Where Revival Begins

Ezra 10:7
“And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem”

Imagine a scene where the leaders of the nation call its citizens to gather at the capital with the purpose of repenting from evil and seeking the Lord. Imagine the National mall filled, not with people outraged because they feel somehow neglected or mistreated by the government but because they have realized they are guilty before God and are there to plead with Him for forgiveness. Imagine what a powerful impact a revival of that magnitude would have upon the very fabric of society. That is exactly what happened in Ezra’s day. The people realized they had turned from God and were ready to make whatever changes necessary in their lives and families to restore right relationship with God.

What strikes me about this is how it started. We read that Ezra saw the condition of the nation, fell on his face, fasted, prayed, confessed his sin and sought the Lord to bring revival to the land. He prayed, “give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” All that followed stemmed from one man crying out to God and making the necessary changes in his own life. Before a family, nation, society or culture can experience revival it must begin in the heart of an individual. It has been said if we want to see revival we need to draw a circle on the ground, step into the circle and pray for God to revive the heart of the person within the circle. When that heart is revived and that person’s life begins to honor God we are well on our way to seeing revival break out across our land.

One man wrapped in the garments of sorrow over personal sin, crying out God for forgiveness can spark a work of God that will transform the face of a nation

Jim

 

Confession

Leviticus 3:2
“And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.”

The opening chapters of Leviticus speak of 5 different sacrifices that were presented to the Lord. These sacrifices met different requirements for the people’s worship of the Lord, but had many things in common. One such commonality was the laying on of hands before making the sacrifice. This was done to show culpability on behalf of the one making the sacrifice. Instead of bringing an excuse list as to why they had sinned or blaming their past, present, or surroundings, the offerer was to take responsibility for his or her actions, confess they had sinned and were in need of pardon.

This is a very important part of a successful walk with God. When we let our circumstances justify our actions we miss out on the work God is trying to accomplish in our lives. Our focus becomes our surroundings instead of the Lord, and we  spend all our energies trying to change our situation, rather than allowing God to use them as tools to make us more like Christ.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A man who is good at excuses is rarely good at anything else.”

Instead of excusing sin because of all the ways you have been mistreated in life, try taking responsibility for your actions and asking God to use your circumstances to conform you into the image of His Son.

Pastor Jim

 

Leaven

Leviticus 2:11
“No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.”


Leaven is a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked. Because it is a small ingredient in the dough and has the tendency to spread through the whole lump, it is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Sin always starts small, but never stays that way. When a person falls into a “big sin,” it is because they started out making little compromises. As a result, it was a forbidden component in the grain offered to the Lord.

The New Testament declares that because of the work of Christ, we no longer are required to bring offerings to an altar and make sacrifices to God. Instead, we are to become a living sacrifice. Our whole life is to be devoted to the Lord. We should give our private life, family life, public life and church life as a sacrifice to God, and look for ways to honor and serve Him. If this living sacrifice is to be a sweet aroma to the Lord, we need to remove the leaven. In other words, we need to deal with sin as God reveals it. The New Testaments model for dealing with sin is that God reveals it through His word, we confess it in prayer, and He empowers us by His Spirit, to have victory over it in our lives.

If you are struggling in an area of sin, it is important that you address it before it spreads and becomes so large that it begins to destroy your relationship with God and others. The way to address it is to confess it to the Lord and to a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ. James spoke of the value of confessing our sin to one another, so we can pray for one another.

Don’t let sin reign in your life. Take it to the cross and be forgiven and set free.

Pastor Jim

 

Shhhh! It’s A Secret

Jeremiah 38:16
“So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah…”

As the book of Jeremiah moves forward, we find the prophet having repeated discourse with King Zedekiah. The king seems somewhat erratic in his behavior. One moment, he is treating Jeremiah favorably, while the next, he is having the prophet committed to the dungeon. By his own admission, he mistreats the prophet out of fear of how the people will react. He seems to conclude, the best approach is to become a secret believer. In public, he denies any relationship to the prophet, but in private, he seeks his counsel.

