Competition 

Jeremiah 39:18
“’For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,’ says the Lord.”

This promise was first given to a man from North Africa named Ebed-Melech. He was told that his life was like a prize, because he had put his trust in the Lord. It is quite common in Scripture for our lives to be compared to a competition. The New Testament compares the Christian life to a walk, a run, a race, a fight and even a battle. Jeremiah reminds us of one key ingredient of our training, if we want to win; Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian, trusted in the Lord.

Trusting the Lord suggests he did not buy into the popular teachings of the day. While the Word of God warned against sin, idolatry, and worldliness, the culture declared these things to be acceptable in the eyes of a loving God. While prosperity teaching filled the pulpits throughout Judah, the Word of God spoke of judgment coming upon His people, for abandoning the ways of God. Ebed-Melech chose to put his confidence in the Lord, rather than trusting in the popular teachings of his day.

While our lives are a competition, it is important to remember we do not compete against one another. I am not seeking to beat you to the finish line, storing up more eternal reward than you. We are competing together, and we must encourage one another. Just as Jeremiah shared the promises of God with Ebed-Melech, we should encourage each other with the written Word. As you pray for your friends and family, consider the Word of God; perhaps He would have you share a promise with them that would help them run in such a way as to win.

Pastor Jim

 

Avoiding Opposition 

Galatians 6:12
“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.”

fight.jpgGalatia was located northwest of Syria. It was a region consisting of such places as Tarsus, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. It was the location of Paul’s first missionary journey. As Paul and Barnabas traveled throughout Galatia preaching the Gospel, many trusted in Christ and churches were birthed. While nothing matches the thrill of seeing someone come to Christ, the preaching in Galatia came at a very high price. It was there, Paul was beaten and left for dead. Some suggest, the vision problems that plagued him, were a result of the severe beating he endured at the hands of those who rejected Christ. This persecution was initiated by the Jewish people who refused to accept that Jesus was the Christ. After Paul and Barnabas departed, these young Galatian converts were left to endure this hostility. They would be ridiculed, bullied, harassed, threatened and more, all because they were living in a way that was not deemed culturally acceptable.

Not long after Paul departed from Galatia, a group of men arrived from Jerusalem and gathered the churches together. Exploiting the fact they were from the church in Jerusalem, and claiming this as their authority, they instructed these new believers that they must observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. These laws included diet, days of worship and circumcision for all male believers. This message, while unbiblical, was widely accepted because it would cause the Christians to better fit into the culture.

We see much of the same things happening today. As Christians, we are constantly ridiculed by the media and seen as a group of backwards-thinking, intolerant, Bible-thumping simpletons who must be silenced. I heard a man say, the reason he did not accept the Bible’s viewpoint on marriage is because he is not from the past. This constant attack can become very tiring. When we are continually looked down upon and classified as intolerant extremists, we can grow weary, cower and even be tempted to alter the Word of God, in order to fit in. Just as Paul warned the Galatians against accepting the aberrant teaching of their day in order to avoid persecution, we must remain faithful to the teaching of the Word of God, even as we see hostility against it on the rise. Keep in mind,“the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for any who believe” (Romans 1:16). We are still seeing people’s lives transformed as they make decisions to follow Jesus.

Stay the course, keep the Word, follow Jesus, and let’s see Him transform our world, one person at a time.

Pastor Jim

 

 

What Went Wrong?

2 Samuel 6:16

“Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.”


Looking back on the history of Israel, there are certain days that stand out above others. The day Abraham received the covenant, the day Israel was set free from Egypt, and the day Joshua led the nation across the Jordan. These are but a few of the nation’s highlights. I don’t think it a stretch to add the day the Ark of the covenant was delivered to Jerusalem. This was a day of national celebration, including music, dancing, feasting and sacrifice. It seems the whole city turned out for this festive celebration. There was, no doubt, a buzz of excitement in the air as people celebrated the goodness of God, and made public confessions of faith. It is with this as a backdrop,that we read these awful words, “Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.”


Michal did not always feel this way. She was the princess, a daughter of Saul, who met David when he was a worship leader and a captain in the Israeli army. She let her feelings for him be known, and he risked his life on the battlefield to prove himself worthy of her hand in marriage. Their wedding day would be like a storybook romance, as the princess and the hero were married in the palace of the king. Sadly, the romance did not last. 


Webster defines the word despised as, “to look down on with contempt or aversion or to regard as negligible, worthless, or distasteful.” The Hebrew word is used to describe the way Goliath viewed David. This couple, who had once been madly in love with one another, now hated each other with a passion and could not stand the sight of one another. The exchange they shared is beyond cruel. David takes a shot at her family, while Michal accuses him of flaunting himself before the young women. What happened? What could ruin such an amazing love story? 


While I am sure there are many variables, one thing stands out for sure. Long before this event, David allowed the culture, rather than the Word of God, to influence the way he treated his wife. Culturally, it was expected for a king to have many wives. This was a sign of prestige and power. Biblically, it was commanded that an Israeli king have only one wife. David chose a worldly pattern for marriage. 


Today, it is not only uncommon, but illegal, to have more than one spouse, but the world’s model of marriage is still equally as destructive. It seems, today, marriage is looked at as unnecessary, temporary, and designed to bring personal satisfaction or happiness. As a result, many Christians are choosing not to marry, while behaving as a married couple. Others, are tossing in the towel, because they are no longer happy or satisfied. It is time we look beyond the world, and into the Word for the model of marriage. We will find that God has given specific tools which will ensure we forever remain “satisfied with the wife of our youth.”


For a deeper look at marriage, read Ephesians 5:21-33, 1Peter 3:1-12 and 1Corinthians 7.


Pastor Jim 


A Town Called Joppa

Acts 10:5
“Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.”

Joppa was a port city in Israel with a wealth of history. It serves as a powerful illustration of the heart of God for the world at large. Over 700 years before Peter slept on the rooftop of the tanner’s house, another famous character passed through Joppa. His name was Jonah, and he is infamous as Israel’s most reluctant prophet. Most of us are familiar with his story of disobedience. We read, he was commissioned by God to preach a message of mercy to Nineveh, but instead, he traveled to Joppa, boarded a ship, and attempted to run from God. His story is a fascinating one, as God goes to great lengths to win the heart of this wandering servant. One of the key lessons in Jonah is, God loves the world even when His people don’t.

Over 700 years later, we find another servant of God resting quietly in this same port city. While he sleeps, his world is interrupted with a vision form heaven. The vision was simple, but the message profound. He saw a sheet filled with all kinds of animals, which he was commanded to kill and eat. Peter’s initial response was to refuse, for many of the animals were in a category marked as “unclean” by old testament standards. His rebuke was met by a further command, “What I have cleansed do not call common.” While this passage is freeing the believer to eat whatever he wants, the message is much deeper. Peter needed to learn that the Gospel was intended for all people.

As he pondered the meaning of the message, a band of men arrived, inviting him to visit Cornelius, in the city of Caesarea. Peter would soon be faced with a great dilemma, he would stand at the threshold of the house of a gentile and have to decide whether, for the sake of the Gospel, he would put aside his cultural fears and enter a gentile home.

Cornelius and his family were loved by God and needed to hear the message of salvation in Christ. Peter, like Jonah before him, would have to set aside his own personal feelings for the sake of the kingdom of God.

All mankind is loved by God, and needs to hear the message of salvation found in Christ. It is time we set aside anything that keeps us from declaring the message of the cross to a dying world.

Pastor Jim