Falling

Psalm 91:7
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.”

The Psalmist is speaking of the benefits derived from living in an intimate, abiding relationship with God. Jesus also spoke on the same subject when He refered to Himself as the vine and us as the branches. He made it clear, the only way to bear fruit in our life was by remaining in a close and personal relationship with Him. This verse expresses one of the most important benefits of abiding.

“A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.”

Sadly, we have all seen Christians fall by the wayside. People who, at one time, were walking with the Lord, but have fallen back into the life from which they were delivered. We see this happen to new believers and old, we even see it happen to those who at one time or another, were serving the Lord. One of the saddest experiences for me, is to look around a room filled with people, and know those who are missing, because they have fallen. How was it that sin was able to get its grip on them, tear them away from Christ, and leave them wounded on the sidelines? The answer is quite simple; they stopped abiding. The same thing will happen to you and me if we cease to abide in the secret place of the Most High.

The word ‘abide’ means ‘to stay or to live’. The person who is abiding in Christ, is the person who is daily remaining connected to the Lord. There are some simple, practical ways we can do that. First, we must make time to spend with the Lord, in His Word and prayer. All those who succeed in following and serving Christ, have learned to develop a daily time with the Lord, in His Word. Second, it is not about the number of verses you read or memorize (although both of those are important), it is about putting into practice the things you read. Abiding is directly related to obedience to the Word. Third, we were never meant to live out the Christian life alone. If we want to make it to the end of our race, we need to get involved in Christian fellowship; more than sitting next to someone once a week in church. The strongest bonds you can form with others, are the bonds developed while serving Jesus together.

The Christian life is a battlefield where we see our comrades falling around us on a regular basis. We need to recognize the battle is intense and the secret to success is abiding in the secret place of the Most High. Will you take time to sit at His feet today?

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 15- Still Here
Psalm 92- Planted In The House

Time Management

Psalm 90:10
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years.”

When we are young we think we will live forever; death, even aging, is for other people. As we age, we still cannot imagine a world of which we are not a part. Yet, the Psalmist is making clear, we have been designed by God with a shelf life. In other words, one day we will expire. The bodies that we live in will no longer be able to sustain life, and we will move on to an eternal habitation. James put it like this, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away  (James 4:14). The word ‘vapor’ is defined as, “diffused matter floating in the air impairing its transparency.” In other words, a vapor is only slightly more than nothing. It speaks of the fact that life on earth is transitory, not permanent. This does not mean that life is meaningless.

God actually places the highest value upon human life. We know He formed us in the womb as the highest expression of His creation. We are told we are made in the image of God, and after the fall we were redeemed by the blood of God. That being said, it is possible to live a meaningless life. The Bible speaks, on more than one occasion, of “worthless men.” Calling them worthless does not mean that God did not value them highly, but rather, they were wasting life, instead of living it. When they timed out and their lives came to an end, they had nothing eternal to show for it. When James refers to life as a vapor, he is reminding us that life is temporary.

No matter what your diet or exercise program consists of, death is certain. It has been proven that the death rate among human beings is 100%. One hundred years from now none of us will be alive. Now I am not saying this to depress you, but to prepare you. You see, while life is temporary it is also preparatory. What we do now prepares us for where and how we will spend eternity. We might benefit from thinking of life as the preliminary round. When asked the meaning of life, Rick Warren put it like this, “In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever and God wants us to be in heaven with Him. We may spend 60-100 years here but we will spend trillions in heaven. This is the warm up act”

We are prepared for death when we have received Christ and are surrendered to, and serving Him. As a result, the Psalmist encourages us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).”  Since we have limited time, seventy or perhaps eighty years, we are encouraged to number them. We need to understand, there is a limited number and we must spend them wisely.

Let’s do it. * 70 x 365 = 25,550 * , now multiply your age x 365 *, subtract that number from 25, 550 * I have 8,760 days left * I am 65% done. Another way of looking at it is, if my life were a book, I am two-thirds done. The plot has been set, the main characters developed, and the final act is being set up. The question we must ask ourselves is, “What are we writing on today’s page? What, from today, will last for eternity?” If we have prepared for eternity by receiving Christ, we further prepare by living each day in light of eternity.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 13- Crying Out
2 Kings 14- Secret Weapon

Gates of Zion

Psalms 87:2
“The Lord loves the gates of Zion, More than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Jerusalem is without question a beautiful place. It sits atop mount Moriah and is surrounded by the mountains of Judah. Standing on the Temple Mount you can look out in every direction and see the beautiful hill country of Judea and imagine scenes straight out of the Biblical narrative. That being said, I think there may be another reason why God loves the gates of Zion. It may have a whole lot more to do with what He has and will accomplish there than with the terrain. The history of Jerusalem is the history of the grace of God.

