Love: Emotion, Commotion or Devotion?
By Don Meadows
The Will and Kate Show was watched by an estimated two billion plus people. I wasn’t one of them. I slept through it, confident it would be told and retold, and told again, through the miracle of technology. I was not disappointed.
Admittedly, I am not “with it,” whatever that means. I just don’t understand the fascination with a rich man and a rich woman from wealthy families repeating sacred vows to love, honor and cherish each other until parted by death. I am happy to know they have been united as husband and wife in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which, in the words of a pastor friend of mine, is a start toward “fixing” their living arrangements.
I suppose the occasion was so popular because of the storybook aspects of a prince and princess finding each other, falling in love and living happily ever after. I pray that happens.
One person wrote on Facebook, after watching the wedding, that they “love love.” I take that to mean they “love” the concepts of romance, the “ooey, gooey feelings”, weddings, rituals, traditions and the displays of all that. Hardly anyone would argue against such affections.
Love, however, isn’t quite that simple. It can be very complicated, painful and dangerous. I have lived some 68 years and, in that time, have learned some very difficult lessons about “love.” Those lessons have made me a bit sadder while, at the same time, have enabled me to be happier than I once thought possible.
One of the lessons I have learned is that love is not a feeling but a choice. That “feeling” of love, that sharp attraction to someone, is wonderful but never stays at fever-pitch. A man and woman, first drawn so strongly to each other physically, find themselves less “passionate” as the years pass. This does not mean their love is any less real, but that in maturing they discover other things are important, too. Love is finding someone you want to make a life with. It is asking God to unite the two of you into one, directing you on your earthly journey facing happiness, sadness, joys, sorrows, good times and bad, health and sickness -- all these things – facing and living them together.
Thus, I have learned that love is a commitment, not a compromise. Love, especially in marriage, is not a 50-50 proposition. It is a union where two people must both give 100 per cent of themselves. Love is a relationship where one partner commits to seeking the other person’s highest good, sometimes even to giving up their own wants and wishes.
Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Surely a person must count his or her spouse as the greatest friend. Laying down one’s life does not mean death only, but includes living sacrificially for the other’s highest good. I will yield my wants and needs to gain the wants and needs of the one I love. My joy, my happiness is fulfilled in bringing about the joy and happiness of the one I love.
I also have come to realize that to know true love one must truly know God. God is love. (1 John 4:8) God is the essence of love. He is the giver of love. Without God none of us would experience love. We may experience “lust.” We may understand reciprocal relationships and fancy them as love, but they aren’t. They are accommodations where two people use each other to gain what they think they want and need.
Gee, Don, it sounds like you have taken all the mystery and fun out of “being in love.” To the contrary, there is no greater excitement, no greater mystery nor anything more enjoyable than to see God at work in you life and relationship. And that generates deeper passion and brings greater joy than you imagine possible.
I am not saying there will be no problems. Two people cannot live together without challenges. Allowing God to work with you in these challenges strengthens your love for each other, and you grow in understanding the fullness of God’s love for you.
Friend, are you facing difficulties in your love relationships today? Surrender to God. I mean, surrender to God. Unconditionally, say to God from your heart that you want His help in understanding and, perhaps finding again, the love you once “felt.” Ask Him to show you the way to the center of His will for you and be willing to go there.
You can’t force anyone else to choose as you would choose. You can’t force anyone to be obedient to God. The only power you have is to be obedient to Him yourself. Then, go forth in faith knowing that God will work to bring to you that which is your highest good and, ultimately, to your greatest happiness.
You Aren't Alone
By Don Meadows
Take heart. You are not alone.
Elijah was a faithful warrior for the Lord. He faced the prophets of Baal and won. That, of course, upset Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, to no end, and she vowed to take the life of the Lord’s prophet. He ran.
Fighting the Lord’s fight isn’t easy. It’s physically and emotionally tiring and sometimes dangerous. He stopped under a juniper and was miraculously fed by an angel. God began to talk to him, and Elijah, in turn, poured out his story from the heart.
“I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away,” he told God.
God listened but didn’t participate in Elijah’s pity party. Instead, he told him to get up and get back to work. There was more for him to do. God told him he wasn’t alone. There were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee or kissed Baal.
One of the things he was to do was find his successor. Thus, he came to Elisha.
