Love 

1 John 4:10-11
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Love seems to be the most common subject of music, art, poetry and film. We have all heard songs with lyrics heralding the importance of love, or movies showing couples falling in love. Love has been romanticized, even idolized, yet rarely realized. It is here that the Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a description of true love.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

True love is both illustrated and defined by the action of God sending His Son. Paul reminds us, it was while we were still sinners, God sent His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). John uses the word propitiation, which speaks of a blood sacrifice; the innocent for the guilty. Love is measured at the cross where Jesus willingly laid down His life for you and me. But the love of God does not stop there. It is the desire of God that His love continue to be demonstrated to the world through the actions of His children.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Since we are the beloved, we are to act like it, by seeking to express this love to each other.

1 John 4:20 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

One of the best ways to express love for God, is to love others. This should be done in the home, by going out of our way, today, to show our spouse, children, parents, and siblings that we love them. Perhaps, even looking for extravagant ways to show off our love. After all, God expressed His love by going all out for us. Then this love should be expressed beyond the home. We should be looking for ways to love those around us. Jesus explained that His followers were to be different from the world in that the world loves those who are loving them. The Christian is to love all.

Matthew 5:46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

Make an effort today to share the love of Christ with those with whom you come in contact. The greatest expression of love is to tell someone the way to heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Pardon The Preserved 

Jeremiah 50:20

“‘In those days and in that time,’ says the Lord,
‘The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none;
And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found;
For I will pardon those whom I preserve.'”

One of the greatest benefits of being in a relationship with God is the forgiveness of sin. God explains that although we have transgressed His laws, the covenant provides pardon. In Israel’s case, it was through temple sacrifice, in ours, it is through the blood Christ shed at Calvary. The forgiveness He offers is complete. All sin, and it’s penalties, are washed away in the priceless blood of Christ. When God forgives, nothing will ever be brought up again.

I am captivated by the statement in this verse where sins are sought, but cannot be found. It is not saying that we cannot find a way to sin, but rather that the sins of the past have been completely pardoned. Whoever might bring a charge against the child of God, the answer will remain the same, “What sin, I don’t remember it.”

Guilt is one of the strongest anchors which holds us back, from accomplishing great things for the Lord, but it is not God who is filling our minds with guilt from past failures. Those things have been forgiven and we can move on to a life which brings glory, honor, and praise to God. I have often thought, how little Paul would have ever accomplished if he let his past failures hold him back from pursuing and serving Christ.

If you are feeling guilty about present sin, turn from it and to the Lord, but if you are plagued by past failures, it is time to look past them and at the cross, where all sin was washed in the blood of God.

Pastor Jim

 

The Economy 

1 Peter 1:18-19
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

One day, Jesus was sitting with His disciples watching events transpire at the Temple. As they looked on, He drew their attention to a woman who approached the tithe box, she inserted two small copper coins worth almost nothing. Her actions prompted a comment from Jesus, who informed the disciples that she had given more than all others, because she gave from her poverty, while they gave from their wealth. In doing so, Jesus revealed a very important principle within the economy of God; the value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver.

This basic economic principle helps to shed light on the comments Peter makes regarding our redemption. To be redeemed is to be purchased. It was a word that would be used to speak of a person being purchased out of slavery. Peter is using it to describe our salvation. We who were once slaves of sin, have been redeemed from the curse, and brought into a right standing with God. Peter explains that the blood of Christ is the only currency with that kind of purchasing power.

He tells us silver and gold did not redeem us. If God would have used a billion dollar block of gold to redeem us, we would each be able to put a dollar value upon ourselves. We could say, “I am worth one billion dollars to God.” At first, that might seem like a lot, until we realize, it costs nothing for God to create more gold. If His supply ran short, He could speak galaxies of gold into existence. No, we were purchased with something of much greater value than precious metals; we have been redeemed with the blood of Christ. Anything else given to provide for our atonement, could have been replaced. God gave up the one thing, of the highest value, in order to save: He gave His only begotten Son.

The next time you are feeling like you don’t matter too much, don’t look around at how others view you, or even within, at how you feel about yourself. Instead, look back at the cross, and see how valuable you are to God, that He would purchase you with the blood of His Son. Then look up to the Throne and offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice.

