Fallen In

Psalms 7:15
“He made a pit and dug it out, 
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.”

If we were writing a comedic screenplay, we might want to include a character who designs an elaborate trap, only to unwittingly catch himself. While it might be quite humorous on the big screen, it is tragic in the real world. The psalmist reminds us,  one of the consequences of wicked living is, in the long run, we are actually setting a trap for ourselves. The day is coming when the cage will swing shut, and we will find ourselves enslaved by the very thing we were toying with. This happened to Samson who fooled around with Delilah, telling her to braid his hair or tie him up with new ropes. As time went on, he found himself enslaved to the Philistines. It happened to David, who fooled around with Bathsheba, first watching her bath then flirting with her. He soon found himself enslaved by his lust and caught in an ungodly relationship that had devastating effects upon his family. And it will happen to us, if we toy around with sin. Each time we dabble in unrighteous behavior, it is like putting the shovel in the ground. Day after day, the hole gets bigger until one day we find ourselves caught in a trap we dug for ourselves.

Fortunately, this does not have to be our end. If we have not yet been enslaved, there is still time to turn from our sin, and allow the Lord to restore us to Himself. While it may have taken a long time to drift from the Lord, we can be restored in a moment of time. We simply need to confess our sin, turn from it, and to Him. When we do, He will begin to fill the hole so we don’t become ensnared in it. But what if you are in the trap? Understand, there is still hope for you. No matter how far you have fallen, the arms of God are long enough to reach you. Cry out to Him to forgiveness and to deliverance . David wrote about how God brought him out of a pit, set his feet upon a rock, and even put a new song of praise in his mouth.

Pastor Jim

Psalm 7

  1. Our access to God is not based upon our righteous living but upon His substitutionary death. That does not however remove the need for righteous living. David here bases his prayer upon the fact that he has been living for the Lord by living a right life toward others. How about you? How would you describe the way you are living toward the people in your walk of life?
  2. What truth does David declare in verse 9?
  3. One day God will fully redeem the righteous. When that happens He who is filled with mercy and grace will condemn the unrighteousness. Are you prepared for that day?
  4. Notice and describe what happens to the unrighteousness according to verse 15 -16.

Old Testament:
Psalm 8- Glory Of Creation
1 Samuel 6- Hard Heart
1 Samuel 7- Will This Ever Work?

The Morning

Psalms 5:3
“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.”

On a regular basis, how would you describe your mornings? Do you wake up grumpy, dreading another day? Or late, rushing to get your responsibilities done? Or perhaps you arise and rush to get the morning paper, check the news, or peruse Facebook, or the web.

David declares that his mornings began with the Lord. Even in the midst of difficult and trying times, he would start his day off enjoying fellowship with God. David determined that before he spent time walking about in this life, he would first spend time with the Lord. There is something special about beginning our days with the Lord. Like the early morning offerings sacrificed at the Temple, we should bring our lives before God as a morning offering. When we give the Lord first place in our day, we will find that He prepares us for what is ahead.

There have been so many days where I have had encounters with others, and realized, what I read in my morning devotions, proved to be the very counsel they needed. I have found that during morning prayer, the Lord will impress upon my heart someone who needs prayer; and later find that they were going through something difficult. I was able to participate in their victory by simply praying for them. Most of all, I have observed, when I start my day with the Lord, I avoid many of the pitfalls that I trip over on the days that I neglect to give Him first place.

Begin today making a commitment to start your day with the Lord. If you are not reading through your Bible regularly, go to http://www.ccvb.net and follow along with us, in the Through The Bible Reading.

When you give the Lord first place, you will find your life being transformed by Him.

Pastor Jim

Psalm 5

  1. What does David declare he will do in the morning?
  2. What do you think he means by, “I will look up?” How can we look up today?
  3. We know God sent His Son to save sinners, but that does not mean that He tolerates sin. What does David declare is the attitude of God toward the unrepentant?
  4. Look carefully at verse 7, what does David trust in for access to God in prayer?
  5. What great promise does this psalm end with? How does that help you walk with Jesus today?

Old Testament:
Psalm 6- Need Help?
1 Samuel 3- By The Word
1 Samuel 4- The Glory Of God
1 Samuel 5- Spoils Of War

Surrounded

Psalms 3:1
“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.”

