Tested

Psalms 105:19
“…The word of the Lord tested him.”

This psalm recounts the faithfulness of God during the days of the patriarchs. After mentioning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Psalmist reminds us of the struggles Joseph faced after being sold into slavery by his own brothers. We know he experienced betrayal, beating, false accusations and imprisonment. Each trial he faced was a means by which the Word of God put him to the test.

We face similar experiences that put us to the test. When we face heartache, confusion, difficulty or disappointment, we are essentially being put to the test by the promises of God. We are left to decide if we will trust in the scattered array of emotions we face, or in the ever changing experiences of life, or in the unchanging promises of God. Down through the ages, saints have faced extremely difficult experiences. Some have allowed these to undo their faith and even sideline them from their Master’s service. Others have chosen to cling to the promises of God, allowing them to provide comfort and direction, as they continue following Christ. There is little question that we will face trials in life. It is important that we realize,  the promises of God can stand the test of trials. God will be faithful to His word, and His promises will carry you through till the end.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
1 Chronicles 10- Epitaphs
1 Chronicles 11- Coming Soon!
Psalm 106- Leanness Of Soul

East From West

Psalm 103:11-13
“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.”

It is a common advertising strategy to attempt to sell an item by comparing it to something else. We might see a car commercial with a cheetah running, to convince us of the speed of the vehicle; or a flowing river, to reveal the thirst quenching power of a soft drink. David is, in a sense, attempting to sell us on the greatness of God. He knows the Lord and wants everyone to taste and see for themselves that the Lord is good. To do this he makes a series of comparisons, to convince us to trust in God.

First, he compares the mercy of God to the heavens. He says, if we could measure the universe, we could also measure God’s compassion. Astronomers speak of the size of the universe in terms of light years, which is the distance light travels in the course of 365.25 days. They estimate the universe to be over 14 billion light years across. The mercy of God is so vast it could never be exhausted. If you are willing to come to Him, He is willing to forgive you.

Second, he compares the removal of our sin to the distance between East and West. Since we live on a ball with a most northern and southern point, it is possible to travel north until you run out of north. Once you arrive at the North Pole, you must either stay there or go south. The opposite is true of east and west. If you decide to travel east, you can go east indefinitely, without ever having to go west. David is describing the complete removal of sin for those who receive the mercy, and thus the forgiveness, of God. Sin will never be brought up again, for all who trust in the cross of Christ.

Finally, David compares God to a father who has compassion on a child. This is a somewhat limited illustration, because we have already seen the vastness of His mercy, but David wants us to understand that God’s mercy is like that of a loving father. I recall when my youngest son was two and he broke his leg. I remember wishing I could take his pain and wear his cast. It was not a fleeting feeling, but a deep compassion. I truly pitied his condition and wanted to help. It is wonderful to know that God feels that way about us, and does not lack the ability to come to our aid.

Won’t you buy into David’s God? Take the step to trust Him with all your heart and life.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
1 Chronicles 4:9-10- A Fresh Start
Psalm 104- Majesty Of God

Window To The Soul

Psalm 101:3
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.”

One of the saddest experiences in life is to see a close friend fall away from the Lord. From the outside, the process often looks the same. A person, who once walked closely with the Lord and was involved in Christian service, begins to drift ever so slightly. First, their conversation changes. Instead of talking about the Lord, sharing from their times of Bible reading or service, they begin to talk only of the waves and the weather. Next, we begin to see them a little less frequently around the church. In some cases, only the responsibility of a service commitment keeps them coming; until finally they step down from their responsibility, and seem to vanish. Sometimes, it will take weeks or even months before we realize what has happened, and by that time, they have cut ties from most of their Christian friends, and are back involved in the things of the world.

This experience is not limited to modern times. The Psalmist saw it happen in his day, and as a result declares, “I hate the work of those who fall away.” He also gives a little insight into what those works are when he states, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.”

It has been said, the eye is the window into the soul. That phrase has always seemed a bit eerie to me, perhaps because I have misunderstood the truth about the eyes of man. It is not as though a person can look into your eyes and see the inner man, but information enters our mind through the eye gate, which in turn, feeds the soul. Paul spoke about the flesh and the spirit being in a daily battle with one another (Galatians 5:17). We all know there are times when we have lost the battle to the flesh, and times when we have been victorious and remained faithful to the Lord, in the midst of temptation.