There are several things about this story that speak to me.
First, there is no shame in getting tired or being afraid. One of the mistakes Elijah made, I think, was to forget he was in partnership with an almighty God. Note he said, “I have been very jealous. . .” It is so easy to start to believe the fight for right is our fight and ours alone. Thus, we begin to rely upon our wisdom, our strength and our power to win the day.
Never forget whose battle you are fighting. It is not yours. It’s God’s, and he will provide that which is necessary for success.
Second, remember you ARE NOT ALONE. Sometimes that’s not easy. Pressures pull us down and it seems that we, and only we, are left to carry the banner. “There are 7,000 good people remaining, Elijah. Don’t forget that. Go on; do your job.
Third, part of the Christian’s job is to equip others to carry on the battle. Elijah was to anoint leaders who would conquer God’s enemies. Elisha would learn from Elijah and eventually become prophet in his place.
Today we must prepare others to be Christian leaders. Each of us has an assigned task and an assigned time. Our task is to be obedient. Our job is not to do everything to gain the victory but work in concert with others in God’s eternal plan. That involves our friends and neighbors, those with whom we worship. It especially includes our children, those very people who have learned from us about faith and commitment in Jesus Christ. It is they who shall carry on in our absence.
Friend, you are not alone. There are others like you struggling to do what’s right, to bring others to a realization of their need to know the Lord. And you can be assured that God is right there and will reveal himself and speak to you, especially at the time you most need Him.
Forgiven of God, Forgive Thyself
By Don Meadows
Satan is a sneaky scoundrel. He sanctions sin and never forgets it when committed.
What else would you expect of an enemy? Think not he shall ever give you peace and rest from your transgressions. His nature is to deceive, then destroy. This is especially true for the child of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of Life. Satan is bent on taking from all who know Jesus the joy of their salvation, their assurance of eternal love.
Doing this accomplishes the one thing that Satan can do to God – break His heart. The devil cannot defeat God. He knows that. But, he can hurt those whom God loves, and that troubles the heart of God.
Consider the difference offered by God. David said He takes away our sins. O, this man after God’s own heart knew of what he wrote. He who had sinned so grievously knew of God’s great generosity. Like a father who pities his children, David wrote, so the Lord has compassion on those who recognize their own state and run to Him for help. He knows our sins and gives us forgiveness. He knows our weaknesses and gives us His strength.
Satan remembers and reminds us of sin; God removes it and never mentions it again. He doesn’t cover it up or look the other way. He removes it, washes it away and eliminates it so that not even a memory of it remains. This is done by the blood spilled on Calvary by the Lord Jesus – human blood spilled from the veins of Him who knew no sin and became sin that He might suffer the punishment of sin on our behalf. He, the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, was the pure and only acceptable sacrifice.
Charles H. Spurgeon loves the 12th verse of Psalm 103. “As far as east is from west, so hath He removed our transgressions from us. Oh, glorious verse, no word even upon the inspired page can excel it! Sin is removed from us by a miracle of love! What a load to move, and yet it is removed so far that the distance is incalculable. Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward you are farther from the west at every beat of your wing. If sin be removed so far, then we may be sure that the scent, the trace, the very memory of it must be entirely gone.” (PSALMS, C.H. Spurgeon, pp. 427-428)
Stephen Charnock adds, “When sin is pardoned, it is never charged again; the guilt of it can no more return than east can become west, or west become east.” (ibid)
What then say we of those memories of past transgressions, intended or not? What answer do we give to those haunting thoughts of “what-if” and “if-only-I-had”? This and just this: "By the grace and power of God, be gone, thou devil of lies. You shall not rob me, you shall not take from me the joy and peace that is given to me by my Father.”
Allow not your soul to be troubled nor your heart to suffer hurt for past mistakes. If they have been confessed and repented of, they are forgiven. So arise in resurrected understanding that you are guiltless. Do not do to yourself what Satan would do to you. Instead, walk in victory and know that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ( Philippians. 4:7 (KJV))
Plant a Seed of Happiness
By Don Meadows
There is too much misery in today’s world, and "Happy Merchants" make billions of dollars a year offering solutions. Very few of them do any good; many make things worse.
