The Great Gulf

Luke 16:26
“There is a great gulf fixed . . .”

20140228-065056.jpgBetween man and God there is a great gulf of separation. This gap is caused by sin, and makes it impossible for us to have fellowship with God. This is precisely the reason Jesus came. He bled and died on Calvary’s cross to bridge the gap; to make it possible for us to know God now, and spend eternity with Him. This life will come to an end, and when it does, only what we have done with Christ will really matter. In this story, the rich man reveals what happens to those who refuse Christ. Not only do they live separated from God, but they die that way.

Since every thing we have wears out, it is difficult for us to understand the concept of eternity, yet the Bible teaches us that the life to come has no end. Our response to Jesus determines our eternal destiny. Sadly, some are unwilling to surrender to Christ because of the lifestyle they enjoy. I beg you, learn the lesson from the rich man, and give up the passing pleasure of sin, for the eternal reward.

Pastor Jim

 

Dry Times

Numbers 1

20140228-064915.jpgThe book of Numbers receives its name from the numbering of the people that occurred in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 26. In Chapter 1, those who came out of Egypt were numbered. In Chapter 26, 40 years later, at the end of their wilderness journey, they are numbered again. A careful look will reveal, some of the tribes grew, and some of the tribes shrank. I think there is an important application we can glean which pertains to our lives. Just as they were in the wilderness, we often find ourselves in a spiritually dry time. We may even feel like we’re just wandering around aimlessly. I think it is valuable to remember, based upon what we do in the wilderness, we can either come out having shrunk or having grown.I believe God brings us to those places in our relationship with Him, those difficult times, because He wants to grow us in our relationship with Him. He wants us to learn to trust Him and follow Him.

In the Gospels, we read of the disciples getting into a boat with Jesus. Jesus falls asleep in the front of the boat. As they begin to cross the Sea of Galilee, a storm hits, and the disciples freak out. They were so panicked, they woke Jesus and said, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing.” That translates into, “Jesus, You don’t love us or care about us. If You really loved me, You wouldn’t allow this difficulty in my life, while You were sleeping.” We know, in response, Jesus got up and calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41). They faced a difficulty (you might say they were in a wilderness), and they failed. But was it a total failure?

The next time we see them on the Sea of Galilee in a storm, these same guys, row from evening time ‘till 4:00 am without stopping. Jesus sent them out onto the sea and said, “Go to the other side.” He went up on the mountain to pray and as He prays, He watches them (Mark 6:45-50). He seems to enjoy watching them row. They row and row, hour after hour… as the night grows dark and morning begins to approach, they are still rowing. They haven’t stopped. What happened? Well, in the first storm, they had a wilderness experience, but during that time of difficulty, they learned something. Even though they’d failed, they learned. When we are on the Sea of Galilee and a storm hits, we don’t need to be afraid; even if it looks as though God is sleeping and not involved.

As a result of that experience, you could throw those guys out on that sea, in any storm, and they knew, “Jesus has it covered. Even if He’s sleeping, He’s got it covered.” They were in a wilderness, but they grew.Every one of us will face a wilderness. We go through times of dryness in our relationship with the Lord. Times of difficulty, times when it seems like Jesus is asleep, not hearing us. We can grow or we can shrink. Depending on how we trust and follow the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Lost And Found

Luke 15:2
“This Man receives sinners . . .”

20140227-074349.jpgMan lives as though God and eternity are a mystery. Even before I became a Christian, I had heard the pseudo–verse, “God works in mysterious ways.” Here, in Luke 15, the mysterious ways of God are revealed. We see clearly how he feels about the lost, as well as what He does about it.

Jesus tells three stories, and in each one, He is played by a different character. In the first, He is the man who has a lost sheep and leaves all He has to find it. In the second, He is played by the woman who searches diligently to find the one lost coin. Finally, in the third, He is played by the father who patiently waits, while his son wastes his life. We see clearly the heart of God toward the lost and wayward. He willingly gave up all, clothed Himself in humanity, to seek and save the lost.

The message is clear. If you are wayward, come back to Him. He loves you and wants to forgive you. If someone you love is wayward, express to them the same loving grace that the father showed his son, as you pray and await their return.

Pastor Jim

 

This Old House 

Leviticus 27:14
“And when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the Lord, then the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand.”

20140227-074948.jpgAccording to Webster’s dictionary, the word ‘dedicate’ means, “to devote to worship or to set apart for sacred use.” As Leviticus comes to a close, Moses instructs the people to dedicate their homes to the Lord. Since the family is the foundation of society, the key to Israel’s future success was in each and every household dedicated themselves to the Lord.

A few years back some friends of mine purchased a new home. Before the foundation was laid, they went to the site and buried scripture verses in the ground. That is a beautiful picture of what it means to dedicate our homes to the Lord. We want to build upon the foundation of the Word, but we cannot stop with symbolism. If our homes are truly going to be devoted to God, we must ensure that they are a place where, in every way, God is honored. For this to happen, we might need to do some house cleaning and remodeling.

Take a moment to examine the contents of your home. I am not talking about the furnishings or what is in the pantry. Instead, think about the things are being allowed in the home. Imagine if, like Mary and Martha, Jesus was coming to your home with His twelve Apostles. What would you change right now? Are there cupboards that need to be cleaned out of things that have no business being in the home. Are there attitudes toward one another that would cause you to die of embarrassment if they were exposed in His presence? Jesus might not be on His way over for a physical visit, but keep in mind, everything is “open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13).

