Complaints

Job 10:1
“My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”

Even a casual reading of the book of Job will reveal that this man is enduring intense suffering. His pain is both physical and emotional and has been intensified by he accusations and attacks he received from those he presumed to be his friends. It seems like Job has reached the boiling point and cannot endure it any longer. Under the pressure of his circumstances he determines to “Give free course to his compliant.” In other words, the guardrails are being removed and Job is giving himself license to freely complain about his circumstances.

While we can empathize  and even relate to Job we also understand that complaining about what is going on will not bring about any positive changes in him or his circumstances. We know that complaining will get his eyes off the Lord and will cause him to be even more fixated upon his trials. We know that complaining will act like a fog, affecting all those who are around him and will cause others to want to avoid being with him. We know that complaining even has the ability to infect others and turn a people of faith into a people of doubt and discouragement.

It is important that we do not let circumstances determine how we will live but determine to trust and honor God regardless of what is thrown our way. Even if you are surrounded with hardship, be sure not to give free course to your complaint but instead replace murmuring with rejoicing and fix your eyes upon the Lord.

Jim

 

Great Opportunities 

1 Samuel 22:1-2
“David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

1 Samuel 23:3
“But David’s men said to him, ‘Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?””

Perhaps you have heard stories about the heroics of the men who aligned themselves with David. They are often referred to as his “Mighty Men.” This is a fair description for many of them since they went on to accomplish great exploits in the furtherance of the kingdom and in its defense from enemies both inside and out.

That being said, it is important to note that these men did not start out mighty. Our first introduction to them is quite discouraging. We learn their characters were somewhat questionable, and they lacked any real faith to step out and serve the Lord. It was not where they started that defined them, as much as, where they ended up. It was the fact that they stepped into battle while filled with trepidation, that made them into the mighty men God used to forge the nation.

All of us have both opportunity and obstacles in the path before us. The question is whether we will trust the sufficiency of the Lord or if we will cower behind our inabilities. If we choose to step into the obstacle in the power of the Spirit of God, we will find victory that will forge us into one of His mighty men.

Years ago, I commented to a friend about the exploits of a man that God was using in a unique and tremendous way. He seemed to always be right in the midst of grand opportunities, and trying circumstances. I said, “It is amazing how these things always seem to happen to him.” Another man, who knew him much better, replied, “They do not ‘happen to him,” but he goes and looks for them”. I thought, how strange it was that while I try to avoid difficulty, he was looking for it, stepping into it, and finding huge opportunity to point many to Christ.

Let’s let our circumstances forge us into mighty men and women, who have chosen to be involved in furthering the kingdom of Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

New Song 

Exodus 15:1
“Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: . . .”

After experiencing the work of the Lord, Moses led Israel in a song of praise. This song is a beautiful example of worship. Moses begins by giving God praise for the thing He has done, moves on to worship, for who God is, and ends by looking at the road ahead, in light of what God has accomplished in the past. He begins,

“I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”

The victory wrought by the Lord seemed impossible. Israel was a band of construction workers traveling with their families, while the Egyptians were men of war. Their soldiers wore iron clad armor and rode in chariots in pursuit of Israel. Things looked bleak until God stepped in.

Exodus 15:4-5

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone”

The armor, worn by the soldiers, was designed to instill fear in Israel. This same armor was the reason they drowned in the sea. God turned an impossible situation into a great victory for His people; causing the heart of Moses to burst forth in praise.

Exodus 15:11

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

After seeing the work of God, Moses reflected on all he had seen, and realized no one could be compared to the Lord. His actions toward man confirmed that He stood above all the false gods, who are merely the creations of man’s imagination. God chose, redeemed, and delivered Israel from the armies of Egypt, all because of His greatness. Israel must realize that while they are fickle and will sway with their emotions, God is the unchanging One, who will always keep His covenant.

Exodus 15:16

“Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.”

As Moses looked at the road ahead, he was confident that no matter what obstacle they faced, they would overcome, because God was with them. He saw the enemies, encountered as their journey continued, filled with fear, at the God who parts seas. He saw the inheritance promised to Israel realized, all because of the power of God.

We spend too much time looking at our problems, and too little time looking up at our God. If He truly is the sea-parting God Moses knew Him to be, what obstacle in our lives is too great for Him to overcome? Let’s spend more time looking back at His faithfulness, and up at His person, as we move into what our future holds.

Pastor Jim

Ready?

Zechariah 14:1
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming…”

Paul Revere is famous for warning the the colonial militia of the coming of the British army, before the battles of Lexington and Concord. He actually helped establish an intelligence and alarm system designed to prepare the colonies for the movements of the British troops. A good warning system will help us prepare for what is coming. We may never know how many lives were saved by the efforts of men like Revere.

Zechariah is seeking to warn us of an event far more important than the movements of British forces. He warns us of the coming day of the Lord. This is a Biblical reference to end time events. It includes the rapture of the church and the return of Christ. Zechariah reminds us of this event, the question is, what have you done to prepare for it?

