Silence In Heaven

Revelation 8:1
“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

Revelation 8 paints a sober picture and before the events unfold, Heaven goes silent for half an hour. These events are a series of judgments that are unleashed upon the earth. While it, no doubt, grieves the heart of God to judge the sinful men He sent His own Son to save, these judgments are released as the prayers of God’s people arise like incense before the throne of God.

Revelation 8:3-4 “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”

For thousands of years, the hearts of God’s children have been crying out against the injustices of men. In war-torn parts of the world, men’s hearts cry out; they are saddened and exhausted by constant uprisings, as others vie for power, position or wealth. They are weary of watching their sons and daughter die. They are weary of losing their freedom to share Christ with their neighbors and friends. They are weary of the persecutions that rise against them. Their hearts cry out to heaven, where their prayers become like sweet incense before the throne of God. In peaceful parts of the world, men’s hearts cry out against injustice and immorality. They are tired of wickedness running rampant; tired of evil being called good and good, evil. Tired of hearing of millions of wombs being assaulted and babies aborted. As their hearts cry out, they too, become like sweet incense arising to the throne of God.

Revelation 8:5 “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”

All that follows, is the just recompense of living sin-filled lives. All the injustice that man has brought upon man will one day be reckoned, as God righteously deals with the sins of man. While my heart and yours echo these cries for justice, we are all guilty of committing the very injustices we cry to be made right. Fortunately, there is a glorious escape from the judgement provided in the cross. Every heart that cries out for His mercy will be pardoned from all sin and escape the righteous judgment to come.

Pastor Jim

 

Mighty Things 

Jeremiah 33:3
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Each stage of life takes us down a road we have never traveled before. When I was first married, I had never been a husband and Kristie had never been a wife, when our son was born we had never been parents, and with each additional child, we had never met them before their birth. As they grew, we had to grow alongside them, facing each stage of their life for the first time. One of the great truths that guided us along this journey is recorded in this verse by Jeremiah. God makes a simple promise, that if we take it  to heart, and apply it  to life, we will begin to realize the sweet intimacy He desires to have with us.

Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

The first thing I notice is the promise is conditional. That means the promise will not be granted, unless a basic condition is met. The condition is quite simple, we must call upon the Lord. Years later, and in very different circumstances, James recorded a similar promise when he wrote, “you have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). In both cases, we find the solution is hidden with God and is accessed through simple prayer. God desires to intervene in our lives and provide what is lacking. The problem is, we often neglect to ask God, or we become impatient and expect His answer in our timing.

The second thing I notice is, the promise is in two parts. God not only promises to answer, He also promises to show us certain things. He calls the things He wants to show us ‘great and mighty things which you do not know.’ The idea is, God not only wants to answer the questions life throws at us, but He wants to do it in a way that teaches us things about Himself. As we go through life, we try to avoid any circumstances that would make us dependent upon God. We are careful to maintain our health, store up adequate savings for emergencies, and plan for retirement. When something interrupts our plans, it often sends us spinning out of control. We wonder where God is or how He could love us and allow such a thing. What we are often forgetting is that God wants to teach us eternal things, He will sometimes interrupt our comforts, in order to teach us great and mighty things about Himself. I have often wondered, if we were to ask Daniel about the worse day of His life, if he would tell us about the day he was arrested and thrown to the lions. That certainly sounds like a bad day. I wonder if we asked about His best day, if he would tell us about the time God sent His angels and protected him from the lions. Without that trial, Daniel would never have learned of the great and mighty things of the Lord.

Whatever you are facing today, look up, and call out to God for help and instruction.

Pastor Jim

 

Wrong Number 

Isaiah 15:2
“He has gone up to the temple and Dibon, to the high places to weep. Moab will wail over Nebo and over Medeba; On all their heads will be baldness, And every beard cut off.”

Isaiah describes the fall of Moab. He explains that it will be devastating and it will take place very soon. While this is clearly a divine prophecy which will include specific details, including the time in which this fall will take place, it did not come without warning. The Assyria troops were marching throughout the region and conquering all who opposed them. Since Moab was no match for Assyria, it was inevitable,  they would soon be overthrown. I am struck by their reaction to these warning signs.

“He has gone up to the temple and Dibon, to the high places to weep…”

Knowing things were falling apart, the people became religious. They inundated the temples, made offerings, and cried out in prayer. The problem is, they were crying out to a god who could not help them, for he was the creation of their own hearts, minds and culture.

It is common today, on a personal and even a national scale, for people to cry out to God when things begin to go wrong. Whenever someone is hit by tragedy or personal difficulty, their prayer life begins to soar, and in some cases, they even make their way into a church. We see this happen on a large scale whenever a community, state, or nation is struck with calamity. The problem is, people often cry out to the god of their imagination, instead of bowing to the true and living God. A god we fashion after our own design, is not a god who is able to assist us when our world falls apart. There was help available for Moab.  Had they turned to YHWH, they would have been delivered just as Judah was. There is help for you and me if we will turn to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Facing Giants 

2 Chronicles 14:11
“And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, ‘ Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!’”