Pastor Jim

 

He Loves Me…

Job 16:9
“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; My adversary sharpens His gaze on me.”

When we find ourselves in times of great trial, it is often difficult to discern the voice of God. In Job’s case, the voices of pain, sorrow, suffering, and loss were screaming so loud, the voice of God was drowned out. He could no longer hear God’s Word reminding Him of the great love with which he had been loved. He could no longer hear the voice of compassion, mercy or providence, explaining He would make all things right. All Job could hear was the voice of his anguish, and it was screaming, “God must hate me.”

While we may never face trials as grievous as Job endured, we will no doubt, encounter difficulty that will call into question the character of God. We will all experience times when looking at our circumstances will make it difficult to perceive the love and mercy of God. It is in those times, I lean upon the advice I received from my pastor. He told me when I do not know, I should always fall back on what I do know. In other words, there are foundational truths about God we can cling to in difficult times. Having a grip on those truths will take us through our darkest hours.

First, we must remember, God is good and everything that flows from Him is good. The psalmist put it this way,

“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.” Psalm 73:1-2

He declared the circumstances he faced brought him to the brink of falling, but the cure was to remember the goodness of God. Not only is He good, but He also promises to work all things out for our good. That means He has a plan to work with the circumstances we are facing, in order to accomplish His best for our lives. Often, we fail to see any value in the trials we endure, because we are by nature shortsighted, we cannot see into the future, or understand the big things of God.

Another important, even foundational truth, to rely upon in times of confusion is, God is in all this for the long haul. He is making decisions that will effect, not just the moment we are in, but the generations that will follow. Abraham was promised descendants as the stars, but at his death only Isaac had been born. It was not that the promise failed, but that the vantage point of God was much more far-reaching than Abraham could see. Keep in mind, the way we choose to react to the difficulties we face, will have an affect upon those who come after us.

Finally, no matter how loud your trials may scream that God hates you, the cross cries out emphatically, God is love. The very fact that God initiated the steps to redeem man back to Himself, knowing those steps would lead to the brutal death of His only begotten Son, are proof enough of the magnificence of His love.

In your sorrow, pain or confusion, take the time right now to focus upon the majesty of the cross and allow God to bathe you in His infinite love.

Pastor Jim

 

How Sweet It Is

Psalm 133:1
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

The psalmist is calling us to action. He desperately wants our attention, and calls us to look at the brethren dwelling together in unity. The unity he was speaking of was a united desire to seek after and worship Jehovah. This Psalm was one of the many songs the travelers to Jerusalem would sing as they made their way up the mountain to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. People from all over Israel congregated together with the unified purpose of devoting themselves more wholeheartedly to the Lord. The Psalmist declares, it is a good and pleasant thing, something worthy of our attention. This uniting of the brethren is good and pleasant for many reasons; not the least of which is the result it brings. David declares, it is like the anointing oil that was poured out upon the priests.

Shortly after being delivered from Egypt, God established the worship practices for the congregation of Israel. In order to ensure their spiritual development, He set up the descendants of Aaron as the priesthood. They would be responsible for much of the labor involved in making the corporate worship possible. The priests were clothed in special garments (a picture of being clothed in righteousness), then the sacrificial blood of the lamb was placed upon them for cleansing, and finally the anointing oil was poured on them. The blood serves as a type of Christ being crucified for the cleansing of our sin, and the oil a type of the Spirit of God, poured upon us, and equipping us for service. David describes the oil being poured on Aaron’s head and dripping down upon his beard and garments. It is a picture of the flowing of the Spirit upon those who have gathered together.

There is something special, something holy and divine, when we gather for corporate worship. Paul spoke of the body ministering to itself in love. As each of us are filled with the Spirit of God, and gather to seek the face of God, an atmosphere develops where the Spirit is flowing. How many times have you been met by God in the midst of worship? It is because the anointing oil is running off the beard of the worship leader. How many times have you been ministered to after service while speaking with another, and they begin to share things with you that encourage, edify and challenge you? It is because the oil is dripping from their beard. How many times have you been sitting in the service and felt as though the pastor was speaking directly to you? It almost seems as though the room has emptied and you are alone, hearing directly from God’s Word. It is because the oil is dripping from his beard. It is possible for the oil to drip from yours as well. When you gather next with the saints, don’t come simply to receive, come ready to give. As you walk into the fellowship, be praying that God will bring you face to face with someone to whom you will be able to minister. Few things are more exciting than knowing the Spirit of God has worked through you in the life of another.

