Help My Unbelief 

Mark 9:24
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

We are introduced to a man facing one of life’s greatest obstacles, the illness of his son. We have little glimpses into the great love he had for his child. We are told the father cried out with tears, and although the boy had been suffering from childhood, his father stood with him, even risking his life to rescue him. When he finally came face to face with Jesus, he was given a great promise; “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” This man’s response is both practical and poetic. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” It seems to me, this man had many reasons not to believe. His son, whom he loved, was tormented; this had been going on his whole life. He implies that time and time again, his son was at the point of death, only to be rescued by his father. It seems clear, nothing medically could help him. To make matters worse, he had come to the disciples, and they were no help. It is not difficult to understand why he was filled with unbelief. Love, medicine, and religion were of no help in overcoming the great obstacle he was facing. It is easy to see why his faith had waned.

I think it is important to note, that in the midst of this dilemma, he also had much reason to believe. He had been hearing of the great things Jesus had done for others. He had heard of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the possessed, all being transformed by simple faith in Christ. On top of that, he had a promise from God; “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” One of the great lessons from this man’s experience, is while he was being squeezed (on one side by doubt and the other by faith), he chose to act in faith. He made a decision. He would not allow his doubts to keep him from trusting in the promise of Christ. The result, his son was healed. We are much like this man. We have life obstacles that cause our faith to wither. In those times, we are being pressed by doubt on one side, and by the promises of God on the other. In those times we have a choice to believe life or believe Christ.

The great lesson from this man is that with all of his unbelief he chose to believe.

What will you do?

Pastor Jim

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

 

Trust In A Lie

Jeremiah 28:15
“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie.'”

As far back as we have recorded history, we have people supposedly speaking for God. Here we find a self-proclaimed prophet named Hananiah, claiming God is OK with the behaviors of the people of Judah, and the warnings of judgment for sin should be ignored. He even went so far as to claim that the current lifestyle of the people would in fact result in the blessing of God, rather than His curse. It is interesting to look back and observe some of the things that culture has promoted as acceptable, while the Word of God has remained the same. There was a time when people of African descent were considered by culture to be less than fully human. This was never the position of the Bible, but of the culture. There were even those, like Hananiah, who twisted the Bible to fit their cultural view.

Today, culture has many views that are diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Word of God. There is no shortage of Hananiahs, who are willing to twist the Bible to make it support their view. I am not sure how much longer God will tarry before His Son returns, but I am sure that if He does, future generations will look back on much of what our culture claims as right, and be as embarrassed by it as we are of Manifest Destiny and slavery. Instead of letting culture shape the way we see life, let’s let the Bible shape our view of culture.

Pastor Jim

Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”

We have arrived at one of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible. It has been aptly entitled, “The Hall of Faith.” It records incidents from the lives of many Old Testament saints who, in the midst of extreme difficulty, chose to put confidence in the Lord. Whenever we are faced with trying times, we have the choice between trusting in circumstances, emotions, or the eternal Word of God. Another way of looking at it, we can trust in what we see, or in what He says. These men and women chose to put confidence in the Words of God, and by doing so, have obtained a great testimony. We are told, although they have long since died, their lives still speak to us today. They are saying, no matter what you are facing, you can trust the promises of God. Let’s take a moment to admire a few of the influences confidence in God’s promises, brought about in the lives of those who trust in His Word.

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Over and over again we will read of the fruit of faith. The phrase “by faith…” is repeated 19 times in this chapter. Verse 3 is its first occurrence where we are told, understanding of things we could never grasp on our own, is found by putting confidence in the promises of God. One of the great dilemmas in life is confusion; not knowing how to handle a situation because we have never faced it before. The devil seems to have a field day when we are faced with confusion. He uses it to fill us with fear, anxiety, and even depression. What a joy to know that by faith we can understand the ways of God. The solution in our trying times is to go to the Word of God, locate the promises of God, and cling to Him.

Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

We read, by faith Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah prepared, Abraham obeyed, Sarah was strengthened, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused, Israel entered, and Jericho collapsed. All of the great accomplishments of these men and women were brought about not because they had strong gifts, perfect circumstances, helpful friends, or super human strength. They accomplished great things because they chose to trust in the promises of God, and those promises never fail. I wonder how our lives will be recorded? If we are to honestly evaluate how we are living, how would we finish the sentence “by faith he/she …”

Whatever you are facing, there is a promise for that, and that promise along with the Spirit of God will enable you to live a life that will prove to be a good testimony to those who follow. Put your trust in the promises of God today.

