God Who Forgives

Psalms 99:8
“You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.”

The Psalmist writes regarding the forgiveness of God and the fact that He will mete out vengeance on certain actions. These concepts often seem contrary to one another. We associate forgiveness with the removal of any and all consequences, but God does not see it that way. Abraham was forgiven for his sin with Hagar, but Ishmael was still born. Samson was forgiven for his sin, but the pillars still fell upon him. David was forgiven of adultery, but Bathsheba’s child still died. Peter was forgiven for denying Christ, but still had to live with the image of Christ’s gaze and the memory of the rooster’s cry.

Calling upon God to forgive will remove the judicial penalty for sin; you will no longer be held accountable before God for your actions. This forgiveness will also remove any barriers that are keeping you from experiencing the presence of God, but this does not mean there will be no consequences for your actions. When a husband cheats on his wife, he can be forgiven, but the damage has been done to his family, and it may take years before his wife will ever truly trust him again. When a person steals from their place of business, they can be forgiven, but may lose their job and even face jail time. We must never think that forgiveness means there will not be consequences, for they are often the reason we should truly fear sin and what it will do to our lives.

If you are close to crossing a line, be sure to realize you cannot take it back, and may suffer the consequences of that decision for as long as you are alive.

Pastor Jim

 

If…Then…

1 Kings 9:4
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments…” 

If you are a parent, you understand conditional promises. Almost daily you find yourself saying things like “If you keep your room clean, then…” Or “if you get good grades, then…” Basically you are declaring that if certain conditions are met, certain rewards will be given.

The Bible is filled with these same kind of promises. Here Solomon is told, if Israel walks in line with the commands of God, they will experience the blessings of God, but if they turn from God, they will be chastened by Him. This is not a difficult concept to understand. If we choose to walk with Christ and live obediently to His word, we will be blessed. If we turn from Him and pursue things that His word forbids, we will begin to experience the chastening of God. We will find that the sinful activities we pursued actually robbed us of the life they promised to provide.

The narrative of Scripture reveals that Israel ignored these warnings. They were attracted to the lifestyles of the nations around them and they forsook the ways of God, for the ways of the world. It did not take long for this to have negative affects on the nation. After Solomon died, the nation experienced a devastating civil conflict that split the kingdom in two. Weakened by the split and continual rebellion against God, the nations were later overrun by enemies and taken captive to distant lands. What had once been a beautiful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a testimony to the horrible consequences of sin.

No matter how great the temptation to turn from God and embrace the ways of the world, we must remember the example of Israel. If we meet the conditions we receive the promises. We will have a blessed life as we follow after, and live pleasing to, the Lord.

Pastor Jim

Truth Bearer

Proverbs 25:9
“Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another;”

The Bible clearly teaches that we are not to lie. Truthfulness is a very important trait, and is the foundation for healthy relationships. We cannot have a relationship with someone we cannot trust and we cannot trust someone who does not tell us the truth. That being said, it is also important to remember, we are not required to divulge all the information to every one who asks. If you are walking casually through the local department store and make eye contact with a passerby who asks the common question, “how are you,” a simple, “fine,” would suffice. It is not necessary, for the sake of honesty, to give an elaborate backstory, or to share your deepest feelings. In the same way, some truths, have their best applications when they are concealed. There are matters that are best left to you and your spouse to discuss, and are not the business of others. Sadly, we have all had the experience of trusting delicate information to another, who does not treat it with the same care. Soon their lose tongue has shared the matter with others, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Being the first to know something, or share it with others, does nothing to improve your character, but sharing matters that are not yours to share, reveals a weakness in your character, and hurts those you are supposed to love.

If you have had a problem with releasing information that is not yours to share, perhaps the following reminders may help.