There is, of course, the drug culture. Do you know why illegal drugs are in such high demand? It’s because people are looking for something to “fix” their deep-rooted unhappiness. Most people don’t know why they are unhappy; they just want the misery to stop.
Some people try promiscuous sex. They try to make themselves happy by using someone else’s body for momentary pleasure and a temporary escape. Some country singer years ago recorded a song which reflects this mind set. Some of the lyrics go, “I don’t care what’s right or wrong; I don’t try to understand; Let the devil take tomorrow; Lord, tonight, I need a friend.” I think the title was “Help Me Make It Through the Night.
Guess what? The next morning the same problems, the same sadness and the same circumstances. So is the unhappiness, although now complicated by an unholy act.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I am grouping all forms of pain into one package. I am speaking here about a basic attitude of being unhappy. There are some legitimate reasons for unhappiness, like sickness, problems experienced by one’s family, death, family break-up and so forth. These kinds of things usually last for various periods of time, or when circumstances change.
The unhappiness of which I speak is a continuous feeling of being deprived of something which would bring so-called joy to one’s life. If you think about it, though, most unhappiness is the result of self-centeredness. Thinking about ones self exclusively is fraught with danger.
There is a solution. Most people reject it, of course, because it is so simple. The solution: Investment! Invest your life in someone or something besides yourself.
I believe that is what Jesus was talking about in Luke 17:33. “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” That doesn’t mean quit living literally; it means quit living for the wrong reasons. Surrender your life to Jesus and begin to live for others as he did. Happiness will come.
Surrender to Jesus; then find someone who needs your help. Solomon, the son of David, said, “. . . he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” Show mercy on the poor.
I challenge you. Plant a seed of happiness. Find someone who needs help – someone who is hungry, homeless, lonely, afraid or a bunch of other things. Help them. It may take some of your money. It will take some of your time. Don’t do it for praise or even a “Thank You.” Do it simply because you want to do something in the name of Jesus, something for Jesus. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40 (KJV)
Too many people are miserable simply because they think only of themselves. Don’t you be one of them. Plant a seed of happiness and watch it grow.
Eternal Life: Experience It Now!
By Don Meadows
You don’t die to start eternal life; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you have it now
That’s a powerful statement from John the Baptist. Before John was thrown into prison, the Bible tells us, a debate began among his disciples about baptism. John’s disciples told him that the one who had been pointed out as Messiah earlier was attracting larger crowds and baptizing more people.
John didn’t become convulsive on his ratings drop and become defensive. He told his followers, “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:28-30 (KJV)
We see here a crowning moment in John’s life and ministry. His joy was fulfilled. He recognized Jesus as God’s Son. Christ was from heaven and gave witness to what He had seen of heaven, and God the Father had given everything to Jesus, John declared.
Then the Baptizer makes that astounding statement: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36 (KJV)
The declaration here is not “will have” eternal life. The statement is that the one who believes “has everlasting life.” When a person is born again of the Spirit he or she begins living eternal life. At rebirth a person begins to live in the life of God.
Thus, you no longer live for yourself; you live for God. Along with acquiring the rights of heaven, a Christian has the responsibilities of heavenly living. Those things which so easily entangle one in the concerns of this world must be done away with and replaced by divine disciplines.
These disciplines require hard work. They involve prayer, Bible feeding, awe-inspired worship and sacrifice and surrender. Too many Christians have come to believe their tie with Christ is a free ride. Your salvation is not free. A terrible price was paid at Calvary. Your discipleship is not free. You will pay a price to achieve it.
John declared I must decrease; He must increase. Being a Christian is not about you! It’s not about going to heaven or avoiding hell. It’s about you decreasing so that Christ will be magnified through you and revealed to a lost and dying world as the way – the only way – to eternal life.
A believer takes a great stride forward when they come to understand that the goal of Christianity is not to walk on streets of gold or have a mansion just over the hilltop. The goal is to be in the eternal presence of God and know by experience His Love which defines us and keeps us. It means that no matter what circumstances grip you at any given moment, God is absolute ruler and it will be OKThen one can say, along with John the Baptist: “This my joy therefore is fulfilled.”
Jesus Christ: Always a Personal Experience
By Don Meadows
Going to church can be dangerous to your spiritual health. You need to know where the traps are so you can step safely around them on your journey of faith.
