In The Pig Pen 

2 Peter 2:22
“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”

A few years ago, I was in northern Ghana with a group of people from our church. Our purpose was to bring the Gospel to remote villages that had yet to be reached for Christ. Just as Paul developed a custom of going first to the synagogue, then to the market squares, we too, had developed our own custom. Because of the practices of their culture, it is customary, when a traveler arrives at their home, to gather the family, offer the traveler a drink and ask “What brings you here and do you have a message for us?” As you can imagine, this provides a wide open door to share Christ.

On one particular day, as we were walking through a village, going from hut to hut with the gospel, I turned a corner and startled a large pig. He immediately arose from his mud hole and walked off. When he stirred up the mud, the stink was so strong it almost knocked me over. I continued down the path, then turned back, thinking of this verse in 2 Peter 2, wondering what would happen next. Sure enough, as soon as he thought it was safe, the pig walked back to the mire and plopped down.

Peter explains, while it is expected for a pig to return to its mire, you are not a pig. Once you have come to Christ, it is unnatural for you to turn back to the sins from which He saved you. He writes that returning to our past lives, results in being in a worse condition than we were prior to being saved. That worse condition is caused by the hardening of our hearts.

Each time we take a step away from the Lord, the Holy Spirit convicts us, reminding us of the promises of the Word, and the danger of that course of action. When we ignore His warnings and continue to move toward sin and away from God, our hearts become just a little harder. Soon we are able to sin without feelings of guilt or remorse. That is in no way a sign of freedom, but of extreme bondage. When sin no longer shames us, we are shackled by its deadly grip.

A good application from this text would be to take inventory. Are you allowing things back into your life that might lead you away from the Lord and back into your old life style? Turn those things back over to the Lord, before you find yourself neck-deep in the mire.

Pastor Jim

 

Clean Me

Jeremiah 48:11
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.”

Jeremiah is describing the judgment that will fall upon Moab. He explains, in vivid fashion, that one of the chief causes of their wickedness was the fact that they were like a vessel which had never been cleaned. Their failure to allow the difficulties of life to purify their actions, ultimately lead to their judgment and destruction.

Trials are not the most pleasurable experiences in life. Whenever we face difficulty that is beyond our ability to endure, we wonder if there is a God, and if so, why He is allowing such hardship to come our way. One reason for the difficult seasons of life, is that they are designed to stir things up in our lives, in order to purify us.

Like taking a dirty cup, filling it with hot soapy water, and shaking it back and forth to release the dregs, hardship is designed as a means of getting things out of our lives that will ultimately bring the judgment of God. Instead of questioning the love of God, we should allow difficulty to serve its purpose, and examine whether or not we are living in a way that pleases God. Had Moab turned from their wicked ways, they would not have been facing heaven’s wrath.

What about you? Are you practicing things that are unacceptable to God? I am not talking about wanting to live for God and slipping along the way, instead, I am referring to a person who is looking at the Word of God and saying, “I don’t care what it says, I am going to do what I want.” Be careful, that kind of living will lead you face-to-face with the judgment of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Robes Of Righteousness 

Isaiah 61:10
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Certain garments are necessary for certain activities. People wear football apparel to play football, a suit for the office, and a wedding gown for the wedding day. In the same way, appropriate apparel is required for entrance to heaven. Isaiah called these the garments of salvation. These clothes can only be purchased by placing faith in Christ. When we do that, our old filthy rags of self-righteousness are replaced with a robe of righteousness, and we are welcomed into the banqueting hall of the Lord. Jesus put it this way;

Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Feast

“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.'” But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

‘For many are called, but few are chosen.’”
Pastor Jim

 

Still Here 

2 Kings 15:4
“…the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”

Over the years I have discovered something about myself, I am better at projects than I am at maintenance. My yard is a classic example. We worked hard to irrigate, lay sod, and plant trees, and our yard looked good for a little while. As time went on however, we discovered that neglect undid much of our labors, and before long, things looked rather unkept. It seems like Azariah had a similar problem; while he desired to live pleasing to the Lord and made great strides, he still neglected certain areas that needed his attention. One area in particular, was the “high places”, where altars were built to false gods. These shrines were destructive to the nation because they served as an open door to lead the people away from the true and living God. The only way to properly deal with the high places was to aggressively attack the problem. Azariah needed to mount an offensive and destroy the altars.

I wonder, if we were to honestly and carefully examine our lives, what “high places” might we find? What questionable attitudes or behaviors are you still clinging to? Perhaps it is time to do what King Azariah failed to do, remove those things from your life, before they become the reason for your fall.

