Impossible

Mark 3:5
“Stretch forth your hand.”

hands-worshiping.jpgWhen Jesus entered the Synagogue, it seemed everyone in the room knew He would address the man with the withered hand. His disciples were watching carefully. This event would be seared into their memories, and written down in the timeless Word of God. The Pharisees watched Him closely, knowing His compassion would lead Him to the man, even though it was the Sabbath. I imagine the man with the withered hand also watched eagerly, hoping Jesus would do for him, what he had done for so many others. As Jesus approached him, this man must have been excitedly anticipating what Jesus was about to do. It is here, where the story gets most interesting to me. Instead of touching the man’s hand, speaking words of healing, or even asking him to do a religious task, Jesus simply says, “Stretch forth your hand.” What sounds like a simple request to you and me was actually an impossibility. Jesus asked this man to do the one thing that he was not able to do. Had He asked him to run to the priests, to offer a sacrifice of 1000 sheep, or even travel to the pool of Bethsaida; difficult as those things might have been, they were possible. But to stretch out his withered hand, he could not do. Something happened within this man the moment he chose to obey Jesus. The impossible, not only became possible, it happened. His hand was restored.

Often, we feel like this man. Jesus highlights something in our life, and calls us to change. We look at Him as if to say, “Jesus, I can’t. I’ve tried so many times and this is too hard for me.” Christian, allow me to encourage you. The moment you decide you will obey, is the moment He provides the supernatural ability to bring about change. Together, let’s stop looking at all the reasons we cannot overcome our weaknesses, and let’s focus on His ability to transform our lives and stretch forth our withered hands.

Pastor Jim

 

Free Pass

Exodus 12:13
“…when I see the blood, I will pass over you…”

IMG_1406There are many pictures of Christ portrayed in the Old Testament narrative. We see Him as the offering of Abraham on Mount Moriah, the Angel wrestling with Jacob, the Captain of the Lord’s armies in Joshua, and on and on. One of the clearest pictures, is found here in Exodus. We see Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Paul, writing to the Corinthians put it like this,

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” 1 Corinthians 5:7

We see some of the most important aspects of our relationship with Christ illustrated in the Passover story.

Like Israel, who was in severe bondag under a harsh task master, and facing the threat of death, we are in bondage to sin and death. All other plagues, which represented natural events and Egyptian gods, were unable to deliver Israel. It was only through the shed blood of the Lamb of God that deliverance could be found. In the same way, Scripture declares boldly and consistently, there is NO salvation apart from faith in Christ. If a person wanted to be delivered from the curse, they must hide under the blood of the lamb. As exclusive as the offer of deliverance was, it was made openly to all of Egypt. All Israel, and anyone in Egypt, could have obeyed the message from Moses and been delivered from the curse.

Israel was instructed to eat the meal with their shoes on. It seems God wanted them ready to walk, once they had partaken of the Lamb. This walk included getting all the leaven out of the house. As the years passed, they would commemorate this event by removing leaven from their homes for a week after Passover. Leaven is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Once a person comes to Christ, it is time to take inventory of life, and remove anything that is not pleasing to God. It wasn’t cleaning up their lives that delivered them, but once delivered, it was time to clean house.

The Passover changed the calendar year for Israel. From now on, their year would start with this event. It became the beginning of months for them. The same is true of all who put trust in Christ. No matter what our past holds, we become a new creation, once we respond to Christ. ALL old things pass away and ALL things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We no longer have to live with the guilt, fear, disappointment, weight, or baggage of the past. All has been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we can press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

Will you make Christ your Passover? Will you partake of the Lamb whose blood was shed for you? His blood was spilled so your sins could be washed, and you could be made right with God. Partake of Him today.

Pastor Jim

 

Stand Out

Exodus 11:7
“…that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.”

