April 1, 2011

Then you must celebrate the Festival
of Harvest to honor the Lord your God.
Bring him a freewill offering in proportion
to the blessings you have  received
from him.

Deut. 16:10 (NLT)

 

The Conversion of Money

By Don Meadows

Probably the most difficult part of a person’s life to win to Jesus is their pocketbook. This is because placing one’s finances under the lordship of Jesus is a threatening test of faith.

Giving up ownership of our wealth takes away our power.  Money talks, the saying goes.  Of course it also wields power.  Look at how Washington, D.C., is run.  Look in your own household how much time and discussion is given to money.

Preachers, for the most part, do not like to preach about money.  The people in the pews don’t like to hear it. Very few people in the pew are obedient to God in their stewardship, so when the pastor talks about money, he or she is “always talking about money.”

Every one of us is commanded to tithe their income to the Lord.  That’s the starter.  If you don’t you are taking from God what is rightfully his.  If you do not tithe, you are a thief.  You are robbing God.

Today’s scripture goes even further.  God ordered Moses to tell the people that they were to celebrate the Festival of Harvest. This was to honor God for his faithfulness to provide a harvest.  Get this, now. “Bring him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him.” (Deut. 16:10 -- NLT)

Now that bites most people.  It is a “freewill offering” -- in addition to the tithe.  The tithe is traditionally thought of as 10 per cent of a person’s income.  The Harvest Offering, however, forces a person to look deeply into his or her relationship with the Lord.  It was to be given “in proportion to the blessings you have received from him.”

It’s interesting to hear people testify how good God has been to them.  He has done this, and he has done that, and he has done thus and thus.  Talk is cheap.  If you really want to praise God for his goodness, do it in a way that will bring blessings to others, and make sure God gets the credit.

I’m sure you’ve read someone’s estimation what a wife and mother’s salary would be if she were paid a wage. Quite frankly, if the figures are anywhere close, I couldn’t afford a wife. If that is true with one’s wife, what value do you place on the blessings of God?

God wants to know how you really value his faithfulness to you.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian hanged by the Nazis near the end of World War II, wrote a book entitled “The Cost of Discipleship.”  He talks about “cheap grace.”  He is not lauding Jesus’ gift of salvation to each of us through his death on the cross.  Bonhoeffer is talking about the abuse by Christians of God’s endless expressions of grace in our lives.

Grace didn’t come cheaply.  Christ paid a horrible price for us.  We have cheapened it by taking it so lightly and for granted.  Too few of us go beyond words in expressing our gratitude.  Most people don’t bother at all.

Try this:  Think long and hard about the blessing from God in your life.  Make a “Thank Offering” to your local church or a charity in God’s name.  I believe it will be a blessing to you and a blessing to God.

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April 2, 2011

But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works. 

Psalm 73:28 (KJV)

Faith: The Ongoing Struggle

By Don Meadows

The treasure of the Psalms is their genuine human experiences.  The writers were men who lived as all of us live, searching, wondering, questioning the very nature of God and his relationship to us.

Psalm 73 is one of my favorites.  The writer looks deeply into his soul and is uneasy.  First, he has to confess something.  “I have looked at the lives the prosperous and foolish people enjoy.  They seem to have it made.  And I, who try to be righteous, have it rough.  Actually, sometimes I think it would be best to be evil because then maybe I would have a more prosperous, rewarding life.”

If we’re honest, each of us will admit to having these, or similar, thoughts at one time or the other.  There is a word for it: Envy.  Careful, friend.  It’s a very slippery slope.

But the writer dares probe even deeper, and discovers something about God.  He knows what is going on and he doesn’t forget.  Those who live foolishly and wickedly may have a good time for a season, but a day of accounting is coming.

In Verse 22 the writer discovers important truth about his own relationship with God. “I’ve been so foolish, Lord.  While I was considering walking away from you, you held on to me.  You have kept me in the grasp of your hand.”

Temptation to leave God is real.  And, it’s scary.  How comforting to know that God is faithful.  The more we are inclined to slip away, the firmer he takes hold.  It is not sin to be tempted; it is sin to yield to that temptation.

The final verse, the 28th, explains how the writer’s ultimate victory is possible.  “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” Psalm 73:28 (KJV)

Note carefully that the writer “draws near to God.”  When in doubt, confused, afraid or feeling unfairly treated, “draw near to God.”   How?  Through prayer, daily devotions, reading the scriptures, fellowship with others who know God and by singing.   It is a continuing process, not something done once and forgotten.  It is constant discipline for a disciple.

Faith may sound easy.  It’s not.  The battle will not be over until our eyes are able to see what our heart and mind tells us is so.

Please read the 73rd Psalm today.  There you will find yourself, and you’ll be excited to again discover the God who loves you and has a firm grasp on you, especially at your weakest moments.  Amen.

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April 3, 2011

Therefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

Hebrews. 12:1

 

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Spiritual Athletes

By Don Meadows

Watching the national semifinal basketball game between Kentucky and Connecticut reminded me of two verses of scripture.  Hebrews 12:1 and 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 use athletic imagery to describe Christian discipleship.

The ancient Romans were quite taken with their athletes, too.  I doubt they were as fanatical about sports as we are today, but they appreciated the efforts and skills of those who participated in various kinds of games.

The writer of Hebrews apparently was a fan of distance running.  He said, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  Distance running requires a good brain as well as a good pair of legs and lungs.  The runner struggles with himself as much as he struggles against the other contestants.

If a distance runner starts too fast, he will soon run out of gas.  His body will cramp up, his legs will grow heavy and the lungs won’t be able to take in enough good air or get rid of bad air fast enough. That is why runners do road work so often.  They not only are building up endurance, they are learning how the body responds at given points in the race

Christians can take a valuable lesson.  Don’t try to accomplish everything all at once.  Pace yourself.  Know your limits.  Don’t allow others to set the pace for you.  Be in control.  And, listen to the coach.  Follow his directions; allow him to be as much a part of the race as you.

