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Jeremiah 10:23
“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”

Human beings are the highest expression of God’s creative order. We have been fashioned in the image of God, and are fascinating creatures, with seemingly unlimited potential. We marvel at the animal creatures within the kingdom for achieving accomplishments like building their own homes, navigating their way back to the place of their birth, or working together as a pack to ward of a predator. But the achievements of human beings are so vast, they seem to be almost unlimited. I am sitting in my living room typing on a tablet with the capacity to not only store the information, but to send it around the world. At the same time, my wife is traveling across the country on an airplane. She had dinner in California and will have breakfast in Florida. In some ways, it seems, if we can think, it we can accomplish it.

All that being said, it is important to realize, when God created us, He did so with certain built in limitations designed to show us just how needy we actually are. With all our capabilities, we are not capable of going more than about a month without food, a few days without water, and a few minutes with air. We have physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs that must be met in order for us to survive. Jeremiah points out one of our needs that often goes unnoticed. He writes,

“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”

We do not have a built in homing beacon to always guides us in the right direction. We need a source outside ourselves to show us the difference between right and wrong, and to help lead us in making proper decisions. One of the great failures of the people of Jeremiah’s day is, they failed to recognize this and, as a result, chose to follow their hearts, which led them into sin and away from the blessing of God.

God has given us His Spirit and His Word to guide us through life. If we neglect the counsel of the Word of God, and only choose to do what we think is best, we will find we are continuously making decisions that will lead to our own hurt. This is not always immediately obvious. However, the longer we walk down that road, the farther we will get from the good ways of God.

Make it a habit to start your day by receiving counsel from God through His word. The Bible is so much more than a rule book, it is also a GPS designed to guide us through life.

Pastor Jim

The Branch

Isaiah 4:2
“In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped.”

_41153086_gallerytree.jpg“The Branch of the Lord” is a messianic title, meaning it is a description of Jesus our Savior. This phrase is used often by the prophets to speak of the work of Christ.

Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

Jeremiah 23:5: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

Jeremiah 33:15 ” In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. “

Zechariah 3:8 “For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.”

Jesus used this same imagery to refer to Himself and our relationship with Him, when He called Himself the Vine and us the branches. The basic idea being that there is life in Christ, and as long as we are attached to Him, we will experience His life giving power, and have a life filled with fruitfulness. As the chapter continues, Isaiah speaks of some of the fruit that stems from being in relationship with Christ.

First, he speaks of our sins being washed. Sin is what keeps us from God and from eternal life, and as such, is the primary need of man and purpose of God. Jesus came, not primarily to be our teacher, guide, or example, but to be a sacrifice sufficient to wash away all sin. We need Christ because sin keeps us from heaven.

Second,  he speaks of holiness. The fruit generated by relationship with God is a holy life. Holiness means to be set apart in life and service. A person who is holy is a person devoted to God, and seeking to live in a way that pleases Him. Some of the marks of holiness are commitment to live in light of the teachings of Scripture, commitment of personal, private, family, church, and social life to God. A willingness to offer your time, talents and treasures in the service of Christ.

Third,  Isaiah refers to blessings that flow into the life of those who are connected to the branch. We will experience the benefit of intimacy with God. His presence will be like a cloud and a fire. This, no doubt, takes us back to Israel in the wilderness, when the cloud of God’s presence guided them through the desert. We find them being led through difficult seasons, where their needs were supernaturally met by God, and His voice gave insight into heir situations.

What an amazing promise He has given us. In the midst of the spiritual, moral, and social confusion of Judah, God promises that His people can be linked to the Branch who gives life.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Horses And Mules 

Psalms 32:8-9
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.”

I am not a farmer, and do not have a lot of experience with either horses or mules. With my limited knowledge, I have observed, that bits are used in horses for an entirely different reason, than they are used in mules. Horses want to run free; they must be broken, and the harness and bit are to keep them from running off on their own. Mules are stubborn; they are not known for running off, but for standing still. The bit and harness are used on the mule to get them going. While I do not have a lot of familiarity with horses and mules, I have spent lots of time with Christians.  It seems to me, we are by nature, a lot like either the horse or the mule. Some of us have the tendency to run ahead. We are the self-reliant; the ones who are constantly thinking we can handle things, and forgetting our need to cling to the Lord. Others of us, are more mule-like. We are the ones who tend to sit back, always aware of our own weaknesses. Those weaknesses keep us from venturing out into what God would have us do.

The instruction the Lord gives David is for all of us. It does not matter what your natural tendencies are, we must learn not to trust in self, but to look to the Lord. God does not want to lead us as if we were a domesticated animal. Instead, He wants to lead us with His eye. That can mean one of two things. First, it can mean He is giving us signals with His eyes. My wife does that periodically. If we are in a group of people and she wants to talk to me, she may signal me with her eyes. The key is, I must be looking carefully at her to get it. God wants our eyes on Him. If we are going to be led by the Lord, our eyes must be fixed upon Him.

Second, the writer to the Hebrews stated,

” . . .looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

I think the illustration can mean something else as well. Guiding us with His eyes is only possible when we look at things through His eyes. I can remember sitting with some friends in the mountains on a clear night. The stars were so bright and vivid that our attention was drawn up. One of my friends is an amateur astronomer, so he began to explain the various constellations to us. I was having a very difficult time locating the beginning point of one of them, so he stood next to me and pointed up. I looked at the stars through His eyes and was able to see what he saw. To be guided with His eye,  is to look at things through God’s eyes. We do that by becoming familiar with His Word. We will only know what God thinks, when we spend time reading what He has to say. It has become all too common in our world, for us to imagine what God wants based upon personal experience, instead of looking into His Word, and seeing life through His eyes. Instead of looking at life through the eyes of culture, experience, trial, pain, sorrow, ambition, fear, want or worry, lets look at things through the eyes of God, and allow Him to lead us.

Pastor Jim

 

I Am With You

Matthew 28:19-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

IMG_1389As Matthew 28 opens, we find a few women on their way to Jesus’ grave-site. Filled with despair, questioning how they will get to the body to show their respect, they are met by an angelic messenger with the greatest news they had ever heard. Jesus had risen! Oh, how their hearts must have leapt within, as we read “they went out quickly filled with fear and great joy.” The hope that seemed lost at Calvary, was restored in the garden. Along with the promise that Christ was alive, came the commission, “go quickly and tell His disciple…” When the disciples met the risen Christ, the commission was repeated to them, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” The greatest promise was coupled with the great commission.

Just as the first followers of Jesus were commissioned to tell their world about the salvation available to man through Christ, so have we been commissioned to tell our world. As great as that news is, we often shrink back from declaring it. I am so glad the command to tell others is coupled with the promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” What great comfort, knowing that Jesus does not send us alone. He says when we go forth to tell others about Christ, or to show the love of Christ with a kind act or deed, or when we invite someone who has wandered from Christ to church, Jesus promises to be with us. Something caught my eye this morning concerning how Jesus assists us in this great commission.

“And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
Matthew 28:7

“He is going before you…” When we arrive at an opportunity to share Christ with others, it is critical that we recognize Jesus is with us, He is there to help, to direct our steps, and even our words. But it is also important to remember, He got there first. He is sending us into opportunities He orchestrated.

Keep in mind, as you go about your day, you have been divinely sent. God chose you for the encounters you will face because He wants to use your life experiences to have an impact upon the lives of others.

Pastor Jim