Now wait a minute, before you jump to the conclusion that I am saying you should not go to church. Quite the contrary. You need to attend church regularly, but be careful. Don’t allow yourself to become institutionalized by organized religion that you forget what it means to be a true Christian. Make certain the church you attend teaches, and preaches, that the Bible is God’s Word and it is the supreme authority in matters of doctrine and discipline.
Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well. He asked her for a drink of water. The religious rules of etiquette of the time said that was wrong. Jewish men should not have been talking with a “woman like that.” Their conversation turned to proper worship; and Jesus told her things about herself that revealed to her he was a prophet. She went into the town and told the men that she had found Messiah. They came running. After talking with Jesus, they, too, accepted him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Their belief, though initiated by what the woman told them, was based on their personal talks with Jesus. This is a monumental revelation about becoming a Christian.
Accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord comes through a personal encounter with him.
A person becomes a Christian as a result of a relationship with Jesus, always including a moment of conviction of one’s need for forgiveness of the sins he or she has committed. Becoming a Christian includes the realization that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price of sin because he loves with a redeeming love. Becoming a Christian happens when a person accepts that forgiveness as a gift, because they have nothing to offer God that would be good enough.
Becoming a Christian does not happen because one repeats traditional words written in a hymnal, followed by a handshake from the preacher. You aren’t a disciple of Jesus because you complete a prescribed course of study, repeat some words and have the congregation declare you are now a part of Christ’s Church.
Rituals in churches are properly understood when it is clear they are public testimonies to what has taken place privately and intimately between a person and Jesus. Could someone believe they are “saved” just because they repeat these words in public without ever having had a personal confrontation with the Lord? Considering the possibility of that and the consequences frightens me.
It took courage for these Samaritan men to declare their belief in Jesus. It requires courage and conviction today for men and women to proclaim a true personal relationship with him today. This is because it sets them apart from the world and sometimes it sets them apart from the crowd at church.
But when you have really tasted the living water given by Jesus, you cherish the moments to confess the Lord everywhere you can.
Blessed by Mothers
By Don Meadows
How Mary’s heart must have ached as she stood there that day, watching her first-born suffer as his life was draining from his very veins. Memories must have poured into her mind so quickly that she could not process them all.
Mothers suffer a lot for their children. It begins with labor and lasts until death. I suppose a mother never has a moment when she isn’t thinking about her children, rejoicing with them, worrying about them, bragging about them, defending them, hurting for them and, in some cases, grieving for them.
I am not going to even attempt to imagine the heart and mind of a mother. I’m a man, which disqualifies me from any pretense of being an authority on the subject.
I was blessed with a wonderfully human mother. She loved my dad totally and never really got over his death, in the 80s. There never was a moment when we five children ever doubted we were loved by both Mom and Dad, and they were together all our lives. That speaks volumes in today’s society.
Mom died in 1996. So many memories come back, and I miss her very much. I could tell you story after story about her, wonderful things, loving things and silly things. That, of course, would take much more time than you would be willing to give me. Suffice it to say I, my brothers and sister miss her very much and encounter little reminders about her each day.
I miss Janet’s mother, Cora Mae Fenton, too. She was probably one of the bravest and most resourceful women I ever knew. She raised a bunch of kids – and I do mean a “bunch” -- and a lot of it on her own. Janet’s dad died when she was 18 months old, leaving her Mom with a little house and a big family. It took Granny many, many hours to do her work. How she managed to feed them is a marvel, and all of them are wonderful people. I am honored to call them My Family.
Janet and I have no children ourselves. But, Janet is a mother. She raised my oldest son like he was her very own, and loves dearly my other two boys like sons. She never forgets birthdays, anniversaries or special days and always gets out handmade cards. She also has spoiled a bunch of nieces and nephews, and even taught a lot of them in fourth grade.
And, let me say I am grateful for having known Essie Mae Atkins, my late mother-in-law, and of course the birth mother of my boys, Anita Diane (Atkins) Clark.
I guess this is not exactly a typical devotional message. But it is written out of a deep love and appreciation for the women who have been so big of a part of my life. They, in their own unique ways, have helped me to understand how wise God was when He gave to us Mothers.
The ‘Gut Truth’ About Poverty
By Don Meadows
Poverty is a relative thing until it starts to gnaw away at your belly. Then it is personal – very personal.
