Remember

Joshua 4:9
“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”

The purpose of setting up a rudimentary stone altar was to remind the generations to come of the faithfulness of the Lord. Whenever someone walked by the area and saw stones stacked upon one another, it would be clear that it was not caused by nature, but by design and with a purpose. When they asked about the stones, the older generation would recall the stories of what God did, as a means of teaching the works and the ways of God. As time went on, these stone altars were scattered in many places throughout the land. The one we read about here is unique, not because of the way the stones were stacked, but because these stone would never again be seen since they would be covered by the flowing waters of the Jordan river. Why build an altar of remembrance that no one would ever see?

Paul alluded to Israel’s passing through the waters as a picture of baptism. Baptism illustrates the work that was done for us when we believed in Christ. Our sins were washed away, never to be seen again. These stone, buried under the flowing waters of the Jordan, serve as a reminder of the work that is done when we believe. Israel could look at the water and remember the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. In the same way, you and I can look back at the waters of baptism and remember the faithfulness of God. Perhaps you were baptized in the past and have since wandered from the Lord, and grown distant in your relationship with Him. Look back on those waters, think back to the joy you had when you were following  Jesus, reflect upon what it is that led you away, and return to the Lord who loves you, died for you, and wants to work out His plans in your life.

Pastor Jim

 

Innumerable Promises 

Numbers 34:2
“Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.”

Israel stood on the brink of entering the promised land. For almost five hundred years the people had heard stories of the land of their fathers. They referred to it as the land of milk and honey, and longed to settle down and enjoy its fruits. Before entering in, Moses reminded them of how vast the land was; He spoke of its borders from the far northern hills to the southern dessert and from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. The land represented the abundant life God desired for His people to walk in, but before they could enjoy any of it, they had to be willing to do battle. The land was given as a promise, but received through continuous warfare.

The Christian life is a lot like that. We have been given great and precious promises that result in a life that surpasses any and all circumstances. We are promised peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable, love shed abroad in our hearts, power to overcome sin and fear, and a life filled with the fruit of righteousness. We are told we can have a marriage that honors God, testifies to others, and blesses us. We are told we can have children who will rise up and call us blessed, and that we can leave a righteous heritage behind for them to follow. We are told, our lives can be a witness to others so they can see our good works, glorify our Father in heaven, and be drawn into a relationship with Christ. The promises of God are almost innumerable, but just as the promise given to Israel, much of these are only received through continuous warfare. If we are going to walk in the abundant life God has promised, we must be willing to fight for it.

This fight is not against others, but against the desires we have within ourselves for things that God forbids. Some of the attacks are continuous. There are certain easily besetting sins we must always be aware of and resist. Other attacks seem to come from no where. We are suddenly and unexpectedly hit with fear, depression, guilt, unworthiness, or some other intense emotion that tells us to flee from the battle and cower like Gideon in his cave. If we are going to win the battle and walk in the promises of God we must fight. We must learn to counterattack the enemies of faith with the promises of God.

Whatever you are facing today, take some time to dwell on the love, grace, mercy and power of God. Don’t look your enemy straight in the eyes, but look at him through the glorious promises and power of the God who loves you and died for you.

Until we all taste the sweet victory of walking in abundant life,

Pastor Jim

 

Complaints 

Micah 6:3-4
“O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me. For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

It is not uncommon to hear people complain. If the sun is out, we find it to be too hot, if the clouds fill in, we complain that it is muggy, overcast or dreary. We often sound like Goldilocks, who thought things were too hot, too cold, too hard or too soft. When things pass from being uncomfortable to unmanageable, it is common for our complaints to turn against God. We accuse Him of being unfair, distant, uninvolved or even unloving. Like the disciples in the boat, we think God is asleep and does not care about the storm we are currently enduring. Micah draws our attention to a different grievance; this passage reveals the complaint God has against His people.

“For the Lord has a complaint against His people, And He will contend with Israel.”

After declaring that He has a complaint, God asks them to consider what He has done, and questions why they would reject Him. He reminds them of how they were delivered from bondage and carried through the wilderness. When we face the obstacles of life that cause us to question the character and the promises of God, it is a good idea to look back at what He has accomplished for us. Like Israel, we were in bondage and without any hope of rescue. They were enslaved in Egypt and forced to serve a harsh task master, while living under the fear of death. We were enslaved to sin and its consequences. We lived separated from God, and under the penalty of the curse of sin. In that condition, we not only lived in this life without the benefits of knowing God, but we were also on course to live eternally separated from God. It was at the cross that Jesus paid our debt and made our redemption possible.

When difficulty strikes, we need to look back at what God has accomplished for us and allow His Word to direct our thoughts, rather than our circumstances. Circumstances and emotions are very poor guides. Since they are always changing, they do very little to provide stability in life. Instead, we should look at the unchanging promises of God to guide us when our circumstances are difficult and our emotions are crying out.

Pastor Jim

 

Looking Back

Isaiah 63:7
I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord And the praises of the Lord, According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses.”

I recently attended a communion service where we were encouraged to think back upon who we were and where we we going. My mind immediately took me back to being a carefree young man, who gave no regard to the things of God. I allowed myself to imagine what my life would be like had I continued on that course. I could see myself walking down a road in pursuit of pleasure, only to find that road leading to vanity. We were then encouraged to think about all Christ accomplished for us, and to reflect upon the things He has done in our lives. My mind immediately filled with images that would never have been there had I not said yes to Jesus. I reflected upon my marriage, family, and ministry. Soon my heart began to burst forth in praise, I could hardly contain the thanks I felt for my redemption and the sweet but painful experience of sanctification. Like Isaiah, I wanted to mention the loving-kindness, goodness and mercies of the Lord.