The Apostle Paul, likewise, knew something about running.  He told the church at Corinth to run confidently.  Know you can win, be determined to win.  This is well-founded confidence.  He did those things that were necessary to enable him to win.  He assumed he would win.

Paul also uses the example of a boxer.  “I fight,” he said, “not as one who beats the air.”  I don’t swing wildly.

I did some ring fighting when I was in high school.  My dad, an exception fighter when he was in high school, was my coach.  At the very beginning of my training, he said, “Boogie (his nickname for me), listen carefully.  Don’t waste your punches.  It takes as much energy to swing and miss and hit nothing but air as it takes to hit the other guy.  Let him waste his strength, but save yours.  When you throw a punch, make it count.”

I was in the championship fight of my weight division in a Golden Gloves Tournament.  The other fellow was what we called a “slugger.”  He came running out of his corner, started swinging wildly.  I crouched over and let him flail away, mostly missing me but landing some punches on my back.  I waited, and saw an opening.  I came out of my crouch and threw a straight right hand under his chin.  My whole body’s weight was behind the punch.  He dropped to the canvas.  He got up at the count of nine; I threw another right hand on his nose and down he went again.

I don’t think the punch hurt him as much as he had no energy left.  We fought a third round, and I was awarded the championship by unanimous decision.

Is it not true that we Christians do things like that?  We beat on dead horses, argue among ourselves and “punch at the air” until we have no energy or spirit to go on with the work.  Instead, let us “work out,” with God as our trainer and learn to be efficient in our efforts.  We will find success more frequent, and we won’t get beaten up nearly as often.

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April 4, 2011

And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord  God,

thy an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool  upon them.

Deut. 27:5 (KJV)

Worship – A ‘Natural’ Thing to Do

 

By Don Meadows

God, through Moses, was pretty specific about what he wanted Israel to do when it entered into the Promise Land.  He wanted the people to gather large stones and build an altar. On the stones they were to write the law.  No tools were to be used to build it.

God wanted his people to realize the importance to pure, natural worship.  They were going into a land where the people were notorious for making idols.  They could be crude or very elaborate in design, but they were handmade.  Probably none of them were “Made in China” but they were fashioned by human hands.  God also didn’t want the altars to be profaned, or become objects of adoration and worship.  When Israel worshiped, God wanted the focus to be upon him.

I have to admit to a personal prejudice.  I do not like artificial flowers on the altar table of churches.  To me it says, “Lord, we are offering to you something that we have made to resemble something you created.”  And, we don’t have to keep paying for it over and over.

Some artificial flowers and arrangements are very pretty.  It’s difficult to tell some from “the real thing.”  I have even rubbed the leaves on some of them to see if they were God-made or human-made. And, I understand the logic.  You buy them once and you have them.  Get four sets, one for each of the seasons, and you don’t have to go through all that hassle of having people signup to provide the flowers.  Besides, people sometimes forget to reimburse the church, and that leads to other problems.

Every so called “expert” on proper worship that I have ever read or consulted say “natural” is the proper way to go.  To me it’s better to have a bare altar table rather than one all dolled-up with plastic do-dads.

As I said, this is a personal prejudice. In nearly 30 years of pastoring local churches, I never “went to war” over it.  I guess the closest we ever got to that was when a Sunday School class wanted to adorn the prayer rail with stockings at Christmastime.

Worship ought to reflect how we live.  I love to sing.  I am not very good at it, but I like to sing with some volume.  Janet and I were at a church in North Carolina several years ago, and after the opening hymn a lady turned around in the row ahead and asked, “Where are you from?”  “Ohio,” I said proudly.

“Well, I just want you to know that I appreciate it when a person will sing out like they mean it.  You don’t get much of than in this church.”  I thanked her, and on the next song cranked it up another notch.

I realize, of course, all of this probably matters very little.  The first thing is to “worship the Lord in truth and in spirit.”  Offer him your heart, body and soul and he will be pleased.  Bow before him with genuine praise and thanksgiving and he will be pleased.  Gather regularly with other believers in loving worship and he will be pleased.  Help others -- the sick, hungry, imprisoned, orphaned, widows and lonely -- and he will be pleased.

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April 5, 2011

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 

 

 – Hebrews 10:23-25 (NASB)

Habit a Big Part of Faith Development

By Don Meadows

You never notice it, but some of the things you do each day you do the same way.

 You will start brushing your teeth at the same place.  If you’re a guy, you’ll start shaving at the same spot each morning.  You’ll put on your pants or dress following the same routine each time. People are creatures of habit.

 Sometimes it is frustrating.  I have a habit of tapping out musical time with my fingers.  I hope I am not losing it, but in my head I imagine a song and I’ll tap out the timing with four fingers on the left hand.  It drives Janet crazy.  In fact she told the doctor about it att our last check-up, and he said we might have to take a brain scan because “pilling” is an early symptom of Parkinson's disease. 

So, I try not to do in the doctor’s office or around Janet.  Yet, she catches me ever now and then and says, “Don, stop it!”

The word “habit” doesn’t appear in the King James Version of the Bible. It’s in the New American Standard Bible thee times.  Twice it is in Exodus, talking about the laws regarding bulls which gore people.  Then, it appears once in Hebrews, referring to people who do not attend public worship regularly.

Don’t get in the habit of not assembling with other believers to encourage one another in the faith, the Hebrews writer said.  Gather as a body and learn how to encourage each other as “the day” – or the seconding coming of Christ – approaches. 

Many of the folk who don’t assemble themselves together church each week are not “backsliders.”  Many of them just got out of the habit of coming.  Something came up – a family outing, ball game, over slept, vacation -- and they missed a Sunday.  The next week it was something else, and it was a little easier not to go to church.  Then without knowing it had happened, they just didn’t go anymore.  They had invested  themselves in something else.

Providing excuses for people to “get out of the habit of church” is one of the devil’s deadliest weapons.  Janet and I try never to miss being in worship somewhere on a Sunday morning, especially when we are away from home.  It just doesn’t feel right, if we miss.  That, I think, is the Holy Spirit at work in us

Consistency is important, too, with Bible study, prayer, daily devotions and so on.  Miss one or two times and it becomes easier and easier to neglect these holy disciplines.  The result, of course, is a less vibrant inner spirit.  There is a disturbance of the peace you feel in your heart.  Your witness isn’t as effective.  Unfortunately those emotions don’t last forever.  Eventually you won’t notice the change, nor care.