It was a man from ancient Jerusalem who met Abraham after his battle with Chederloamar. This man, known as Melchizedek, is one of the great characters of Scripture and serves as a perfect type of Christ. He was both a priest of the Most High God and the king of Salem. It is from his ministry that we can understand the high priestly ministry of Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, and ever lives to intercede on our behalf.

It was Jerusalem where God instructed Abraham to take his only son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. It is in this scene that we have the most vivid illustration of God’s means of saving man. We see that no human sacrifice, no matter how great, can appease the wrath of God. It is only through substitution that we can be saved. In the narrative, God provides a ram and promises a lamb. Years later, John the Baptist explains that Christ is the lamb once promised by God, to take away the sins of the world.

It was in Jerusalem where Solomon built a permanent house for the Ark of God, and as a place for the people to gather in worship. His father, David, had purchased the hilltop from Ornan, the Jebusite, and stockpiled materials for his son to ultimately build the Temple. It was on this same location that Zerrubuabel would rebuild the Temple. Herod would spend countless funds to refurbish it, making it one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

It was in Jerusalem, at the temple where Jesus stunned the religious leaders with His wisdom and understanding of the Word of God. It was there where He turned the tables over and drove out the money changers. It was in this city of Jerusalem where he was condemned, beaten and carried off to be crucified. It was just beyond the gates of Zion, where the Son of God bore the weight of human sin, so we could be pardoned, forgiven and set free.

It was in Jerusalem where the apostle’s waited for the promises regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was in an undisclosed upper room somewhere in the city, that they waited and prayed, until God opened the windows of heaven and poured His Spirit upon them. As a result, it was in the city of Jerusalem where the church began; the church that would spread the gospel around the world, and forever change human history.

It is in Jerusalem, where Jesus will one day return to set up his throne, and complete the Bible’s promises regarding the Kingdom of God. One day, all things will be made right and righteousness will cover the earth, as the waters covers the sea. Those who have trusted Christ will not only be saved from the wrath of God, but will have the pleasure of reigning and ruling alongside Him, as He establishes His Kingdom.

Certainly, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion, More than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 11- Armed And Dangerous
2 Kings 12- Giving
Psalm 88- Where Do You Turn?

Mercy And Truth

Psalm 85:10
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.”

One of my favorite movie lines of all times is at the end of “The Princess Bride.” As the narrator comments upon the kiss of Wesley and Buttercup, he states, “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” That statement, while nothing more than a poetic expression in the film, would certainly be true of the statement the Psalmist makes here.

When the righteousness and mercy of God met together, it was an expression of both the passion and the purity of the love of God. Righteousness speaks of the nature of God that is without sin, and perfectly holy, as well as His demand for justice. Scripture makes clear, because of the majesty of His holiness, sin cannot survive in His presence. Like tissue being consumed in a raging flame, so the sinner can have no place in the audience of a holy God. The purity of His eyes cannot behold evil, and the angelic host ever live to circle His throne, and herald his righteousness.

Coupled with his righteousness, is His desire to pardon. The love of God for humanity produces within Him a burning desire to pardon sin, giving us access into His heavenly domain. How can these two seemingly contradictory characteristics ever be satisfied? The Psalmist declares that it happened when righteousness and mercy kissed. This beautiful statement found its complete fulfillment in the cross. The holiness of God was satisfied when the blood of Christ was shed. Isaiah wrote, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,  for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).

The righteousness of Christ satisfies the holiness and justice of God. Because He bore our iniquities, God is able to pardon our sins, satisfying His passion for mercy. Paul declared, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Corinthians 5:21). The passionate love of God for you stirred Him to send His own Son, to make a way for you to live forever. Without trying to sound too strange, allow me to ask, “Have you experienced the kiss of heaven?” Have you allowed mercy and righteousness to meet together, by receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior. Today is that day!

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
2 Kings 9- Introspective
2 Kings 10- Part Way
Psalm 86- Unite My Heart

Who’s The Real Enemy

Psalms 83:1
“Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God!”

Prayer takes on many different forms. Sometimes it is appropriate to offer praise for the many blessings we receive from God, other times it is important to intercede for the needs of others; and we must never forget to take time to petition God for the issues that affect our personal lives. Here in Psalm 83, we find another essential element of an effective prayer life, as the Psalmist pleads with God to deal with those who have gathered themselves against God. He describes those who have consulted together with the goal of removing the influence of God and His people. In response, he pleads with God to intercede by defeating these enemies. It seems that his prayers are motivated by a desire to free the people of God from oppression, as well as a desire to see the enemies of God saved. He declares;

Psalms 83:16 “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord.”