We go through seasons in life.   Some are calm and pleasant, while others seem to be like violent storms, with waves crashing upon us from almost every direction. While we may feel as though we are under assault, this is not a new phenomenon. King David, Israel’s most godly king, was no stranger to difficulty. He faced the same struggles we face, and perhaps a few more. At this point in his life, he was blindsided when he learned that his own son had turned against him, organized an army, and was attempting to overthrow the kingdom. His response to this hardship is filled will practical examples for us to cling to, in the midst of our own trying times.

First, David prayed. His prayer consisted of crying out for help, rehearsing his circumstances to the Lord, and choosing to cling to the promises of God. Whatever you are facing, it is important to keep in mind that you can cast all your cares on the Lord, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps it was in prayer that David made a decision that would prove to protect the nation and save countless innocent lives. Unlike any other king, David chose not to fight to save his kingdom. Instead, he retreated, giving Jerusalem to Absalom and his forces. What may have looked like giving up, proved to be a move that would ensure victory and save the nation.

Second, David knew the Lord would help Him. He writes,

Psalms 3:3
“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

Because God was his shield, David knew he did not have to defend himself and God would protect him. Because God was his glory, David sought above personal feelings or comforts, to do only what was right in the eyes of God. Because God would ultimately lift David up, he knew that the best place to be was prostrate at His feet.

No matter what you are facing, the solution will be found as you follow the example of David and cry out to God.

Pastor Jim

Psalm 3

This Psalm was written when David left Jerusalem because his son had turned a large portion of the nation against him and was attempting to usurp the throne. Rather than turn the city into a battlefield David left the city and his life into the hands of the Lord. This psalm was his prayer.

  1. According to verse 1-2, what was David experiencing?
  2. Have you or are you facing anything like that today?
  3. What great truth does David remind us of in verse 3?
  4. In verses 5-6, what are the benefits of crying out to the Lord in times of trouble?
  5. What does David cry out for the Lord to do for Him?
  6. I am sure in your troublesome times you have prayed, but have you cried out? Have you sought the Lord like He truly was the answer to your struggle? Take time to cry out to Him now?

Blessed Life

Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man…”

When establishing the government of the United States, the founding fathers saw that man was created with certain inalienable rights. They believed it is the right of every person to be able to pursue personal happiness. They were not alone in this thinking. Many philosophers spoke of happiness as the chief goal of life.

It has been my experience that pursuing personal happiness is one of the key influences in the decision-making process of most people. While it is evident, at least to me, that the world is filled with people in pursuit of happiness; it is also clear that not many are actually finding it. Most roads that promise happiness, don’t actually get us there.

Many marriages began in hopes of becoming happy. The relationship wasn’t all that great, but the couple believed marriage would fix the problem and make them happy. For others, it has been a new job, boat, car, hobby, or even a new spouse and family. All these pursuits, though seemingly promise a better, happier life, only prove that they cannot deliver.

In this first Psalm, David sings of a road that when taken will lead, not only to happiness, but beyond that to the blessed life. This blessed life is what Jesus referred to when He said He came to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10). If we want that kind of living, David shows us what road to take. This road begins with choosing to reject the world’s counsel and accept the Lord’s. We hear the world’s counsel almost every time we turn on the TV, radio or computer. We are being told that life is found in possessions, or relationships, or activities. No regard is given to what is right in the eyes of God.

The counsel of God is found written in the pages of His Word, and we will find it when we daily delve into the Scriptures. David exhorts us to meditate upon the Word day and night. Meditation is not a process where we empty our brain of all thought, but instead, we fill our minds with what we know is well-pleasing to God. David goes on to illustrate this blessed life by comparing us to a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit (Psalm 1:3). What a beautiful illustration. Your life, when lived God’s way, will become like a fruitful tree. Imagine your life being filled with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control. Imagine a life that others would look at and desire to have as their own. It does not matter what roads you have taken, it does not matter how much life has beat you down over the years, if you choose today to surrender to, and walk in the ways of God, you will find that Jesus leads you to a fruit-filled life.

Begin your journey today! Surrender all to Christ. Leave nothing in your life that is not pleasing to Him, and watch as He transforms you.