The secret to success in the battle against the flesh is training. As in any fight, the one who is stronger and more prepared, is the one who will be victorious. If we want to live well-pleasing to the Lord, we must use our eyes to look away from the things that will lead us to stumble, and onto the things that will help us to grow. Jesus put it like this, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

My wife and I were walking the streets of Paris when I saw a chocolate croissant in the window of a bakery. It looked amazing! However, we were on our way to dinner, so stopping was out of the question, but I could not get it out of my head. You know, first thing the next morning, I was in a bakery ordering a croissant. If you are struggling with a particular sin, the solution may be as simple as removing the things that you are looking at, that are feeding that sinful desire. Magazines, movies, internet searches, should all be removed, as you seek the Lord for victory in your life. Let’s take the example of the Psalmist to heart, who decreed, “It shall not cling to me.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 25- Besieged
Psalm 102- Prayer of the Broken

God Who Forgives

Psalms 99:8
“You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.”

The Psalmist writes regarding the forgiveness of God and the fact that He will mete out vengeance on certain actions. These concepts often seem contrary to one another. We associate forgiveness with the removal of any and all consequences, but God does not see it that way. Abraham was forgiven for his sin with Hagar, but Ishmael was still born. Samson was forgiven for his sin, but the pillars still fell upon him. David was forgiven of adultery, but Bathsheba’s child still died. Peter was forgiven for denying Christ, but still had to live with the image of Christ’s gaze and the memory of the rooster’s cry.

Calling upon God to forgive will remove the judicial penalty for sin; you will no longer be held accountable before God for your actions. This forgiveness will also remove any barriers that are keeping you from experiencing the presence of God, but this does not mean there will be no consequences for your actions. When a husband cheats on his wife, he can be forgiven, but the damage has been done to his family, and it may take years before his wife will ever truly trust him again. When a person steals from their place of business, they can be forgiven, but may lose their job and even face jail time. We must never think that forgiveness means there will not be consequences, for they are often the reason we should truly fear sin and what it will do to our lives.

If you are close to crossing a line, be sure to realize you cannot take it back, and may suffer the consequences of that decision for as long as you are alive.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 23- Covenant
2 Kings 24- Survival 
Psalm 100- You Should Know Better

Love And Hate

Psalm 97:10
You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”

I find it striking that the Psalmist declares that hate is a necessary expression of true love. He explains that part of being in a healthy love relationship with Jesus is having a hatred for evil. Why is it necessary to hate evil? Why should we hate evil? I can think of at least three pretty strong reasons.

First, we should hate evil because of what evil does to creation. When sin entered the world, death entered and all of creation began to be in a state of decay. We observe this daily. People age and die, things deteriorate and break, everything goes from a state of useful to useless. Paul explains that creation itself even groans to be redeemed. If we could discern the voice of nature we would hear it crying out for redemption.

Second, we should hate evil because of what it does to us. Evil or sin separates man from God placing all humanity under its curse and penalty. Sin has devastated families, wreaked havoc on relationships, fueled racial prejudices, started wars, and will ultimately damn those who reject Christ to eternal separation from God. Even after we are redeemed, sin is like a cancer that eats away at the spiritual life of the believer. When we allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies, it creates distance between us and God, causing us to miss out on experiencing abundant life, for which he died. Instead of life, love, joy,  peace, we find ourselves living under the weight of guilt and fear, suffering the consequences of our personal failures.

Finally, we must hate evil because of what it has done to God. His holiness demands that sinners are separated from Him, but His love drives Him to restore our broken fellowship. The only currency valuable enough to pay the cost for the human soul is the blood of God. It was because of sin that the blood of God was shed. We have all felt the weight of individual sin. We know the guilt and pain that we have been under, as a result of one sinful action. On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of every sin that every man has or will ever commit. The darkness of that day aptly illustrate the severe suffering that Christ endured as He cried out, “My God why have You forsaken Me?” It seems to me, the proper response for the child of God is to hate evil. It has been my experience that we avoid what we hate. A true hatred of evil will cause us to avoid sin, rather than living as close to it as possible. Will you join me in praying that we would have a healthy hatred of sin, and avoid it at all costs?