Psalms 83:18 “That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

It seems we are in an age where the enemies of God are at an all time high. We are surrounded by those who want to silence the Gospel, or at least rewrite it. If we publicly declare the message of Christ, we may receive an onslaught of ridicule, or be marked as  bigots, and accused of inciting hate. Now is the time for believers to increase the kind of prayer recorded in the 83rd Psalm. It is important to keep in mind, the real enemy of the Christian is not the outspoken atheist or the unrepentant coworker. Our real enemy is the devil, who seeks to hold men and women captive in their sin. We are not praying for God to destroy those who oppose Him, but to reveal Himself to them for their own sake.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Psalm 84- Heart’s Cry
2 Kings 7- 4 Leprous Men
2 Kings 8- Quick Fix

Perspective

Psalm 81:4
“For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob.”

After choosing His people, God established laws to govern their behavior. There were moral laws and social laws, as well as ceremonial laws. All of which, when followed, would serve to benefit the individual, as well as the nation.

The Psalmist draws our attention to a particular set of laws that had to do with worship. “Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lute. Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day.” Psalm 81:1-3

Instead of laws that forbid religious assembly in public places, their laws required it. They were commanded to worship, and to worship loudly. Why? Why does God require His people to worship? We know it has something to do with God. He is, after all, worthy of praise. Just being God, and being exalted above the heavens, demands our highest praise. But I believe, it has at least as much to do with us. There are great benefits derived from taking time for private and corporate worship. Perhaps the greatest benefit is what it does to our perspective.

Too often, we see God in light of our problems. When we come face to face with a trial, perhaps an illness or a financial burden, we often become overwhelmed by the sheer fact that it is bigger than we can handle. We focus our attention on the problem, and it seems to grow larger and larger. Before we know it, we are consumed with worry, doubt, and anxiety. We can’t sleep, become irritable, and lose our appetite. It is even possible to begin to pray about the problem, only to find that after praying, we are more anxious than when we began. The solution is worship. When we take our eyes off of the problem and place them fully upon the Lord, our perspective changes. We no longer see our trials as something so much bigger than ourselves, but we see God as so much bigger than our trials. A healthy dose of the power, majesty, love, mercy, and provision of God, is the antidote to worry.

In Acts 4, the Church was threatened. If they continued to speak publicly about Christ, they would be beaten, imprisoned or killed. These were not idle threats. They had seen the rage of the religious leaders meted out on Christ only months before. Instead of allowing this trial to sink their faith, they turned their eyes upward and prayed, “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, . . ” Acts 4:24

Having been reminded of the power of God that casts a shadow over the weakness of human powers, they were able to rise from prayer with a new-found confidence. We read, “. . .they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31

No matter what you are facing, God commands you to worship. As you take your eyes off of your weakness, and the problem you are facing, and place them upon the God of Glory, your perspective will change. Faith will grow and His peace will flood your heart and mind. Let’s be faithful today to raise our voices in praise.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Kings 5- Church Life

Memories

Psalm 79:8
“Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”

Memory is a funny thing. There are certain things that no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to remember, and other things I can never forget. Names are particularly hard for me. It is not that I don’t care, or don’t want to remember; I just have a mental block. I have tried all the tricks: concentrating when the person introduces themselves, repeating the name back to them, using it in the conversation, and even relating their name to something else. Still, if some time has passed, and I encounter them again, the file that holds their name has been corrupted, and my memory refuses to access it.

It is not a memory problem, because there are many things that I have a hard time forgetting. Those are usually my failures. I can be haunted by the ways I have let others down, or been a disappointment. I am particularly plagued, at times, by past sins. It is during those times that I am encouraged by the way God’s memory works. While He is omniscient, He chooses to forget our sins and refuses to forget our accomplishments.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12

When we are plagued with a failure from the past, it is important to remember that it is not the Lord who is bringing it to mind. When that sin was committed, the blood of Christ had already made payment for it. Our Savior already paid the price, carried the punishment, and removed the sin, as far as the East is from the West; drowning it in the depths of the sea. There is someone who loves to bring up the past, his name is Satan, and one of his titles is the Accuser of the Brethren. Scripture tells us he lives to bring accusation against us for our failures. Since God refuses to listen to the accusations, he has to find another audience; that audience is usually the sinner. I don’t know how much time he spends trying to convince others of my unworthiness, but I know he expends a tremendous amount of energy on me. During those times I am so thankful that I can cry out with the Psalmist “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, . . .”

If you are struggling with a past failure, whether it ended ten years ago or ten minutes ago, the solution is the same. Confess your sin and receive the complete and total pardon that Christ offers through His shed blood. Do not dwell on your failure, but on His mercy. Instead of playing back that event over and over in your mind, use your thoughts to recall the cross. Think back to His love for you, that was displayed as He gave His life to pardon your sin. Allow His blood and love to wash you clean and restore your strength.

Pastor Jim