Pastor Jim

Psalm 1

  1. Notice the progression from walking to sitting. How do ungodly influences negatively affect your relationship with God?
  2. Are there any worldly influences that need to be removed from your life today?
  3. What are the results of making the Word of God your delight and being in it day and night?
  4. The contrast is between the godly man who is daily in the Word and the ungodly that ignores the Word. What are the results in life of ignoring the Word? Look carefully at verses 4-5

Old Testament:
Psalm 2-Until The Whole World Hears
Ruth 3- The Whole Town Is Talking
Ruth 4- I’ve Been Redeemed

Man Or God?

Acts 28:6
” 
However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”

After the ship ran aground and all the passengers and crew arrived safely on shore, it would not take long for the onlookers to see who was who. Even after saving the lives of the entire crew, Paul is still treated as a criminal, and is sent to gather sticks for the fire. While reaching for a stick, Paul encounters what many people fear the most… a snake.

I have seen grown men scream like little girls, push their friends out of the way, and even leave friends stranded in the dark, at the sight of a snake. Paul did not just see a snake, but it struck him and refused to let go. What a sight that must have been! The darkness illuminated by the fire’s flames, and in the shadows, Paul swinging his arms around, attempting to get this poisonous viper to release its grip. The natives of the island, seeing this scene, determined that Paul must be a guilty man; although he was able to escape the sea, the viper got him. As they looked on, expecting him to be killed, their opinion drastically changed. They began to think that he was not a guilty man or even a man at all, but that he must be a god, for only a god could survive such things. What would cause them to have such a drastic swing in their opinion of Paul? I think it was due to their lack of a spiritual foundation upon which to build their understanding of God.

While we probably are not often mistaken for gods, we certainly live in a time when people seem to have little or no spiritual foundation. Outside the church, we find people searching everywhere to find spiritual encounters. Just the other day, I saw signs around our town for a “Psychic Seminar,” where people could come and have a spiritual experience. Within the church, emotions and experience are often mistaken for the moving of the Spirit; and popular opinion shapes our view of the love and holiness of God. We live in a time when a firm spiritual foundation is essential to develop our understanding of God; and that foundation can be nothing less than the Word of God.

Rather than being tossed around, wondering what God is really like, we need to take the time to see who He declares Himself to be, within the pages of His Word. It is very common to hear people say, “We can’t limit God” or “You cannot put God in a box.” While it is true that we often limit God and miss out on what He wants to do in and through us, it is also true that God has put boundaries upon Himself. Those boundaries are found in the pages of His Word. God is not different from who He declares Himself to be, nor will He change His viewpoint based upon public opinion. Let’s determine today to get to know the God of Scripture, rather than the god of culture.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 28

  1. Who would have ever thought that a snake bite could change the hearts of the natives in Malta? Sometimes our actions speak to people we don’t even know. 1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. God is waiting to use you in ways you could not imagine. Ask God now how He could use you today. Are you willing to take a chance that God would use you in a miraculous way?
  2. Paul kept his focus on the Lord. How would you have responded if you were there with Paul? Worry of the storm? Death by a shipwreck? Pain in a snake bite? Today is not eternity, but an opportunity to allow God to work in our situations of life. Roman 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Paul penned these words; he trusted in God, had faith in God and obeyed. Take time now to lay the things of this world at the feet of Jesus.
  3. Verse 20, Paul had hope for Israel (the Jewish people). Are you practicing the hope of God for yourself? Your friends? Your family?
    1. Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
    2. Psalm 71:14 But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.
    3. Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.
    4. Psalm 147:11 The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.
    5. Lamentations 3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
    6. Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
    7. Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
    8. 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
  4. We see Paul now bound, living in a home he is renting in Rome. For 2 years, he welcomes all, explaining and solemnly testifying the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some believe some do not; some are challenged with their tradition. Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted by Paul but they still struggle. May the Holy Spirit speak to you now concerning your struggles, may God heal your heart, allow Jesus to come in and heal those things you do not understand. Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Live in God’s grace and mercy, and be filled to overflowing with His Spirit!

Old Testament:
Ruth 1- This Is Not The End
Ruth 2- A Love Story

Persuasion

Acts 27:11
Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.”

After appealing to Caesar, Paul was sent on the long journey to Rome. He was to stand trial for the accusations brought against him by the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Paul was released from his Caesarean prison and placed in the care of Julius, a Roman centurion. Acts 27-28 records the story of their journey to Rome. Right away, this journey faced obstacles.