IMG_1405Many of the plagues that fell upon Egypt did not affect the children of Israel. God, by His grace, made a distinction between those who were His and those who were not. Part of the reason for that distinction was that others would desire to join the ranks of Israel and become followers of God. Although the Bible does not go into great detail listing all those of Egypt who chose to join Israel, we do know that along with the twelve tribes, others left their homeland and became part of the tribes who made their way to Canaan. In many ways, it was the distinction that was made between the follower of God and the rest of Egypt that drew others to forsake all and follow God.

From a biblical standpoint, it is clear God has a future plan for Israel. He has not cast them off, and will work mightily, in and through them, as end time events unfold. That being said, it is also true, in another sense, God does not make a distinction of one nation over another. Peter saw a vision of a blanket descending from heaven filled with all kinds of animals, and was told to kill and eat. The purpose of the vision was to make clear that God makes no distinction; all who come to faith in Christ will be saved. Later Paul, a former Pharisee, wrote, that once we come to Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Today, we do not see it raining on the picnic of an unbeliever, while the believer, across the park, enjoys the sunshine. Jesus declared, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust“(Matthew 5:45). However, that does not mean God will not make a distinction between those who belong to Him and those who don’t. In fact, God wants to do things in the life of His children that will draw the entire world to desire Him, and even make the nation of Israel jealous, and trust in Christ. This distinction is made internally, more than externally. God will fill the life of the Christian with love, joy and peace. It will radiate from their lives, in the midst of the storms they face, and become like a beacon of light, drawing the world to Jesus. The more we grow in Christ, the more fruit we will bear, and the more others will be drawn to trust in Him.

Let’s seek to abide in Christ, and bear the kind of fruit that makes us stand out in a world desperately in need of Christ

Pastor Jim

 

A Snare To Us

Exodus 10:7
“Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?’”

IMG_1399Pharaoh thought the problem with his nation was the believers, and as a result, he attempted to suppress or destroy them at all costs. What he failed to see was, it was his attack upon God, His word, and His people, that actually destroyed his nation. What was once a powerful empire, and the delight of the nations, was being weakened by rebellion against the ways of God. Egypt is not an anomaly. The same is true of any nation that seeks to remove the influence of God.

Proverbs 14:34
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

I cannot help but see the parallels in the modern world. Almost every day we see immorality heralded as a form of free expression, or even as a civil right, while at the same time, righteousness is looked upon almost as if it were a disease. Those who suggest that certain behaviors or lifestyles are sinful, are considered to be intolerant, and looked upon almost as a virus that must be destroyed. It is not that the world does not like religion, but like Pharaoh who suggested they worship without any personal cost, the world calls out for moderation. If you are willing to be a Christian without letting it affect your behavior, your family, or your political and social viewpoints, then by all means, be a Christian. But those who dare to trust in, stand upon, and live by the Word of God, will not be tolerated and must be stopped.

How sad that the very thing Pharaoh thought would save his nation, is the very thing that destroyed it.

Pastor Jim

 

Evangelism

Mark 2:3
“Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.”

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There are so many fascinating aspects to this story: the crowd that gathered to listen to Jesus teach the Word, the healing of the paralytic, the fact that Jesus put a higher priority on the man’s spiritual condition, than upon his physical suffering, and the claim and proof that Jesus is God. All are worth noting and taking time for more careful observation. However, in the midst of all of that, it might be easy to look past one of the most important lessons in this text. Did you notice the actions of those who brought the paralytic? The effort these men went through in order to bring this man to Christ really struck me.

First, notice the value they put upon Jesus; they would seek to bring others to Him. They must have truly believed that the most important thing for this man was an encounter with Christ.

Second, notice the value they placed upon the man; they would risk missing out on getting a good seat, to carry him to Jesus. Keep in mind, in ancient times, a paralytic would have very little chance of doing anything but beg. In some cases, it was thought illness was attributed to sin, causing some to think that perhaps he deserved this condition. Certainly, there was no monetary or social benefit gained by associating with this man. Instead, the four men simply knew a man who was in need of Jesus, and they did whatever they could to get him there.

