Outcast 

John 4:9
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

A few years ago, I was in Serbia speaking at a conference for some of the local churches. On the last day of our trip, we were invited by one of the pastors to visit a Gypsy village, where he had been ministering to the families for some time. Upon arriving, we broke up into groups, and began visiting some of the homes of the sick, and gathering with many of the children. After about an hour, a woman from a nearby town approached us. She stood out to us because she was wearing a beautiful purple dress with a purple overcoat. One of the other pastors approached her; she asked him who we were and what we were doing here. He responded that we were from America, and had come to Serbia to teach the Bible and share Christ. Her response was quite shocking. She said, “I meant what are you doing in the Gypsy’s village. No one cares about the Gypsies.” We were a little shocked by her statement, but began to share with her that Jesus loved all people, even those who were despised by the world. She made a decision to receive Christ that day because of His love for those whom no one else cared.

The world has always been filled with “Samaritans”. Even today, there is no shortage of people about whom no one seems to care. People, whose lifestyle has isolated them from society. It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was always drawn to those who the world rejected. Two thousand years later, and Jesus still “must go through Samaria.” He wants to use us, His church, to reach them with His love.

Keep your eyes open; there is a world out there in need of Christ. A world filled with neglected, even rejected people, who Jesus loves and died for.

Pastor Jim

 

Follow Me 

John 21:19
“Follow Me.”

Much has happened since Peter first met Jesus. In a few short years, it seems as though a lifetime has transpired. Peter, the fisherman, has become Peter, the apostle. The young man who used to spend his days on the Sea of Galilee pursuing fish, is now a man who has spent over three years fishing for men. I imagine, at one time, his stories were all about his biggest catch, or perhaps times of weathering one of the storms for which the Sea of Galilee was famous.  Now his stories would include tales of praying for the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. Certainly, life had changed for the young fisherman from Galilee. Along with change, came true spiritual development. The Peter who first met Jesus, was not the same Peter we see standing here. Sure, he still had his setbacks, but life with Jesus had changed him. Later, we read that even unbelievers recognized that spending time with Jesus changes men.

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

That being said, I am struck by the commission Jesus gives to Peter. He simply says, “Follow Me.” those are the same words, the same call, the same commission Peter heard when he began his journey with Jesus. All the growth, all the ministry, all the experience, would never change the basic call of God on Peter. He was never called to change the world, but to simply and continually follow Jesus.

Things are the same for me and you. When we first heard the Gospel, we heard Jesus say, “Follow Me.” No matter how long ago that may have been, no matter how closely you have walked with Him, or how far you have fallen; regardless of what mission trips, Bible studies or worship teams, you have been involved in, the commission remains the same. Jesus wants you to follow Him.

I have always loved that first call on the life of Peter, when Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). It greatly encourages me to know, when I follow Jesus, He will make the changes in me so that I become the man He intends for me to be.

Let’s recommit ourselves today, to be followers of Jesus. Let’s determine we will go the way He is going, and be involved in the things He wants for our lives. As we do, He will make us into who He wants us to be.

“Follow Me.”

Pastor Jim

 

Jesus The Gardner 

John 20:15 
“She, supposing Him to be the gardener, .
 . .”

Mary saw Jesus, but the circumstance she was in, and the experiences she was facing, caused her to conclude that He was a gardener. It was not until she heard His Word, that she clearly understood who He really was.

It interests me how many different, even opposing views, people develop regarding Jesus. These views have two things in common. First, they are usually forged as a result of personal experience, and second, they are always formed without the illumination of Scripture. Some consider Jesus to be a good person who was misunderstood; others, a mythical figure; while till others, use portions of Scripture to develop a hybrid Jesus, who bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible.

This is not only true of the unbeliever or the seeker, it is also true of the Christian. How often do we allow the circumstances of life to shape our view of Christ? When we are facing hardship, we think of Him as unloving, distant or even weak. While blessings cause us to think of Him as loving and kind. It is not our circumstances, but His Word, that defines Him. When we will listen to His Word, we will see who He truly is, and how He wants to work in our circumstances.

Never limit Jesus to what you understand of Him; He is so much greater than that. Let His Word define Him as you worship Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Silent Success 

John 19:9
“But Jesus gave him no answer.”

Jesus is facing the battle of His life. We could even say it was the battle for His life. All the political power of Israel was manipulating the power of Rome, to execute the Son of God. Yet Jesus remained silent. We know He wields the power to overcome these attacks. We read that He calmed the storms, healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. Yet now, when it seemed to matter the most, He refused to lift a finger or say a word.

Why? What possible benefit could be gained by not using His divine power to overcome this political onslaught? The answer is two-fold. First, it was the plan of God for Christ to go to the cross as a substitute for me and you. He, the innocent, would take the place of us, the guilty, in order to pave the way to heaven. I think there is a second reason. In facing the battle of His life, Jesus is teaching His followers how to fight. Battles for the kingdom of God will not be won with carnal measures. A few years later, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote,

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds . . .” 2 Corinthians 10:4

Jesus knew that His followers would soon, and forever, face the threats of world governments opposed to the kingdom of God. In His silent submission to the will and ways of God, Jesus not only set an example of how to fight, He also showed us what winning really looked like. When that dark Friday came to an end, the tally sheet would seem to declare “World Governments: one, the Kingdom of God: defeated.” But what really happened? In the silent, submission of Jesus, the kingdom of Hell was conquered and the way to heaven paved.

