Ready?

Zechariah 14:1
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming…”

Paul Revere is famous for warning the the colonial militia of the coming of the British army, before the battles of Lexington and Concord. He actually helped establish an intelligence and alarm system designed to prepare the colonies for the movements of the British troops. A good warning system will help us prepare for what is coming. We may never know how many lives were saved by the efforts of men like Revere.

Zechariah is seeking to warn us of an event far more important than the movements of British forces. He warns us of the coming day of the Lord. This is a Biblical reference to end time events. It includes the rapture of the church and the return of Christ. Zechariah reminds us of this event, the question is, what have you done to prepare for it?

Jesus told two stories designed to help us prepare for His return. The first starred ten bridesmaids, who were awaiting the coming of the groom. Five of the women prepared by filling their lamps with oil. Five failed to prepare. The application is simple, we need to be ready for Christ to come. We prepare by being filled, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Spirit when we believe that Christ died for our sins, and we receive the forgiveness He offers. Jesus told a second story. This one starred three men, each of whom was given a sum of money to invest, as they awaited the return of their king. One of the men failed to make investments out of fear of doing the wrong thing. When the king returned, this man was rebuked. Again, the application is not complicated. Those who have trusted Christ need to invest their time, talents, and treasures, in eternal things.

The day of the Lord is coming whether we are ready for it or not. However, we can be ready, first by receiving Christ, then by living to make investments in eternity. We spend so much time worrying about earthly treasures that wear out, but often neglect to invest in things that will last for eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

Stain Removal

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems like salespeople will make the most preposterous claims, just to make a sale. We hear of miracle products that have the ability to get stains out of anything. The problem is, when we use the product, it rarely meets their claims or our expectations. No matter how hard we work, the kool-aid stain remains imbedded in the carpet, and the grease is still on the collar of your favorite shirt.
While a lot of different things will leave a mark, there is nothing that stains as deeply as sin. It mars our conscious, our inter-personal relationships, our families, our witness, and even our ability to hear from the Lord. Isaiah wrote, it is not that God’s arms are too short to reach, but that our sins have separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). We learn from the account of Adam and Eve, one sin is so powerful it can forever alter our lives and our destinies. For the stain of sin to be removed we need a cleansing agent that is more powerful than sin itself. Zechariah promises, there is a fountain where all sin can be cleansed and man can be restored to fellowship with God.

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems that after Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, a fountain will be erected in Jerusalem, symbolizing the cleansing work of Christ. While we have to wait until then to see the fountain, there is no need to wait to have our sins washed away. Jesus, Himself, through His death, provided a fountain that flows continuously; always providing cleansing for even the most heinous of sins. It is at this fountain that the thief, the murderer, the cheat, the deceiver, the liar, the home wrecker, and everyone else can come, be washed, forgiven, and restored into relationship with God. Hymn writer William Cowper wrote,

“There is a fountain filled with blood 
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; 
And sinners plunged beneath that flood 
Lose all their guilty stains.”

Will you plunge into the fountain of forgiveness that is provided for us at the cross? Will you allow all your stains to be removed, in the precious atoning blood of Christ? Forgiveness is ours for the asking.

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

Pastor Jim

 

It’s Not Worth It

Zechariah 11:12
“Then I said to them,  ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.”

As the time of His death drew near, Jesus asked His disciples two very probing questions. First He asked, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul”(Matthew 16:26)? The question itself reveals that the soul is of infinite worth, and all the world’s wealth, honor and power would not be worth giving up to gain eternity. Since no man will ever gain all the world, Jesus asked a second question, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Sadly, many people have sold their souls for pocket change. No one more infamously than Judas Iscariot.

Scripture declares, one of the twelve apostles, chosen by Jesus, to carry on the work of His ministry after His resurrection, was a man from southern Israel named Judas. We know little of his backstory, but can assume he was drawn to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist. (When choosing his replacement, one of the requirements was the person must have followed Jesus since the baptism of John). Judas spent three years training with Jesus and the others. He spent long walks, private meals and special, behind the scene, encounters learning from Christ. He was given opportunities to serve, and power from heaven to accomplish the work of God on earth. Tragically, this was not enough for Judas, and he began to allow covetousness to fuel his thinking and later his actions. It was not long before he plotted to sell his soul for 30 pieces of silver.

