If…Then…

1 Kings 9:4
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments…” 

If you are a parent, you understand conditional promises. Almost daily you find yourself saying things like “If you keep your room clean, then…” Or “if you get good grades, then…” Basically you are declaring that if certain conditions are met, certain rewards will be given.

The Bible is filled with these same kind of promises. Here Solomon is told, if Israel walks in line with the commands of God, they will experience the blessings of God, but if they turn from God, they will be chastened by Him. This is not a difficult concept to understand. If we choose to walk with Christ and live obediently to His word, we will be blessed. If we turn from Him and pursue things that His word forbids, we will begin to experience the chastening of God. We will find that the sinful activities we pursued actually robbed us of the life they promised to provide.

The narrative of Scripture reveals that Israel ignored these warnings. They were attracted to the lifestyles of the nations around them and they forsook the ways of God, for the ways of the world. It did not take long for this to have negative affects on the nation. After Solomon died, the nation experienced a devastating civil conflict that split the kingdom in two. Weakened by the split and continual rebellion against God, the nations were later overrun by enemies and taken captive to distant lands. What had once been a beautiful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a testimony to the horrible consequences of sin.

No matter how great the temptation to turn from God and embrace the ways of the world, we must remember the example of Israel. If we meet the conditions we receive the promises. We will have a blessed life as we follow after, and live pleasing to, the Lord.

Pastor Jim

Small Things

Numbers 16:9
“Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them?”

Korah and his disgruntled ministry team were upset with the leadership of Moses, and discontent with the opportunities they were given to serve the Lord. They soon formed a club and brought their complaints to Moses. They were hoping he would allow them to wear the priestly garments and enter the Tabernacle. Because ministry is based upon the call of God, Moses could not grant their request, but instead pointed out the folly behind their discontentment. They were guilty of considering what they did for the Lord as a small thing; as if some areas of ministry are big and others are small and unimportant.

This is a pretty common view. Almost all of us, if pressed would say that preaching the Gospel or leading the worship is a more important role than setting up the chairs or getting the children to church on time. We think this because in man’s economy certain tasks are regarded more highly than others. If a person runs a factory, he is given greater compensation than those who work in the factory. The economy of God is different. God rewards based upon faithfulness. It is not that everyone gets the same reward, but the rewards are given based upon how faithful we are to what God has called us to. A young mother who faithfully ministers to her husband and children will receive the same reward as a person who faithfully serves on the worship team, or the pastor who faithfully studies to communicate the Word of God to the people of God. The one who has the opportunity to minister to five people will be rewarded equally with the one who ministers to five thousand. The reward system of God is based, not upon accomplishment, but faithfulness. Instead of looking at what others are called to do and becoming discontent with the opportunities God has placed in you hands, why not be as faithful as possible with what God has given you.

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

 

Locked Up

Jeremiah 32:2
“For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.”

Judah was on the brink of disaster with the armies of Babylon were camped outside the city walls. Food, water and morale, were at risk of running out, and the only hope for the nation was locked away in a prison cell. The people were neglecting the one thing that could ensure victory over the enemy they were facing. That victory would be found in obeying the Word of God, spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.

Times have changed and circumstances differ, but we do the same thing today. When faced with a problem, trial, temptation or personal struggle, we often look everywhere else, before we resort to the promises of God. We think money, medicine, counsel, or some other natural thing, will provide us with deliverance. We neglect to go to the pages of God’s Word where we meet the Lord face to face.

Part of the reason Judah ignored the Jeremiah’s message was they did not like, nor want to hear, what he declared. His message was one that involved surrender, and God dealing with personal and national sin. He told them the secret to victory was in surrender to Babylon. Rather than accepting the ways of God, they chose to silence the Word of God.

Again, this is common today. Many who refuse to seek counsel from the Word, do so because they already know what God will say. His message will include a solution to the problem, but the solution will involve dealing with the sin that caused the problem.

If you are facing difficulty, don’t run away from the Word of God, instead run toward it. Open the pages of your Bible and allow God to speak into your life. Some of what He declares may be hard to handle, but in the end, He will always lead us in triumph through Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

A Hard Heart 

Hebrews 3:12-13
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

Life is dangerous and filled with pitfalls. We are constantly warned to be on the lookout for danger. We see signs warning us that the road is slippery, the coffee is hot, there is a low beam, animals may cross the highway; riptide, sharks, jellyfish and high surf face us in the ocean. Paul reminds us of a hazard that is far more dangerous because it has taken many more away than any riptide ever has. He warns us against having a hardened heart. Biblically speaking, a hard heart could be defined as being unwilling to do what God asks. This was the primary issue with the pharaoh in Moses’ day. He clearly heard the word and will of God, yet he was unwilling to submit to it and fought against God. This proved costly to him, as it always will to us. Our text reveals three things we must avoid because they will result in a hardened heart.