Christianity should never be reduced to what we don’t do. When we stand before Christ, we will not be examined for what we did not do, but for what we accomplished. Look at your home, is it time for an addition or two? What are you doing to ensure your kids are being trained up in the ways of the Lord? What are you doing to be a light to your neighbors? In what way are you seeking to make your spouse the most loved and respected spouse on the planet?

I think it is time we dedicate ourselves and our homes completely to the Lord and watch to see what great things God will do through it.

Pastor Jim

 

Invitation To Come

Luke 14:15
“Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Jesus tells a story to reveal His desire for all men everywhere to be saved. The cast includes God, played by the man giving the feast; the Christian, played by the servants sent out to invite people to the feast; and the population of planet earth, played by those who receive the invitation. Notice the excuses given by those who reject the offer. Two of the three who reject the invitation use business as an excuse. Perhaps they were driven by a sense of responsibility. Thinking they did not have time for spiritual things, but must provide for their families. Or perhaps, they were caught up in the desire for more. I believe it was Rockefeller, who, when asked how much money was enough said, “Just a little more than you have.” The third person refused to come, using His family as an excuse. Perhaps he even desired to come, but thought his wife would not be interested. Notice he said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” He may have been thinking, I will eventually come, but now is not a good time for me.

These excuses are as common today as they were then. God has sent His church with a message for every man, woman and child, inviting them to Heaven’s banquet. Sadly, for many, an unwillingness to let go of the things of earth is keeping them from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Finally, notice how God responds.

“Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

God’s heart breaks for those who refuse, but that doesn’t stop His desire for reaching the world with the invitation to heaven.

Pastor Jim


 

You Deserve A Break

Leviticus 25:2
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord.’”

image1.jpegMoses refers to the Sabbath over twenty times in Leviticus; instructing Israel how to worship the Lord. The Sabbath was a very important facet in the life of the children of Israel. God designated a weekly Sabbath day, then every seven years was a Sabbath year, and every forty-nine years, a special Sabbath year, called the year of Jubilee. One of the Ten Laws written by the finger of God, stated, the Sabbath day was dedicated, above all the others, as a day of rest. The driving force behind this command, was the example God had set in Creation.

Exodus 20:11
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The Sabbath would serve a number of valuable purposes in the life of the believer. First, God wanted His people to rest. Since He designed our bodies, He knows what is best for them, and wants us to learn to take a break. It would do us good to set aside times to rest from our labors and concerns, simply focusing on the goodness of the Lord. Second, the Sabbath was designed to build faith. Israel was an agrarian society, whose existence depended upon the harvest. Yet, in the midst of harvesting the grain, they would be required to stop and rest for a day. Every seven years, they were required to let the land rest, and not plant crops. All of this was designed to cause Israel to trust in the provision that would come from the Lord. God wants us to realize, although we must work hard and apply the principles of the Word to our daily living, we must also learn to trust in His grace. Finally, the Sabbath would set Israel apart from all other nations. As the nation grew and developed trade with surrounding countries, they would stand out because of their refusal to do work on the Sabbath. Much of God’s law was designed with that purpose. He wanted His people to stand out. It was never the desire of God that we be hidden away in the crowd, but like Shadrach and his friends (Daniel 1-3), we stand above the culture and point the way to God.

While we are no longer under the law of the Sabbath, the principles remain. Much of what God is doing in your life, is so you might learn to rest in Him and trust Him. Rather than looking at our daunting circumstances, we should look to the promises of His Word. He is also seeking to make us stand out. Not in a weird way, but because we are a people who are trusting Him, and living according to His Word. Like a city set on a hill, we will become the light of the world, pointing people to the Savior.

Pastor Jim

 

 

You Are Loosed

Luke 13:12
“Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”

woman-thou-art-loosed.PNG-ig.jpgI imagine what the scene must have been like in the Synagogue that day. The crowd had gathered like they did every Sabbath. For some it was no more than a religious duty, for others, it was how they expressed their devotion to God. The scene suddenly shifts from the normal activities of prayer and Bible reading to a woman with a serious medical condition. She had been suffering for eighteen years and nothing could be done for her. Without hesitation Jesus called her to Himself, and when she responded to the call, He healed her. Imagine being there! Imagine the joy that would fill her, perhaps like the lame man in Acts 3, she leaped with joy, celebrating what Jesus had done for her. I would expect to read that the service changed that morning, as the people broke out in unrestrained praise. Sadly however, rather than hearing praise,  we hear the sound of objection.

“There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

Sometimes the only response I can muster is WOW! I am amazed. Jesus changed the life of a woman in agony, but instead of people flocking to Him with praise, they objected to what He had done. Why were they so angry? I think it was because He violated the culture of the day. The religious leaders had developed a whole system of what was allowed on the Sabbath. Healing of the sick was not included. They might have been happy with Jesus making people’s lives better, but when He began to mess with the culture, they were infuriated. We read later, it was his changing of the cultural norm that motivated the religious leaders to make a deal with Rome and have Him crucified.

Things are not so different today.

For the past 2000 years the earth has been filled with people like this woman, who have responded to Jesus and have been transformed by Him. He has taken those who society has neglected, even rejected, and has made them heroes of faith. Yet, many still object to Him. Jesus is not rejected because He has not changed lives, but because He changes culture; because He dares to declare what man tolerates is often abominable to God. Much of what Jesus said and did is contrary to our culture. Rather than falling down before Him in worship for who He is and what He does, many raise up their fists in objection. “How can He say He is the only way?” “How can He say that my lifestyle is wrong, I was born this way, it’s hereditary, we are in love…”

Pastor Jim