Don’t get caught in Satan’s trap.  Develop good spiritual habits. Jealously guard your time with the Lord.  Those minutes you spend with him, are the most important ones of the day, both for you and your loved ones.  At first your family and friends may not understand, even resent the time you demand for yourself.  Eventually, however, they’ll come to respect you for your loyalty to God and see the differences they make.

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April 6, 2011

One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

 

– Matthew 10:21 (KJV)

 ‘The Cross’ Calleth

By Don Meadows

A woeful reality of Christmas and Easter is that these holidays come and go and we do again the songs, scriptures, images and thoughts that have marked them all of our lives.  This can result in a “hum-drum” attitude; we go through the motions but that’s about it.

Thanks to Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest”, this year will be a little clearer to me as to the cross-event in Christ’s life.  In his devotion for this day, Chambers says the death of Christ on the cross was a collision by God with sin.

This unique expression of what happened on that hill excited me.  I launched into an examination of the word “cross”. I discovered there are at least three crosses I need to consider if I have any hope of approaching real discipleship.  These are simple truths, and like every biblical gem one unexpectedly uncovers, you wonder why you had never seen it before.

 The word “cross” appears 28 times in the King James Version.  It speaks about a “generic” cross, or an implement the Romans used for executions.  It’s used to refer to Jesus’ death.  There are references to personal crosses.  Lastly, and what excited me, there is what I shall call “The Cross.”

First, Chambers is absolutely right.  The Cross of Calvary is a collision between God and sin.  It was this collision for which Christ was born.

I have heard people say, saw it in hymns, such things as, “I should have been crucified,” or “He took my place on the cross.”  All these statements, while true because of the punishment we deserve, can reveal basic misunderstandings about God’s plan of salvation.  Our death on the cross would have been a fit punishment for us, but it would have accomplished nothing on behalf of others.

 None other than Jesus Christ should have died on the Cross of Calvary.  None other could.  There were thousands of people, history tells us, who did die on a cross.  Many were innocent of the charges alleged against them by the Roman government.  Yet their deaths, tragic as they were, did nothing to satisfy your or my debts of sin.  Only Christ, God’s “only begotten” Son, the unblemished “Lamb of God,” could provide the atoning blood needed to “redeem” anyone from sin.

Obviously I say nothing which you have not known.  A reminder, however, is always appropriate, particularly at this time of the season.

Secondly, I relearned there are personal crosses to bear.  Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

Jesus said “take up his cross,” or the cross the individual has been given.  You have a cross to carry; I have one.  Every Christian has a responsibility to carry his or her burden.  I cannot carry your cross, nor can you carry mine.  We may encourage one another.  We may assist each other through prayer or some other way.  The bottom line is, however, each must walk the journey of faith facing whatever the path may contain. 

Third, and finally, there is “The Cross.”  A man kneeled at Jesus’ feet and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. The Bible says Jesus looked at him “and loved him” and gave him the answer.  Jesus told that man, in effect, to get rid of the earthly things he valued so much, give them to the poor, “take up the cross” and follow me.  See it?  “Take up THE cross.”

If you believe each word in scripture has meaning, as I do, that word “the” has significance.  To obediently follow Jesus a person must become involved in the goal of the gospel.  That goal, first, is the winning of souls seeking eternal life.  We bring them to Jesus.

It is astounding how little attention and resources Christians, churches and denominations give for evangelization.  I listened carefully last Sunday to the prayer concerns at the church where Janet and I attend..  There were concerns about families who have suffered recent loss to death.  Time after time we were asked to pray about health issues. A couple of times “relationships” were mentioned.   One request was about a local business owner’s troubles.

Not once, however, was there a mention of someone’s need to come to the Lord for forgiveness of sins.  Body sickness gets a lot of attention; sin sickness is all but ignored.  Yet, Jesus said we must “take up the cross” and follow him.

“The Cross,” I believe, is the redemption of souls.  To pray for someone’s salvation is always in the will of God.  Other prayer causes may or may not be in that will.  God will visit upon people temporal afflictions to work eternal benefits.  I am convinced there are times when, if our prayers were answered per our instructions, those eternal benefits would be thwarted.  In teaching his disciples, he said to pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Who dares claim to know the mind of God save this:  “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance?” (2 Peter 3:9)

“The Cross” is the willingness to offer ones self for the sake of others.  Death occurs – death to self, death to selfish ambitions, death to claims of anything except the eternal life promised by Jesus.

Sadly many people who presume themselves followers of Jesus will be like that man.  Remember? “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”

Going away “grieved” is not exclusive to individuals.  Churches and denominations have “gone away.”  They worry and fret about inclusive language, and people die and go to hell.  They go to war over social issues, and people die and go to hell.  They rebel within the ranks over whether to have contemporary worship or traditional worship, and people die and go to hell.  They fight over just how much sin, as defined by Holy Scripture, to permit people to practice, and people die and go to hell.  They struggle and worry about paying the bills and keeping the building pretty, and people die and go to hell.

Matthew 27:32 tells us that when Jesus stumbled on the way to Calvary, the Romans “found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.”  No where does it say Simon complained.  He picked up the burden and walked with Jesus, enabling the Lord to accomplish his work.

Thus, “The Cross,” the mission of Christ calleth all who proclaim themselves followers of Jesus.  Are you willing, do you want to say yes?

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April 7, 2011

But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;  In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;  I announce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:  That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

 

Deut. 30:14-20 (KJV) 

It’s Not Negotiable

By Don Meadows

Well, the Democrats and Republicans and the President say they’re talking but there is no deal yet about a budget.  The owners of the National Football League and the players union are talking, but now through the courts.  It seems like an awful lot of talking is taking place, with not much being done.

What all of them are doing is negotiating for a better deal for their constituents.  What will we possibly do if the government doesn’t govern and professional football players don’t play?  Can you imagine living in such desperation?