Third, notice they would not let any obstacle get in their way. When they arrived at the house, there seemed to be no way in; yet these men found a way. We are not told how, but they found a way to get up on the roof, they found a way to hoist the paralytic up with them, and they began to tear off the roofing, in order to get the man to Christ. This becomes even more striking when we realize it was not their house. They were taking a huge risk. To them, the cost was not greater than the prize of getting this man to Christ.

Finally, notice they did not complain when Jesus responded differently than they expected. Jesus was more interested in the man’s spiritual condition, than his physical suffering. This upset the religious leaders, but we hear no complaint from the four men. It is as though they understood that Jesus knew what was best for the paralytic, and they trusted the man into the care of Christ.

As a result of the actions of these four men, one individual had his life changed. He was healed, but more importantly, he was saved. I think we can learn a lot from the actions of these men. I think we need to put a greater value upon Christ, and upon each and every person, and be willing to risk more to bring people to hear about Jesus. Perhaps now would be a good time to pray for some of your friends who don’t know Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Free To Serve

Exodus 9:1
“Let My people go, that they may serve Me.”

IMG_1397Upon being set free from Egypt, Israel was called to serve the Lord. We get some keen insight about true service as the story continues to unfold. First off, Pharaoh suggests that Moses and the men go, but they leave their families behind. This has been the enemy’s tactic ever since. Moses responds to Pharaoh’s suggestion,

“And Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.’” Exodus 10:9

As you move forward in your relationship with Jesus, seek to do all you can to influence your family to a deeper commitment to Jesus. Establishing Biblical guidelines for the home, encouraging family devotions, using life experience to teach Biblical principles, and bringing the family to a solid Bible teaching church, are some of the best ways to get things started.

Exodus 10:24-25
“Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, ‘Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.’ But Moses said, ‘You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’”

Pharaoh made another suggestion about their worship. He stated they should go, but they should not give anything to the Lord. “Keep back all that is valuable for yourself” was the mantra of Pharaoh. Moses realized, all true service is costly. Later, David would state he would not give to the Lord that which cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). At times, it is the cost of doing ministry that keeps us from getting involved. Jesus exhorted us to be like a home builder who counts the cost, before getting to work on building. He did not say that to discourage us from serving, but to understand that no matter the cost, it is worth it.

We have been set free, not from physical bondage to slavery, but from the bondage of sin and it’s consequences. Just as Moses was to lead the people to a life of worship and service, we are called to serve. Pray about ways to get involved in serving the Lord, as He seeks to further His kingdom, one life at a time.

Pastor Jim

 

Famous

Mark 1:28
“And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.”

IMG_1394In the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus encountered a man with an unclean spirit. While there is no way of knowing what lifestyle he had lived which led to his condition, we can surmise from other accounts of dealing with demons, he was living in great darkness and difficulty. Whatever turmoil he faced, the solution was encountering Jesus. What the world could not do, Jesus did with seven simple words,”be quiet and come out of him.”

The Word of God has been overcoming darkness ever since. The Bible records many cases where people’s lives have been forever altered by the Words of God. We read of prostitutes, tax collectors, insurrectionists, religious zealots, as well as common everyday men and women, who encounter the Word of God, and are forever changed. The Word of God is still driving out darkness and changing lives.

A number of years ago, a plot of land, more than 20 acres, was given to the Calvary Chapel Bible Training Center in Ghana, West Africa. This pristine plot of ground, on a mountain overlooking the Volta river, was the perfect site to build a facility for the school, and later a church. We were amazed that it was gifted to us, and could not understand why it had not been developed earlier. Since that time, the facilities were erected, others have built homes, and established farms in the area. We recently heard, the reason it lay dormant all those years is, the people believed the area was filled with evil spirits. When the Training Center was built, and the Word of God taught, they saw that the evil of the area was driven away. The whole village has been impacted by the teaching of God’s Word, and Jesus is continuing to make Himself famous.

What we need, more than ever, is for the Word of God to be proclaimed so darkness can be overcome, and lives can be transformed.

Pastor Jim