Who Is Afflicted 

Job 6:14
“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

Life is filled with opportunities to minister to hurting people. Sometimes these hurts are caused by the unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances, other times they are self inflicted. Regardless of the cause we are all surrounded with opportunities to “strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.”

In the midst of his pain filled trial, Job gives an insight that will help each of us do a better Job “comforting the fainthearted and upholding the weak.” He pleads with his friends to show him kindness.

One of the chief character traits in the life of Jesus was his compassion. He was not quick to be judge and jury of a person’s actions but to show forth His loving kindness and care. We see this on multiple occasions. We observe Him stretching forth His hand to touch a leper, providing food for the hungry masses and extending mercy to the woman caught in adultery. It is clear that although Jesus knew their sin, He wanted to emphasize His grace.

Imagine what it must have been like for Job. He lost his family, livelihood and health. His wife who had been his companion is so overcome with grief that she begins to become filled with bitter anger. Now his friends who came to comfort him put him under the microscope and begin to examine his every action. Instead of seeking to come alongside and build him up they determine their role is to correct his actions.

While I understand there is a time for correction and even for rebuke it is also important to remember it is the task of the Holy Spirit to convict and correct and the role of the believer is to love. The more we show kindness to the hurting the greater chance they will have of being freed from the miry clay that is bogging them down.

Jim

 

Count On The Promises Of God

Psalm 108:12
“Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.”


David knew what it was like to receive help from others. One of the greatest stories in the Bible speaks of a time when he was so deeply discouraged that he felt as though there was no hope. It was into that scene that his friend Jonathan appeared and “strengthened David’s hands in the Lord.” In another place, David famously wrote

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

Clearly the king knew the value of fellowship and had often experienced the help of man. It might seem almost contradictory then for him to speak of man’s assistance being useless. However I think we have all known times in our life where we appreciate the kindness of others but have found their words to be too weak to actually provide us with the help we need. There are situations in life that create a hurt so deep that only the Words of God Himself can bring us the comfort and hope we need. I am so glad that the promises of God were designed for seasons in life like that. When all else fails it is good to know that the promises of God are always yes and amen and that there is no force in heaven or earth that is strong enough to break them. Jesus said that a day will come when heaven and earth will pass away, yet not even the smallest marking within His promises will fail.

Whatever circumstances you are facing you can count on the promises of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Friendship

Numbers 25:1-3
“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.”

A dangerous and all too common cycle is exposed in these verses. Some of the men of Israel were drawn into unhealthy relationships, which led to ungodly practices. Their sin led them out from under the blessings of God and into a place where they were chastened by the Lord. Unhealthy relationships are one of the chief causes of sin throughout Israel’s history. Whenever they were drawn to the nations around them, it was not long before they were involved in the practices of those nations. After years of this cycle repeating itself, Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

There is another cycle that we also see repeated in Scripture and in life. When a person chooses to surround himself with those who are committed to, and living for, the Lord, he will find that he grow more quickly and serve more faithfully. Joshua found that to be true by spending time with Moses, David was bettered by his relationship with Jonathan, Timothy developed into a mighty man of God, through the time he spent with Paul.

The relationships we choose to invest in are the ones that will forge us into the person we become. While it is true that we live in the world, and God wants to use us to bring others to himself, it is also true that many Christians have slipped away from the Lord because of the worldly friendships they have chosen to keep. If you are involved in a relationship that is pulling you away from the Lord, perhaps it is time to establish some new relationships, with those who are committed to following after and serving Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Burden Bearer 

Exodus 28:12
“And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.”

When I am deciding on what to wear, one of the key factors is comfort. I have owned clothing that fit and might even have looked nice, but I rarely ever wore, because it simply was not comfortable. I imagine if I had a coat with two large stone shoulder pads, it would not be my first choice for a Sunday service.

When it came to the clothing of the priests, comfort was not the goal. Instead, their clothing was designed for symbolism. Every article they wore spoke volumes regarding God and the ministry. One of the most telling pieces was the stone shoulder pads with the names of the tribes engraved upon them. Each morning, when the priests suited up, they were reminded that they carried the burdens of the people into the presence of the Lord. I cannot think of a better way to illustrate the need for, and value of, intercessory prayer, than a man carrying the names of his friends and family members on his shoulders.

The New Testament reminds us to bear one another’s burdens. This can be accomplished by entering the Throne of Grace on behalf of another and praying for the things which are weighing down their lives. When a friend is struggling with loss, sickness, confusion, or any other of a long list of things that tend to weigh upon us, we can ease their burden with intercession.

Take some time to make a list of people close to you and begin to carry their burdens into the presence of God. You will be amazed by how much you begin to care about them, as well as seeing how God intervenes in their lives.

Pastor Jim

Watchman 

Ezekiel 3:17

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me”

A watchman bore the responsibility of keeping an eye on the horizon, in order to warn the inhabitants of the city of any possible threats to their safety. He would be strategically placed on the highest point of the city wall, where he would have the best vantage point to observe the surroundings. A watchman, who failed to do his job, might be responsible for countless lost lives. Ezekiel uses the role of the watchman to teach us something about evangelism. There are three things we need to keep in mind.