It is not wrong for Christians to use their voices when politics oppose righteousness. It is wrong for us to use the world’s methods, while neglecting the ways of God. In the human mind, going to battle against the forces of unrighteousness with silent, steadfast prayer, is like fighting an armored tank with a slingshot. Let’s keep in mind that the cross looked like a massive defeat, yet turned out to be Heaven’s greatest victory.

In the battles you are facing today, follow the example of Jesus. Surrender to the will and ways of God, then go to your knees and seek God to bring about victory. The same God of great exploits in history, wants to work in and through us today.

Pastor Jim


His Cup

John 18:11 
“Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spent hours in prayer. The portion of the prayer recorded for us had to do with a cup. The event is recorded in Mark 14:35-36,
“He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said,  ‘ Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’” 

Earlier that evening Jesus had taken a cup and distributed it to His disciples, explaining that it was the Blood of the new covenant.

“Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,  ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” Matthew 26:27-28

It is clear, the cup that Jesus referred to was the cross, and the impending judgment He would face as He bore the sins of humanity. That cup, that judgment, was so great that it caused Him to sweat blood as He faced the reality of it in the garden. The judgment would include all the weight, penalty, and guilt of sin; as well as being forsaken by the Father, as He became sin for us.

Because Jesus tasted that cup bearing our sin, Paul declares,

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Righteousness is the standard for entrance into Heaven. The level of righteousness required is God’s perfection. What a wonderful truth, that He bore our sin so that we might be made righteous.

For any who reject the provision made possible because Jesus drank the cup of Calvary, Revelation declares,

“. . . he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation…” Revelation 14:10

Jesus tasted the cup of wrath so we would never have to. If you have not believed and received Christ, why not do that right now. Pray, “Jesus, thank you for taking my sin and providing me with Your righteousness. I receive You as my Savior and Lord”

If you have questions contact us at http://www.ccvb.net

Pastor Jim

 

He Is Praying For You

John 17:9
I pray for them.”

Perhaps the best title for John 17 is, “The Lord’s Prayer.” As the hour of His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion approaches, Jesus takes time to pray for His disciples. His prayer, while encompassing many things, seems to focus upon three thoughts.

First, Jesus prays for His followers that they may be one. Division within the body of Christ has been one of the most confusing things for the unbelieving world. If Christians all believe in the same God, are washed in the same blood, and filled with the same Spirit, then why is there so much division in the church? Some division is good. Worship styles are different. It is good to have lots of variety within the church in order to provide an atmosphere where people are able to connect with God. Also, cultures are different, and to some degree, the church should be relevant to the culture, in order to win souls to Christ. That being said, much of the division in the church is wrong and harmful. The church fights with itself over petty differences and misunderstandings. It is as if we believed that our church is the only real church. Thank God, Jesus is praying for us.

Second, Jesus prays for His followers, that we might be kept from evil. Christianity would be so much easier if the moment we made a decision to follow Christ, we were translated from this life into eternity. It would be easy to know who the true believers were, because they would be gone. It would be easy to give up the temptations of life, because we would be in Heaven. It would, however, make evangelism very difficult, because there would be no one left to share Christ. Jesus prays for us, that we would withstand the temptations of life. It encourages me to know that He faced what we face, and He overcame through the power of the Word of God, and the Spirit of God in His daily life.

Finally, His prayer is like a commission. In it, He makes mention of the fact that He is sending us into the world. We, His church, are His solution for reaching the lost. Later, He makes it clear that we are fully equipped when He states,

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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.” Matthew 28:18-19

We are sent into the world with the authority of Jesus, the blessing of the Father, and the empowering of the Spirit. As you go forth today, keep in mind, Jesus is praying for you, that you might be kept as you go.

Pastor Jim

 

Better Off 

John 16:7
“It is to your advantage that I go away; . . .”

Much of what Jesus said was shocking to the ears of the disciples. He spoke with a wisdom that was otherworldly. They may have become used to the fact that Jesus was going to say things that surprised them, but I do not think anything could prepare them for the statement Jesus made here. Earlier, He had been speaking about His betrayal and death, He now declares they will be better off without Him. For over three years, these men have been with Jesus. They have watched as He transformed lives, and listened as He declared truths about the Kingdom of God. Now He is speaking about leaving, and declaring they will be more effective with Him out of the way. I know Peter is the one who is known for objecting to Jesus, but I find myself objecting on His behalf. I cannot think of a single scenario where it would not be better to have Jesus around. If I were fishing, boating, preaching, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry or facing the Pharisees, I think it would always be better to have Jesus there, than to be by myself. How could Jesus say such things? What conditions could make it better to have Jesus absent, rather than present?

First off, things are better because of the way Jesus will depart. No one could take His life, He would instead, lay it down as a sacrifice to provide the cure for man’s sin problem. His death makes it possible for each of us to have eternal life, and gives us a message to declare to the world. The message that, they too, can have their sins forgiven, and receive eternal life in Christ. Beyond that, Jesus goes on to explain why things are better for us if He departs to the Father.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” 

When Jesus departed to the Father, He sent forth the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third “Person” of the Godhead, He is described as the Helper, the Comforter, and the One who empowers the Christian. Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would convince the world of its need for a Savior, by convicting it of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Ministry is impossible. We are natural beings with natural abilities. We are sent forth to impact people spiritually. We can tell moving stories that effect people’s emotions, but only the Spirit of God can penetrate the heart of man, and convince Him of His need for Christ. Praise the Lord, Jesus did not leave us alone, but sent forth the Holy Spirit who will enable each of us to be involved in furthering the work of God in the World.

Father, baptize us afresh with Your Holy Spirit today!

Pastor Jim