Testophobia 

Deuteronomy 8:2
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Like most of us, much of my childhood was spent in school, and one of the worst words for any student to hear is “test.” For some of us, this word  still conjures up feelings of fear, defeat and humiliation. As a student, I was never quite sure why we had to take so many tests. Years later, and much to my own surprise, I actually became a teacher and had a totally different view of the purpose of all those tests. They were not to make the children suffer as much as they were to show, student and teacher alike, what they already knew and what we needed to work on. The tests God put Israel through had a similar purpose. He allowed them to walk through some difficulties to show them what was in them and what work He still needed to do.

Trials are designed to show us how much or how little we have grown in Christ. When we face a difficulty and we are filled with fear, we know that we need to get to know the faithfulness of God better and learn to trust Him. When the trial reveals our impatience, we understand it is time to begin to trust in the purposes, will, and timing of God. It is not as though trials make us afraid, impatient, angry or anxious, as much as they reveal that those things are still within us. When trials expose the weaknesses of our humanity, it is time for us to cling to Christ and allow Him to mature us.

The next time you fail a test, instead of getting discouraged, realize that God has just revealed to you the thing He wants to work on. Take time to carefully seek Him in His word, to help you mature through your difficulties.

Pastor Jim

 

Don’t Worry

Proverbs 12:25
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Anxiety can be defined as an abnormal and overwhelming concern over the reality of a threat, and our inability to cope with it. Similar words would be care, concern, fear, nervousness or worry. Anxiety is usually accompanied by an inability to focus on other tasks, difficulty sleeping, and either no appetite or one that seems to rage out of control. Solomon observed that unchecked anxiety can lead to a much worse condition, that of all out depression. No doubt, life is filled with challenges greater than we can handle, which bring us to the brink of anxiety. Many of us may feel as though we have already slipped off that cliff. Fortunately, the Bible addresses the subject of anxiety and gives us some clear cures for our common worries.

Jesus told us not to worry, but to observe how our Heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields (Matthew 6:26). He went on to explain that we are of much greater value to God than any other part of His creation, and He promises to meet our needs. The first step in curing common worries is to place your trust in the loving arms of God. Those who handle life’s challenges best, are those who have come to trust in the loving care of God. When all else fails, they remain calm because they know their lives are wrapped up in the arms of God.

Paul declared, instead of worrying about the challenges we are facing, we should pray. Worry does not have the ability to fix anything. In fact, it has been proven, worry can actually create physical problems. Jesus asked, “which of you by worrying can add a cubit to your stature?” (Luke 12:26) Worry does not help matters, but makes them worse. The clear alternatives to worry is to take my concerns to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps.

Solomon adds an interesting step in curing worry. He reminds us of the value of a word carefully spoken. There are certain people who seem to have a gift for stirring up unwarranted concern, while others seem to be a calming voice of reason. We have all experienced times when a person opens their mouths and makes matters worse. The words that carry the ability to put gladness in the heart of the worrier, are the promises of God. In those times, when we are overwhelmed, we need to learn to cling to the promises of God.

Perhaps now would be a good time to set your worries aside and replace them with trust, by casting your cares upon the Lord, and filling your mind with His great and precious promises.

Pastor Jim

 

Teddy Bear 

Isaiah 46:6-7

“They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales;
They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god;
They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.
They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it
And set it in its place, and it stands;
From its place it shall not move.
Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer
Nor save him out of his trouble.”

In Isaiah’s time, it was a common practice, among the people, to fashion gods out of metal, wood, or clay. These little idols formed by their hands, were a reflection, not of the God of Scripture, but rather of the imaginations of men. Their idols were designed to bring them comfort in times of trouble. When things became difficult, they might hold their idol close like a small child with a stuffed doll. The problem, of course, was the comfort these idols brought was merely psychological. These graven images could not heal a sickness, provide during times of need, deliver from oppression, or give eternal life.

Today, it is just as common for people to create gods who will give them comfort and ease their anxieties. The problem is, these manmade gods really provide nothing more than the comfort a child derives from a favorite blanket or a teddy bear.

Instead of fashioning a god to satisfy our emotions, wouldn’t it be better to get to know the God who created the heavens and the earth? He alone is the One who has what is necessary for us to make our way through life and into eternity,

Isaiah 45:22

“Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.”

Pastor Jim

I Am With You

Isaiah 41:10
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Life is filled with reasons to fear. We fear the unknown and the known, we fear change, and often fear that things will never change, we fear for ourselves, our families, and especially for our children. It would not take any of us very long to be crippled with fear, if we chose to dwell too long on any of those things. Isaiah is reminded, in the midst of frightening times, there are some pretty valid reasons not to fear. The first of the list is God’s promise to be with the believer.

“I am with you…”

This phrase is often repeated within Scripture, as it serves to comfort and encouragement those facing difficult and overwhelming circumstances. It was first promised to Isaac when the neighboring people were attempting to drive him out of Canaan. Later, when Jacob was fleeing for his life from Esau, he heard the same promise. Without family, friends, finances, or any idea of what the future holds, Jacob was promised the presence of the Lord. When young Jeremiah was commissioned as a prophet to the nations, God promised to be with him. Jesus made the same promise to us, as He sent us into the world with the message of the Gospel.