King Asa, and the nation of Judah, were facing an obstacle much too great for them to overcome. An army from North Africa numbering over a million soldiers, had gathered to fight against them. Knowing their own resources were inadequate for the challenge, Asa cried out to the Lord for assistance. From his prayer we learn four important principles.

First, when facing challenges, the right thing to do is to go to the Lord. Instead of thinking we can handle it on our own or blaming God for the difficulty, we should cry out to God for help. He is, after all, a present help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Second, God is not limited by our limitations. It is no more work for God to aid Asa’s small army, than it would be to aid a massive army. The limits of man do not limit God. He is only limited when we do not trust Him and fail to cry out for His help.

Third, in the midst of their trial Asa declared they would rest in the Lord. Instead of allowing the uncertainty of circumstances to fill us with anxiety, fret, and fear, we should turn to the the Rock, and trust in His provision and care. No matter how turbulent the waters may get, we can always rest in the Lord.

Finally, they went forward declaring “. . .in Your name we GO. . .” They knew they had been called to move forward, rather than turn back. The book of Hebrews declares that we are not those who turn back. No matter what challenges you might be facing, the answer is found in moving forward with the Lord, rather than turning back.

Pastor Jim

 

Trust Him

1 Chronicles 5:20
“And they were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them, for they cried out to God in the battle. He heeded their prayer, because they put their trust in Him.”

This passage reminds us that, in ministry, it is not our natural ability, but the enabling of God that is required for service in the kingdom. In the verses leading up to this, we find the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Mannasseh combined to form an army of nearly forty-five thousand men, but it was not their size that gave them success. These men are described as valiant and capable, but it was not their bravery, ingenuity, creativity or vision that led to their victory. Instead, we find they were victorious because they cried out to God in battle,and they trusted in Him.

I think it was their trust in the Lord that allowed them to enter the battle in the first place. Many times in scripture, history, and in the church today, we find believers hiding, or even running from the battle. How refreshing it is when we see, hear, or read of someone who is willing to step out in faith and go where the Lord is calling them. I recently spoke with a man who led a team of musicians into a war torn part of the Middle East. They were not soldiers, they had little military training, but they went out armed with nothing more than the Spirit, and the Word of God. Not only did they have an impact upon those they sought to reach, but their story has been inspiring other missionaries to take steps of faith into the call of God.

I think it is also worth noting, that they cried out to God in the battle. Sometimes, spiritual warfare can come upon us unexpectedly. We might suddenly be faced with fear, anger, agitation or some great level of temptation. We learn from this passage that victory can be attained when we will cry out in the middle of the battle. Remember Samson? It was while being mocked by the Philistines and with blinded eyes he cried out to God and had a great victory. Even when the arrows are flying, it is not too late to cry out to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Heart’s Cry 

Psalm 84:1-2
“How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Since we have been created by God, and in the image of God, it is natural for the heart to cry out for God. Every heart makes this cry. All over the world, and throughout time, people have been observing and realizing, there is more to life than what the eye can see. This has caused man to look up to the heavens and cry out for God.

Sometimes, the cry for God is magnified by the experiences of life. Even those who claim not to be religious, or to believe in God, will face tragedies that cause them to look up and cry out. We have all heard our hearts cry out in pain, confusion, anger, and frustration. However, the Psalmist is speaking of a different type of crying out to the Lord. It is not the cry of pain or confusion, but the cry of a longing heart. The Psalmist is hungry for more of the Lord. It is as though He has tasted of the goodness of the Lord and is longing for more.

Do you know the sound of a hungry heart, crying out for another drink of living water, or another touch from the Savior’s loving hand? Is it possible to develop a hungry heart? I believe it is. The Psalmist declares the fellowship he desires is not exclusive to him alone, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” Psalms 84:3

All of us are welcome before the altars of the Lord. As we spend time there, we will see a hunger for Him birthed within our hearts. This hunger, when fed with the Word and watered with worship, will increase to become a longing of the heart. As we daily spend time feeding upon the Lord, an interesting paradox develops within us. We find we long for other things less, and for the Lord a whole lot more. The appetite of our sinful nature decreases, as our appetite for the Lord increases. That is why we are encouraged to, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Spending time at the altars of God will not only develop a hunger within us for more of the Lord, it will also lead to the blessed life. The Psalmist continues, “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You. Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” Psalms 84:4-5

The more we frequent the altars of God, the more we will find a hunger for Him develop within us. As we feed this hunger with the Word of God, we will find our life being transformed into what God has always intended it to become. It won’t be long before we are joining the Psalmist, declaring how our hearts cry out for more of the Living God.