Let me dare a prophecy:  When all sides of these controversies begin to blister from the friction, when it starts to hurt politically and economically, they’ll reach some kind of agreement.  Both sides will claim they won, but it won’t make any difference.  You and I will pick up the tabs: higher taxes, fewer services, higher ticket prices and more bucks for a dollar’s worth of wiener on a bun with a dab of mustard.

We’ll get our chance to speak – at the voting booth and the ticket booth.  Ah, the blessings of a democracy and the glories of the free enterprise system.

Obviously, I speak somewhat with tongue in cheek.  Our national and state leaders need our prayers.  Personally, I wouldn’t miss the pro football season because the owners and players are both getting too much money for something which doesn’t make a lot of difference in the long run.  College football is much better anyway.  Of course, with that becoming such a money-dominated institution, it too is losing much of its appeal.

I have said all of this to lead up to this point:  People go to great lengths to get their way, don’t they?  We don’t want anyone to get ahead of us, gain an edge or have it better than we.  We demand the right to negotiate.

When Israel got tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, where he had gone to talk with God, the people wanted a say in where they were going and what they were doing.  They insisted that Aaron make a god for them to worship.  He was finally persuaded to do so and then came up with a silly explanation for what happened.  He told Moses, “Gee, Moses, we just collected all this junk jewelry and tossed it into the fire and, can you believe, a golden calf came out of it?”

Moses wasn’t stupid, and God watched it all along.  The people were punished and behaved for awhile, but eventually got back to their old, rebellious ways.  Now, in the above scripture, Moses is nearing death.  He is giving Israel final instructions about the covenant God was making with them.

Basically, God said this.  You have a choice.  You can follow me, worship me, trust me, obey me and things will go well for you.  You will live a long time.  You will be blessed economically, spiritually and in every way possible.  It’s the choice of life.

Or, you can choose to ignore me, go your own way, worship gods you or someone else creates, indulge yourself in every lustful passion you dream up.  But, be warned.  You’ll get what you deserve.  You will suffer the consequences of your choices.

That’s the deal.  You pick.  Live or die?  Prosper or suffer want.  It’s up to you.

Israel, of course, eventually blew it.  And so do you.  And so do I.  We all seek to have things our way, whether God approves or disapproves.

Remember what Paul told the church at Rome:  “For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard." Romans 3:23 (NLT) Thus, all of us need a savior, a redeemer, someone to pay the sin debt we owe so that we might be free from the punishment of eternal death.

His name is Jesus.  Messiah to the Jew.  Savior for the Gentile.  Lord of all.  Whether you take it or whether you leave it, that’s God’s offer to you.  Your choice!

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     April 12, 2011

Lazy people don't even cook the game they catch, but the diligent make use of everything they find.

 

Proverbs 12:27 (NLT)  

 Thank God for Determination

By Don Meadows

I celebrated in silence when reading a Face Book posting by a friend yesterday.  “I just got hired by IHOP to be a server,” she proclaimed for the cyber world to see.

Enthusiasm by a young person is a refreshing thing to see.  Oh, I am sure there are many examples of it, but there is a tendency to look only at the negative.  Where Janet and I live we see too often young people who work hard – at not working.  They would much rather sit at home and wait for a monthly check to come in the mail.  The public agencies which provide the check probably do so in good faith; they just don’t check these claims carefully enough.  Thus, many people are enabled to be slothful and takers from the public coffers.

That’s why it was so refreshing to see my young friend happy about getting a job.  It’s not a glamorous job, or high paying one, to be sure, but she is proud to work and earn her own money and be responsible.  I know her parents and grandparents.  I understand why this young lady is like she is.

The writer of the proverb was very observant of people. He said lazy people won’t even cook the game they catch.  They’ll let it rot and go to waste, and expect someone else to provide for them.  On the other hand, the writer observes, the diligent will make use of everything they have.

An elderly gentleman who lives near by spends three or four days a week looking for aluminum beverage cans.  He’ll park his truck along the road, and then walk for a half-mile or more scouring the roadside for cans.  I stopped one day and told him that I save my pop cans, but if he would like he could have them. Now every couple of weeks I see him walk around the house with his pronounced limp and load our cans in a sack and toss them onto his truck.

I have noticed, too, that “lazy people” don’t respect other people’s property or nature.  Why do people who drink alcoholic beverages throw their cans along the roadway or on other’s front lawns of other people?  Why do smokers empty their cigarette butts in public places or flick them out the car window where they could start a fire?

So, congratulations, young lady.  You know who I mean.  Congratulations for getting the job, but mostly congratulations for being who and what you are.  May God bless you in your new job.

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April 13, 2011

Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen the things that I commanded to be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them; they have also lied about it and hidden the things among their belongings.

 

 Joshua 7:11 (NLT)  

Sin of One Infects All

By Don Meadows

Could we learn a simple truth about sin we would hate it passionately.

God’s commands could not have been clearer.  Joshua repeated the orders to the people of Israel. “The city (Jericho) and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies. Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on all Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury." Joshua 6:17-19 (NLT)

 But there is always one in every crowd who believes the rules don’t apply to him.  This time his name was Achan.  Jericho fell as God had promised, but Achan hid away some of the spoils set aside for God.  The Bible doesn’t say “Achan sinned.”  It  says “Israel was unfaithful.”

One person’s sin affects everyone.  Sin is a disease that spreads to everyone.  Many innocent people suffer.  Some may even die, because one person thought he or she was above the rules of God.  The next fight the Israelites faced seemed like a sure thing.  Not so.  They were soundly defeated, because one man violated the covenant which God had made with the people.

Does this speak to us today?  Look at our society.  Sin runs rampant, and our nation is hurting.  Our moral influence in the world has diminished.  Other countries question our word.  Once they thought that of all the nations of the world they could count on to do the right thing was the United States.  Now they aren’t sure.