Pastor Jim

 

Look What I Made 

Isaiah 44:10
“Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?”

When archeologists discovered the remains of the ancient city of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians, they discovered hundreds of small graven images or household gods. These images shed light on the fact that during the days Isaiah lived, idolatry ran rampant throughout the land. People filled their homes with images representing the gods they created with their own imaginations. Isaiah writes of the folly of idolatry. He describes a man planting a tree, waiting for it to grow, cutting it down, using a portion to build a fire to cook his meal, and the rest to shape into an image he will later bow down and worship. The gods that were created were the product of the imagination, and took the shape of the world in which they lived. The folly of idolatry is that we are both making god and worshipping god.

While our garages may not be factories producing idols, and our homes may not be filled with graven images, we are often guilty of the same actions which Isaiah described. We tend to allow our culture to affect our view of God, rather than our view of God to affect our culture. We trim things or add things to the God of Scripture, until He becomes a god we like. Sadly, when this happens, He is no longer the God of Scripture, nor is He capable of delivering us in time of trouble.

Rather than attempting to change God to fit our taste, we should be getting to know God as He describes Himself. The better we get to know Him, the more we will benefit when things in life become overwhelming.

Pastor Jim

 

Believing God 

Romans 4:3
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'”

A right standing before God is not received by the good works that we do, but by faith in the finished work of the Cross. This is illustrated in the life of both Abraham and David. These are two of the three greatest heroes of the Jewish people, the third being Moses.

Abraham was justified, not by the good works he accomplished, but by trusting in the promises of God. In fact, when he was first chosen he was an uncircumcised idol worshipper.

Likewise, David was not justified by his works. The Psalm referred to was written after David had sinned with Bathsheba and attempted to hide his rebellion from God. The great release from the burden of sin was found when, in faith he confessed it to the Lord, and forgiveness and righteousness was imputed to him (Psalm 32:1-2).

The same is true for us today. Our standing before God is never based upon our good works. We were loved and chosen before the foundation of the earth. We were separated, called from the womb, pursued and prayed for before we ever responded to Christ. We are made right with God when we trust in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. We have access to Him every day, not because of how good we have been the day before, but because of the efficacy of the Cross. If you are avoiding the Throne of Grace, thinking you are not worthy because of something you looked at, said, thought, or did, you need to understand trusting in Christ results in your sins being placed on Him, and His righteousness imputed to you.

In Romans 3 Paul asked, “Where is the boasting then?” Clearly, the answer is in Christ. I do not stand before men and brag of my great accomplishments, self-righteousness, or unwavering faith. I bow before God, rejoicing in His marvelous grace. I stand before men, declaring that all who come to God through Christ, can have their sins forgiven and His righteousness imputed to them. I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist who declared,

“Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand” Psalm 149:6

Instead of justifying our sin, or allowing failure to keep us from God, let’s join David in praising God, and Abraham in continuing to pursue the promises of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Hard Heart

1 Samuel 6:6
Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people go, that they might depart?”

Tucked away in the story of the Philistines return of the Ark to Israel, is this powerful exhortation regarding the danger of hardening our hearts to God. We are reminded of the difficulties Pharaoh endured because of his refusal to humble himself and obey the Word of God. The lessons from this exhortation are twofold.

First, we need to examine our lives to be certain we are not hardening our hearts. If there is any area where we are making excuses for an attitude or behavior that is unbiblical, then we are in danger of hardening our heart to the Word. This may seem obvious, but the danger of hardening our hearts is that we will ultimately end up with a hard heart. Each time God speaks and we refuse to listen, we become a little less sensitive to his voice, until one day we find it almost impossible to hear Him. This can stop immediately, all we need to do is obey what His Word teaches.

There is a second lesson here. This exhortation did not come from a Hebrew priest or king, but from the lips of an unbeliever. Here, we find a person who knew the truth of God enough to instruct others, yet he himself was unwilling to make a decision to follow God. Imagine knowing the stories recorded in Scripture, seeing the hand of God at work in the life of others, and yet refusing to surrender to the Lord personally. Sadly for some, we do not have to imagine, because that is exactly what they are doing. This man could have passed a written test on who God is, yet when it came to his own life, he refused to surrender to God and walk with Him.

Pastor Jim