Plan Ahead 

Isaiah 47:1
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.”

Sitting in the dust, like wearing sackcloth or throwing dirt in the air was a sign of mourning. It was not uncommon in the ancient world for a person stricken with grief to express it outwardly. Those who lost a loved one, or were burdened by personal sin were easily identifiable to the people around them.

At the time Isaiah is writing Babylon was on its way to becoming the most powerful and wealthiest nation of that era. They will soon topple Assyria and spread their empire from Iraq to Egypt. While on the rise it is often difficult to see our need for Christ so Isaiah takes them to the future when their nation, like all nations before them would fall. He describes a coming time when their mothers, wives and children will become captives and their land destroyed.

It seems that today a great emphasis is placed on planning ahead. I recently saw an advertisement for retirement planning that used blocks to show the value of starting now and setting a little aside each month for the future. While I am certain there is wisdom in planning for retirement their is even greater wisdom in planning for eternity. The first step involves turning to the Lord and away from a lifestyle that is unacceptable to Him.

How sad for the Babylonians who ignored the warnings of the word and continued on a path that led to their own destruction.

Jim

 

Glamping 

Exodus 25:2
“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

A few years ago I heard a word I had never heard before, or ever dreamed could be real. That word was “glamping.” “Glamping,” according to the urban dictionary, is “a form of glamorous camping done by urban types.” Those who “glamp” turn tents into elaborate structures with all the comforts of home. Once inside the tent, you are sure to forget you are in the wild. Of all the glamorous tents ever constructed by these wanna be campers, none could compare in beauty or cost to the Tabernacle Israel built in the wilderness. At the current value of an ounce of gold, the Tabernacle would have cost more than $50 million just in materials. The question is, where did all that money come from?

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

Moses laid out the building plans for the Tabernacle, then instructed the people to go home and consider what part they would play in the construction of the Tabernacle. Each family was to prayerfully consider their financial condition, in light of the work that God wanted to do. In the end, the people were to give willingly to the work.

I am sure many factors were considered as families got together to examine their finances. They needed to look at their net worth, what expenses they had to cover, and to keep in mind that the future was unknown, and they could not be certain what kind of provision was around the corner. I am sure, in addition to looking at their needs, they also considered some wants. If they gave to the work of the Lord, that would mean they had less to spend on pleasure, amusement or vacations. Another factor they needed to consider, was that by giving to the Lord, they were giving to something bigger than themselves; a work that would continue long after they were gone. So much of our expenses are spent on things that don’t last, giving to the Tabernacle was giving to something that would be used for the furtherance of the kingdom for years to come.

When considering your finances, and what to do with them, it is important to carefully examine what you have, but it is also important to consider what kind of lasting impact you are making for the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is time to prayerfully consider what investments you are making in the furtherance of the Gospel.

Pastor Jim

Prosperous

Habakkuk 3:17-18
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

It is not uncommon today, to hear messages in the church making it sound as though walking with Jesus will mean we will no longer face difficulty, and our life will be filled with increase. This teaching is referred to as “prosperity doctrine”, and while catchy, it is clearly not Biblical. The saints of old did not expect to walk through life without trial, difficulty or opposition. Instead, they expected that in he midst of whatever life threw at them, they would find help, comfort, consolation and strength from the Lord. Perhaps no one more clearly expresses this than the prophet, Habakuk. He paints the darkest picture a farmer could ever imagine and declares, in spite of it all, he would continue to rejoice in the God of his salvation.

Clearly, the prophet considered life to be much more than the temporal successes or failures we experience here. He looked beyond the hardships of life into the face of eternity, and celebrated the fact that a day would come when this life would reach its end and he would be face to face with the God of salvation. Often, we lose sight of God because we are focused only upon the here and now. We forget, the real reason Christ came was not to make this life better, but to prepare us for the life to come. The trials and triumphs we experience here are only truly understandable when we keep in mind, we will soon be standing in eternity.

If we are only following the Lord in hopes of larger flocks and crops, we are on a course   destined for disappointment. We are certain to become disillusioned the first time we face a trial, or come up against a hardship that is designed to get our eyes on eternity. Instead of looking to Jesus to make you more successful, look to Him to make you more holy.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s All Mine 

Obadiah 1:17
“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”

When Abraham was first called by God, he was given great and precious promises. He was told he would become a great nation, possess a great land, and provide a blessing for all nations. While these promises were fulfilled to a limited degree, Israel never experienced their fullness. We might say, they failed to ever really possess their possessions. When Joshua led the people into the land to take occupancy, he heard the Lord say,

“Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1

After years of living in the Promised Land, Israel had yet to experience all God had for them.

Many Christians do the same thing. While we might experience conversion, we neglect to move very far beyond that and find we haven’t really experienced the fulness of our salvation. We, like Israel, fail to possess our possessions; but what are these possessions?