First, we are warned against unbelief. Unbelief is simply not trusting the Word of God, whether it is warning, instructing, or providing us with promises. Israel in the wilderness is cited as an example of unbelief. God promised them victory as they entered the land, yet they cowered in fear and refused to enter. Looking at their circumstances, instead of looking to the Lord, resulted in unbelief that led to a hardened heart. We can avoid our hearts hardening by taking God at His word and doing what He asks.

Second, we are warned against departing from the living God. Departing means to move away. The closer you are to Jesus the easier it is to trust Him. Mark records the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast, where the host had run out of refreshments for the guests. When word came to Jesus, he sent his disciples to fill large contains with water from the local well. Upon arriving back at the party, the water was served but had miraculously been turned into wine. The guests were unaware of what had been accomplished, but those closest to Jesus experienced the miracle. Close proximity to Jesus is always beneficial to walking with Him. James exhorts us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

Finally, we are warned against our hearts becoming hardened by sin. Sin is doing what God has forbidden. We often sin because, from our limited perspective, we cannot see why something is bad. This is very common in relationships. We see many Christians get involved with someone who is not pursuing the Lord, but is a very nice person. They cannot understand why that is forbidden. Others cross the line physically, because they believe they are in love and convince themselves that sexual activity is acceptable. In every case, sin leads to a hardened heart and must be avoided. Be very careful that you do not cross verses out of your Bible, in order to justify your behaviors.

Let us not harden our heart, but keep it soft to hear all the Lord has to say to us.

Pastor Jim

Full Price

1 Chronicles 21:24
“Then King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.'”

When it comes to worship, we can learn much from King David. The longest book in the Bible is a book of praise songs, and David was its largest contributor. In addition to being a king and a prophet, he was also called the Sweet Psalmist of Israel. In our text, we find David bringing an offering to the Lord. Because of his position as king, Ornan offered him the field and the animals free of charge. Instead of accepting the gift, David made a statement that should become a foundational principle in our worship, “I will not offer that which cost me nothing.”

Worship is one of the highest expressions of our love for the Lord, and should be a costly exercise. We should not be giving the Lord only our excess or our leftovers. We should be offering our best, no matter what the cost. That does not mean we should go into debt to offer to the Lord, but it does mean, we should rethink our spending if we do not have enough to give to God. Worship is expressed when we deny ourself some earthly pleasure, in order to have something to offer the Lord.

David even took time to store up for future offering. In the next chapter we read,

1 Chronicles 22:14
“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the Lord one hundred thousand talents of gold and one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant…”

It would be worthwhile to take some time today to examine your checkbook and see what you have given to the Lord, and what has been spent on frivolous things. We live under grace and are free to enjoy the provision God has given us, but we should keep in mind, that Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

The Blessed Life

Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man…”

When establishing the government of the United States, the founding fathers saw that man was created with certain inalienable rights. They believed it is the right of every person to be able to pursue personal happiness. They were not alone in this thinking. Many philosophers spoke of happiness as the chief goal of life.

It has been my experience that pursuing personal happiness is one of the key influences in the decision-making process of most people. While it is evident, at least to me, that the world is filled with people in pursuit of happiness; it is also clear that not many are actually finding it. Most roads that promise happiness, don’t actually get us there.

Many marriages began in hopes of becoming happy. The relationship wasn’t all that great, but the couple believed marriage would fix the problem and make them happy. For others, it has been a new job, boat, car, hobby, or even a new spouse and family. All these pursuits, though seemingly promise a better, happier life, only prove that they cannot deliver.

In this first Psalm, David sings of a road that when taken will lead, not only to happiness, but beyond that to the blessed life. This blessed life is what Jesus referred to when He said He came to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10). If we want that kind of living, David shows us what road to take. This road begins with choosing to reject the world’s counsel and accept the Lord’s. We hear the world’s counsel almost every time we turn on the TV, radio or computer. We are being told that life is found in possessions, or relationships, or activities. No regard is given to what is right in the eyes of God.

The counsel of God is found written in the pages of His Word, and we will find it when we daily delve into the Scriptures. David exhorts us to meditate upon the Word day and night. Meditation is not a process where we empty our brain of all thought, but instead, we fill our minds with what we know is well-pleasing to God. David goes on to illustrate this blessed life by comparing us to a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit (Psalm 1:3). What a beautiful illustration. Your life, when lived God’s way, will become like a fruitful tree. Imagine your life being filled with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control. Imagine a life that others would look at and desire to have as their own. It does not matter what roads you have taken, it does not matter how much life has beat you down over the years, if you choose today to surrender to, and walk in the ways of God, you will find that Jesus leads you to a fruit-filled life.

Begin your journey today! Surrender all to Christ. Leave nothing in your life that is not pleasing to Him, and watch as He transforms you.

Pastor Jim