Miracles

Numbers 17:8
“Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.”

A miracle is defined as an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God. In other words, it is something that could not happen if God did not infuse His power into the situation. That is exactly what transpired here. To determine the validity of Aaron’s calling and ministry, God infused His power and made something that was incapable of bearing fruit, become fruitful. Aaron’s rod, which was nothing more than an old tree branch, suddenly came to life and produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.

This is not an isolated event. Throughout history God has been infusing His divine power into individuals, making them, and their ministry fruitful. He has, and continues to choose the foolish, weak, and lowly, for His divine service. He then fills them with His Spirit and uses them to accomplish what they could never have done apart from Him. Pulpits, children’s classroom, and mission fields, all around the world, are filled with tree branches that have been miraculously empowered by God, to become fruit bearing ministries. We should never think that our weakness limits God. Instead, we should trust in the fact that He is in the business of doing the impossible in and through the lives of those who are surrendered to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Called And Equipped 

Luke 9:1 “Then He called His twelve disciples . . .”

When the Lord calls us to serve Him there seems to be a universal response. Our hearts cry out, “I can’t.” This was the same response of Moses, Saul and Gideon. We feel this way because the Lord always seems to call us to do what is beyond our capacities. A young woman with small children senses a call to teach in children’s church, or a retired couple hears the call to the mission field, or a young man has a burning in his heart to become a pastor, and the voice in our head cries out, “I can’t.”

I think there is something encouraging here as Jesus calls the twelve. He is sending them out to serve Him. They will encounter many with needs beyond their capabilities to handle. They will cross paths with the sick, who will look to them for the answer, the demoniacs, who are held under by the powers of the devil, and some will oppose the work of God. For their journey they are told to take nothing: no money, no provisions, no extra stuff, for these things will not equip them for the ministry. Jesus wants them to understand, those are not the things that enable them, nor will a lack of those things restrict them. Instead, Jesus provides everything that is necessary. We read,

“. . . He gave them power and authority. . . “

All of their objections, and ours, should be silenced by these six words. Whatever reasons they had for objecting to the call, whatever lack they may have felt, must be silenced when Jesus declares, “I have given you power and authority.” Just as their objections are silenced by His promise, so must ours be silenced. Whatever objections you have to the call of God on your life, understand that what He calls us to, He equips us for. As He said to Gideon (Judges 6:12, 14), He says to you “Mighty man of valor… Go in this might of yours.”

Will you go?

Pastor Jim

Called To Serve 

Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

There are many fields where we must leave the work to the professionals. It would be utter folly to attempt dentistry on yourself, and working on gas lines or electricity, without proper training, can be deadly. However, when it comes to ministry, we need to realize that each and every Christian has been called. Paul explained, it is actually the believers, not the professionals, who are called to the work.

Ephesians 4:12 “. . .for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

That being said, Jeremiah’s experience is a perfect example of the call of God on our lives. Four critical truths are revealed.

First, God explains to Jeremiah that “He formed him.” In other words, all of the gifts, talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses that made up the man Jeremiah, were designed by God. It seems to me, our first response whenever we sense a call of God on their life, is to immediately bring up all the reasons we are not qualified. It is almost as though we have forgotten that God designed us the way He did so when ministry is accomplished, He alone receives the glory.

Second, Jeremiah is told that God “knew him.” Notice the tense. God has been watching Jeremiah; and all his faults, failures and sins were not a surprise to Him. While unrepentant sin will shelve us from usefulness in the Kingdom, our past sins and even present struggles, do not. One of the great pitfalls in the Christian life, is when we are constantly looking back at our faults, instead of keeping our eyes on Christ and pressing on.

Third, Jeremiah was told God sanctified him. The term sanctified means to set apart. God is explaining that Jeremiah was selected specifically for the task at hand. Sanctification carries at least two ideas. First, God has set us apart from all others, for the task at hand. Second, we set ourselves apart to God, from worldliness and sin, so we can be effectively used by Him. Many, who have the call of God on their lives, fail to remove themselves from worldliness, and as a result, never accomplish the task for which God designed them.