Obviously, there is not one man who has brought these things upon us by his sin.  We as a nation stand before God guilty of betraying His faith in us.  Godly disobedience has become so common that, as a nation, we don’t even recognize what sin is anymore.  We wink at unholy unions, even glamorize them, and sanction the taking of millions of lives yearly by assigning the label “medical procedure.”.

Rather than speak out forcefully for what the Bible clearly condemns, many churches and denominations debate, discuss, study and rationalize sin.  We give new names to ancient abominations and carefully step around them so we will be politically correct.  We want to have open hearts, open minds and open doors;  one of the casualties of that philosophy is that the gates of hell will have to swing open wider to accommodate the hoards of souls who died believing the lies and half-truths fed to them by so-called religious authorities.

A sad truth of many denominations today is that leadership is focused on the bottom line of the accounting sheet, not on the Lamb’s Book of Life which is the accountability ledger.  Visit their websites.  You will find tons of financial reporting, but how many records do you find about souls rescued, marriages saved, men and women and boys and girls turned from destructive lifestyles to lives of productivity and Christ-like discipleship?

Our nation cries for, our people are dying for a New Awakening.  Where are the Billy Sundays, Charles Finneys, D.L. Moodys and C. H. Spurgeons?  Are there any preachers today who will dare proclaim the truth, free from worry about denominational policies or societal pressures to alienate no individual or group with harsh confrontations with truth?

Sin is a disease.  It is contagious.  And it is deadly.  When I sin, you suffer.  When you sin, I am affected.  Oh, that we could remember we are our brother’s keeper, and that involves protecting him from our individual sins.

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April 15, 2011

So the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the Lord.

 Joshua 9:14 (NLT) 

  

Obedience Starts With Prayer

By Don Meadows

Israel was having great success taking the land they had been given by the Lord.  This was because they were careful to be obedient.  Then they got careless.

The people of Gibeon had heard about God’s pact with Israel. They devised a scheme to gain a peace pact with Israel and, thus, avoid being destroyed.  They pretended to be strangers who had come a great distance to work out a deal.  They dressed in old clothes and carried dry, moldy bread to give the impression their journey had had taken a long time..

The ruse worked.  The Israelite leaders listened to the plea.  The writer of Joshua says, “So the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the Lord.” Joshua 9:14 (NLT)  That would come back to haunt them.

Disobedience to God always bears consequences.  It may take a while to happen; but, “be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23b (KJV)

There is a way Israel could have avoided disobedience to God.  They could have prayed.  They could have asked God’s advice before they acted.

It’s a common mistake – running ahead of God.  Everything looks just fine, so logical, so simple.  Then we act, doing our own thing, believing we’re right.  Surprise!  We are outside the will of God and things turn sour.

Pride often shows its face next.  We’ve made a mistake, but are unwilling to own up to it.  We blame others, continue to insist we’re correct and refuse to do the one necessary thing to get up back on the right track.  Confess and repent.

I remember clearly the Watergate Scandal that eventually forced President Richard Nixon to resign.  He could have survived the charges of breaking into Democratic Headquarters.  It would have been messy for awhile, but he would have survived had he just said it happened, he had fired those responsible and that he was sorry.  Instead, he tried to cover it up.  He lied, he misled and he manipulated records.  He dug the hole so deep he couldn’t get out and it caved in on him.

Joshua didn’t make that mistake. He got Israel back on track with the Lord and was careful to be obedient.

Remember the lesson.  Be compassionate, but consult the Lord.  Every decision should be made following prayer, asking God’s guidance and help.  He will respond.   He will lead us to the right path.  But, don’t run ahead of God.  Waiting can be difficult, event tempt us to believe God’s hasn’t heard our prayers.  Trust Him.  He will answer, in His time.

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April 16, 2011

So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses. He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.

 Joshua 11:23 (NLT)

Conquer Sin for Peace and Rest

By Don Meadows

The verse above is the crowning glory of the Book of Joshua.  After seven years of war, fighting king after king, Joshua and the Israelites took control of the entire land, distributed it as God had ordered and the “land finally had rest from war.”

We make a mistake if we focus on the social and political aspects of Joshua’s conquests.  Many critics of God say he was a bloodthirsty, angry God who belied the notion of a loving God.  How could a merciful God sanction the killing of so many men, women and children?

Israel was entering into the new covenant with God.  He wanted them to be a pure people, trusting him for their needs and looking to him for their safety.  He had given them specific laws about their daily lives and ordered their ways of worship to maintain their unique relationship with him.  He was their God; they were his people.  To succeed it was necessary to rid the land of the people who worshiped idols, practiced perverse sexual rituals as part of their religion and did many things contrary to the will of God.

They would not change, so God punished them “utterly” and gave their land to Israel.  When Israel had accomplished what God wanted, peace came.

God still wants his people to be a pure people.  For this to happen, conquests must be achieved, not by killing people, as Joshua did, but by constant obedience to his guidance.  Today this would involve keeping away from those who would get us into trouble, refusing to compromise our principles, being a person of integrity.  It can be tough work and not often popular.

As a person gets closer to being what God desires, that person becomes more aware of how imperfect they are.  Nothing reveals our sin-blotched lives like standing in comparison to the holiness of Jesus.  You become sensitive about the most-minute spiritual failures in your life.  Things like lustful thoughts, propensity to gossip, quick flaring of the temper and many, many more are disturbingly revealed.  You want to be changed, correct these imperfections and become more like the example of Christ.

Unrepentant sinners have no such awareness.  They will use the Lord’s name in shameful ways without realizing what they are doing.  They will show little or no respect for others, thinking first about their wants.  Borderline Christians won’t feel uneasy when they neglect the reading of God’s Word regularly, cease praying constantly or missing regular worship times with other believers.

Israel was able to conquer the lands promised them because God was with them.  He is still with his people today.  Jesus said, in preparing his disciples for life after his ascension, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”  John 14:15-17 (KJV)

The Holy Spirit is a gift to us when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Note in the paragraph above that the prerequisite of an abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is obedience . . . “keep my commandments.”  In Old Testament terms, be obedient to God’s commandments – not because it is “law,” but because obedience is honoring Christ and declaring our worship of him.

