Inquire Of God

1 Kings 22:7-8
“And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?’So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say such things!’”

Syrian forces occupied land that belonged to Israel and Ahab was determined to get it back. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, arrived for a visit, Ahab seized the opportunity to enlist Judah as an ally in his campaign against Syria. Not wanting to bring his people into an unnecessary war, Jehoshaphat wanted to take a moment to hear from the Lord, so he asked to hear from a prophet. Ahab paraded a host of prophets before the king who all declared victory in battle. The problem was, they were not prophets of God, but were a variety of fetish priests who worshiped idols. Jehoshaphat objected to their counsel and sought to hear the Word of God. It is here where the true heart of Ahab is revealed. He declares,

“There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

The king of Israel had no interest in hearing the truth. In fact, as the story unfolds, we find that Micaiah will be thrown in prison for speaking the word of God. Ahab’s desire was to silence anyone who did not declare the truth as he saw it.

What a sad parallel to much of what we see happening in our world today. We have accepted a worldview where tolerance is the highest form of morality. We are required to accept the choices people make as though every choice was equal, and those who would dare speak out against certain behaviors as immoral, are immediately silenced. The approach of silencing the word of God was not good for Ahab and Israel, and it will not turn out positively for us either.

Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pastor Jim

 

Broken Compass

Judges 19:1
“And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote mountains of Ephraim. He took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.”

The closing chapters of Judges paint a dark picture of life in ancient Israel. We read of drunkenness, murder, rape, idolatry, spiritual confusion and moral indifference. It seems  the people have lost their moral compass and are allowing their desires to determine right from wrong. This was never the way God intended for man to live. From the very beginning, God gave man an external code to guide him through life, and that code is the Word of God. When the Word of God is forgotten, ignored, hidden or altered, it always leads to spiritual confusion, immorality and suffering.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, if man is to be truly free, he must establish a standard outside of himself that will help guide him through life. He declared that allowing our emotions or desires to rule our life will never lead to true freedom. While he did not see the Bible as the standard, he did understand that man, left to himself, cannot rule himself well.

It seems that, today, we have ignored the warnings or Scripture and the counsel of the wise. It seems the world we live in today, is a lot more like the time of the judges, than anyone cares to admit. If we want to see a change, we must get back to the way God intended for man to live, not doing whatever is right in our own eyes, but allowing His Word to guide our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

For Or Against 

Ezekiel 21:3
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.'” 

Paul penned some of the most encouraging words ever written when he wrote,

Romans 8:31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

The illustration is quite powerful. If God were standing on your side, clad in armor and with sword drawn, it would not matter what enemy was standing against you. Clearly, no force in heaven above or earth beneath is any match for the mighty power of the living God. Ezekiel, on the other hand, paints a picture that is disturbing to say the least. He describes the Lord, with sword in hand, not standing on our side, but standing against us. The message is equally as clear. Ezekiel is declaring that if God is against us, we have no hope of standing.

Perhaps the most important question to ask is whether God is for you or if He is against you. The answer is determined by the lifestyle you are choosing to live. If you have received Christ, are allowing he Word of God to light the path of your life, and live accordingly, then you can say with confidence that God is for you. All His resources are at your disposal to help you live a life pleasing to Him. You will find His peace in the storm, his strength in your weakness, and  that He can turn tragedy into times of personal growth and sanctification. If however, you have not received Christ, or as a believer, you are choosing to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture and follow your on rules, you will find that God is against you. He will not bless a life of sin and rebellion. You may live for quite some time without reaping the consequences of your sin, but the day will come when things will begin to unwind before your very eyes. Life does not have to be that way. Whatever you are doing in violation to the Word of God can be set aside, forgiven, and sweet fellowship with God can and will be restored.

Don’t go another minute living without God being for you.

Pastor Jim

 

Speaking Evil

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” 
James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”

James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spent a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judges.”

Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy . . .” (James 4:12).

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet, when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because they said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.

Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God, for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning, we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.

His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

 

What Did You Say? 

James 3:5
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”

The largest mammal on the planet is a blue whale, whose tongue can weigh upwards of 2.5 tons. This is approximately the size of an adult elephant. In contrast, the human tongue, on average, is about 4 inches long and weighs less than 4 ounces. The tongue is certainly not one of the strongest muscles in the human body, yet it is perhaps the one capable of the most destruction. Many of us grew up with hearing “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” only to find that some of the deepest hurts we have ever felt, were caused by the unkind words of another. James explains, one of the great problems we all have is that with the same tongue we bless God and curse men.

The Bible points out the sinful uses of the tongue, of which we are all guilty:

COMPLAINING – Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing . . .”

BACKBITING – Proverbs 25:23 “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.”

GOSSIP – Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”
                 Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

TEASING – Proverbs 26:18-19 “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’”

PROFANITY – Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

BLASPHEME – James 2:7 “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”

We are all aware of the sins of the tongue, are guilty of committing them, and have been hurt by them. The question is, how can we avoid them? Jesus tells us the sins of the tongue are a matter of the heart.

Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

The solution then, to overcoming the sins of the tongue, is to focus on what is coming into our lives, and finding residence within our hearts. A number of years ago, a friend of mine was counseling a man who was struggling with outbursts of wrath (anger issues). He could not control his tongue and would lash out at his family. As they finished their conversation and walked to the car, he saw that the passenger seat was filled with hard-core secular music cassettes; the kind that makes you want to bang your head against a wall. He had uncovered part of the cause of the problem. Constantly filling his head with screaming, made it a lot easier to scream at others. In the same way, if you have a problem with profanity, take inventory. What are you putting into your head? If you struggle with gossip, stop listening to it and you will stop spreading it. Garbage in garbage out! The more you fill your mind with the things of God, the more you will find that your tongue is used to bless God and be a blessing to others. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Pastor Jim

 

When He Comes 

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder,
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is one of the most well known verses in Isaiah, and perhaps in the entire Bible. It is a verse which predicts the coming of the Messiah, seven hundred years before His birth. In this verse, we have a detailed description of the Savior of humanity. We are told a Child will be born, who is in fact, the Son of God.

This verse was originally penned in the midst of extremely dark times in Israel’s history. Externally, they were facing the threat of destruction. The Assyrians began to expand their empire by conquering the nations adjacent to Israel and Judah. Internally, the nation became increasingly immoral. They lost site of the principles upon which they were founded, had wandered from the Lord, and invited the false gods of the surrounding nations into their borders. In earlier chapters, Isaiah describes these conditions by explaining the culture had begun to “call good evil and evil good.”

It is not difficult to see the similarities between Isaiah’s day and our own. Nations are facing the continual threat of terrorism, stemming from the same area of the world where Assyria once ruled. In addition, the tide of immorality is on the rise. It seems to be almost a daily occurrence, where some judge or legislator seeks to impose their personal immoralities upon the rest of us. We are being forced to accept sinful behavior as normal. We are even considered to be bigots, if we suggest that certain lifestyles are unacceptable to God. The Bible is looked upon either as an antiquated fairy tale, or viewed, like many interpret the constitution, as a document that changes to fit the times.

The ambiguous and shifting moral codes being pushed upon our culture are producing all kinds of social chaos. Yet, our leaders refuse to recognize the real cause of the social chaos is immorality and godlessness. We, like Israel, have pushed God out of the way, and as a result, we are experiencing what many call “the wrath of removal;” where God seems to have taken His hand of blessing off of us. We are suffering the consequences of removing God from our lives.

I am so glad in the midst of those dark days, God promised to send His own Son. The Wonderful, Counselor, and Prince of Peace has come to make a way for our sins to be washed away, and a relationship with God restored. Anyone who will receive Christ can have a brand new start in life, and have the hope of heaven. I am also very  glad to know the Savior promised to return. The predictions concerning the first coming of Christ were fulfilled to the letter, and there are three times as many promises of His return, than there are of His incarnation.

The great hope for humanity is found in the pages of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim

 

The War Is Over 

Isaiah 2:4
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Tragically, God is blamed for many of the atrocities committed by man. I say tragically, not because God cannot or will not defend Himself, but because as long as we blame God for what men do, we will fail to find a real solution to the problem. The chief wrong in this world is the heart of man. We see this demonstrated daily in the horrific actions reported on our TV screens. We hear of power hungry people oppressing others, in pursuit of their own ambitions. This happens everywhere on the globe. Sometimes, it is in a far away land where a political vacuum has allowed for the strongest force to take over, other times it happens locally where a person uses the tragedy in someone’s life for their own personal gain. Wherever and whenever it happens, it screams to us that the chief problem in our world is the heart of man.

God has a solution to this problem. That solution is the reign of Christ, and it takes place in two ways. First, when a person accepts Christ and surrenders to Him, his first step is self denial. We lay our sinful ways and selfish ambitions down at the cross, and in their place we pick up the Word and ways of God. In Isaiah’s time, the people were being chided for failing to treat one another the way God had called them to. He wanted Israel to be a beacon of light to the world, and much of that light had to do with the care they were to give to each other. Once they forsook the Lord, ‘self’ began to drive the nation, just as it drove the nation’s around them. Christ solves the self-problem when we are willing to lay ourselves down. This will transform our homes, our relationships, our churches, and ultimately our communities.

The second way this problem will be solved, is when Christ comes to set up His kingdom. Isaiah tells us, at that time, war will be a hazy memory of the past. All the money spent on research and expansion of defense will be reallocated to other things. The world will experience the only era of peace it has ever known. Not a peace held together by the threat of retaliation, but a peace that stems from the Prince of Peace reigning and ruling in righteousness.

We should long for, and live for, the One who will one day come and make all things right.

Pastor Jim