In His Sanctuary 

Psalms 150:1
“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!”

The church serves many purposes, not the least of which is as a place for the people of God to gather together and worship. When we meet with the congregation, turn our attention upward and begin to worship, something takes place in time and eternity. We are given a whole new perspective on life. Instead of being consumed with our troubles we are able to see them in light of the mighty God who loves us and works all things for His purposes and our good. When this happens our discouragement and fears are often replaced with a new found faith and hope. A broken marriage, a trouble child or disastrous financial situation is now seen as an opportunity for God to show His never ending mercy and divine power. We see our lives like a Red Sea, a Jericho wall or the enclosed tomb of Lazarus. Each of which is an opportunity for God to do the miraculous.

If you are downcast,broken hearted or facing what seems to be a hopeless situation remember that worship was created by God as a means for you to connect with Him and see life in light of who He is. Don’t let discouragement keep you from gathering with the people of God in worship. Perhaps more than anything else you need a new perspective on life. One that is seen through the filter of faith.

Jim

 

Get Out 

Revelation 18:4
“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.'”

As John begins to describe the fall of Babylon the Great, he hears a cry from heaven calling the people of God to come out, and no longer share in its sins. Babylon here is referring to more than a city in modern Iraq, it refers to the world system that is opposed to the ways of God. The call then is for the people of God to leave the ways of the world, to live in step with the ways of God. This is not a one time call, but is repeated time and again within the pages of your Bible. We were saved, not to continue in a destructive lifestyle, practicing the things that Jesus died to free us from, but to live a new life on a higher plain, where we seek in every area of life to bring pleasure to God.

Galatians 1:3-4 “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  . . .”

Christ died, not only to forgive sin, but to provide deliverance for all who come to Him. When we put faith in Christ, the chains that once bound us to a life of sin have been broken. We no longer have to be like shrub in the desert, barely surviving in life, but we can be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bearing fruit in its season.

Have you come to Christ? Have you asked Him to wash you of your sin and give you new life? That is the first step; the second is to come out of the world and stop partaking in practices that do not please Him. Don’t wait another moment,

“Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”

Pastor Jim

 

What’s In It For Me? 

Ezekiel 36:25-27
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

Often, when someone is attempting to convince us to do something we are not sure we want to do, a little voice softly speaks in the back of our mind asking simply, “What’s in it for me?” We want to know if we make a commitment, what we will get in return. If you are struggling to make a decision to commit to Christ, perhaps it would help if you took a few minutes to consider what you will get out of the deal. Ezekiel promises three benefits that will not be found anywhere else.

First, he promises we will be made clean. Sin is uncleanness, and when we practice it, we know we are guilty. That guilt haunts us and we exert great effort trying to remove it. Some try to convince themselves that sin is not bad, others drown themselves deeper in vices, while many use drugs, alcohol, or counseling to try to make the guilt go away. What we are forgetting when we try to remove guilt this way, is that sin carries not only an emotional guilt, but a judicial guilt as well. When we sin, we violate the law of God, which carries a penalty. It is possible to remove the feelings of guilt with these and other measures, but there is only one way to remove the judicial penalty associated with our sins, that is, through the shed blood of Christ. Ezekiel promises, converting to Christ will make us clean.

Second, we are promised a new heart. This is necessary because our hearts are sinful. It is possible to fall in love with things that will destroy us. Many have given themselves over to the longings of their heart, only to be destroyed by them. Our hearts often beat for things that are destructive. We are promised that coming to Christ will result in a new heart, which will long for those things which are pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to us.

Finally, we are promised the Spirit of God. The work of the Spirit is to enable us to live out the Christian life. Being washed deters from going back into uncleanness, a new heart makes us want to please the Lord, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to leave sin and live for the Lord. Ezekiel states, the Spirit will cause us to walk in His statues and keep His commands. The New Testament reveals that the believer needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and this filling is a reoccurring act. If you have come to Christ, but you find you are constantly falling into the temptations of the flesh, it is time you make it a daily prayer to be filled with the Spirit. Take the time right now to drop to your knees and ask for a fresh work of the Spirit of God in your life.

Pastor Jim

 

Praying Is The First Step

Jeremiah 37:3

“And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to the Lord our God for us.'”

Zedekiah was an ungodly king who refused to heed the word of the Lord, and continued to lead Judah down the road of destruction. Instead of following the word of God, he followed the dictates of his own heart. Instead of listening to the prophet, he surrounded himself with counsellors who gave no regard to the things of God, and even attempted to silence Jeremiah for declaring God’s word. I find it interesting that a man who seems to care very little about God, petitions the prophet to pray for him and the nation. On the one hand, this could be a positive thing. Prayer is the way we access God and begin a relationship with Him. John explained, it is by receiving Christ through faith that we become a child of God. The problem with Zedekiah is,  he was not praying to confess his wrong and commit his life to the Lord, but saw prayer as a means of fixing his problems, without ever making any changes to his life.

This is a pretty common practice. We think of prayer as a magic force that will make everything better. However, prayer is actually a means of communicating with God, who in turn, communicates back through the pages of His Word. How many times have we heard politicians or celebrities asking us to pray in the difficult seasons of life? Whenever tragedy hits a nation, people call out for prayer. The problem is, they see prayer as the ‘easy button’ that will fix everything, instead of seeing prayer as the way to start a relationship with God, who will give us instruction that will in fact fix the problem.

