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

Old Testament:
Exodus 11- Stand Out
Exodus 12- Free Pass

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

Old Testament:
Exodus 9- Free To Serve
Exodus 10- A Snare To Us

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

Old Testament: Exodus 7-8- One More Night

I Am With You

Matthew 28:19-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

IMG_1389As Matthew 28 opens, we find a few women on their way to Jesus’ grave-site. Filled with despair, questioning how they will get to the body to show their respect, they are met by an angelic messenger with the greatest news they had ever heard. Jesus had risen! Oh, how their hearts must have leapt within, as we read “they went out quickly filled with fear and great joy.” The hope that seemed lost at Calvary, was restored in the garden. Along with the promise that Christ was alive, came the commission, “go quickly and tell His disciple…” When the disciples met the risen Christ, the commission was repeated to them, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” The greatest promise was coupled with the great commission.

Just as the first followers of Jesus were commissioned to tell their world about the salvation available to man through Christ, so have we been commissioned to tell our world. As great as that news is, we often shrink back from declaring it. I am so glad the command to tell others is coupled with the promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” What great comfort, knowing that Jesus does not send us alone. He says when we go forth to tell others about Christ, or to show the love of Christ with a kind act or deed, or when we invite someone who has wandered from Christ to church, Jesus promises to be with us. Something caught my eye this morning concerning how Jesus assists us in this great commission.

“And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
Matthew 28:7

“He is going before you…” When we arrive at an opportunity to share Christ with others, it is critical that we recognize Jesus is with us, He is there to help, to direct our steps, and even our words. But it is also important to remember, He got there first. He is sending us into opportunities He orchestrated.

Keep in mind, as you go about your day, you have been divinely sent. God chose you for the encounters you will face because He wants to use your life experiences to have an impact upon the lives of others.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 5- Pharaoh’s Failure
Exodus 6- Flavor Enhancers

Dealing With Remorse

Matthew 27:5
“Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Man at the CrossWhile I do not want to tackle the subject of the eternal destiny of Judas, I do see in him an illustration of how the Christian often deals with personal failure or sin. After the initial pleasure received from sin, we are filled with remorse or guilt. That guilt can become overwhelming and lead to discouragement, depression, and even despair. Too often, we follow the example of Judas, attempting to remove our guilt.

First, like him, we attempt to undo our failure. Since this cannot be done, we spend time wishing we could go back, wishing we had that moment in time again so we could do things differently.

Second, we often attempt to deal with the remorse by going to others. Would Judas have been any better off spiritually if the chief priests had accepted the money? Of course not! While the kind and forgiving words of others are helpful, that is not how sin is removed from the life of the child of God.

Finally, like Judas, we often attempt to get the incident as far from us as possible. If I do not think about it, or I let time work its magic, I know I will feel better. This was Judas’ approach. He cast the money on the floor and departed. Perhaps he thought, if it were no longer in his possession he would not be haunted by it. While dwelling on your failure is not the way God would have you deal with sin, simply ignoring it is not His solution either. God has established a way for the child of God to deal with personal failure and sin.

John wrote,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

God’s method of dealing with sin and remorse is confession. The first step to confession is going to God. It is at the foot of the cross where we will find the release from the haunting guilt of personal sin. While the forgiveness is immediate and we do not have to do anything to receive it (Jesus did it all for us), there are times when we must camp out at the cross. There, alone with only the presence of God and the promises of Scripture, we let Him communicate His lovingkindness to us. We must remain until we can clearly see that He has borne our grief and carried our sorrow.

Perhaps this morning, you need some time alone with Jesus, focusing upon the forgiveness He has provided at the cross. A forgiveness that is unearned, complete, and frees us from the penalty, power, and guilt of sin

“When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”

“Before The Throne Of God Above”, Shane and Shane

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 3- He Heard My Cry
Exodus 4- What’s In Your Hand?

Fear Of The Lord

Matthew 26:5
“But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”

2015/01/img_1380.jpgMatthew 26 and 27 record the final events in the life of Jesus. The hostility toward Him has reached a climax, and His opponents are seeking to kill Him. Theirs is the most heinous of sins, the murder of the Son of God! But the text reveals that their sin was motivated by what commonly drives you and I to sin; the fear of man. The fear of man might simply be defined as being more concerned with what man thinks, than what God thinks. On the other hand, the fear of God is being more concerned with what God thinks, than what man thinks. Solomon wrote

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” Proverbs 29:25

The hunter sets the trap for the wild animal, disguises it as best he can, making it look like something it is not, but his real goal is to catch, kill and eat the animal. The fear of man is a lot like that. So subtly, we set aside what is well-pleasing to the Lord, in order to be pleasing to others. The opponents of Jesus did not want to lose favor with the people because of the position they had and the comforts that went along with it. It was their social status and the fear of losing it, which led them to commit this great sin. John tells us, this is one of the great dangers for all Christians. He said, “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)The pride of life speaks of position, status, wanting to fit in, or fearing we might no longer be accepted in our peer group. We call that “peer pressure,” and warn our children of the destruction it brings. However, even adults fall prey to the pressure of the fear of man. Solomon not only warns of the fear of man, he also speaks of the antidote.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Proverbs 8:13

Wanting to live well-pleasing to the Lord will produce in us a hate for the things that are displeasing. Had the religious leader’s foremost concern been pleasing God, they would have never committed such a horrible act, as crucifying the Son of God. The same will always be true of us. Today, if we will allow the fear of God to influence all we do, we will find, at the end of the day, we have lived lives well-pleasing to Him.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 1- Help!
Exodus 2- Baby In The Basket

Are You Ready?

Matthew 25:13
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

2015/01/img_1375.jpgChapter 25 seems to be about being ready. Jesus warns about a final day of reckoning, when the sheep will be separated from goats. To ensure that we are ready for what is coming, Jesus gives two parables. The first explains the need to be born again, the second the need to be busy about the Lord’s business.

In the first, five of the ten virgins were not prepared when the groom arrived. They may have been dressed, even excited, but they did not have oil in their lamps. Oil is used throughout Scripture as an illustration of the Holy Spirit. It seems, the main message is that these woman were not born again. It is also worth noting, that while saved, the other five were certainly neglecting their responsibilities. They slept while their friends remained ill prepared.

In the second story, we are introduced to three men, each of whom had been given varying sums of money to invest. The first two made investments, and were handsomely rewarded by the king. The third failed because of fear. It should be the desire of every Christian to use what we have been given to make investments in eternity.

Every promise given in Scripture will come to pass. One day, Jesus will fulfill His promise and return for His church. The question should not be ‘Is He coming?’ but rather ‘Are you ready?’ If you have not received Christ as Savior, do so right now. If Christ is your Savior, seek to use all He has given you to make investments in eternity.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Genesis 49- Blessed
Genesis 50- Meant For Good