Take some time this morning to reflect upon all God has done for you. Think upon the cross, and upon the fact that while you going through life, He was drawing you to Himself, by the work of His Spirit. Look back at all the ways He has shown Himself good to you, and begin to express praise. Perhaps it would be of value to write out a list of some of the ways God has shown His unfailing love to you over the years.

Pastor Jim

 

Exercise 

1 Timothy 4:7-8

“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

If you are like me, you have probably seen a great number of motivational quotes posted on your Facebook wall. Things like “Pain is only weakness leaving the body” – “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” – or “just do it”. While many of us might benefit from a little more exercise, ALL of us will benefit from a little more godliness. Paul is not suggesting that getting in better physical shape is a bad thing, but is contrasting it with the benefits of being in better spiritual shape. He speaks of the profitability of godliness.

Godliness is a term which means to be living in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. The godly man is one who is not considering his personal happiness, comfort, or his own wishes, as the determining factor in his decision-making. Instead, he is making decisions based upon what God has revealed in His Word. Often, when faced with a conflict, an impasse, or a fork in the road, we are tempted to make our decisions solely based upon our own desires. That will often lead us away from what God has for us. The godly man will look into the Word to determine what God has to say on the subject and ultimately make decisions that will be well-pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Paul speaks of the great benefits of living such a life.

First, he says godliness benefits us in this life. Many of the trials, pains, and scars we endure, are self-inflicted. They have been caused by getting off track and doing things our way, instead of God’s way. If we trace some of our difficulties back to their source, we will find they started with a decision to do what we wanted, instead of submitting to God’s Word. It is wonderful to know, God can always pick up the pieces of a broken life and do great things with it. We need only think of Legion, the naked, demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs, to see that God can always repair a shattered life that is surrendered to Him (Mark 5:2-15). However, it is also important to remember, much of the hardships of life can be avoided by surrendering all to Christ, and determining to live in line with His Word.

Second, he says godliness has great benefits in the life to come. While much of what heaven will be like is still shrouded in darkness, we do know that entrance into heaven is reserved for those who have trusted Christ for salvation. Jesus said He alone was the way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We also know, while entrance into heaven is a free gift received by faith, treasures are stored in heaven for those who live committed to Christ. Paul spoke of crowns that were awaiting the righteous. I do not pretend to know all the mysteries of heaven, but I do trust the words of Christ, who exhorted us to live this life in a way to be rewarded in the next.

Let’s be sure to commit ourselves to a daily exercise program that includes reading the Word, doing what it says, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and looking for ways to serve the Lord.

Pastor Jim

The Spoils

Psalm 68:12b
“…and she who remains at home divides the spoil.”

The physical battles Israel faced illustrates the spiritual battles the Christian faces.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

He also reminded the Corinthians that, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Our battle is not for land to be occupied, but for souls to be won. Our weapons are not the sword, spear, or slingshot; they are prayer, the Gospel message, and a righteous life. David, who knew battle as well as any man, gives insight into a spiritual principle of warfare. He reminds us that, “she who remains at home divides the spoil.

At least two spiritual principles are tucked away in this little phrase. First, the battle belongs to the Lord. It is wrong to glory in victory, or to shy away in fear, because the battle truly is the Lord’s. We do not win others to Christ, He does. We are but the messengers declaring the truth of God; which has the inherent ability to convert the hearer. Second, in Israel, the spoils of war were shared equally among those who went to battle, and those who remained home. In God’s economy, faithfulness is rewarded more than accomplishment. Those who are being called out to the mission field, and those who are called to make their community a mission field, have equal reward in the kingdom of Heaven.

If you are heading out to make a new address your home in service of the Lord, remember the battle belongs to the Lord. Trust not in your own strength, but in His. Cling to Him and His Word, as the weapons of your warfare. If you are called to remain, join those who are sent by covering them in prayer. No force in heaven, or on earth, can resist the power of God. “. . .she who remains at home divides the spoil.”
Pastor Jim

 

Association

Genesis 47:6
“The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock.”

2015/01/img_1368.jpgJacob and his eleven sons were given the best that Egypt had to offer. While the Egyptians suffered under the famine and were forced to forfeit their lands to the state in exchange for food, Jacob’s sons were given the best pasture land. While jobs were scarce, Jacob’s sons were hired to be the chief herdsmen for Pharaoh’s flocks. In a time of great difficulty, they were experiencing such blessings that Jacob predicted the family would multiply greatly and become a strong nation. It is striking to me that the favor they were enjoying, was not their own merit, but the work of another. The same is true of us. We have forgiveness of sin, eternal life, and the favor of God, not based on our own work, but due to association with Christ. All who are in relationship with Him are adopted sons and daughters of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. We are no longer looked upon as strangers who live distant from God, or as enemies who are fighting against God, but we are viewed as children who are loved by God. All the favor of God is given to those who are his by relationship. It matters not the sins we have committed in the past. Throwing a brother in a pit, then lying to dad about his death, were not the issue. All that mattered, was Jacob and his sons were related to Joseph. Sit back for a few moments and rejoice over the fact that you belong to God, because of what Jesus has done for you. You are a blood-bought, highly favored child of God, who has been given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Jim