Whatever you may be facing, whatever fear, anxiety, worry, or fret may be welling up within you, remember that if you have trusted Christ, He promises to be with you, and  to never leave you or forsake you. Is there any challenge that is too big for you and God to handle?

Pastor Jim

War And Peace 

Isaiah 26:3-4
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

I recently watched an episode of a “Reality Show” where two individuals were in search of gold. They invested all they had, left their families, traveled to a foreign land, all in search of gold and in hopes of getting rich. Over the centuries, gold has been a highly sought after commodity. For many years, it was the standard by which a nation’s wealth was determined. Gold is not the only commodity man seeks after. Many have spent their lives in pursuit of resources that will make them rich, successful, powerful or at least happy. Perhaps the most sought after of all, is the pursuit of peace. In fact, it seems many would give up all else, in order to gain peace. In one of the most precious of all promises, Isaiah declares where peace can be found.

Isaiah 26:3-4
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

Two things are important to note. First of all, this promise was directed to those who had trusted in the Lord for salvation The peace he referred to is for the child of God alone. We cannot expect to benefit from the promises of God, if we are not willing to walk in the ways of God. The first step to having turmoil removed, is to begin a relationship with God through Christ.

Ephesians 2:14
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation”

Second, notice the peace is described as being perfect, and distributed to those whose minds are fixed upon the Lord. When I was a child, I would often play the “what if” game. We would imagine what it would be like if circumstances suddenly changed. I have found many adults, even believers, still play that childish game. Instead of focusing upon the Lord and His promises, they are determined to think about how bad things are, and assure themselves, things will continue to get worse. It is a good idea to stop worrying about the future and fix your mind on the promises of God in the present.

If you are facing circumstances that are filling you with fear or anxiety, giving you sleepless nights and fret-filled days, then it is time for you to open your Bible, find promises that fit your circumstances, and begin to put your trust in the Lord.

Pastor Jim

All Inventions Are Not Created Equal

Nehemiah 6:8
“Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.’”

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The enemies of Judah seem to be constantly thinking of new ways to attack Nehemiah and the work he is trying to accomplish. On this occasion, they wrote an open letter And threatened to send to the king of Persia. This letter was filled with accusations against the remnant of Israel, claiming they were planning a rebellion, and had already selected a new king. The real reason for the letter was to distract Nehemiah from what God had called him to, and get him to spend his energies trying to stomp out the rumors. Instead of reacting to these accusations, he responded with true godly wisdom.

Nehemiah 6:8 “Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.'”

Nehemiah silenced the enemy when he realized the source of the accusations was nothing more than the invention of their hearts.

I wonder how much of the distractions, fears, anxiety, worry, or depression we face, are the inventions of our own hearts? I am sure that we, like Nehemiah have some real life, flesh and blood enemies that are wreaking havoc and creating opposition. However, I am equally certain, that many of the difficulties we face are created, or at least magnified, by our own imaginations. Jesus understood this about us and said,

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Worry is an action that focusses, not on what is. but on what might be. We find ourselves becoming so concerned with what might happen, we lose sight of the promises of God,and we create a scenario that is too big for anyone to handle. Worry rarely gives any consideration to the intervention of God, or to the fact that He may want to use the current situation to bring about change in us, or to bring glory to Himself.

Instead of filling your heart and mind with all the things that could go wrong, why not take some time to memorize a few of God’s precious promises, then instead of inventing scenarios in your mind that may never come to pass, take time to meditate on the Word of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Listen 

Romans 11:4
“What does the divine response say to him?”

Paul is referring to one of the most difficult times in the life of the prophet Elijah. He lived during a time when the nation of Israel had turned from the Lord and had become steeped in idolatry. As the people stood in the valley of decision, swaying between a decision to follow Jehovah or become more like the world around them, Elijah stood boldly for the Lord and saw the beginnings of a national revival. This did not come without a price. Jezebel, the queen who was openly opposed to the ways of God, began a campaign to see Elijah killed. These were not idle threats, for she had been responsible for the death of many of the prophets of God. Elijah saw no other course of action except to flee. He ran from Mount Carmel in the north of Israel, all the way to the wilderness where Moses had received the Law of God. There, in a place of solitude, he began to cry out to God. “I alone am left of the prophets of God and they seek to take my life.” He truly believed that his life was over and there was no escape from certain death. His fears led his heart to speak, but in the midst of his trial, he heard another voice saying,

“I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Paul referred to this as “the divine response.” In the midst of trial, as his fear caused his heart to speak, God had another message designed to comfort, strengthen and produce hope within his servant, Elijah. He was not alone in this. There is always a divine response whenever our hearts speak to us, and this response is always found in the pages of God’s Word. Peter referred to “His great and precious promises.” (2Peter 1:4) It is critical in our times of trial, we learn to listen to the voice of God which cries out against the voice of fear, depression, temptation, anxiety, worthlessness or any of our other emotions. It has become very common today, when we are faced with indecision, to be encouraged to “follow your heart.” The problem is, our hearts often speak contrary the promises of God. Whenever our hearts cry out, we must look into the Word of God to find divine response.

What is you heart saying to you today? Is fear, doubt or discouragement, causing you to question the ways of God? Take some time to look into His precious promises and allow the Divine Response to give direction to your wayward thoughts.

Pastor Jim