First, we possess the forgiveness of sin. Without coming to Christ for forgiveness, we are not a Christian. However, the moment we will lay down our pride and confess our sins and need for Christ to save us, we are washed in the blood of the lamb and become a child of God. That being said, it is important to realize there is much more to the Christian life than forgiveness. We are also promised victory over sin. In other words, we do not have to live constantly falling back into the same sins over and over again. Paul wrote,

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

And

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:12

Beyond that, the Bible also promises the believer will be given power to effectively serve the King of Kings. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were equipped by God to impact the world for the kingdom of heaven. Each of these individuals did so because they were willing to move on from forgiveness to service. I think a valid question to ask yourself is, “What have I done for the Kingdom of God?” If you have no answer or the answer causes you to look back in time, then you are failing to possess your possessions. It is high time we start investing in the Kingdom, after all, we will be spending eternity there.

Pastor Jim

 

Prepared 

Amos 4:12
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Whenever a big event is on the horizon, it is a good idea to spend the necessary time preparing for it. Every year the women’s ministry at our church has a mid-summer luncheon. If you were to wander onto the campus you would see the place decorated to the hilt. Every table, backdrop, wall covering and notebook fits within the overall motif, and the place always looks amazing. It would be clear, even to the most casual observer, that lots of planning and preparation had gone into this particular day.

Amos speaks of an event far more important than any luncheon, vacation, or travel destination. Amos speaks of us preparing for the unavoidable day when we will all come face to face with the Lord. No matter what your personal beliefs might be, the Bible assures us, everyone will stand before the throne of God, when this life comes to an end. The question is, have you done what is necessary in order to be prepared?  Jesus told two parables to illustrate the preparations necessary to be ready to face God.

First, He told the story of 10 bridesmaids who were awaiting the arrival of the groom. They were told to fill their lamps with oil as the awaited his coming. Five of these young women prepared themselves, and when He arrived they were welcomed into the celebration. The other five failed to do what was necessary, and were forbidden entrance (Matthew 25:1-15). The one thing that prepared these women for the coming of the groom was a lamp filled with oil. Biblically speaking, oil is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying, the way to be ready to face the Lord is to be born of the Spirit; which happens when we trust in Christ for salvation.

Jesus went on to tell another story. This time He spoke of a king who gave varying sums of money to there different individuals. The first and second took the funds and made investments with it, the third hid the money out of fear of losing it. When the king returned he commended the first two and rebuked the third, for failing to prepare (Matthew 25:15-28). The illustration is quite clear. We prepare for eternity by making eternal investments. Jesus called this storing up treasures in heaven; which is done by using our time, talents and treasures in he service of the Lord.

One day time will run out for all of us. It is important that we prepare in advance for the day when we will come face to face with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Be Prepared 

1 Timothy 6:7
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Famous American inventor and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with saying, “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.” It seems we spend much of our time, effort, and energy, trying to avoid these things, rather than preparing for them. Some of us will exercise regularly, change our diet, and get regular checkups with our family doctor, in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Others, will avoid any thought whatsoever of death or dying, and live this life as though it will last forever. Some, might have a risk-it-all attitude, where they live life on the edge, while others will attempt to amass as much stuff in this life as possible. Remember the mantra “He who dies with the most toys wins”?While I am not suggesting that eating healthy or enjoying life are bad ideas, I am saying, attempts to avoid or ignore death, are not nearly as important as attempts to prepare for it.

Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Jesus explained the folly of living for this life only. He reminds us that all we have acquired in this life, is subject to theft or decay. Not long ago, a water line under our house sprung a leak and ruined the flooring in our living room. I can remember the excitement on my wife’s face when the floor was first laid. While we knew it would not last forever, neither of us thought it would go so quickly. Life is like that, we live as though things will continue on forever, not because evidence suggests it, but because we do not want to face the reality that we are temporal beings with a shelf life. All of us must take seriously the words of the Apostle, realize the brevity of life, and prepare for eternity.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

While it is true we can take nothing with us, we certainly can send things on ahead. Jesus maitained, we can store up treasures in heaven. We are all taking a trip one day into the unknown, to a destination where we have never traveled. While we cannot know everything we will face when we arrive, we can prepare in advance for our destination. Step one is to receive Christ; He alone is the way into heaven. Step two, get to know His Word, and live for the things that will outlast this life. The Bible teaches us there are only three things which are eternal: God, His Word, and the souls of men. If we want to live for that which will outlast this life, we must put Jesus first, get to know Him through the pages of our Bible, and seek to impact as many as possible for the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Setting Things In Order

Isaiah 38:1
“In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'”

When Hezekiah heard the report that his condition was terminal, and death was knocking at his door, he immediately began to pray. His prayer recounted the way he had lived his life in commitment to the Lord. All that was left was to beseech the mercy of God, for an extension of days.

The phrase used to report the physical condition of the king has become well known. It is used commonly for those who are facing terminal illness. When medical science reaches its end, a person is encouraged to set their house in order. Often, that means little more than saying a proper goodbye, and making sure those who are left are cared for financially. Certainly, Isaiah had much more than that in mind when he approached the king with the dire news of his life coming to its end.

To properly set our house in order we must prepare for eternity, and prepare those we leave behind for life. We do this by receiving Christ, committing ourselves to Him, living to store up treasures in heaven, and setting a pattern for future generations to follow. The best way to set our house in order, is to consider our spiritual condition before  death looms at our door. Begin today to examine your life. Are you prepared to face the judge of your soul? Have you set a godly example for your children, and their children after them, to mimic? If not, why not start today? Take the appropriate time to confess your sins, and commit your ways to Christ.

Pastor Jim