Are there wars going on in your life?  Carry out God’s instruction; he is present with you.  You are promised victory.  It may not come as quickly as you like, there may be great prices to pay.  But at the conquest you, like Israel, will have peace and rest.

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April 17, 2011

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

 

Luke 18:9 (KJV) 

  Don’t be Too Good for God?

By Don Meadows

Psychologists worry about people with low self-esteem; God is concerned about those with too much.

Jesus was teaching his followers about the need for constant prayer, and his heart was moved.  Some of the folks in that crowd were in trouble, and they didn’t even know it.  Thus, the Lord told a story about two men.

Both went into the Temple.  One, a Pharisee, began what was supposed to be a prayer.  He said, in effect, “God, I am glad that I am good.  I am thankful that I do all the right things.  I tithe, I fast, I don’t cheat people and I don’t cheat on my wife.”

The other man was a publican, or a tax collector.  He stood before God, beat upon his breast and cried: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Jesus announced that the man who confessed his true condition left the Temple in a right relationship with God.  The Pharisee?  Jesus never told us the end of that story, but we can assume it wasn’t a happy-ever-after one.

Believe it or not, there still are people who perceive themselves so good that they don’t need God.  Oh, they will confess to not being perfect, but then they’ll plead their sins are not serious ones.  Besides, God realizes we all are human and are going to make mistakes. Once a man told me that he had never sinned in his life, to which I pointed out that he had just done so by lying and by being proud.

Humility does not mean that we feel we are absolute failures and worthless.  Psychologists need not worry about humble people. Quite the contrary.  Humility is having a proper understanding of who you are and what you are.  We should be positive about the goodness that is inside of us.  It’s important, too, that we realize where that goodness originated and give the good Lord thanks.  Sins need be recognized as well, confessed and repented, trusting in the grace offered by Jesus to “justify” our relationship with God the Father.

The Pharisee was not worshiping God nearly as much as he was worshiping himself.  We can see that taking place in many places, even in church.  A person comes to church with an air of superiority and says the right things, does the right things and acts the right way.  Inside the hearts, however, there lurks a devil leading them down a path of destruction.

Those who see these folk during the week recognize the incongruity of their ways and their words.  Hence, they are labeled hypocrite and become an excuse for some folks staying away from church.  Have you ever had someone explain their absence from the Lord’s house, saying they’d be there if it weren’t for the hypocrites?  My response has been, “Don’t let that stop you.  Come on, anyway, we can always make room for another one.”

Remember what Paul said in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  That goes for the non-church person, the go-every-Sunday Christian, the hypocrite – everyone.  We worship God for many reasons, but one reason is that He, knowing our sinfulness, loves us anyway and extends to us his arms of love.  We can be cleansed by the blood of His Son Jesus, and that is worth worship.

There’s one thing you don’t want to do, however.  Never, but never, decide that you are too good for God and don’t need His Son.  Then you are in imminent danger of making an eternal mistake.

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April 20, 2011

 

“. . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

 Luke 19:44b (KJV) 

Be Alert for Christ-Visits

By Don Meadows

Stay on the alert.  You never know when you will be visited by Christ.

I don’t mean to be alert for the second coming.  Obviously, we should do that; but I mean be on the alert for those times that Christ has presented himself to you.

Jesus had ridden the colt into Jerusalem to great applause.  The people cheered.  The religious leaders jeered.  As he approached the city, he looked and wept.  He prophesied the time would come when the city would be laid waste.  Why? “Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

I own a sizable library of .16 mm films.  One is called “Martin the Cobbler.”  It is the animated tale of a shoemaker, depressed by his wife’s death, who had a vision that the Lord would visit him.  Martin was excited.  He cleaned his shop and began to tell everyone he could that the Lord was going to visit him.  He also took notice of people who passed by his window.

One was a woman without a coat in the cold.  Martin invited her into the warmth of his shop and gave her his beloved wife’s favorite shawl.  He stopped a young lad from stealing apples from an old woman and promoted a good relationship between the two.  An old man shivering in the cold was given hot soup.  A mother and baby got special attention, and new clothes

The Lord, however, never did show up.  Martin again got depressed.  He fell asleep on his table, and had a dream.  In the dream, the Lord appeared and said he had, indeed, visited Martin.  The faces of all those who had been in his shop appeared and spoke his name.  The truth flooded and warmed his heart.

The writer of Hebrews says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (KJV) 

Mother Theresa was asked one time how she could bear to work so closely with the poor people, diseased, sick and dying.  She responded that she did not look at their broken bodies, rotting flesh and filthy clothing.  She said, “I look into their face and there I see the face of Jesus, and it is a privilege to serve my Lord.”

It is quite easy to practice our Christian faith when that seems to require only that we go to church on Sunday, read the Bible sometime, say grace before meals and support good causes with the money we can spare.  It becomes more challenging when that faith calls us to clean up the human waste left by a sick alcoholic or drug addict.  Faith becomes more intense when one is asked by the Lord to take a total stranger into his home and love him.  Faith becomes confrontational when it gets in the way of doing what you really want to do.

Tense times, however, often bring special blessings because obedience requires determined surrender to the Spirit.  Disobedience can be easily dismissed.  “It’s not my responsibility.”  “We have government programs for that.”  “I would, but these days a person has to be careful.”

While there is need for caution, there also is a risk of not knowing “the time of thy visitation.”  I don’t believe Jesus thought that  putting faith into practice as ever being convenient, easy or routine.  The cross was not convenient, easy or routine, but it brought about life-changing opportunities to every person.  Your act of obedient faith may not have the same impact of that of Christ’s, but it will, however, change a life – your own – because you will realize you have been visited by the Lord.

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April 24, 2011

  

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of  them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-10 (NASB)

  

The Witness of More Than 500

By Don Meadows

Ah, Easter Morning.  We’ll sing “He Arose, He Arose, Hallelujah, Christ Arose.”

Some of us will sit in the pews and secretly wonder, “Did it really happen?”  And feel guilty. I know.  I’ve done it.