Jesus told two stories designed to help us prepare for His return. The first starred ten bridesmaids, who were awaiting the coming of the groom. Five of the women prepared by filling their lamps with oil. Five failed to prepare. The application is simple, we need to be ready for Christ to come. We prepare by being filled, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Spirit when we believe that Christ died for our sins, and we receive the forgiveness He offers. Jesus told a second story. This one starred three men, each of whom was given a sum of money to invest, as they awaited the return of their king. One of the men failed to make investments out of fear of doing the wrong thing. When the king returned, this man was rebuked. Again, the application is not complicated. Those who have trusted Christ need to invest their time, talents, and treasures, in eternal things.

The day of the Lord is coming whether we are ready for it or not. However, we can be ready, first by receiving Christ, then by living to make investments in eternity. We spend so much time worrying about earthly treasures that wear out, but often neglect to invest in things that will last for eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

Model Home 

Proverbs 14:4
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

A few years back, when we were looking to purchase a home, my wife and I spent our days off going to open houses and visiting model homes. It was easy to tell the difference between the two. The model homes were immaculate. The decor was thematic, the furniture and carpets unstained, and the walls were noticeably unmarked by crayon, ink pen or dirty hand prints. At first glance, I would feel envious, for our house looked nothing like that. Our carpets showed evidence of four boys, who were incapable of wiping the mud off their feet before entering the house. The walls bore the evidence that they had not, in fact, washed their hands before or after dinner, and the couches proved that cups with lids are no guarantee against things being spilled. I would look at the model and think to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep our house looking like this.” However, after a little consideration, I realized, there was an explanation as to why the model home was so clean and our house, well, not so much. No one lived in the model. It was a shell, four walls that contained furnishings, but no life.

Solomon is expressing that same thought in another way. Simply put, he is declaring that at times, life is messy. If we try to avoid the mess, we may, in turn, miss out on living. Many of us work very hard to be comfortable, and we avoid anything that disturbs that comfort. We neglect getting more involved in church, because it may mess up the kids schedule, or we fail to commit to serving the Lord, because it will conflict with our comforts. Our goal should not be living in comfort, but living to please the Lord. There are times when God will ask us to do things which will disturb our routine, or force us outside of our comfort zone. Part of His reasoning for doing this, is our personal growth. It is in those times when we are most uncomfortable, that we look to the Lord the most. When we feel like we can handle things, we press on in our own capacities. It is when we realize we have no experience to lean on, that we find ourselves crying out to the Lord.

Keep in mind, that while stepping out and serving Christ may make life a bit messy, there is great, even eternal value in everything that is done faithfully unto the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Unnecessary Assistance 

Hosea 12:3-4
“He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us”

The story of Jacob is a very common one. Although few of us shared the womb with our brothers, and fewer still came out holding onto someone else’s foot, many of us struggle with trusting our lives into the hands of God. That was Jacob’s problem. His life was marked with great and precious promises, but he failed to see how these promises could ever be fulfilled, so he sought to assist God in bringing them to completion. This led to a life filled with stress, deceit and unnecessary difficulty. It was not long before this man, who had been promised so much,  lost almost everything. It was not until Jacob finally surrendered himself to God and His ways, that he began to experience the fulfillment of the promises that had been given to Him.

Part of Jacob’s problem was that he was surrounded by others who did not know how to trust the Lord either. His parents knew the promises that had been given to their son, yet Isaac resisted them, and Rebekah pushed Jacob toward working them out in the arm of the flesh, instead of waiting on the timing of God. Sometimes, walking with Christ, and enjoying the blessed life He intends for us, is as simple as surrounding ourselves with the right people. If we develop friendships with those who also love God and want to please Him, we will be nudged in the right direction when our own faith begins to falter. Had Jacob’s mom not encouraged him to dress up in sheep skin he may not have needed to flee from his brother and could have been saved from years of hardship and anguish.

God has a plan for each of us. This plan is wrapped up in our trusting His word and walking with Christ. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to stop trying to get the promise, and instead, just sit at the feet of the Promiser and enjoy the blessing of being in a relationship with God.

Pastor Jim

 

First Love 

Revelation 2:4-5
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

In a very poetic fashion, Jesus describes Himself walking through and observing the goings on, in the church of Ephesus. It is both encouraging and frightening to know that Jesus is so involved with His church. He knows, and intimately describes, the affairs of the church, both good and bad. While He has much that is positive to share, the indictment He brings overshadows their successes. He declares they have left their first love.

“First love” may refer to what some have called the love of espousal. That love, where nothing else matters but the desire to be with and please another. Certainly, we could all afford a greater degree of that kind of love, but I suggest, “first love” is a reference to something more. John explained that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), which makes our love for Him is a reflection. If my love for Him is waning, then I must focus upon the love God has for me. Taking time to consider the cross, where the love of God was poured out, will always stir us to a greater degree of love for Him. That is the great value of the communion table. Reflecting upon the broken body and the shed blood of Christ, is an extremely helpful way to return to your first love.

Take some time to reflect upon the cross, and thank the Lord for His great love for you.

Pastor Jim