Fallen In 

Psalms 7:15
“He made a pit and dug it out, 
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.”

If we were writing a comedic screenplay, we might want to include a character who designs an elaborate trap, only to unwittingly catch himself. While it might be quite humorous on the big screen, it is tragic in the real world. The psalmist reminds us,  one of the consequences of wicked living is, in the long run, we are actually setting a trap for ourselves. The day is coming when the cage will swing shut, and we will find ourselves enslaved by the very thing we were toying with. This happened to Samson who fooled around with Delilah, telling her to braid his hair or tie him up with new ropes. As time went on, he found himself enslaved to the Philistines. It happened to David, who fooled around with Bathsheba, first watching her bath then flirting with her. He soon found himself enslaved by his lust and caught in an ungodly relationship that had devastating effects upon his family. And it will happen to us, if we toy around with sin. Each time we dabble in unrighteous behavior, it is like putting the shovel in the ground. Day after day, the hole gets bigger until one day we find ourselves caught in a trap we dug for ourselves.

Fortunately, this does not have to be our end. If we have not yet been enslaved, there is still time to turn from our sin, and allow the Lord to restore us to Himself. While it may have taken a long time to drift from the Lord, we can be restored in a moment of time. We simply need to confess our sin, turn from it, and to Him. When we do, He will begin to fill the hole so we don’t become ensnared in it. But what if you are in the trap? Understand, there is still hope for you. No matter how far you have fallen, the arms of God are long enough to reach you. Cry out to Him to forgiveness and to deliverance . David wrote about how God brought him out of a pit, set his feet upon a rock, and even put a new song of praise in his mouth.
Pastor Jim

 

Sale Rack 

Hosea 3:2
“So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.”

At first glance, Hosea’s story seems to be a unique one. He was instructed to marry a woman who was involved in prostitution. We have three choices as to exactly what this means. Either she was currently a prostitute, had been one, or God knew she would become one. My personal opinion is, she had a promiscuous past, but had come to the Lord and been delivered, only to fall back into her previous lifestyle. At this point in the story, her life has been reduced to that of a common slave being sold on the bargain rack.

While most of us have not been delivered out of her particular sin, Gomer’s story is actually quite common. Over the years, I have seen many who, after an earth-shattering conversion, that impacted the lives of friends and family, found themselves falling back into the very sins, from which they had been freed.

Hebrews 11 warns of the dangers of easily besetting sins. The best way to guard against falling, is to be sure to remain abiding in Christ. The closer we walk in fellowship with the Lord, the farther we will remove ourselves from the sins that tend to easily trip us up.

Fortunately, the story does not end with Gomer in prostitution. We find her once again redeemed and restored to her husband. No matter how far you have fallen, remember, God wants you back. He loves you and wants to set you free from sin, and restore your relationship with Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Healthy Fears 

Ezekiel 32:10
“Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.”

A few years ago, I heard the tragic news that another, once powerful Christian leader, had fallen into sin. I was immediately reminded of a statement David made when he heard the news of King Saul’s death. He declared,

2 Samuel 1:19 “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” 

I began to ask myself, “How is it that the mighty fall?” As I pondeed the question, I realized that the mighty fall the same way that the rest of us fall. Once we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will begin to sink, just like Peter did after taking only a few steps on the waters of the Galilee. The key to staying upright is to keep our eyes fixed on Christ.

Since Jesus no longer physically walks the earth, one of the key ways to keep our eyes on Him, is to read our Bibles and to do what it says. This was the downfall of King Saul. He had clearly heard from the Word of God what he was supposed to do, but time and time again, he refused. He refused to obey the command of God regarding the Amalekites, the sacrifices, and regarding David. It was not long before his heart had grown so hard he was no longer able to clearly identify the voice of the Lord. It was his willful disobedience that led to his downfall.

What we need to realize is, the same thing is true of every one of us. If Saul, later David, and many modern saints, who once battled successfully for the kingdom of heaven, have fallen in the battle, we should be terrified by the truth that this could happen to us as well. This terror should stir us to cling to Christ in daily obedience to His word.

Pastor Jim

 

Besieged 

2 Kings 25:2
“So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.”

Imagine sitting on Mount Scopus, just a little northeast of Jerusalem, as the Babylonian forces surrounded the city. Before long, the walls were penetrated, and the city taken. First the leaders were gathered and executed, then the city was plundered and burned. What had once been a glorious testimony to the goodness of God, now told an entirely different message. All who watched the city fall should have learned the devastating effects of sin. Even after a contingency returned to rebuild the temple, Jerusalem would still bear scars from its fall.

For years, two different messages were being heralded within the city. There were the politicians who believed the secret to success was to form an alliance with Egypt and fight the Babylonians, while the prophets declared that it was time to submit to Babylon and trust in the mercy of God. Sadly, to the end, the people refused the ways of God, and the city was destroyed.

I am certain you are not surrounded by Babylon, but you may be facing some real life calamity. Sometimes, the difficulties we face are a result of the sins of others, or of living in a fallen world. However, it is at least possible, we may be facing the consequences of not obeying the Word of God. Take a few minutes to examine your life. If you discover you are involved in things that are forbidden by God, make the appropriate changes. The mercy of God is so great He will forgive and restore.

Pastor Jim

 

Slippery Slope 

Psalm 73:2
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.”