Pastor Jim

 

The Hearts Cry 

Psalm 27:4 
One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, . . .”

Did you ever have that daydream, as a kid, where you found the magic lamp, and the genie promised to grant your wish, no matter how outlandish it may be? Imagine what it would be like if God appeared to you, declaring He would give you whatever you asked for. How would you respond? What would you ask from the King of Kings.

The Bible records the stories of a few men who actually had that experience. God asked them what they wanted, and granted their request. Solomon, the son of David, after receiving the kingdom from his Father, was overwhelmed by the task of ruling the nation. While seeking God for direction, he had a fascinating dream. In Solomon’s dream, the Lord appeared, explaining that he would be given anything he wanted. Solomon’s response was for a heart that would listen to God, and wisdom to rule the people. During the ministry of Jesus, he encountered two blind men outside the city of Jericho. Upon hearing that Jesus was passing by, they cried out for help. Jesus responded to their cry with a question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Their response was foreseeable, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”

Here we find David giving his unsolicited response to the question. He declares that if he could have anything from the Lord, it would be to dwell in the presence of the Lord all the days of His life. More than riches, wisdom, health, power, or prestige, the heart of David cried out simply for more of the Lord. David was not alone in this cry, Paul declared; “. . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, . . .” (Philippians 3:10). Like David, Paul’s heart cried out to know Jesus better. It could be argued, the greatest hero of the Old Testament was David; and of the New Testament, Paul.

David was known as a man after God’s heart, who led the nation to the pinnacle of godliness, prosperity and success. Paul, after a remarkable conversion experience, became the greatest evangelist, and pioneer of the Gospel the church had ever seen. He was responsible for writing at least thirteen New Testament books, and carried the Gospel across the Roman Empire. I think a case could be made that the reason for their success, above their contemporaries, had to do with the desire of their hearts. They longed, not for riches or reward, but for more of Christ. What is your heart’s cry? No matter what it might be, there is nothing greater than to cry for more of Jesus.

Psalms 27:8 “When You said, ‘Seek My face’ My heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’”

Pastor Jim

 

Cry Out 

Judges 3:9
“When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them…”

As I read through the book of Judges, I am confronted with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is a sad and tragic story of repeated failure. Over and over, we are told of the compromise of the people of God, and the suffering they experienced as a result. We are told, much of the reason for their repeated failure, was that they did not know how to fight. Instead of realizing they were facing spiritual battles, and engaging in conflict against compromise, they simply gave in. Judges records the story of failure which is often repeated today.

On the other hand, this book fills me with hope. Eight times, in eight different settings, we read of Israel “crying out to the Lord.” Each time, they were crying from a condition of self-inflicted suffering. They refused to listen to the Word of God, got involved with people and practices that were sinful, and suffered the inevitable consequences. Yet, in their suffering, they cried out to God, and He was faithful to come to their aid, and raise up a deliverer.

We should be greatly encouraged by this. If we are honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge we are a lot more like Israel than we wish. The temptations that surround us have too often ensnared us. We find we are entangled with the same sins from which we were once delivered. If that is the case, cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Jesus promised another Helper to aid the believer in His walk through this life. That Helper is the Spirit of God, who wants to give us the power to overcome those easily besetting sins.

Will you cry out to Him today?

Pastor Jim

 

He Heard My Cry

Exodus 3:7
“And the Lord said, ‘ I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.’”

IMG_1385Since the incarnation, this is all the more true. He has seen oppression with the eyes of man. He watched the brutal way in which men oppressed men. He saw tax collectors steal from men, to support their sinful lifestyles, soldiers abuse their authority, instilling fear in the people, and religious leaders manipulate the people, to gain power over their lives and attain positions of prominence.

With His ears, He has heard the cries of men. He heard the cry of the widow, whose son had died, the leper who pleaded for a healing touch, and the publican, who cried out for mercy. He also heard the cries as the mob, who exalted Him as Lord one day, only to demand His death a few days later.

He also knows our sorrows . He sat with friends who lost their brother, and wept alongside them. More than knowing our sorrows as a comforter, He knows them as a victim. He learned first hand, the pain of betrayal, rejection, and hatred. His back felt the searing pain of the Roman whip, His brow the thorns, His hands and feet the nails. He knew the disgust of being spat upon, ridiculed and falsely accused. Yet he remained silent before His accusers, as he endured the cross and despised its shame.
As we face the pain, sorrow, and difficulty of life, and are tempted to raise accusations against God that he does not care or understand, remember, He not only sees with a watchful eye of heaven, but He, Himself, bore our sorrows and is acquainted with our grief.

Pastor Jim