I’ve seen poverty; I’ve also seen what has been purported to be poverty. They aren’t necessarily the same.
The reality is that poverty kills people. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.
Janet and I, along with Larry Alspaugh of Lancaster, OH, visited Haiti in 2003. There we saw poverty. It was common to see children in the middle of the road who, when traffic slowed, would come up to the window with their hands turned outward begging. Some of them were victims of a form of slave trade there. All were begging for their lives.
One of the unforgettable moments was when we were driving through the city of Cap Haitian. I looked at a city dump filled with all kinds of stuff, including rotting bits of food. Dogs were in there hunting. So were goats. And children. I watched a small child dig something out of the garbage and swallow it. Tragically this was not an isolated thing. (See Trip to Haiti)
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), “there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.
If there is enough food, why do people starve? Because of greed. People want to sell it for a high price. Armies need it and use it as a weapon. Politicians control who can and who cannot get it to retain their power. Also, getting it to where it is needed is economically difficult.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, set a wonderful example for the desired mindset of Christians. Wesley in 1731 began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor.
In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds.
In his long life, Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.
This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776, insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”
When he died in 1791 at the age of 87 the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote, “I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.” In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.
Hunger is but one of the results of poverty. Health is impacted by it, too.
Take, for instance, AIDS. According to a joint statement by Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), “AIDS is now second only to the Black Death as the largest epidemic in history. AIDS kills a little less than 2 million people a year, or about one person every 17 seconds. This death toll surprisingly includes a lot of children, who are often infected with the HIV virus during pregnancy or through breast-feeding.
“The toll is worst in Africa, where millions of parents have died, leaving children as orphans. Often teachers have died as well, leaving schools empty. Doctors and nurses have died, leaving hospitals and medical clinics with nothing. Farmers have died, leaving crops in the fields. Entire villages have been devastated.”
This only begins to tell the story.
The other day I was in the Post Office. A neighbor came in, was handed an envelope and waved it in the air with glee. “I’ve been waiting on this,” he exclaimed. Then he explained it was his first allotment of food stamps – more than $700, for himself, his wife and daughter.
I found myself caught in a dilemma. Would I scream in outrage, for I know something about this particular situation, or cry for a world which, in many places, $700 would represent anywhere from a half to a full year of income?
In the U.S., poverty is a relative thing. The poverty level is gauged by a certain percentage of the median income. If you get less than a certain percentage, you are considered “in poverty.” Thanks to the Johnson Administration of the 60s there are many programs to assist people. I mean that both sincerely, thankfully and sarcastically.
While there is much legitimate help given, there is a great amount of abuse by Americans and non-Americans in this country. An attitude of “I’m entitled” exists among many of our people.
There are no such programs in Haiti or in many parts of the world. People literally spend their entire day searching for something to feed their children and themselves.
While in Haiti, we went on a field trip into the country and it rained all day. That evening I wanted my shoes cleaned because they were soaked with mud. An elderly gentleman was there with a shoeshine box, so I asked him for help.
He did an all right job and I handed him a $5 bill. The next morning he was waiting for me and said he would be “my boy.” That meant, our leader explained, that he wanted to work for me. I had paid him what he would expect to earn in an entire week. He wanted to work for me fulltime. I “hired” him. All he had to do was carry two suit cases to a van so we could get to the airport. I gave him another $5; he wanted to know when I was going to return?
Here at home you have to pay someone $25 to $30 to cut your grass – if it’s not too big of a job and you provide the mower and gasoline. Some people just won’t work, period.
The international scene, especially the Middle East, has been interesting to watch the last several weeks. Words of King Solomon have been brought to life: “The want of people is the destruction of the prince.” People have tired of economic and political oppression and have risen up to throw out those who keep them impoverished. To them it’s a matter of life and death; to us it’s an opportunity to complain about the price of gasoline.
The words of Jesus keep coming back to me: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:42-46 KJV)
There are many people and dedicated organizations who are trying to make a difference. And they do. But, they can’t do it all. It’s a global crisis, and a Christian opportunity. What difference shall I make, in the name of my Lord?
May 17, 2011
Seek First His Kingdom
By Don Meadows
Many emotions ran through me Sunday as I watched the people of the little church that Janet and I attend struggle with a divine question. Would they support a young missionary family by giving $100 a month?
