worship. Prayer. Bible study. The singing of Christ-centered songs
My wife once said something I wish I had thought of first. ďYou arenít a Christian because you do good things; you do good things because you are a Christian.Ē
Good works are important. Just donít forget they are done to bring Christís love and caring to others who, maybe, will accept him as their savior. Keep on the Path. In this is He glorified.
He said* to them, ďBut who do you say that I am?Ē Simon Peter answered, ďYou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.Ē And Jesus said to him, ďBlessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. ďI also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 15-18 NASB)
The Church: Alive and Well
By Don Meadows
Donít believe every thing you hear from many pulpits today. A whopper of a misconception is regularly being proclaimed.
Preachers arenít lying to us. Theyíre simply wrong. This is because the window through which they are looking has a mist over it obscuring the truth. This sight-robbing obstruction is made up of several things, chief of which is denominational short-sightedness. There also is a bit of sheer scriptural laziness on their part. Too many preachers simply wonít get into the Word to clarify their vision, nor will they look beyond their own little part of the world at the global view. This results in the lack of a Godly perspective.
The untruth you hear is that The Church is failing. The Church is dying. The Church isnít what it used to be. All of these statements are wrong.
Christís Church is stronger than it has ever been. World-wide the call of Jesus to the lost is being answered by millions upon millions of people. These people are poor, hungry, disenfranchised, politically enslaved, addicts and forgotten. They lack economic clout, so the world doesnít pay much attention to them. But, theyíre there.
The Church is alive and doing well in Tibet. You donít hear about it, but mighty work is being done there and souls are turning to Jesus. Itís alive in Vietnam, where Christians meet in secret for fear of governmental recriminations. Itís alive in the juvenile detention center in Lancaster, Ohio, where a Youth for Christ worker serves as an unpaid chaplain to work with troubled youth, bringing one or two, maybe three, a year to the Lord.
Saints are going to prison for the sake of the gospel. People are dying for Jesus. Blood, it has been said, is the seed of the church. The era of Christian martyrdom is not a part of our history; itís our reality. In the United States we distance ourselves from much of the ugliness of the world. We prefer to look another way when we are confronted with massive hunger. We donít like to dwell on deadly diseases until they threaten us. We are a sheltered people.
When preachers proclaim The Church is dying they mean one of three general things:
1) Attendance and offerings at their local church are down and paying the bills and meeting denominational expectations are increasingly difficult.
2) Membership size in their denomination is falling.
3) Other churches in their denomination or outside it are not doing for people what they used to do and ought to be doing.
I am not going to get into the specific causes of these. Suffice it to say that local churches and denominations have become self-centered. They spend most of their time and money on self-preservation. That is a cancer which will eat away at the body.
For example, The last General Conference of The United Methodist Church authorized $500,000 for a group to study the reasons for the decline of membership. Duh? The causes of membership decline are many, but not complicated. Certainly it shouldnít cost $500,000 to find them.
Let me make some suggestions. If denominational leadership, meaning bishops, annual conferences and General Conference staffs, will stop their busy-work to justify their own jobs and get back to biblical obedience they will see a turn-around in local church numbers.
For example, the West Ohio Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Bruce Ough, elected as Conference Treasurer an openly gay man. The bishop campaigned for him, sending to local pastors and conference delegates a long letter outlining why he was the best candidate for the job and urging his election. In nearly 40 years in The United Methodist Church, as a member and as an ordained pastor, I never recall a bishop doing that.
I called the bishopís office prior to that Annual Conference session, expressed my concerns and urged that there be equal consideration of and public information given for all the candidates. I was not able to talk to the bishop, but did talk to his assistant.
The homosexual candidate was elected, by about a 20 vote majority, despite our own Book of Discipline clearing stating that the practice of homosexuality is ďincompatible with Biblical teaching.Ē
At least eight local congregations of the Shawnee Valley District have pulled out of The United Methodist Church as a result. In the Conference, literally dozens of local congregations have put restrictions on the use of, or refused to pay, their apportionments.