Pastor Jim

 

Foot Washing

John 13:10 
“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;…”

Living in Israel at the time of Christ, it was impossible to walk the streets of Jerusalem without getting dirty. Open-toed sandals in a desert climate made for dirty streets and dirty feet. One solution was the custom of foot washing. Whenever a guest entered a home, the host was responsible for ensuring that the feet of the guest were washed. When Jesus gathered with the disciples for the Passover meal, he took on the role of the host, and began to wash their feet. As expected, Peter had something to say about the actions of Jesus. First he resisted, to which Jesus explained,

“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

In response, Peter replied,

“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

To which Jesus said,

“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;…”

The washing of the disciples’ feet serves as a great example of serving one another, but it also illustrates something about the Christian walk. Just as it was impossible to walk the streets of Jerusalem and not get dirty feet, so it is impossible to live in our world and not get a little dirty. Even when we determine to live committed to Christ, we come into contact with things that defile us, and even trigger the desires of the flesh. It might happen sitting in a waiting room, glancing down at a magazine with a seductive photo on the cover; or in the break room at work, when someone decides to share a crude or off-color joke. One way or another, we get the mud of the world on us.

The solution is not to isolate ourselves completely from the world. After all, Jesus sent us into the world as witnesses of the resurrection. No, the solution is foot washing. I am not speaking of reinstating the custom of washing feet, but of what I believe it represents in our walk with God. Paul spoke to the Ephesians about “The washing of water by the Word of God” (Ephesians 5:26). God’s Word has a cleansing effect in our lives. When we get the muck of the world splattered on us, the solution is to sit down and let God’s Word wash it away. How refreshing it is to sit with our Bibles, and allow him to give our minds a cleansing.

Just as there is no better way to start the day than with God’s Word, there is also no better way to end the day.

Pastor Jim

 

This Old House 

Leviticus 27:14
“And when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the Lord, then the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand.”

20140227-074948.jpgAccording to Webster’s dictionary, the word ‘dedicate’ means, “to devote to worship or to set apart for sacred use.” As Leviticus comes to a close, Moses instructs the people to dedicate their homes to the Lord. Since the family is the foundation of society, the key to Israel’s future success was in each and every household dedicated themselves to the Lord.

A few years back some friends of mine purchased a new home. Before the foundation was laid, they went to the site and buried scripture verses in the ground. That is a beautiful picture of what it means to dedicate our homes to the Lord. We want to build upon the foundation of the Word, but we cannot stop with symbolism. If our homes are truly going to be devoted to God, we must ensure that they are a place where, in every way, God is honored. For this to happen, we might need to do some house cleaning and remodeling.

Take a moment to examine the contents of your home. I am not talking about the furnishings or what is in the pantry. Instead, think about the things are being allowed in the home. Imagine if, like Mary and Martha, Jesus was coming to your home with His twelve Apostles. What would you change right now? Are there cupboards that need to be cleaned out of things that have no business being in the home. Are there attitudes toward one another that would cause you to die of embarrassment if they were exposed in His presence? Jesus might not be on His way over for a physical visit, but keep in mind, everything is “open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13).

Christianity should never be reduced to what we don’t do. When we stand before Christ, we will not be examined for what we did not do, but for what we accomplished. Look at your home, is it time for an addition or two? What are you doing to ensure your kids are being trained up in the ways of the Lord? What are you doing to be a light to your neighbors? In what way are you seeking to make your spouse the most loved and respected spouse on the planet?

I think it is time we dedicate ourselves and our homes completely to the Lord and watch to see what great things God will do through it.

Pastor Jim

 

Unclean

Leviticus 13:45
“Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean! ’”

IMG_1491Leprosy is a skin disease that effects the nervous system; resulting in spreading rash-like symptoms, disfiguration, pain, and ultimately, death. Due to the fact that leprosy is contagious, the nation of Israel was instructed to quarantine lepers until they were healed. Since leprosy was incurable in the ancient world, it would require an act of God for a leper to be healed. Because of the similarities in the growth, spread, and debilitating effects of the disease, leprosy has been considered to be an illustration of sin and it’s consequences.

David Guzik draws the following parallels between leprosy and sin:

· It begins as nothing.
· It is painless in its first stages.
· It grows slowly.
· It often remits for a while and then returns.
· It numbs the senses – one cannot feel in the afflicted area.
· It causes decay and deformity.
· It gives a person a repulsive appearance.

Jewish custom said you should not greet, or be within six feet of a leper. One Rabbi boasted that he threw rocks at lepers to keep them far from him. But Jesus was different. He loved lepers; He touched and healed them, when they had no hope at all.

Jesus does the same for sinners. While sin is deadly and repulsive, Jesus, Himself, is the cure. Any who come to Him, will have their sins forgiven and their lives forever changed.

Pastor Jim