It was not an easy decision. They average between 22 and 32 people each Sunday morning. Their offerings pay the preacher, utilities, the West Ohio Conference and Shawnee District apportionments. Add to that miscellaneous expenses and there is not much left.
After the worship service, the decision was made. “We’ll do it.” It was a moment of divine encounter, divine consideration and divine choice. I use the word “divine” because of yesterday’s thoughts in Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest.”
Chambers says, “We are made ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ receiving and sharing God’s own nature through His promises. Then we have to work that divine nature into our human nature by developing godly habits. The first habit to develop is the habit of recognizing God’s provision for us.”
How quickly the born-again believer forgets that God, who forgives us all our sins and gives us the assurance of eternal life and joy, can and will provide for our earthly existence, too. Faith comes easy when there is no hope or recourse left or when the hypothetical becomes reality. Then we flinch.
Many churches struggle today because its members have yet to surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ and put their total confidence in Him to be their provider. Life after death we will trust to Him probably because there is no other choice, but life before death is another matter. It’s most difficult to turn over control to Jesus. First, we don’t want to. Secondly, we are afraid to. Then we use logic to excuse what is, in the final analysis, a real denial of the faith we are so quick to claim.
Until a person gives top priority to God and His kingdom that person can never know the depth of the blessings or the love of our heavenly Father. Until a person entrusts to God everything in this life he cannot experience the peace and lack of fear that is desired for us by Jesus.
The Lord said, in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” Understand, however, that peace comes as a result of absolute surrender to the will of the Father.
Obedience to God only when it’s logical is the epitome of self-centeredness. That is, in the final analysis, trusting only in oneself and denial of the powers of the divine God. It is saying, “I will follow and obey God so long as I can understand and control the outcome.” That is hypocrisy.
I know of churches today on the brink of closing, not because of a lack of resources among its members but because of a lack of surrender of all things to God. Quite often the ones in a church most worried about what is spent are those who give the least. In nearly 30 years of pastorate work, I suspect that the ones who give the most are those who can afford it the least.
There are numerous victims of greed. First victim is the one who refuses to give. He or she, by choice, never realizes the multitude of blessings desired for them by God. Secondly, a church is a victim because it must struggle in a survivor-mode and is unable to be the effective witness the Lord wants and the people of a community need. Thirdly, God’s people suffer by not receiving ministries they need. Fourth, children suffer because they are deprived of an example of Christian service in action and, as a result, will be themselves blind to opportunities to work with the Lord when they are adults.
Many times I have been astounded to watch God provide for those who trust Him by committing to take on what seems an irrational task. Faith begins at the end of our reach, where we must grasp onto the helping hand of God. The Lord said to the people in Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
This promise is made to a people for their obedience to God and those who seek His true will. It is not given to those who might see God as an investment for their own gain. Don’t be fooled by those who suggest that if you give thus and thus to their ministries, God will reward you with a blessing many times over what you have given. That’s foolishness.
I said at the beginning, I am proud of the little church we attend. It took a step – small but important step -- in faith-obedience to God. The people have said: “We will assume the responsibility to do our part, and we will rely upon God to provide for us to do that.”
What happened? Before everyone had left the building, the first month of support had been raised, and 50 per cent of the second month donated.
And Jesus took five loaves and two small fish and . . .
May 18, 2011
The Gist of Witnessing
By Don Meadows
The idea of witnessing is scary to many Christians. There are several possibilities why.
They may have an inaccurate understanding of what witnessing is. Many Christians believe a “good witness” must have a remarkable memory and command of the Bible. This is so they can quote a passage, give book, chapter and verse. Obviously, to have good Bible skills is helpful; but it can be a handicap, too. Should one rely upon biblical knowledge as the primary tool to witness of Christ is to miss the point entirely.
Witnessing may be frightening because a Christian believes they are insufficiently grounded theologically. Thus, they think witnessing should be a job for the preacher or the more experienced believer. If unable to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity or properly interpret the Book of Revelation and discuss the Rapture, they feel inadequate as a witness.
