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

A Happy Marriage 

Malachi 2:15
“But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? and why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”

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Malachi has a lot to say about marriage. He warns the people of the danger of marrying badly, by choosing an ungodly spouse. He refers to marriage as both, “The Lord’s holy institution which He loves,” and as a “Covenant.” He exhorts husbands to think of their wife as a companion, and to be careful not to deal treacherously with the wife of their youth. And he declares that God hates divorce because of the impact it has upon the children.

There are many reasons why we should treat our spouse and our marriages with the upmost care.

1. A happy wife makes for a happy life. Paul put it like this, Ephesians 5:28 “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.”

Love is a very interest thing. It is not an emotion, but something that affects all the emotions. It is something that can be stirred up or neglected, so as to become almost dormant. Solomon warned young men not to stir up love before its time (Song of Solomon 8:4) and Jesus warned about a time when peoples love would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). Since love can ebb and flow, it is important to make installments of love in our marriages. We need to realize, we will fall in love with the things into which we invest love. Years ago, I turned a closet into bookshelves. It was not the fanciest nor the most artistic piece of furniture in the house, but I loved it because of all the hours I had spent making it. If your marriage has grown cold, it is time to make some love investments into your spouse.

2. Your witness depends upon it. God designed marriage as a way to testify of His love for the world. Ephesians 5:32-33 “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

When God wanted to illustrate the relationship He wants to have with us, He compared it to the most loving and intimate human relationship we could ever experience. I often think of this verse when I see the face of a groom, as his bride makes her way down the aisle. The sheer joy he is expressing gives us a glimpse into the the way God feels about mankind. Our marriages were designed by God to show the continued love God has for us. It is to illustrate His daily care, His nurturing hand, and His ability to forgive and love, even through difficult times.

3. It’s for the family. Marriage was designed by God as a greenhouse, where godly offspring are to be grown. Malachi 2:15, “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? and why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”

The healthiest environment for children to be reared is one where both mom and dad love the Lord and each other. It has often puzzled me when I hear adults claim they have ended their marriage for the sake of the children, because almost every adult whose parents divorced when they were children, speaks of how devastated they were by that event. In some cases, people who have had substance abuse issues, trace the start of their problem back to the time when their parents split up. I understand it is not healthy for children to be in an environment where their parents are constantly fighting, but I also understand that difficulties in marriage, are not the reason to end a marriage. They should be the catalyst causing us to work on our marriages.

If your love for your spouse has grown cold, or if it feels like their love for you has waned, perhaps it is time to make some investments into your marriage. Think back to how you expressed love to the wife of your youth. Reflect upon the ways you put her needs above your own, and showed her how much she mattered to you.

It will be worth the investment.

Pastor Jim

 

Model Home 

Proverbs 14:4
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

A few years back, when we were looking to purchase a home, my wife and I spent our days off going to open houses and visiting model homes. It was easy to tell the difference between the two. The model homes were immaculate. The decor was thematic, the furniture and carpets unstained, and the walls were noticeably unmarked by crayon, ink pen or dirty hand prints. At first glance, I would feel envious, for our house looked nothing like that. Our carpets showed evidence of four boys, who were incapable of wiping the mud off their feet before entering the house. The walls bore the evidence that they had not, in fact, washed their hands before or after dinner, and the couches proved that cups with lids are no guarantee against things being spilled. I would look at the model and think to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep our house looking like this.” However, after a little consideration, I realized, there was an explanation as to why the model home was so clean and our house, well, not so much. No one lived in the model. It was a shell, four walls that contained furnishings, but no life.

Solomon is expressing that same thought in another way. Simply put, he is declaring that at times, life is messy. If we try to avoid the mess, we may, in turn, miss out on living. Many of us work very hard to be comfortable, and we avoid anything that disturbs that comfort. We neglect getting more involved in church, because it may mess up the kids schedule, or we fail to commit to serving the Lord, because it will conflict with our comforts. Our goal should not be living in comfort, but living to please the Lord. There are times when God will ask us to do things which will disturb our routine, or force us outside of our comfort zone. Part of His reasoning for doing this, is our personal growth. It is in those times when we are most uncomfortable, that we look to the Lord the most. When we feel like we can handle things, we press on in our own capacities. It is when we realize we have no experience to lean on, that we find ourselves crying out to the Lord.

Keep in mind, that while stepping out and serving Christ may make life a bit messy, there is great, even eternal value in everything that is done faithfully unto the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Unattended Children 

Joel 1:3
“Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation.”

The days in which Joel lived were quite difficult. Israel was experiencing economically difficult times, brought about by locust swarms that had devastated the crops. Individual families were suffering greatly, finding it difficult to make ends meet, or even provide enough food for the table. For the most part, people would associate their problems with natural occurrences; today we might blame it on mother nature. Joel, on the other hand, declared the condition of the nation was actually brought about because of the spiritual condition of the people. He declared, things would only change when repentance occurred.

While it was important to declare this message in the chambers of the king and in the public gatherings of the people, Joel had another setting in mind where the message must be clearly taught. He wrote to parents, to make sure they instructed their children to look at life through the filter of the revelation of God. Rather than seeing life through the eyes of pop culture, we must instruct our children to see the world the way God views it.

