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

Old Testament:
Numbers 1- Dry Times
Numbers 2- Family

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

Old Testament:
Leviticus 26- Idols
Leviticus 27- This Old House

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

Old Testament:
Leviticus 24- Mind Of The Lord
Leviticus 25- You Deserve A Break

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

Old Testament:
Leviticus 22- Best Of The Best
Leviticus 23- Retreat

Get Rich Quick

Luke 12:13
“Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’”

20140224-065840.jpgJesus tells the story of a rich man who believed true life was found in great possessions. He worked hard and was very successful. His success caused him to evaluate his life. His conclusion, he needed to work harder so he might acquire more, and be able to retire in comfort. He began to increase his efforts, acquire more, build larger storehouses for all his possessions. All the while, hoping for that time when he would be able to live at ease and enjoy it all. Sadly and expectedly, he died and all of his riches were of no use to him as he stepped into eternity.”

Jesus describes him as a “Fool!” because “. . . he laid up treasure for himself, but was not rich toward God.”

This story is valuable because it is so common. It seems that our culture could be described as those who are laying up treasure and yet are not rich toward God. There is a constant push all around us to get more. More wealth means more comfort, more enjoyment, even more life. Meanwhile, we neglect storing up treasures where it really matters.

How about you? Are you rich toward God? Are you making investments into eternity? We do that by using our earthly treasures to further the kingdom of God. It has been said,  we can see what matters to a person by looking at their checkbook. Some of us object and say, “But I am not rich, I don’t have any extra.” It seems to me,  the rich tend to trust in riches, the poor tend to look to others for help, the middle class tends to strive to maintain the comfort level they have achieved for themselves and their families. To all of us, Jesus says the same thing

“Life does not consist of the abundance of things we possess.”

He is a fool who “Lays up treasures for himself but is not rich toward God.”

“Don’t worry about your life… Life is more than food and the body more than clothing.”

“Your Father knows the things that you need.”

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.

“Where your treasure is your heart will be also.”

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Let’s be those who are rich toward God

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Leviticus 20- Consecrate Yourself
Leviticus 21- We Have Hope

Keep Knocking

Luke 11:13
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

There seems to be some striking differences between the Church in the book of Acts and the church today. The impact they were having on their world was tremendous; we read of the sick being healed, the dead being raised, and most importantly, multitudes of people believing in the resurrected Lord, and their lives being transformed. How is it that they, with so little, were able to do so much? We know they did not have the completed Bible, much money, or the technological resources we have today, yet they were turning their world upside down. The secret to their success was the filling of the Holy Spirit. It is clear, what they did not have was overshadowed by what they did have; that is, power from on High!

 

Here in Luke 11 we are told, the same Holy Spirit that empowered the Apostles is made available to all of us. Jesus said, if we want to be filled with the Spirit all we need to do is ask. However,  it is important that we notice that He emphasizes how we are to ask. Sometimes, we ask without really caring about an answer, other times we ask because we feel like we were required to. We do not expect to get what we were asking for, but we have the attitude that it cannot hurt to ask. I want you to notice that Jesus has been telling us to pray with persistence. He said we should pray like the man who wanted something from his friend, so he knocked UNTIL he received it. Jesus said when we pray, we need to ask, seek and knock. The key is persistence. We are exhorted to pray, pray, and keep praying, until we receive from the Lord. And the primary thing to be praying for, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Do you lack the strength today to live for, and serve Jesus? Are you failing to overcome sin in your personal life, or to be an effective witness of Jesus to your friends and family? What you need is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and you will find that in persistent prayer. Take some time to get alone with God and ask for the Holy Spirit. Start by telling God your need, and your intention for being there, before Him, then begin to worship Him. Let yourself be caught up in how wonderful He is, and the amazing promises He has given us. Focus specifically on the promise of the Holy Spirit, and just keep asking. God will pour out His Spirit upon you, but He does require persistence in prayer.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Leviticus 18- Counter Culture
Leviticus 19- Being Different

The Harvest Is Great

Luke 10:2
The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; . . .”

IMG_1504Sadly, the world has no shortage of those who are in need of Christ. Our population has reached the seven billion mark. Seven billion souls walking this planet, many of whom do not yet know Christ. We recognize certain places in the world as being unreached. Places where many, or even most, of the citizens are yet to hear the good news of salvation, through faith in Christ. We need to pray, send, and provide for those who go to the uttermost parts of the earth with the Good News of Christ. However, we cannot neglect to remember the many unreached souls in our own backyard. Here, in Luke 10, as Jesus sends the seventy, we have some practical instruction on how to reach the lost.

Two by two he sent them. Fellowship and accountability are crucial to effectively serving Jesus. When we get discouraged another can lift us up, when we get stuck, another can aid us with a timely word. Team up with a friend, or friends, and commit to serving the Lord together.

Pray! No ministry can be effective without constant, continual, and corporate prayer with your team. PRAY! Pray for opportunities, and for specific people who matter to each of you. Don’t stop praying, God will answer.

Go! Sometimes the very thing keeping us from seeing God work in our lives is just getting involved. Service is not something we should only know about and talk about, but it is something we must be doing. Who can you share Christ with today?

Carry nothing. While it is not wrong to have, it is wrong to put confidence in what we have. It is usually what we lack that keeps us from telling others about Christ. “I don’t know what to say”, or “What if they ask a question and I don’t know the answer?” When we let those things stop us, we are not trusting Jesus.

Say peace to this house. Be a blessing to those who don’t know Christ, yet. They are not the enemy, but the object of Jesus’ love. Think about the behaviors of those Jesus to whom reached out. They were sinners in every way, but Jesus loved them and reached out to them. Do the same.

Tell them the Kingdom has come near. Let people know that salvation is a call away. Paul said it is not far from us, but so close that all a person needs to do is believe and receive. That message is easy to remember and you have been equipped by Jesus to share it.

Let’s team up, and go out with the glorious message of salvation through faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Leviticus 16- Go-Goat
Leviticus 17- Imposter