True Beauty

Proverbs 31:1
“The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him . . .”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1277.pngProverbs 31 is a section of Scripture most often taught at women’s conferences or retreats, because it goes to great length describing a virtuous woman. A more careful look will reveal this passage was actually instructions to the King, by his mother. It was her attempt to teach him how to find a godly wife. We find not only the characteristics that a virtuous woman ought to pursue, but also the traits a godly man should be looking for in a wife.

Each year a variety of media outlets declare their list of most attractive woman on the planet. In each case, it is the physical characteristics that are focused upon, without mention of true character. The king’s mother reminds him of the need to look beyond the surface, at true beauty.

Proverbs 31:30
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

I have always been struck by the fact that, in her 70′s, Sarah was still considered beautiful by the king of Egypt. Thinking she was the sister of Abraham, he pursued a relationship with her. Years later, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter declares Sarah’s true beauty. He describes her as being chaste, gentle and one who feared the Lord (1Peter 3:1-6). While physical beauty is the first thing we notice in another, character and godliness are the traits that will last.

Men need to be careful not to be drawn to a women’s passing beauty, while ignoring true godliness. Women need to be careful not to rate their beauty above things that really matter in the kingdom of God. All the lighting, camera angles, and airbrushing cannot replace godliness or true virtue. Let’s not look at the latest fashion magazine as a mirror, but to the Word of God, so we become people who fear the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Solid Gold

Malachi 3:3
“He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1273.jpgSince ancient times, precious metals have been purified using intense heat. The process involved a craftsman stirring a crucible filled with molten gold. Flames, reaching an excess of one thousand degrees, would liquify the gold and send the impurities to the top. The craftsman would then skim off the impurities, thus purifying the gold. The tradition remains largely untouched today, with the exception of a few advancements for safety and precision. For smaller amounts of gold, a second method of refining is often used today,  involing the use of strong chemicals to dissolve the impurities. The purified gold becomes a powder when dried, then it is heated into useable gold. Whatever the process, it is clear, for purity to take place, intense heat is involved.

It is important to remember, as a believer, you and I are in a purifying process. The Lord is seeking to make us more holy and thus more useful for the kingdom. This process almost always includes heating things up around us. We may find the normal activities of life become overwhelming, as the Lord seeks to draw our attention to Himself. We may also find life being filled with added pressures, which serve the purpose of leading us to Christ, to become more like Him.

Whatever you are facing as this year comes to a close, keep in mind, it is the desire of God to purify you. He is a Master Craftsman who can use the experiences of life to form us into the image of Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Lessons from Nature

Proverbs 30:24-28
“There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1267.jpgThis Proverb takes us to the natural world, in order to illustrate spiritual truths. The behaviors of four creatures are used to help us understand how to walk with the Lord.

The ant is an example of being prepared for the future. We are exhorted to live prepared for eternity. We do that by receiving Jesus Christ and walking daily, with Him. Jesus reminded us of the need to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

The rock badger is believed to be a small animal, much like a rabbit. Having no defenses of its own, it could not fight off a predator. The wisdom of this small creature is found in the fact that it dwelt in the rocks. For a predator to attack the rock badger, it must go through the rock. The believer must learn to hide away in Christ; He is our fortress, strong tower, shield and buckler, against the enemy’s assault.

The locust was known for always moving forward. Nothing could impede the advance of a locust swarm. Paul reminds the believer of the need to forget the past and move forward with the Lord (Philippians 3:13). For many of us, our past failures are keeping us from present experiences with the Lord, and from future victories for the kingdom. It is time to act like a locust and press forward.

Finally, we have all seen a spider run up the wall and across the ceiling. Their ability to hold on is amazing. We are reminded of the need to cling to the Lord. The heroes of the Christian faith were men and women who held tightly to the promises of God. When the storms of life hit, they clung to the promises, and like an anchor, those promises held firm.

As the new year approaches, keep in mind, no obstacle is so great that God cannot give you strength to confront it. Let’s be sure, above all else, we resolve to make our hiding place in the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

The Lord’s Cow

Malachi 1:8
“And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?
Says the Lord of hosts.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1266.jpgYears ago, I heard a story of a farmer whose cow, after a long and arduous labor, gave birth to twins. He ran into the farmhouse to give the news to his wife, who reminded him of the goodness of God and encouraged him to give one of the calves to the Lord. He agreed immediately, but took some time to make the decision as to which calf would be his and which one would belong to the Lord. After a few weeks, one of the young cows fell ill and the faithful farmer spent the night caring for it. Early the next morning the farmer entered the house and was met by his wife who asked what happened. With a voice filled with sorrow he responded, “The Lord’s calf died.”

When it comes to giving, we often follow the example of the farmer. We pass on to the Lord what we no longer need. The church I first attended had a ministry to Mexico and would collect items to be taken down and given to the needy. Before the items were delivered, it was always necessary to go through the boxes and bags and filter out the “dead cows.” It was astonishing how often boxes would be filled with torn clothing or single shoes. It is almost as though, it was easier for some people to drop stuff at the church, than to take it to the dump, where it belonged. We have all heard the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Perhaps we should learn a similar phrase, “one man’s junk is sometimes junk.”