In Jeremiah’s case, as soon as the problem was solved, Zedekiah once again returned to his old ways, and even had Jeremiah put in prison for his message. I think we need to realize, prayer alone is not the answer. Asking God to fix our life is just the first step, we must move on to surrendering ourselves to Him, and live in accordance with His word.

Pastor Jim

Fire Resistant 

Jeremiah 36:27-28
“Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words which Baruch had written at the instruction of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: ‘Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.'”

In the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Jeremiah the prophet began to write his prophecies into a book. A year later he sent this book by the hand of his assistant, Baruch, to the house of the Lord, to read it in the hearing of the people. As the people heard the Words of the Lord, they began to be cut to the heart. Soon word came to some of the king’s counsellors, who quickly took the scroll to the palace and read it to the king. In a what sounds like a startling plot twist, the king, after hearing only a few lines of this prophecy, took a knife, cut the scroll in two, and cast it into the fire, where he and his counsellors watched it burn.

Clearly,  Jehoiakim was not interested in what God had to say and wanted everyone in the room to know it. He attempted to silence God and destroy His word. What he didn’t know was, the Word of God is unbreakable and as soon as he burned it, Jeremiah began to transcribe another copy. Twenty-six hundred years later, King Jehoiakim remains a somewhat obscure character in the chronicles of history, while the book of Jeremiah remains a part of the most published, read, and cherished book of all time.

Jehoiakim is not alone in his attempts to silence the Word of God. Down through the ages, many have attempted to keep the Bible out of the hands of people. Even today, there is great effort made to keep the Bible out of schools and other public places. It is somewhat ironic that the enemies of God seem to have a better understanding of the power of the word of God, than many believers do. They seem to realize, if we let the Bible speak to the culture, it will change the culture, so they work diligently to silence the Bible. Meanwhile, many Christians fail to see the inherent power of the Word, and as a result, they neglect it. They do not make it a part of their daily life, then wonder why they struggle to walk with Christ. Even many leaders in the church fail to see they power of the Word, and turn their pulpits into platforms for motivational speeches or political monologues. We need to realize, like Jehoiakim,  the Word of God is powerful, but unlike Jehoiakim, we need to respond in obedience to its message.

Jeremiah 23:22 “But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

Pastor Jim

Wrong Way 

Jeremiah 15:6
“‘You have forsaken Me’, says the Lord, ‘You have gone backward…'”

When I first moved to Florida I was introduced to a surf spot called “Monster Hole.” The wave breaks about 1/4 mile offshore on a sand covered reef. To reduce our paddling time, we jumped into the water and road the outgoing current from the nearby inlet. Since this spot only breaks with a good swell, a few months went by before I was able to surf there again. I parked my car, ran north to the inlet, jumped in the water, put my head down and began to paddle with all my strength. What I did not consider was that the tide was actually coming in not going out. After a few minutes of vigorous paddling, I looked up only to find that I had been sucked backwards. Still determined, I stroked harder and harder, but after about 10 minutes of going backwards, I realized my only course of action was to turn around, go into shore, and find another route to take.

Judah had been traveling in the wrong direction. Instead of walking with the Lord and seeking to please Him, they lived however they wanted. This course took them away from God and the blessed life He desired for them. Jeremiah’s voice echoed the prophets who had gone before him, as he pleaded with the people to change their route, and once again, follow the Lord.

Perhaps you have been traveling the wrong direction. If so, allow me to encourage you to change your route. Start by changing your destination. If we make it our aim to please the Lord with our daily living, we will find ourselves looking into the Word for guidance. We will also find, we are interested in what He has to say about the circumstances we are facing, and the decisions we need to make. Let’s stop moving backwards!

Pastor Jim

Time For A New Path

Jeremiah 3:3
“Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain.”

Difficulties in life are not always the result of personal sin, but sometimes they are. Sometimes our struggles could be alleviated by getting things right with God. Haggai wrote, the people in his day were ignoring the Lord and their relationship with Him, and as a result he wrote, “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes. ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts’: “Consider your ways!'”” (Haggai 1:6&7) It is possible that the hardships you are enduring are not actually trials or even the natural results of living in a fallen world. It is possible that you are facing the consequences of certain behaviors, or even the chastening of God. The solution to alleviate those types of difficulties is through what the Bible calls repentance; a word meaning to change both your mind and your direction.

A few years ago, I was involved in taking a group of high school students to the mountains for a retreat. We decided to take them on a hike that led to a deep water creek. As we ventured down the path, we realized that it was much more difficult and dangerous than we expected. Instead of walking, we were forced to sit down and “scooch” our way down the hill. Once we finally reached the bottom, we saw some local teenagers who informed us that we had taken the wrong path. They pointed us to a much easier and safer way in and out.

Perhaps the solution, for the troubles you are facing, is to get on a different path. Instead of living like those in Jeremiah’s day, who “followed the dictates of their hearts” (which is a fancy way of saying they did whatever they wanted), we need to turn to Christ and live pleasing to Him. Don’t take another step down the road of self will. Stop, surrender to Jesus, and start following Him.

Pastor Jim