Finally, Jeremiah was told that God ordained him. Ordination today is often reduced to a church or ministry organization giving an individual a certificate of some kind, allowing them to do certain tasks within that organization. Biblically, the word means that God has placed His hand upon a person, equipping them for all that He has called them to do. When we are called by God, we are also equipped by God. You will never find a passage in Scripture where God asks someone to do the impossible and leaves them to their own strength. Nor will you ever find God calling you without equipping you. The problem is, the enabling only comes when the tasks is being accomplished.

One parting thought. In Verse 17, God tells Jeremiah to “prepare himself.” If you are sensing the call of God, it is time to get prepared. Personal study of the Word, and getting plugged into your church’s discipleship program, are essential to preparation for ministry.

Pastor Jim

Then He Said Go

Isaiah 6:7-9
“Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.’
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’
And He said, ‘Go…’”

Isaiah 6 is perhaps most well known for what Isaiah saw. He records, in the year of King Uzziah’s death, he had a vision of the throne of God. He describes how he saw the Lord enthroned and surrounded by angelic beings, who ever live to give Him praise. What perhaps, is sometimes missed, is what Isaiah heard. He records hearing the voice of God in two distinct ways.

First, an angel took a coal from the altar, touched Isaiah’s lips, and declared God had taken away his sin. In order for Isaiah to receive pardon from God, he had to first recognize he was a sinner, and then allow God to touch him with the coal from the altar. Those coals would have been stained with the blood of the sacrifices. The most important words you will ever hear are, your sin has been taken away. That happens the moment you realize you are a sinner, Christ is the Savior, and you choose to trust in Him. At that moment, all your sins are washed from you. No longer do you have to carry the burden of the guilt from sin, because He carried it for you when He hung on the cross. No words could ever be sweeter than when heaven declares “your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged.”

Second, once cleansed, Isaiah heard God speak again. This time he was commissioned by God to go into the world with a message. The remaining chapters of Isaiah have to do with that message. Essentially, God is using Isaiah to call others to the Lord. It is important to realize God wants to commission each of us. Something happens to a person who has truly met God, they begin to be filled with a desire for others to know Him as well.

Have you come to Christ and heard Him say “Your sin is taken away”? If not, take this moment to confess you are a sinner, and trust Him as the Savior.

Have you responded to the great commission, where you realize He not only saved you, but is sending you? Before you head out the door, pray God would give you opportunity to invite someone to come hear about Christ, or perhaps He would grant you the chance to tell them yourself.

Pastor Jim

 

Incoming Call 

Ezra 2:1
“Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city.”

Ezra tells the story of the children of Israel returning to Jerusalem, at the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon. We find that while hundreds of thousands were taken captive, less than fifty thousand returned. I am relatively certain that many should have returned that didn’t, but we are also given insight into the ones that were willing to leave all and take up the challenge of engaging in the work of God.

Ezra 1:5
“Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”

Notice the phrase “all whose spirits God had moved.” There was a work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men and women, calling them into ministry. We often hear talk of the call of God, and we see it in action right here. The Spirit began to move and people were willing to leave their homes, friends, comforts, and land, to step out and be a part of the work of God in reaching the world. There are a few key truths regarding the call of God that are vividly illustrated in this passage.

First, we realize not everyone was called to the same task. This chapter refers to priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers and the general public, all being called to the work of the Lord. Their varying gifts and callings would work together to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple. Sometimes we feel as though we are not called to ministry because we do not have a certain skill set or gifting. Not all ministry involves standing behind a pulpit or playing an instrument. Many have effectively served Christ without any of those gifts. One of my favorite missionaries was David Livingston who, although he shared Christ with many, also was somewhat of a trailblazer who, through his life, opened the door for many others to make their way to Africa with the Gospel.

Second, we find that while some were stirred to GO, others were called to stay behind and support those who were sent.

Ezra 1:6 “And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.”

Even the king of Persia got involved and gave back all the articles that had been looted from the Temple when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. In the God’s economy, those who support the work are equal participants with those who do the work. As a church, we have been blessed over the years to be able do ministry on six of the seven continents. We have had individuals, teams, and pastors travel to over 20 different countries, to be involved in spreading gospel and making disciples. While a lot of different people have been able to make these trips, many more have been involved by supporting the work. What kind of eternal investments have you been making?