Some people don’t witness because they have none. They go to church; they are on various committees and boards; they sing hymns spiritedly; they are able to pray moving prayers in public; they are perceived as leaders. Yet, they aren’t Christians. Unfortunately some people are “religious” but never have had a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. They have never asked Him into their hearts nor sought forgiveness for their sins. They may have been brought up in a Christian community and have assumed they are Christians because they do all the things Christians around them do.
The man born blind who was healed by Jesus is model for what Christian witnessing should be. It’s an intriguing story, so read it in its entirety. As you do so, note these realities:
1) He was receptive to Jesus. The man was sitting there as Jesus and His disciples stopped. He permitted the Lord to touch him at the point of his needs. So many today refuse the invitation of the Lord to be touched. They have become so accustomed to their condition they are unwilling to change. Like the Pharisees of this story, they prefer their blindness to enlightenment. They don’t want their lives challenged or exposed for what they are. They prefer to stay just as they are.
2) He was obedient to Jesus. Go to the pool and wash your eyes, Jesus said. He did it, and his life was changed. He could see. Amazing, isn’t it, how we resist the instructions of Jesus. Whether from unbelief, pride or something else, resistance to the Lord is so common. This is true of people outside the church and inside it. They think they know how things ought to be. Then they miss out on the blessings and benefits that obeying Jesus would bring.
3) He didn’t claim to know all the answers. But, he knew what had happened to him. To witness effectively for Jesus does not necessitate having all the answers. The Pharisees quizzed him, and his family, ruthlessly. He admitted to his limited understanding of what had happened, but he said he was healed by the man called Jesus.
4) He boldly told the results of his encounter with Jesus. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!" What difference has Jesus made in your life? Own it and tell it and live it. Anyone who has been touched by Jesus is changed. Paul tells us in 2nd Cor. 5:17 (NLT): “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” Do your family, friends, associates and especially those aren’t fond of you see a change in you since Jesus came into your life? If not, prayerful ask God why? Could it be you have yet to humble yourself before Him and ask forgiveness? Are you surrendered to His lordship?
The word “witness” come from the Greek “martus” (mar'-toos). It’s the word from which we get “martyr.” A Christian witness yields his life for the life of Christ. This doesn’t necessarily mean dying literally – although that still happens – but it does mean being identified with the same life as Jesus. Priorities are established on what is best and important for Christ to be advanced. We live for Him, not ourselves. We act differently because we are different.
I saw something on Facebook yesterday which caused me to pause and think. A young woman wrote that teenagers don’t want someone to lecture them about salvation. They want someone who will show them through their lives the living Christ. They want to see people living what they profess. They want not the talk but the walk.
That’s what the world needs. Preaching is important, but people who have been touched and changed by Jesus whose lives mirror his life is what today’s society desperately craves. There is and there will be resistance. Satan will fight hard.The man who was healed of blindness also shows us that, as we mature in our understanding of the Lord, our testimony will become surer and bolder. Read the story. The man was kicked out of the synagogue but he had something now he did not have before. He knew the Lord.
May 19, 2011
Get Mad at the Right Guy
By Don Meadows
Some things in the Bible are just downright confusing. They become more so when we see them happening in our own lifetime.
Ahimelech was God’s priest. He fed David and gave him the sword of Goliath when King Saul, with murder in his heart, was hunting for his son-in-law. Saul found out about it through Doeg and ordered the killing of the Lord’s priests, accusing them of conspiring against him in favor of David. The king’s body guards refused to carry out the slayings, so Saul told Doeg, “You do it.” And, he did (see text above).
The confusing part is why God allowed it? Why does a merciful, and just, God permit evil people to heap pain and suffering, even death, upon innocent people? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in all this?
Yesterday in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette I read a story about a first-grader dying from a rare brain tumor. I am sure his parents asked these questions of God. We read and hear all the time about people being hurt, getting sick and dying though they have done nothing to cause it. Men and women with wonderful spouses leave their marriages, even walking away from their children and grandchildren. That people have freewill is understandable, but why does God permit those who are innocent to suffer the consequences?