Several years ago I had what I call my “faith crises.”  I was very sick.  They didn’t know what was wrong with me and thought maybe pancreatic or stomach cancer.  It was scary.  And, I was a preacher, a pastor.  Yet, I wondered, “Is it true?”

I rationed that this man called Jesus and his 12 followers could have fabricated the whole death and resurrection thing.  The educated, religious Jews of that time thought so.  This Jesus would have had to be some kind of nut-job to die to spread such a myth, but there have been a lot of nut-jobs throughout history.

For awhile I was terrified that I had believed a lie and, worse yet, spread that lie to others through my preaching.  It’s a terrible feeling.

I prayed that God, if He existed, would show me the truth.  And, He did.  I had read it many times before, but had never really seen it, if you know what I mean.  Then, clear as could be, there it was in 1 Corinthians.  The Apostle Paul, an unbeliever himself at first, wrote to the church at Corinth of the many appearances of Jesus after the resurrection.

I could explain away most of the appearances as part of the plot.  Then, Paul wrote: “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time.”  How did Paul know that?  Because they talked about it to other people.

Do you comprehend what that could have meant for them?  The Jews would have done everything, even murder, to stop such heresy.  The Romans would never have tolerated it, for it would have threatened their hold over the Jews.  Those people who witnessed to seeing Jesus alive were risking their lives and family’s lives.  It is not conceivable to me that more than 500 people would take that risk to perpetuate a lie.

It was a freeing moment. I didn’t have to believe the “super-faith heroes” of the Bible to know the story is true.  I simply had to believe 500 ordinary, scared, reluctant people who told what a monumental miracle they had witnessed with their own two eyes.  I could trust the ordinary nature of their existence to believe in the extraordinary event to which they gave witness.

Dear friend, don’t chide yourself when moments of doubt assault your faith.  Know it comes from the father of lies, even the devil, who will use physical weakness to attack spiritually.  He will do anything in his power to rob you of the assurance of your faith in the Living Christ.

Today I see the risen Lord in so many ways.  I see Him in the touch of a nurse comforting a dying man in the hospital.  I see Him in the caring of a young woman who holds a suffering wife’s hand and heart. I see Him in the heart of a young man and young woman working to take their family far away into the mission field to tell the story.  I see Him in many churches today extending help to the needy, hungry, homeless and lost.  I see Him in a drug addict’s conversion and discovery that he or she can change with Jesus’ help.  So many, many ways.

Rejoice.  It’s true!  Jesus, the risen Lord, is Alive!

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April 26, 2011

  

So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.

 Judges 6:6 (NLT)  

The Theology of History

By Don Meadows

Wendy Bagwell, comedian and gospel musician who brought great joy to many people before his death, told the story of an afternoon singing service in a country church.

The pastor had invited a group of blind singers as the featured attraction. The church was full, lined on both sides of the single aisle. Everyone was having a grand time, but the pastor was a little concerned about the big German Shepherd seeing-eye dog owned by one of the singers.

“Listen, you don’t have to worry about that dog,” the singer reassured the pastor.  “He is a highly trained animal.  He won’t move from that spot unless I tell him it’s OK.  Why, he would lay there and starve to death unless I told him to go and eat.  He’s a highly trained animal.  You don’t have to worry about him; he never forgets.”

Bagwell said the service was rocking, so much so that no one noticed a big yeller tom cat that came walking right down the middle of the aisle.  No one noticed, that is, except that German Shepherd.

“And you know what?” Bagwell asked.  “He forgot!”  The tale went on the way only Bagwell could tell a story, rivaling his legendary tale of the snake-handling church.

Funny as it is, the story makes a tremendous point.  No matter how much we think we are prepared to deal with life’s temptations, we often will revert back to what is natural for us to do.  The dog acted out of instinct.  You and I often act out of our human nature to follow our desires and not those of God.

There is what Bible scholars call the “Theology of History.”  Israel gives us a prime example of that in Judges.  When things in life are going great, we have a tendency to stray from the path of righteousness and become like those around us.  Disobedience finally begets punishment, and we suffer.  When things get badly enough, we cry out to God for help.  He hears and sends it.

In the scripture above, Gideon was called to lead Israel.  He, with God’s help, gained victory over the enemy and the people returned to the worship of the Living God.  When Gideon died the cycle repeated itself.

Every Christian, every congregation today needs a strong God-listening pastor.  They need someone who is faithful to the Bible and unafraid of upsetting anyone save God.  I was fortunate to have such a pastor.   Bill Reincheld dared say from the pulpit one Sunday that members of his congregation should not go see a certain movie.  I don’t remember the name of the movie, but I remember telling Bill that I was an adult and was perfectly capable of making up my own mind about what to watch and what not to watch.

He looked me square in the eye and said that he had an obligation to instruct me in right living, but that I had the free will to be disobedient – disobedient to God, not to Bill.  Bill was right.  I was wrong, and I never saw the movie.

Later, when I became a pastor, I learned how very important that moment was for me.  When a spiritual leader speaks with the authority of faithfulness to God’s Holy Word, you had better listen.  It is not the person speaking.  It is God.  Failure to obey puts one in peril of God’s judgment and corrective punishment.

Interestingly, however, it seems that those special men and women of God are not appreciated by their congregations until they have gone elsewhere.  This does not preclude the need to be careful when following pastoral leadership.  Be certain he/she is speaking Biblical truth.  To do that, you must be grounded in the Word.  Be cautious about those who argue that the Bible is out of date and needs to be interpreted and understood from a modern perspective.

If your preacher is faithful to the Word, keep him/her.  If they are not, get another one.  If you can’t do that, find a new Biblically-obedient fellowship where you can worship in truth and spirit.  Don’t be misled.

Also, don’t be like that German Shepherd and forget. Spiritual forgetfulness happens when one strays from a life of discipleship and surrender to God.  That hampers the ministry of the Holy Spirit in being a counselor.  We ignore God not so much from ignorance as from wanting our own way, which we know displeases God.  That’s called sin, and if left unchecked will lead us down a path which carries us further and further from the center of God’s will. The road back can be painful.

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April 27, 2011

  

Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.