Perhaps God is stirring your heart to get involved in ministry. Maybe you are sensing that it is time to make some greater eternal investments. The first step is to get involved in your local church. Contact them and ask how you can help. It may be that the Lord is calling you into a new season in life. I can attest to the fact that there is nothing better in life than serving Christ.
Pastor Jim

 

Call Of God

Acts 13:2
Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

This is one of the most important events in history. It marks the beginning of the missionary campaign to the church in Antioch. The results of this event brought the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, and changed the face of Western Civilization. History would forever be changed as a result of these two men responding to the call of God. A few things strike me about God’s call.

First, it did not seem, at the outset, to be something grand. We read that God spoke; probably through one of the men with the gift of prophecy. He was to tell Barnabas and Saul to do what the Lord told them to do. That is far from a life altering experience. No mention is made of the room shaking, or lights coming from heaven. It may have happened much like this . . . while they were praying, one of the guys might have said, “I think the Lord is telling Barnabas and Saul to do what He already told them to do.” It was a message reaffirming what Barnabas and Saul had already sensed; what God wanted for them. So the saints of Antioch laid hands on them and sent them away. It would not be until they walked in faith-filled obedience to His call, that they would realize what God had in store for them.

I am also struck by where God called them. Again, we read that before this prophecy was given, Barnabas and Saul had already sensed a desire, or call of God to go . When it was confirmed, they packed their bags, and headed off to Cyprus. Cyprus is an island that sat out in the Mediterranean Sea and was the home town of Barnabas. They were called to share Christ with the people Barnabas grew up with. I think it is natural that as we grow in Christ, we develop a desire to see our friends and loved ones come to Christ; and that is exactly where God called them.

Finally, notice how they received the call of God. We read they “ministered to the Lord and fasted.” Ministering to the Lord would include worshipful prayer, and fasting (denying of the flesh’s desires). They heard from God when they got their eyes on Him and sought Him. The call of God comes when we spend time with Jesus. Too often, we want to determine what God wants for us, and spend all our time asking others. If you want to hear from God, get alone with Him, seek Him until He speaks, then do what He says.

Who knows what God may call you to, and how that may change the world forever.

Pastor Jim

 

You Gonna Answer That?

Luke 9:1

“Then He called His twelve disciples. . . “

IMG_1502When the Lord calls us to serve Him, there seems to be a universal response. Our hearts cry out, “I can’t.” This was the same response of Moses, Saul and Gideon. We feel this way because the Lord always seems to call us to do what is beyond our capacities. A young woman with small children senses a call to teach in children’s church, or a retired couple hears the call to the mission field, or a young man has a burning in his heart to become a pastor, and the voice in our head cries out “I can’t.” I think there is something encouraging here as Jesus calls the twelve. He is sending them out to serve Him. They will encounter many with needs beyond their capabilities to handle. They will cross paths with the sick, who will look to them for the answer, the demoniacs, who are held under by the powers of the devil, and some will will oppose the work of God. For their journey they are told to take nothing; no money, no provisions, no extra stuff.  These things will not equip them for the ministry. Jesus wants them to understand that those are not the things that enable them, nor will a lack of those things restrict them. Instead, Jesus provides everything that is necessary. We read, “He gave them power and authority” All of their objections, and ours, should be silenced by these six words. Whatever reasons they had for objecting to the call, whatever lack they may have felt, must be silenced when Jesus declares, “I have given you power and authority.” Just as their objections are silenced by His promise, so must ours be silenced. Whatever objections you have to the call of God on your life, understand what He calls us to, He equips us for. As He said to Gideon, He says to you “Mighty man of valor… Go in this might of yours”(Judges 6:14). Will you go?

Pastor Jim

Questions for Luke 9

  1. What did Jesus send the disciples to do?
  2. Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples out with nothing on their journey?
  3. Why do you think Herod wanted to see Jesus?
  4. How many men followed Jesus to the deserted place?
  5. How many baskets were left over after all the people were fed?
  6. What example does Jesus set for us in verse 18?
  7. Who do you say Jesus is?
  8. Verse 23 says that in order to be a follower of Jesus (a disciple) you must deny yourself. List some things in your life that may be hindering your walk with the Lord. Are you willing to give those things up for Jesus?
  9. What happened to Jesus face as He was praying on the mountain?
  10. Who were the five people present with Jesus on the mountain?
  11. Read verse 35. Are you taking time to listen for the voice of Jesus?
  12. Take a moment and think about the contrast of verses 43 and 44.
  13. What subject does Jesus come back to in verses 57 – 62?