Proverbs 20:19
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,  Therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

Psalm 34:13
“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 11:13
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, 
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Psalm 141:3
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Pastor Jim

 

Unnecessary Suffering 

Jonah 1:3
“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

The story of Jonah has two main themes. The first is to reveal the heart of God for the lost. However, before this can be fully developed we are introduced to the second theme, the disobedience of Jonah. Three of the four chapters teach us of the sin and suffering of a wayward prophet. His is the story of a man who experiences unnecessary suffering that could have been avoided through simple obedience.

The stage is set when Jonah is commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to Nineveh. In one of the most shocking turns we will ever witness we read, “But Jonah…” Without explaining the reasons behind his unwillingness, the story takes us immediately to the consequences of his disobedience.

First, we read he began to run from the Lord. This running took him to places he would have never otherwise have gone. The Hebrew people were not known as maritime travelers, yet Jonah paid the fare and got aboard the ship. His journey would prove to be much more costly than the ticket price. Soon he found himself going down into the lowest part of the ship, and before long to the depths of the sea, and the belly of a great fish.

One of the reasons sin is so dangerous is because of the strong grip it has on us. Jonah’s heart had been so hardened by his disobedience, it took three days in the belly of the great fish before he would cry out to God. He describes that time as one of intense suffering, fear and anguish. While the text does not tell us this, the science behind the scene suggests that the stomach acids of the fish would have bleached Jonah’s skin, forever marking his life with the scars of disobedience.

When Jonah finally cried out to the Lord, he was forgiven, rescued, restored and even used in the lives of the Ninevites, but not without having suffered in ways God never intended.

We, too, can avoid all kinds of anguish by simple obedience. The command given to Jonah may not have been easy to obey, but it was not difficult to understand. For the most part, we do not really struggle with what God wants us to do, as much as we struggle to simply do it. If you are running from the Lord it is time to stop, turn around, and obey.

Pastor Jim

 

Who’s To Blame?

Amos 6:14
“But, behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,” Says the Lord God of hosts; “And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the Valley of the Arabah.”

Israel was facing calamity; their economy was in the tank and the nations around them were becoming an increasing threat. Soon they would be overthrown and taken captive by Assyria. These difficulties, although natural, had a spiritual cause and remedy. They were not being defeated because their armies were weak and untrained, or because their numbers were too small to defend themselves. They were simply facing the consequences of turning away from God. Drought, famine, pestilence, barrenness, defeat and other calamities were some of the consequences Israel faced because they turned their backs on the Lord. With divine guidance, the prophets heralded a message that the difficulties they faced were nothing short of the judgment of God.

It is difficult today to directly associate every calamity the nations face as divine judgment. We cannot know for sure if an earthquake or other natural or manmade disaster has anything to do with divine retribution, or if it is simply the consequences of living in a fallen world, surrounded by sinful men. But one thing is sure, these types of events should grab our attention, and turn it upward. Jesus explained that the times leading to His return would be marked by wars, famines and natural disasters. Instead of summits on climate change, we should be seeing gatherings of people determined to seek the Lord on behalf of the nations. What the world needs, today, is people who are willing to stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of those who have not yet come to faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Our Influence 

Ezekiel 23:37
“For they have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”

Ezekiel points out that the sins of the parents resulted in the sacrifice of the children. When they stopped following the Lord, their decision impacted the next generation. I think it would do us good to keep in mind that we have a much greater influence on others than we might think. Jesus compared us to a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). Paul explained, the whole world is watching the Christian as though we were on display. When we decide to commit ourselves to the Lord, living to please to Him, that decision will impact others. People will take notice and decide to further their commitment  to Christ. On the other hand, if we wander from the Lord, we will have a domino effect upon others who may fall along with us.

Remember, after the death of Christ, when Peter decided to return to fishing? He was distraught over the events that had transpired, and he seems to have stepped backwards in his relationship with Christ. I find it interesting, he was not fishing alone, other men were drawn away with him. This always seems to be the case. The decisions we make, for or against the Lord, will always create a current, pulling others along with us.

Let’s make sure to keep pressing toward the Lord.

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