Pastor Jim

 

House Of God 

2 Chronicles 4:19
“Thus Solomon had all the furnishings made for the house of God…”

The primary purpose of the Temple was to serve as a place where God and man could meet, however, it also serves as an illustration of the our salvation. Each of the furnishing depicts an aspect of our relationship with God. We can walk through the courts of the Temple and be reminded of the main elements of our salvation.

Once we entered the main courtyard, we would come face to face with a massive altar designed for sacrifice. It was on this altar that a substitute would be sacrificed in place of the guilty. The altar is a picture of the cross where the Son of God died for the sins of man. Our first step into relationship with God is to come to the cross and have our sins forgiven.

Beyond the altar, and in front of the Temple, sat an enormous bronze pool held up by twelve brazen oxen. This pool was designed as a place for the priests to wash before entering the Temple. This pool is a picture of the Word of God which is designed to wash the believer, daily. The Psalmist declared that our way can be cleansed by taking heed to the Word.

Beyond the pool was the Temple. This massive structure, standing 180 feet tall, 90 feet long and 30 feet wide, was divided into two chambers. The first was called the Holy Place, and contained the table of Showbread, the lamp stands and the altar of incense. The Showbread illustrates Jesus as the bread of life, the lamp reminds us He is the light, and the altar is a picture of prayer. The second chamber was the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant sat. This room could only be accessed by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. It pictures the intimacy available to the child of God, where we meet with the Lord, and experience His mercy and grace.

It would be a good idea to take a symbolic walk through the Temple this morning. Begin at the cross where you confess your sins, look into the Word and allow Him to wash you and direct you, continue on in prayer, experiencing Communion with Christ and direction for life, and end up enjoying a flowing stream of mercy and grace for the day ahead.

Pastor Jim

 

Accusations 

Psalm 130:3-4
“If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”

The Psalmist is rejoicing in the pardon the Lord provides. In doing so, he considers what would happen to us if the Lord treated our wrongdoings the way we do. What would happen to us if, instead of forgiving sin, God kept a detailed record of it. Instead of removing it as far as the East is from the West, or casting it into the depths of the sea, He held it close by, to remind us of it each time we struggled or fell.

At one time or another, we all struggle with receiving the complete pardon offered at the cross. We lie in bed tossing and turning, unable to find rest, because we are haunted by a failure of the recent, or at times, even the distant past. We find ourselves crippled with guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Keep in mind, it is not God who is bringing up your failures.

The Spirit of God will shed a brilliant light on our sin in order to bring us to confession and repentance. God will never rub our nose in our past failures, like an angry man reacting to a puppy’s little gift on the carpets. There is one who is quick to bring up yesterday’s sins in order to keep us from today’s victories.

One of the descriptions the Bible gives of Satan is “The Accuser of the Brethren.” We are told, day and night he brings accusations against the Christian. The prophet Zechariah (3:3-4) was privileged to witness Satan bringing accusation against Joshua, the High Priest. The Scripture says Joshua stood before the Lord in filthy garments; an apt picture of a man who has sinned. Right away, we read of the Accuser of the Brethren, poised, ready to hurl guilt upon the child of God. However, before a word can pass his lips, Satan is rebuked by Jesus. He not only silences the mouth of the Accuser, but also removes the filthy rags and replaces them with robes of righteousness. God refuses to listen to the insults and accusation Satan hurls against the child of God.

All sin is forgiven when we take hold of the cross. It is vital to our growth and success as believers, to lay hold of that forgiveness, rather than wallowing in the failures of countless yesterdays. Instead of thinking of all the ways you have disappointed God, how about spending your time musing over His amazing love which has provided complete and total pardon from all your sins.

Pastor Jim