Zedekiah is not alone in his attempt to be a secret follower. In New Testament times, we read of Nicodemus and Joseph, who both believed Jesus was the Christ, but due to their social status, refused to be open about following Him. Today, many claim to follow Christ in private, but have yet to make their commitment to Him known to others. Sometimes, this is caused by fear of how we will be treated. Other times, it is motivated out of desire to continue participating in certain sinful activities. We realize, as long as we are quiet about our faith in Christ, we will not be questioned regarding how we act, talk or behave.

Zedekiah soon found he must make a decision to either follow the Lord or not. Life brought him to a crossroad where he could no longer live in two worlds. Either he would trust the Word of God and submit to Him, or he would follow the ways of the world in which he lived. Zedekiah made his choice and lived with the consequences. Now, it is time for us to make ours. Will you choose today to follow Christ, not as a secret disciple, but as one who will boldly and publicly confess Him as Savior and Lord?

Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

Pastor Jim

 

It’s A Secret 

2 Kings 17:9
“Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city.”

Webster’s dictionary defines secret as, “kept from view or hidden.”mIt goes on to speak of something as “being covert or stealth,” implying that great pains are taken to avoid detection.

During the time that led to the fall of Israel, the people were involved in secret sins. They knew the things they were doing were wrong, hence they were hidden, but they continued in them none the less. Sadly, the more they practiced these sins, the harder their hearts became, until they eventually built places of worship, and brought their secret transgressions into public view. Soon, what had once been recognized as sinful behavior, and practiced only in secret, was now being done for all to see. The countryside was littered with high places, boasting of the sinful practices of the people.

As the story unfolds, we find the nation of Israel will soon fall. Weakened within by unwavering immorality, the nation could not survive the rising threat of Assyria. We are reminded of the words of Solomon, who wrote,

Proverbs 14:34
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

We should all be deeply concerned by the once secret sins that are now practiced openly and publicly, all around us. Things that were once done in the dark, and recognized by all as immoral and sinful, are now heralded as normal, acceptable, and even “Christian.” Our deep concern should lead us to combat these evils, but we must remember, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God (2 Corinthians 10:4). The best way to combat the rising tide of wickedness is to examine our own hearts, and see if we are allowing any secret sins to remain in our lives. When we will do business with the Lord, and allow Him to transform us, we will become that light in the world that draws others out of darkness and into Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Banned 

Joshua 7:13
“Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “ There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.”'”

The story of Ai is tragic. Thirty-six men lost their lives that day. Thirty six sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and friends, fell in battle. Their deaths had a devastating effect upon the people. Not only were they filled with the normal grief of losing loved ones, but this grief was compounded by the fact they had been sent by the Lord into Canaan, and now they had lost the battle and thirty-six lives. The ripples of this were so great, even Joshua, their heroic leader, wished they had never crossed the Jordan. This passage is filled with applications for us today. Not the least of which is, their failure in battle was due to failure in their private lives. That failure is twofold.

First, there was the sin of Joshua. When surveying Jericho he encountered the Lord and got his marching orders. Here he surveyed the land but neglected to seek the Lord. Had he sought God, the sin of Achan would have been exposed before the battle started, and lives would have been saved. It is clear from the text, God’s method for taking the city, was far different than the plan Joshua came up with on His own.

Second, there was the sin of Achan. Israel was commanded to dedicate all the spoil of Jericho to the Lord. This fits with the principle of the ‘firstfruit’ belonging to God. However, we find that one man, Achan by name, took some of what was under the ban, and hid it away in his tent. When confronted, Achan shares what happened. He said, “I saw, I coveted, I took and I hid” (Joshua 7:21). He ignored the warning of God, and placed himself in a position where the temptation became too great to resist. It was only a matter of time before he would fall.

We learn from this that personal sin impacts the whole congregation. No man is an island. Our personal decisions have an impact upon others, and upon the work of the Lord. Whenever a person chooses to devote himself more fully to the Lord, the Kingdom is strengthened, but whenever a person chooses to compromise, the whole congregation is effected.