Due to headwinds, travel was extremely slow and they reached Fair Havens very late in the season. The later their arrival, the greater their chances of encountering a storm that would threaten their travels, and their lives. Julius was responsible, not only for Paul, but other prisoners who were also under his care. He had a difficult decision to make. Do they press on this late in the season, or do they wait out the winter in Fair Havens?

Like most of us, when facing decisions, he sought the counsel of others. He spoke with the owner of the ship, who had a financial interest in the trip; as well as the captain of the ship, who knew the seas well. They both assured him of a safe journey. Then he received counsel from Paul; their journey would end in disaster. Julius was persuaded by the counsel of men and ignored the counsel of God. In the end, the ship was lost, their lives were threatened and they were shipwrecked on an island. It is not difficult to understand why Julius would listen to the captain and owner, while ignoring Paul. I mean, Paul was not a sailor, but a scholar and prisoner heading to trial.

I think we always assume we have good reasons when we allow ourselves to be persuaded by the counsel of men and to ignore the instructions of God. However, I think we always have good reason to obey the Words of God. This morning, in whatever you are facing, will you allow the Word of God to persuade you, or will you be tossed around by the counsel of men?

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 27

  1. Paul develops a relationship with the centurion Julius. As their journeys proceed, Paul gives Julius a warning. What is the response of Julius and the outcome of the warning?
  2. Paul gives advice again during the storm. What is the response to his words this time?
  3. Paul speaks in verse 34 “since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” After these words, notice verse 42. Does everyone survive?
  4. At the end of this chapter, there is an interesting observation. Our culture has often looked at customs in America and thought that certain things originated in the States. We read of “surfing” of the coast of Malta, recorded here in Acts 27:44.
  5. Paul’s words were true, “they all escaped safely to the land.” Paul was tuned into God’s plan for his life. He wasn’t looking at the circumstances around him; his faith was in God, the Creator of the universe. Where is your faith at today? Is there something going on that is distracting you from God’s plan for your life? Read Jeremiah 29:11.

Old Testament:
Judges 20- The Wrong Battle

Incredible

Acts 26:8
Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”

It has been said,  if we can believe the first four words of the Bible, we should have no problem with the rest of its claims. “In the beginning God…” The Bible is filled with stories of the mighty workings of God. We read of Him speaking the worlds into existence, delivering a nation from the threat of death, parting the seas, providing food in a desert, knocking down the walls of Jericho, raising a shepherd boy to the palace, healing the sick, and delivering those who were possessed by devils. Page after page, we read of God being God and providing victory over the affairs of life. It seems that for many of us, we have no problem believing in the mighty workings of God. We trust the validity of our Bibles, we celebrate His mighty work in the life of others, and even sing together of His miraculous power. However, when it comes to our own lives, we sometimes act like Agrippa. We question the ability of God; we wonder if His power is really strong enough to help us in our time of need.

I love Paul’s question; “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”

What is it about God that you do not understand which makes it difficult for you to believe He raises the dead? I mean, if He is, in fact, God, we should expect He would be able to do what is impossible. It would be foolish to think otherwise. The problem is, we often reduce God to someone we can understand. Since we have taken away so much of His majesty, we also doubt His ability. Sometimes, in our efforts to relate to God, we have a tendency to reduce Him to someone we can understand. We cannot fathom His holiness, so we ignore it and focus only on His love and mercy. Since we cannot understand His majesty, we limit Him to His humanity. The result is we lose sight of the power of God.

In “The Chronicles of Narnia,” CS Lewis refers to Aslan stating, “He is not a tame lion.” I have always loved that reference. I think He is referring to the fact that God is bigger than we will ever be able to comprehend. We cannot reduce Him to someone who we understand, or else we have reduced Him to someone He is not.

If you are having trouble believing that God is able to work in your life, or give victory to your situation, it is time to cast off the limited God that you have created. It is time to introduce you to the God of Scripture. A God so great that the Heavens cannot contain Him.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 26

  1. Paul shares his testimony with King Agrippa. Isn’t it amazing how God works in our lives? Who in your life needs to hear your story?
  2. Verse 18 is a wonderful prayer for our friends that have not accepted the Lord yet. Take time to write it out, memorize it and pray for your friends that do not know Jesus.
  3. King Agrippa hears the gospel, what is his response?
  4. What is the consensus of Agrippa and Festus about Paul?

Old Testament:
Judges 18- Pocket Size
Judges 19- Broken Compass