I have often wondered what 30 pieces of silver could purchase in the 1st Century. Could he have bought a new chariot, remodeled a room in his home, or taken a fancy vacation with that unholy cash? Whatever it was worth, it was not worth his soul. Even if he hadn’t been overcome by guilt and thrown the money away, it still would have been gone in a matter of time, and he would have been left with nothing.

Judas is not alone in selling himself off, for that which has little or no value. People are doing the same thing today. A person might trade their relationship with Christ, for a relationship with someone else. Instead of remaining faithful to God and His word, they compromise, fearing that if they don’t, they will lose the other person. Another, might take a job where they are forced to compromise, because it pays a few dollars more per hour, or comes with the promise of better “tips.” Soon, this compromise leads to other compromises, and they find themselves far from God, living the same life from which Jesus had set them free. Others, lose sight of the value Christ has placed upon them, and desire to find their worth in how the world views them. Soon, they are dressing like the world, attempting to fit in, or even buying into the world’s value system, so as not to face any form of persecution or ridicule.

Allow me to remind you,  you are worth more than that. No dollar amount is worth the exchange of your soul, because no relationship is more valuable than your relationship with Christ; no job is worth the cost of compromise. Instead of selling out, let’s try being more fully committed to Christ than we have ever been. Those 30 pieces of silver bought nothing that lasted, but those who committed themselves to Christ, have had an impacted upon the world that has lasted for 2,000 years.

Pastor Jim

 

The Coronation 

Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

A few years ago, during the height of the popularity of the tv show “American Idol”, I happened to be in a hotel room in Ghana. I turned on the tv and began  flipping through the channels. Soon I found a show I did not know existed. It was called “West African Idol.” The premise was the same as the American version, but without nearly the budget. Instead of renting out the Nokia Theater, it was held in what looked like a high school auditorium. Instead of millions of dollars in LED lighting and sound equipment, it had a banner and a few spotlights. Clearly, the more prestigious the event the more glamour it gets.

Kings have had coronation ceremonies for centuries. The more powerful the king, the more fanfare associated with his crowning. Here, Zechariah foretells of the coronation of Christ. The Bible calls Him the King of kings and Lord of Lords. His reign is eternal, righteous, and all reaching. Every creature will one day bow before Him, recognizing His authority and power. Yet when the time came for Him to be crowned, He rode into the city on a donkey and was celebrated with the waving of branches and singing by the common people; no bands, no  lights, no drama.

In many ways, this event perfectly reflects the reign of the King of kings. One of His chief characteristics, and perhaps the platform of His campaign, was humility. He stepped out of glory and into humanity by taking on the form of a man, and coming in the humblest of means. At Christmas we are reminded that Christ was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and greeted by shepherds. His ministry was marked with humility. He is constantly seen taking the lowest place and serving others. We find him washing feet, reaching out to the sick, noticing the neglected and caring for all. His death was the ultimate expression of humility, as the One who created the trees, hung upon a cross made from its wood. Willingly, and without resistance, He allowed men to beat Him, drive nails through His hands and feet, and hoist Him upon the cross. When taunted to prove His power and come down from the cross, He humbly remained, where He could finish the work of providing atonement for the sins of mankind.

Although Jesus is the greatest ruler who will ever reign, He aptly presented Himself with meekness and humility. The next time we see Him, things will be much different. The bible declares that the One who came like a lowly lamb will return like a wild lion. He will one day burst through the clouds with sound of a trumpet, and the the hosts of heaven at His side. At this time, He will set up His kingdom and righteousness will reign from sea to sea.