The Church is alive and well. The United Methodist Church is sick, ill from its general staff and some annual conference leaders holding hands with what Godís Word says is sin. The Apostle Paul says, ďAbstain from all appearance of evil.Ē 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV Yet, some powerful denominational leaders, some pastors and others have chosen not only to ignore biblical directives but have become even advocates of biblical disobedience.
All of this begs a question: Whose favor do we seek? Godís or societyís?
When I was pastoring, one of the frustrations of the job was the many ďfix-itĒ programs and studies the denomination would come up with. Pastors were called to meetings, sat through hours of workshops, bought books written by the bishops and told to go back and teach this to their congregations. It would bring about, we were told, spiritual and numerical growth.
I did all the programs. Yet, I saw none of the promised results. But, not to worry -- in a year or so, they would come out with something new, and the cycle would be repeated.
If bishops, district superintendents and conference officers would leave pastors to preaching the Bible, not intimidate them to be socially and politically correct, and make less financial demands on local churches, there would be an increase in souls won, people in worship and finances.
Jesus asked Peter, ďWho am I?Ē Peter said, ďYou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!Ē
Jesus replied, ďBless you, Peter. On this I will build My church. And even the gates of Hell will not overpower it.Ē
Now, I do not interpret this to say that The Church would be build upon the personality of Peter. Instead, Jesus is saying The Church will be built upon the truth that He is the Christ, that He is the Son of the Living God. ďOn this I will build My church,Ē He said.
Note, ďHeĒ will build it. Maybe church leaders apparently donít believe Jesus any more and have decided to take over for Him. Jesus said ďMy church.Ē Itís not my church, your church, The United Methodist Churchís church, the Baptistsí church or non-denomination groupís church.
Itís Jesusí Church. It is doing fine. Souls are being saved. Eyes and hearts are being enlivened and the angels in heaven are rejoicing
The question is: Are you a part of it? If not, when will you start?
Tell Them the Stories of Jesus
By Don Meadows
The food was wonderful. Golden brown fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, fruit and a cookie. Coffee was served at the table. Wow! Did I ever enjoy it.
Janet and I were at Hill View Retirement Center in Portsmouth. Weíve been there dozens and dozens of times over the years, but never quite like this time. Alisa Burnett, marketing director, had invited us, along with many other folks for a meal and, if we wanted, a quick tour of the accommodations offered by Hill View.
I looked around the room at the crowd. There were many Hill View residents there eating with the other invited guests. What impressed me most, I think, is that everyone looked so old and no one seemed surprised to see me there. Did Janet and I blend in that well?
After dinner Alisa took Janet and me on the tour of apartments. She operated the elevator, opened all doors for us and was very respectful. We passed several residents in the halls and they would ask, ďYou planning to move in?Ē
How can you just graduate from high school one night and turn around and find yourself being told about the advantages of living in a retirement center. The meals are part of the payment plan. If you get sick and need nursing home care they will move you right across the street, hassle free. There are no property taxes to worry about. The grass is cut by their young staff. There are lounges where you just sit and read or visit with other residents. And jigsaw puzzles, donít forget about those. Someone always has one going somewhere, and you can sit down whenever you want to and find pieces to put into place.
Donít get me wrong. I am not knocking the place. Itís wonderful. Iím just surprised, or in shock, that I have reached that point in life when these things are even considered.
The psalmist, I think, was a bit surprised, too. ďNow that I am old and gray, donít abandon me, God,Ē he cried out. ďLet me tell the younger generation about your power, about the mighty things I have experienced and the things I have witnessed during my life.Ē
You know what, I would love to be able to sit down with my three sons and tell them about what God has done in my lifetime. I would like to tell them about the time I felt lonely, miserable and unnecessary until Jesus took control and I started to really live. There is so much I could tell them.
But, they live a long way off Ė in Arizona, Texas and South Carolina. When we talk, they want to tell me what is going on in their lives. And, I want to hear that, too.Life gets busy like that. Maybe thatís why old people like to get together and talk about how things used to be.