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 21- Pay Attention
2 Kings 22- You Know That’s Right

Let Us Worship

Psalm 95:6
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

IMG_3512.jpg

Years ago, when I was a relatively new Christian, I was invited to a weekend retreat with about 200 other teenagers. We all congregated at a retreat center in the San Bernardino Mountains, for times of worship, and the Word. I had been a Christian for about two years, but had never been to anything like that before. In fact, I had only been to church a handful of times. The first night, after a hearty meal of camp food, we gathered for Bible study. I remember being so blessed by hearing the Word of God taught. At the end of the study, we set aside some time to worship, and wait upon the Lord. Again, this was a brand new experience for me. It was during this time of worship, I heard this verse for the first time. It had been put to music, and we were singing it. As I sang, I felt compelled to put the verse into action. I quietly slipped out of my chair and onto the floor, where I knelt, lifting my hands to the Lord. I recall a desire welling up within me, like nothing I had ever experienced before. I guess you could call it a hunger, not for more tator-tots, but for more of the Lord. It was there, on the floor of the sanctuary, I prayed, “Jesus, I want more of You, I want all of You.” At that moment, something happened to me. I was filled with a sense of being cleansed from failure, and filled with a love for God, like I had never known before. I arose from that time of worship changed. I was hungry for more of Jesus. I began to read my Bible daily, I looked for opportunities to serve Christ, and even found myself longing to be around other believers.

Theologically, I had no idea what had happened. All I knew was that I had encountered the Lord that night, and my life was being changed. Later, as I read my Bible, I came to understand what happened to me was the fulfillment of a promise Jesus gave to His followers. He said that He would, “Baptize us with the Holy Spirit” He also promised that when that happened, we would be filled with a new source of power, to be a witness of Him to the world around us (Acts 1:8).

When I dropped to my knees that night and cried out for more of Him, He filled me with His Spirit, and transformed my life. Without me even knowing the promise of God, He was working in my life. I know that I am special to the Lord, but I know that you are as well. The promise of the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to a certain class of Christian. Joel promised that God would pour out His Spirit on ALL flesh.

If you desire to see God work in a new, deeper way in your life, why not drop to your knees right now, lift up your hands, and cry out for more of Jesus. What are you waiting for? This Psalm also carries a warning, “Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion…” In other Words, if God is speaking to you, respond immediately, whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 20- Need More Time?

It Cannot Be Moved

Psalm 93:1
“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.”

It seems to me, if one thing is certain in life, it is that things are constantly moving. We live on a moving planet. At the equator, the Earth is spinning at 1000 miles per hour, moving at 67,000 miles per hour around the Sun, and our entire Galaxy is moving at about 185 miles per second. Since this motion is constant, we cannot feel its effects. However, there is other movement that we do notice. The United States Geological Survey website lists dozens of earthquakes that have happened around the world in the past seven days. Earthquakes happen because the earth’s surface is like a thin crust. This crust is made up of many pieces, like a puzzle, and the pieces keep moving around and bumping into each other. This causes the surface of the earth to move like waves rippling in a pond. Also, about 70% of the earth’s surface is water. That means almost three-quarters of the earth is too unstable to stand upon. As far as I know, Jesus and Peter are the only two people to successfully stand on the surface of the water, and that did not last too long for Pete.

If you have ever spent an extended period of time on the ocean, you know how unstable it is. After living on a boat for a few days, even solid ground feels like it is moving. With that said, I do not think that the earth’s surface, of land or water, is the most unstable thing we experience. While the earth may shake daily, it usually happens pretty far from us; and while the sea may be turbulent we can avoid it. However, we cannot avoid the turmoil caused by the flood of emotions that seem to come against us suddenly. One dictionary defines emotions as “strong feeling accompanied with physiological changes like increased heartbeat and respiration and often overt manifestations of crying and shaking.”

We all know emotions can overtake us suddenly, putting us within their grip, and even crippling us. I was recently at a funeral for a close friend. The moment I began to speak, emotion gripped me and all that I had prepared to say was stifled. I could not get a word to pass my lips. No doubt the Psalmist was not immune to these experiences, yet he declares, “Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.” Because God is seated upon His throne above the earth with all it’s confusion, He is able to give us stability in the midst of an ever-changing world. When we are in emotion’s grip, filled with fear, anxiety, pain or sorrow, we can have our feet land on the solid ground and sure foundation of the our reigning King.

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalms 94:19

The Psalmist goes on to declare the way we will find stability. “Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (Psalms 93:5). It is the unchangeable truth of God that will give stability in life. While the storms rage, the Word of God will give you a sure footing and a quiet resting place. It is not the fluctuating faith that you place in the Scriptures, but the surety of His promises that are an immovable rock, even the floods cannot destroy.

Make His promises your hiding place, and you will discover that even a moving world cannot be shaken.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 17- It’s A Secret
2 Kings 18- Against The Odds