The solution is simple. We cannot stand before our enemies until we remove the accursed things. If we want to have success in our walk, and service to the Lord, we must get the things out of our lives that do not belong. These things come out through confession and repentance.

Pastor Jim

 

Retreats

Deuteronomy 16:16
“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.”

God established three retreats in the calendar year for His people. Three times a year they would gather together to celebrate the Lord, and what He had done for them. At the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they were to remember the way they were supernaturally delivered from Egypt. At the Feast of Weeks, they were to remember they were once slaves in Egypt. And at the Feast of Tabernacle, they were to rejoice over the new life they had in the land.

It would do us good to come to the House of the Lord with that same focus. When we walk through the doors of the church, we should take time to remember we were once slaves of sin, who were set free, through the supernatural work of Christ on the cross. We should also keep in mind, the work the Lord is currently doing in our lives, as we walk with Him.

Like Israel, we should never come empty-handed. They were required to arrive with offerings of the first fruits of the land, and the flocks. We should always come with a heart ready to worship, and a will ready to obey. As you walk through the doors of the church today, do so expecting to offer yourself to the Lord, and be ready to go out the doors, putting into practice the things you learn from His Word.

Pastor Jim

 

In Need

Luke 3:8
“We have Abraham as our father.’”

IMG_1480John the Baptist had a thriving ministry. We read that multitudes, or large gatherings of people, came out to hear him preach. We read that this crowd was made up of a cross section of society. There were religious people, tax collectors, and soldiers, as well as what we might call the everyday man; all of whom had come out to hear John speak.

Crowds formed the same way then as they do today. One man tells another, who tells another, and pretty soon a multitude forms. We are not told who the first people were to hear John speak, but we can imagine the message they declared to their friends, “You gotta come hear this guy speak. I listened to him, was baptized and my life has was changed.” One after another, they gathered to hear John. His message was very simple; Jesus is coming and we need to be ready. To get ready required a public declaration that they were sinners in need of a savior. Many responded by walking into the water with John to be baptized.

Not everyone who heard was jumping at the chance to respond. Some said, “I have Abraham as my father.” This essentially meant that they thought they did not need a savior. The same is true today. When a person truly meets the Lord he has a message that he cannot contain. He finds himself telling everyone he knows and inviting them to come hear the message for themselves. The problem is, although we are all equally in need of a savior, some attempt to satisfy that need with religion.

They might say “I don’t need Christ because I…”

* go to church

* was born in America

* was baptized as a baby

* am a good person

* give to charity

The list goes on and on; to which John says, ” do not even begin to say…” Those things will not save you from the righteous judgment of God. Ask yourself, do you trust in Christ for salvation? Have you made a public decision for Christ, declaring your need for Him? Or are you trusting in something else that is keeping you from full surrender to Christ?

Pastor Jim

 

Busted

Genesis 38:24
“And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, ‘Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.’ So Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned!’”

2015/01/img_1350.jpgOur sin always looks worse on someone else.

Judah, after the death of his wife, and in the loneliness of that condition, stumbled in his walk with God, committing fornication with a young woman. While we do not read of his reaction to this, it is highly likely he was ashamed, and at least somewhat remorseful. I can imagine he confessed his failure, and may have even made offerings to God.  A few short months after this  incident, Judah got word that Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law, was pregnant outside of marriage. The same sin he had committed, had been engaged in by Tamar. Whatever his response to his own sin was we cannot be sure, but we do know how he responded to her’s. He was furious, and wanted her to receive the harshest judgment the law would allow.

It seems to me, this is an all too common reaction towards sin. We take the harshest stand we can against the sin of others, and expect the fullest extent of mercy for ourselves. It might do us well to consider what Jesus said regarding our sin and that of others. He declared;

Matthew 7:5
“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus declared, while we should not ignore sins committed by others, we must always take the time to look inward, before we go on a campaign against the sins of others. One of the tragedies of the church is having people rally for causes, while neglecting their own walk with God. Paul gave this simple, yet very helpful, instruction for dealing with the faults in others,

Galatians 6:1
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Pastor Jim