First, it is necessary for us to remember that each person is responsible to make his own decision for Christ. Each individual must choose for himself to surrender to Christ. I cannot choose for another, nor can he choose for me.

Second, while we cannot make a decision for others, we can have an impact upon the decision they make. A watchman could not make the people bar the gates or draw their weapons, but he could clearly warn them of the dangers that were ahead. In the same way, while each person must decide for Christ, we can help them make that decision by sharing the gospel, praying for them, inviting them to church, and seeking in every way possible to let our light shine before men.

Third, it is important that we see our witness as bigger than a tool to win the lost. Ezekiel was exhorted to warn the righteous and the unrighteousness alike. Christians are constantly under pressure to compromise, backslide, give up or give in. As a result, we are in constant need of encouragement. We are exhorted to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen the hands that hang down, and to pray for one another. We need to look at one another in the body of Christ as those who are in need of help and encouragement to continue.

Christianity is a race, but it is not a game. If we are going to be successful, we need to take our role seriously and realize God has strategically placed us so we might have an effect on others for eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

That’s Refreshing 

Philemon 1:7

“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”

The world honors men for many reasons. We have a Hall of Fame for most sporting endeavors. Men’s lives are immortalized for throwing a ball, riding a wave, or taking a punch. What an amazing thing it must be for a living legend to see a bronze statue of himself outside a stadium, or a street in his home town, named after him. Here, in our text, we find God is immortalizing the actions of a man named Philemon. In it we learn something very important about the economy of God.

“. . . the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”

While we do not know a lot about this man, we do know his life was a source of encouragement for others. There are many things in life that can tear us down, wear us out, or discourage us from continuing to follow and serve Christ. However, there are also many things that can build us up and keep us going. What a blessing it is, when we find a man like Philemon who will refresh our hearts.

We are not told exactly how he did that, but a story from the life of David may shed a little light on how we can refresh the hearts of one another. The Bible tells us, David became discouraged. After being called by God and used by God, as a general and a worship leader, David was forced to flee like a fugitive, from the increasing threats of King Saul. He left his wife, home, friends and ministry. He was forced to hide away in one of the many caves in the Judean wilderness. At times, the difficulties of his life took their toll on David, and he became discouraged. On one such occasion, we are told he received a visit from his friend, Jonathan, who “strengthened his hands in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16) A phrase that is synonymous with the “the hearts of the saints are refreshed by you”

The question is, how did Jonathan refresh David’s heart or strengthen his hands? The story, told in 1 Samuel, explains that Jonathan simply reminded David of the promises found in the Word of God. Saddened, overwhelmed, defeated and afraid, David heard the great and precious promises of the Scripture and was suddenly strengthened from within. He was not alone in this experience. When Daniel was weakened by seeing the direction the world was taking, moving farther and farther from God, we are told, he heard God speak and was strengthened and rose to his feet to continue the task to which he was called.

If you find yourself weary, you may need a nap, a Sabbath, or a vacation, but you also need to sit down with the promises of God and allow him to refresh your heart. If you see someone else who is worn out, instead of rehearsing with them how unfair or difficult things may be, remind them of the promises of God, and watch as their hands are strengthened in the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Did You Hear That?

Titus 2:1
“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine”

The purpose of the teachings of God’s Word is not simply information. We should not expect a test when we arrive in heaven or a pop quiz along the way. Instead, we learn the Word so we might behave right. Sound doctrine must lead us to sound living. Elsewhere, we read of the doctrine that accords with godliness. When our understanding of God is correct, we will worship, live, act, react and speak in ways that are pleasing to God. Here, Paul exhorts Titus to speak properly. While proper speaking would include praise, evangelism, and encouraging others, it also avoids gossip, slander, backbiting and complaining. Paul is referring specifically to the things Titus would be teaching within the church. He divides the body into groups based upon age, gender and vocation; encouraging proper behavior from each of them.

It is clear from this chapter that Paul expected believers to minister to believers. Titus would be responsible for teaching the people, the people would be responsible to minister to one another, and to share Christ with others. A couple of key principles of ministry are woven through the text.

First, Paul exhorted the older believers to minister to younger ones. That is, those who have walked with the Lord and gone through the experiences of life, should be seeking to assist those who are new to the faith, or not as far along on the journey. What a blessing it is when those who have raised their families, now serve in Children’s Ministry, assisting the children of the young families. It is such a benefit when a more mature believer takes the time to disciple a younger Christian; investing time by taking them into the Word and prayer.

Second, Paul reminds us that the way we live will either impede or empower the things we share. He warns of the Word of God being blasphemed by wrong behavior. The gospel message cannot be communicated without words. Paul asked the Romans “how will they hear without a preacher?” We must courageously share Christ with our friends, family and co-workers, but words alone are not enough, we must live it. The world wants to see Christianity, not just hear about it. They should see it in the way we treat them, each other, and especially our families. Paul speaks of the relationship between the young husband and wife. When that relationship is godly, others will be attracted to the Lord.

Finally, Paul wrote, women should minister to women, and men to men. That is a pretty good rule of thumb for ministry. I think it is a good idea for men to get plugged into men’s groups, and women into the women’s study. While we can grow without personal relationships, it is my experience that our growth is enhanced when we take the time to establish relationships with others of the same gender, and dig into the Word together.

Pastor Jim