The responsibility for passing truth to the next generation is left primarily in the hands of the parents. The church, its children’s ministry or youth group, play a role, but parents bear the primary responsibility before God, of instructing their children in the ways of the Lord. The most effective way to do this is for parents to lead by example. Our kids should learn a proper world view because we have instructed them in the ways of the Lord, and set an example with our lifestyle.

Take some time today to talk with your children about the way to effectively follow Christ. If there is any area of compromise in your life, set it aside for the sake of your children.

Pastor Jim

 

Greatest Joy

3 John 4
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

There are many things that fill us with joy. Some of them are quite simple, like seeing a rainbow, or when our team wins. Others are much deeper, like our wedding day, or the birth of a child. John lived a long life and, no doubt, had his share of experiences that produced joy, making his statement here all the more valuable. He states, of all the things that have brought a smile to his face, nothing can compare to knowing his children are walking with the Lord.

As parents, we desire what is best for our children. It is natural for us to want them to have what we have, and more. We want them to have a happy childhood, get a good education, and make healthy choices as adults. While it is natural for us to want our children to succeed in life, making a decision to follow Christ, is the most important goal.

If we want to see our children walking with the Lord, we cannot leave it in the realm of the desire. Passing on Biblical values and a Christian witness, must be our chief priority. However, each individual must make his own decision for the Lord. Even the best parents have children that walk away from the Lord (Adam and Eve backslid, as did the Prodigal Son). That being said, there are things we can do to increase the odds, and provide an atmosphere which is more likely to produce godly children. Below is a list of ideas that should be demonstrated in our homes.

1. A godly example – Children learn more by what they see, than what they are told.

2. A healthy marriage – One of the best things you can do for the spiritual health of your children is to invest in your spouse.

3. Daily devotions – First, you need to have them yourself. The more you grow in the Lord, the better you will be at instilling godliness in others. Second, find a way to share the things of God with your children. Read the Gospel stories to them before bed.

4. Church attendance – God designed the church as a place for us to grow in Christ. Get the children plugged into age appropriate classes at church. They might not enjoy sitting next to you in service, but will love being in class with other children.

5. Serve the Lord as a family – Don’t force the children to do what they hate. Find an area of service they will enjoy, and commit to serving as a family.

I understand there are some parents who are grieving because, even after all their efforts, their child has chosen to walk away from the Lord. Do not live under condemnation for all the things you think you did wrong. Instead, receive the forgiveness that Jesus provides, and PRAY DAILY for your child. God is in the business of reconciliation, and He loves our children more than we can ever imagine.

Proverbs 22:6

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Pastor Jim

 

For The Kids 

Lamentations 2:19
“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”

As Jeremiah looked out over the rubble that was once the city of Jerusalem, his eyes welled up with tears. A nation that was designed to honor and glorify the Lord, was now devastated by its own sin. A lifetime of pleading with the people and their rulers had failed to stop the inevitable consequences of their repeated actions.

Now, with a broken heart, he once again pleads with the people to return to the Lord. This time his motivation is different. Instead of warning them of a Babylonian invasion, he draws their attention to a more personal matter. He pleads with the parents to return to the Lord for the sake of their children.

Most parents claim they would do anything for their children, and in many cases, they can site example after example of selfless acts of love. These may include sleepless nights, hours of overtime, setting aside personal ambitions, and giving up friendships, hobbies, or other extracurricular activities. All of these are surely expressions of love, but the highest expression, is to submit to Christ and live a life that honors the Lord and sets a pattern for your children to follow.

Children will always imitate their parents, so the first step in seeing our children walk with Jesus is to set the example for them. The first step in setting that example, is to get our own lives right with God. If we want to see our children love and serve Christ, we need to be modeling that life ourselves. Children don’t learn best by being told what to do, they learn best by watching an example and mimicking what they have seen.

What example are you setting?

Pastor Jim

 

Godly Home 

2 Timothy 1:5
When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

Timothy is one of the stars of the New Testament. His story has all the makings of a blockbuster hit. When we are first introduced to him, he is a teenager described as “being well spoken of in all the churches.” We know that his commitment to Christ struck a chord with the apostle Paul, who invited him to join the ministry team and take the Gospel to the unreached people of the ancient world. While traveling with some of the greatest saints of all time, Timothy rose to the top and became Paul’s most trusted ally and closest friend. By the time his story comes to a close, he is pastoring one of the most influential churches the world has ever known, in the bustling city of Ephesus. We know his success in following and serving Christ had much to do with a teenage decision to surrender to Jesus and the influence of Paul, but we also find that he was greatly impacted at home.

From the few scattered pieces recorded about Timothy’s home life, we can surmise that he grew up in a family with an unbelieving father and a committed mother. Since we know that his mom was Jewish, and as such, was forbidden to marry a gentile, we know that her past included a time of having wandered from the Lord. Rather than letting her past define her present, Eunice determined to raise her son around the things of the Lord. Along with the assistance of her mother, Lois, they raised Timothy on a healthy diet of the Word of God. It is not a stretch to conclude, he was actually taught to read and write using the Word of God as his textbook. With such a godly foundation having been laid, it is no wonder this young man became one of the great saints of all time.

Perhaps you are in a less than ideal family situation. Perhaps you are even the cause of much of the struggle. Instead of letting the past write your future, take the time to surrender all to Christ, and make your home a place where others will be instructed in the ways of God. It is not too late to allow God to use your life to influence others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Jim