 Luke 23:12 (NLT)

   

That Which Binds Us Together

By Don Meadows

A saying declares that it takes a moment to make a friend and a lifetime to be one.  Friendships can be formed quite simply and they can get complicated in a hurry.

Arabs view friendship as self-serving relationships. They declare: The friend of my friend is my friend.  The enemy of my friend is my enemy.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  In other words, friendship is a conditional entity.  You scratch my back and you are my friend.

On Facebook friendship is defined rather casually.  You see someone online who peaks your interests, for whatever reason, and you send them a “Friend” request.  They accept you, reject you or, worst of all, ignore you.  If they accept, then they can see what you post and you see what they post, and your friends and all their friends can join in.

Pilate and Herod didn’t like each other at all.  Then Israel’s religious leaders took Jesus before each of them for judgment.  Pilate and Herod shuffled Him back and forth, until Pilate finally made the decision to cave-in to political correctness.  He authorized the crucifixion of Jesus and ordered the Roman soldiers to carry it out.

The Bible said that Pilate and Herod became “friends” that very day.

This sends a chill through me and sets off an alarm.  Evil brings together and forms bonds among those who oppose God.  It never should be underestimated, because evil “friendship” can exist between those who hold power over people’s lives.  Power often is a corrupting force.  We have seen this throughout history.  Read the papers and watch TV today and you realize it’s still true.

The Apostle Paul warned, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16  He was not speaking of evil as a concept or basic understandings of what is right and wrong.  He was saying there is a living evil, stalking the souls of men and women,  doing everything possible to devour them and take their very life – earthly and eternal.

This evil has allies.  Consider the entertainment industry and the values it promotes.  The drug culture is a friend of this evil.  Perverse attitudes and uses of the beautiful God-given gift of human sexuality is an ally.  This evil has disciples in high places, in business, in government and, tragically, in some churches.  Condemn them not, for they are victims of the powers of deception by the enemy.  Unless rescued they shall find themselves facing that judgment reserved for the devil and his minions.  Pray fervently for national leaders, that they will yield themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

How, then, shall we face, how shall we fight this foe?  Our Lord set the example in the garden.  A group approached.  He looked at Judas and said, “Friend, do what you have come for. Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” Matthew 26:50

Though ill-used, Jesus still called Judas “friend.”  We don’t give in and we don’t give up.  We go as far as necessary to win back the lost.  As far as necessary?  "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.  Jesus went to Calvary for Judas and for you and for me.

This begs a question of every Christian.  How far are you willing to go?  What costs are you prepared to pay?

You hear much professing among Christians.  We testify in church.  All the right words are spoken in well-rehearsed religious jargon.  We ask God blessing upon and encouragement of those in the missions fields.  We pray for the homeless.  We ask for healing for the sick.  God, please guide and protect the children, we say.

What further do we do?  Do we live our daily lives in ways that mirror Christ?  Do we actually support missionaries with our resources and communicate with them through cards, letters and e-mail?  Will we provide housing for a person without a roof over their head?  Have we visited the shut-in?  Have we held the hand of a person in pain and just sat with them until their physical pain eased?  Do we more than lip service for education and providing safe environments for our children?  Will we vote for an educational levy, a fire levy or offer our funds for the betterment of everyone?

We conquer evil with love.  But love is not a notion, nor an emotion.  Love is a decision and action.  It choosing to do everything in my power for your well-being.  I choose to love you whether you love me back.  It is not a 50-50 proposition.  Real love often is a one-way street, with the person being loved not realizing it.

Friendship is a wonderful concept, but without real love friendship cannot survive.  And real love is first, and last, possible through God.  God is love.  Only He is that which binds us together – forever.

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April 28, 2011

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” 

 Joel 2:1

   

  The Alarm Is Sounding

By Don Meadows

God wanted His people to turn from their sins, so He afflicted them with problems.  He also sent a prophet, Joel, who cried out “sound an alarm.”  God wanted their attention.

Joel was describing the devastating effects of the locust plague. The crisis was at hand. However, Joel implied that the locust plague would be only the forerunner of an even greater crisis if the people didn’t turn from their sins.

As I am writing this, I hear the weather channel in the background.  A loud, long signal has just gone off, and an “Alert” announces a “Flash Flood Warning” in Scioto County until 1:30 a.m.  A Tornado Watch is in effect here until 9 a.m.

The reporters are giving information about the storms down south – especially in Alabama and Georgia.  People are dying.  Warnings there came either too late, were not heard or went unheeded.  It is, the commentators are saying, an historic thing that is taking place.

Time after time warnings were given throughout the Bible.  Sometimes the people turned from their wicked ways and were spared; sometimes they didn’t repent and judgment fell upon them.

I believe God is speaking to America today.  He is speaking out of the whirlwinds.  He is speaking from the flood waters.  He is speaking through earthquakes.  He is speaking through the economy.  He weeps as He looks on while His children fight each other, spilling blood upon the ground He spoke into being.

God is speaking.  I hear Him saying:

Don’t trust in your own strength.  Don’t you see what a mighty wind can do when it is unleashed?  Your houses become sticks and stones, your magnificent technology ruined in twisted, tangled heaps.  You build great dams and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep back the waters.  See what happens when the heavens open up?

Listen to Me, God is saying; hear Me, all My children throughout the world.  The earth shakes, the seas roar and that which you have created with your mind and your hands turns against you.  The control you so confidently thought you had is gone.

There can be no argument that sin runs rampant throughout our nation and world.  How God must weep. He peels away the cloak of false security we knit around ourselves.  Our scientific know-how is not omniscient.  Yet, we refuse to turn to Him.  Instead, we call upon FEMA.  We pray the insurance company will honor its commitments.

People in Bible times did not have the advantage of knowing how their story would end.  How ignorant they were.  We find it amazing they could have been so blind.

We have no such excuse.  Paul said: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. {Romans 15:4 (KJV))

I make no pretense of knowing the mind of God.  I have read His Word, and He is speaking.  He is saying, “I am in control.  Your hope, your safety, your future, your eternity is in My hands. Please come to Me”

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