I have sat many times with families asking these very questions, seeking answers. Why did God allow this to happen?Sometimes they become so bitter toward God they walk away from Him
On this issue, a commentator for the New Living Translation writes: “Why did God allow 85 innocent priests to be killed? Their deaths served to dramatize to the nation how a king could become an evil tyrant. Where were Saul’s advisers? Where were the elders of Israel? Sometimes God allows evil to develop to teach us not to let evil systems flourish. Serving God is not a ticket to wealth, success, or health. God does not promise to protect good people from evil in this world, but he does promise that ultimately all evil will be abolished. Those who have remained faithful through their trials will experience great rewards in the age to come (see Matthew 5:11-12; Rev. 21:1-7; Rev. 22:1-21).”
God does not will anything ugly to happen to good people. The problem is none of us is good. None of us is innocent. Jesus, remember from Mark 10:18, said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Harsh as it may seem, we have no right to expect only nice things from God because we all are sinners. The reality is that sin has corrupted humanity’s relationship with God. And sin corrupts relationships between people. Thus, we need a savior – to save us from the ravages of sin. We need to be saved from our own sins, of course, but also saved from the sins of others.
Satan and sin are the reasons people hurt. They are to blame for our grief. They are the ones who deserve our hatred, hatred so intense that we will do everything possible to avoid them or stop them. This can come only through the power of God’s holy Word and through the strength of the Holy Spirit.
That’s all well and good, preacher, you may argue, but God ought not to let that kind of stuff happen – especially to me. He should do something.
He has. Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Take courage and have peace. Jesus’ death and resurrection has destroyed the eternal consequences of sin. You may separate a person’s body from his spirit, but for a believer of Jesus Christ it is impossible to destroy his life.
Pain, hurt, heartache, sickness, death – all are consequences of sin. They are realities of earthly life, but they are not plagues inflicted upon us by God.
When you are hurt by sin, don’t get mad at the wrong person. Get angry at those sins which make you their victims. Get mad at the devil. He’s the real culprit. Pray for those who have been used by Satan to inflict this hurt upon you, because they are victims, too.
Then run with your anger to Jesus. Tell Him all about it. Ask Him to help you understand it, endure it and overcome it. And get ready for the relief, even joy and peace, which will come.
[1, 2]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.
May 30, 2011
It Will Be a Glad Reunion Day
By Don Meadows
Janet and I attended the South Webster High School Alumni Banquet Saturday evening, and it was a reminder of several eternal truths.
Not the least of these is just how brief earthly life is. If you listen carefully at one of these events, you will hear a lot of talk about the past and expressions of shock about the present. “Where has the time gone?” I heard someone ask. “Why it seems like just yesterday that . . . .” There are literally dozens of ways that sentence was finished, as friendships and activities are recalled.
Of course there is the usual catching-up of who has died, who is sick, who came and who didn’t and why. And the guessing games: “Is that . . . no, it can’t be. She was always so skinny. Why, I’d never have guessed that was him . . .”
That, naturally, reminded me of another truth. People change. Sometimes it is for the better; sometimes not. But, they always change. They can’t stop it.
As I watched – I never attended South Webster, but Janet graduated there in 1962 – I thought back to my youth. This year marks the 50th year of my high school graduation; but my class celebrated its 50th last year. (That is another story which we won’t go into now.) My classmates did pretty much the same things as the South Webster people, which reminded me of another truth.
The more we see our lives in the past, the greater is our need for assurance about the future. This goes beyond economic assurance; it involves the eternal. We are so aware of the years slipping quickly by and we think about our kids, and their kids, and, even, their kids. What kinds of lives will they have? Will they even remember us, down the road?
Such thoughts remind me of another truth. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8 KJV) There is power in that declaration. There is power to comfort; there is power to confront.
All the dynamics of living push us to consider, “What’s next?” Some folk make jokes and whistle in the dark about “what’s next.” Not I. It is too important a question to toy with, and you will answer it.
The unchanging nature of Jesus is foundational for me. On Him I can build my life on earth; on Him I build my assurance of never-ending life. He will never stop loving me. He will never stop loving my children, and their children, and their children. He will ever extend to all the hand of friendship and offer the gift of eternal life. He has prepared the way for us; He is preparing an eternal home with Him. It is ours, if we so choose.
Alumni banquets and family and church reunions are wonderful reminders of what can await all of us. Jesus said, “I’ve gone to prepare for you. When it’s ready, I’ll come and take you where I am. There you’ll be reunited with all your loved ones who have chosen Me. We’ll be together forever.”What do you say? What do you choose?