When it comes to giving to the Lord, we should’nt just give what we do not want or need. We should give our best. I have been blessed over the years, to see so many people at our church give of their time, talents and treasures, to further the Kingdom of God. Remember you cannot take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. One of the greatest ways to store up treasures in heaven, is to invest in the work of the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Parenting

Proverbs 29:15
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Proverbs 29:17
“Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1265.jpgBefore becoming the Pastor of Calvary Chapel Vero Beach, I spent eight years teaching in the classroom. The first five years I taught in middle school and the final three in high school. Those years proved to be both a wonderful experience and an excellent training ground for raising my own children. My first year was interesting to say the least. I was 23 years old and newly married. I had little experience dealing with preteens, except for the fact that I had been one. My approach in the classroom could have been called the “whose your buddy” method. I attempted to be the cool teacher, who never gave out detentions, office referrals, or parent contacts. The result was chaos. After a few months, I spoke with an aunt who had been in education for years. When I asked for her secret to order in the classroom, she explained that she did not have disciplinary problems, because she had a standard the students understood and she stuck to. Soon after, I observed another teacher who clearly stated the classroom standards and kept to them. When a student misbehaved, she did not become emotional, losing her cool and raising her voice, she simply pointed out that he was breaking the rules, and disciplined accordingly. Those experiences transformed my ability to instruct the children. Instead of spending all my time, energy, and prayer life, dealing with discipline, I was able to teach.

Solomon points out, this same principle should be applied to the home. We have all seen children misbehaving and parents doing nothing more than warning them to stop. As the child continues, the parent raises the level of his voice, until the parent has completely lost his cool. Soon, he begins to scream at the child, perhaps even grabbing the child forcefully by the arm, to snatch him up and leave without further embarrassment. If we are honest, we have not only seen that parent, but we have been that parent. The secret to successful discipline is having a clear biblical standard for our children. The result will be spending less time agitated and upset, and more time instructing and loving our kids.

Allow me to give a few guidelines. First, our standard is based upon how our Heavenly Father treats us. He is ever merciful and forgiving, and understands we are prone to failure. Never does God condone sin, but He is always ready to lovingly restore us, when we fail. One common failure among parents is, putting standards on children that they themselves could not keep. Second, when we must exercise discipline, this should become a teaching time. Instead of allowing our emotions to take over and reacting in anger or frustration, we want to clearly point out how our child has misbehaved. We must explain what the Bible says about proper behavior, consequences, and forgiveness. This is a critical time to hug and pray with our children. Finally, we must be sure the punishment fits the crime. Are we upset at our child because his behavior was wrong or because it embarrassed us in front of our peers? I have seen parents horrified at their child because they bit another child in Sunday school. While it is wrong to bite other kids, in some cases, the parents were more embarrassed by how that made them look, than at the infraction of their toddler. I have even known parents to stop coming to church because of the embarrassment. Keep in mind, your child’s behavior is not always a representation of your parenting. After all, God’s kids ate the forbidden fruit. Don’t discipline out of embarrassment, but discipline with kindness and affection, for the infraction that has been committed.

Pastor Jim

 

Shaky Ground

Proverbs 28:26
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1264.jpgWhen faced with decisions, it is not uncommon to be counseled to follow your heart. Solomon suggests that doing so is a very bad idea. He calls it folly. I can think of three reasons why it is foolish to follow your heart.

First, the Bible teaches that the heart is deceitful above all other things (Jeremiah 17:9). That means our hearts can trick us into doing things that are unhealthy or even detrimental. Our hearts, like our appetites, can desire things which are harmful to us. A friend of mine was diagnosed with high cholesterol and counseled to drastically change his diet. Upon receiving the doctor’s orders, his appetite did not suddenly change. He still hungered for fatty, fried, high cholesterol foods. The heart is the same way. We can long for things that God forbids, and our hearts can lead us away from the Lord.

Second, the heart is the seat of emotion. It is the place where emotions arise; and emotions are untrustworthy. We have all had the experience where, suddenly and without warning, our emotions change. We are happy one minute then suddenly we are saddened, afraid or filled with anxiety. A person who is trusting in emotions, is like a small boat in a violent storm. It is very difficult to navigate through life with emotions as our compass.

Finally, not only are our emotions fickle, but the desires of the heart are constantly changing. Many of the things we longed for in the past are hardly worth having today. Look back at some old photos and notice the hair cut you had to have, or the outfit that you spent your hard-earned money to buy. Like changing fashions, the heart is constantly desiring something new.

Rather than trusting in the heart, we should trust the promises of God. Instead of leading us away from the Lord, they will lead to a life that is well pleasing to Him, and beneficial to the ones we love. Unlike emotions, the promises of God are like bedrock upon which to build your life. When emotions, fashion, culture, and experience suddenly change, the Word of God remains as solid ground to stand upon.

Don’t follow your heart, follow the Lord.
Pastor Jim

 

Pierced

Zechariah 12:10
“They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1263.jpgZechariah wrote over 400 years before Christ, and yet, he refers to the cross.

In John 19:36-37 we read, “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’”

David also spoke of the cross in Psalm 22:14-18, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

And as Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 53:4-6 “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Encouragement and hope are the underlying themes of the prophecies of Zechariah. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they faced the ruins of what had once been a splendid city and glorious Temple. There was much to be sad about, but Zechariah encouraged them with visions of judgment on Israel’s enemies, and of the complete restoration of the city of Jerusalem. Yet, the most thrilling vision of all, was the prediction of a coming King – the Messiah who would bring eternal salvation and the promised eternal kingdom. The complete restoration of God’s people would occur in the redeeming and delivering work of the coming Messiah.

No matter what difficulties you are facing today, you have hope because of what Jesus has done for you. The cross not only fulfills a host of prophecies, but proves once and for all, the great love of God. Take some time to reflect upon the work of Christ on the cross. Leave your past and your sins at the cross, and follow after Jesus with each step of your life.

Pastor Jim