Pastor Jim

 

Merry Christmas 

Zechariah 6:12-13
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out… And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

christmas-cardThe Bible speaks of the riches of the grace of God. Grace is a word that refers to God’s giving nature. James 1:17 puts it this way, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the father of lights in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Certainly, life is filled with gifts given from heaven to earth. When we gaze into the face of nature, or a new born child, we cannot help but think of the grace of God. Nevertheless, every other gift pales in comparison to the gift given on the first Christmas morning. God wrapped His Son in human flesh and gave Him to mankind to be Savior and Lord. The young Child who was born in a stable, and laid in a manger, would grow to become what the apostle John called, “the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only but the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:2). As the years went by, He would move from a manger to a cross, where He would die, to pay the debt of sin, and reconcile man to God. As you give and receive gifts this Christmas, it is our prayer you would receive the greatest gift ever given, and put your trust in Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Merry Christmas, Pastor Jim

 

 

 

 

Curses

Zechariah 5:2-3
“And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I answered, ‘I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth…'”

hqdefault-1.jpgOver the years, Hollywood has gone to elaborate ends to depict the results of a curse. The storyline of the hit movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is built upon the fact that a group of pirates stole enchanted treasure and were forced to live forever under its curse. The curse forced them to live forever, without taste or feeling.

The Bible teaches we are actually under the curse of sin. Paul explained, it was Adam’s disobedience which brought sin into the world, and each of us have followed in Adam’s footsteps by living a life of sin. Our nature causes us to sin, and our sinful actions condemn us to a life divorced from God. If this condition is not repaired we will end up eternally separated from God.

The message of the Bible is a message of redemption. From the very beginning, it tells the story of God providing a means for sin to be pardoned, and the strength of the curse broken. After fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, written over a period of fifteen centuries, Jesus paid the ultimate price to free us from sin’s curse.

Paul put it this way,

Galatians 3:10
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'”

Galatians 3:13
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)”

Any of us, who have broken the least of God’s commands, are condemned under the curse of sin. If you have ever lied, taken something that does not belong to you, coveted someone else’s stuff, become angry without cause or looked at a woman with lustful eyes, then you are sitting under sin’s curse. The only force strong enough to break the curse of sin, is the power of God; that was demonstrated on the cross. It was there, on that tree, that Christ bore the curse for us,so we could bear the righteousness of God, and be free.

The only means of escaping the curse of sin,is to receive the forgiveness of Christ. Have you accepted His generous offer? Will you ask Christ to pardon you and give you eternal life?It is free for the asking.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Source Of Strength 

Zechariah 4:6
“So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the Lord of hosts.'”

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, was responsible for a task far too great for himself. He had led a small group of untrained refugees from Persia back to Jerusalem. There, in the midst of continual opposition, and with limited resources, they began the project of restoring the Temple of God. It did not take long for the people to become discouraged and the work to cease. It was then, that a message came to Zechariah from the Lord. The message was in the form of a vision, and showed the Temple menorah connected to an olive tree by seven golden pipes. These pipes provided oil to the lamp, without the need of human intervention. Puzzled by the meaning of the vision, Zechariah was told this was a message for the governor. Just as the lamp would be fueled supernaturally, so would Zerubbabel be strengthen by the hand of God. He was told that it was ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.

This is one of the simplest yet most profound truths for anyone engaged in ministry. When we step out to serve, we want to offer our absolute best to God, and we often wear the weight of the ministry on our shoulders. We become discouraged and even overwhelmed when we do not see things being accomplished at a rate we are happy with, or when they do not meet our standard. We can even begin to think the growth of the church depends on our achievements. It is during those times it is particularly important for us to remember that, “it is not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of God” that ministry is accomplished. Instead of racking our brains for better methods or more talented people, we should be seeking God for a fresh filling of His Spirit, so we can venture forth and accomplish the work of God.

How encouraging this message must have been for Zerubbabel. Not only was the weight of ministry taken off his shoulders, but he was given the promise that the God who started the work, would finish it. In a matter of months, this promise was fulfilled as the Temple was erected and the worship services reinstated.

Pastor Jim