This psalm is the personal testimony of a man who almost fell away from the Lord. When he speaks of slipping, he is not talking about a little slip, but rather about throwing in the towel, and giving up on following the Lord.

His condition began when he bought into the lies of the devil. Jesus exposed who Satan really is when He described him as the father of lies. His lies are always the same. He brings into question the goodness of God, and makes sin look like something it is not. He did it to Eve, when he convinced her that God forbid the fruit in order to keep something good from her; persuading her that the fruit was the secret to really enjoying life. He did the same with the Psalmist, when he convinced him that God was keeping good from him, and those who rejected the Lord, were the ones who were gaining in life. From this skewed perspective, he describes the ungodly, “Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:12).  He also spoke of the sinner as having no pain in death, great strength, no sicknesses, and living in abundant riches; all of which was and is completely untrue.

When the devil makes us think God is keeping good from us, he can also convince us that life is better away from the Lord; that is when we start to make compromises. We allow things into our lives that we had once laid down at the cross. Those things do give an immediate sense of pleasure, but like all sin, the pleasure is soon gone. We are then left ensnared in something that is robbing us of the abundant life Jesus provides. As scary as this may be, there is a solution.

The Psalmist declares, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (Psalms 73:1). He was rescued when he remembered the goodness of God. When he took his eyes off others, and put them back upon the Lord, he was reminded of the character of God.

Just as it is in the nature of the devil to lie, it is the nature of God to give good things to His children. James reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). Because He is good, He can only do what is good. In fact, the term ‘God’ is derived from an old word meaning ‘good’. Paul explained, having given us His only Son, He will freely give us all things (Romans 8:32). God will hold back no good thing from His children. If there is something I desire, and do not have, it may simply be that having it would not be good for me. It is so easy to lose perspective and begin to see the world through the eyes of the Psalmist. Thankfully, he explains what led to the lies being uncovered.

He declares, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” Psalms 73:16-17

The sanctuary was the meeting place with God, where the people of God gathered, and the truth of God was declared. If you are struggling, tempted to go back to the things of the world, rather than forward in your relationship with the Lord, get to the sanctuary. Get around the people of God, where the Word of God is being declared, and let Him remind you of His goodness.

Pastor Jim

 

Consequences

2 Samuel 24:10
“And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.’”

King David committed a sin by taking a census of the people, rather than trusting in the arm of God as Israel’s defense. His sin was forgiven, but the consequences were grave.

This passage is a vivid illustration of temptation, failure, repentance and results. In the parallel passage in Chronicles we read,

1 Chronicles 21:1
” Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.”

The initial cause of David’s sin was giving into temptation. Instead of rejecting unbiblical thinking, he chose to entertain his thoughts, and before long found himself giving in. It is not uncommon for us to be bombarded with ungodly thoughts. We harbor bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness toward those we perceive have wronged us, and this often leads to justifying ungodly attitudes and actions. Many relationships have been destroyed because we entertained ungodly thoughts, which we should have used the shield of faith to destroy.

David’s thoughts soon led him to action and he took a census of Israel, rather than trusting the Lord. Almost immediately, he was bombarded with guilt and shame. Guilt can be positive or negative, depending upon how we react ito it. Often, guilt will lead to unhealthy actions like isolation, depression or substance abuse. Instead, David allowed his guilt to drive him to the one place it could be appeased; David sought the Lord. His prayer was simply confession. He did not attempt to justify his actions, but admitted his guilt. Years after this, the apostle John wrote

1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Because of the sufficiency of the cross, we can cry out to God, and all sin will be forgiven and intimacy with the Lord restored. That truth will never change, but there is a parallel truth that this passage illustrates. Although his sin was forgiven, there were still consequences for his actions. While living through these consequences, David learned to rely upon the mercy of God.

Perhaps you have failed in a big way and are living in the realm of the consequences. Your actions may have cost you a lot. Will you allow me to encourage you to trust in the mercy of God, and cling to Him, as He seeks to minister to you and those who you have wronged. You might not see immediate results, but a life of repentance will put you back on the road that ultimately leads to blessings. For David, it was this season in his life where he took the first step toward building the Temple, which in the long run, would serve as a place where many were drawn to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Good And Evil

Psalm 52:1
Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.”

We live in a world of contrast. On the one hand, we see the fingerprint of God all around us, demonstrating His goodness. Earlier in the Psalms, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm19:1). When we see the beauty of creation, the birth of a child, or the love of betrothal, we are struck by the goodness of God.

On the other hand, there is another force clearly at work in our world. David calls it “evil,” and he witnessed its effects all around him. This Psalm was written after Doeg had murdered dozens of men, out of his selfish ambition and lust for gain.

We, too, see evil all around us with the ability to access information from all of the world. We have all been stunned by thousands killed in floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. As horrible as these things are, they pale in comparison to the evil that men inflict upon other men. Wars, fought for nothing more than a selfish drive for power, have been responsible for the brutal death of millions, upon millions, of lives. We have all heard of the atrocities under Hitler and Stalin. Tragically, these are not just distant memories of the dark days of man. The events, in places like El Salvador, Liberia, and Rwanda, in recent decades, have been nothing short of evil.  Nor has evil stopped. We hear today of threats of terrorism, and even global war. Sadly, we do not need to look far to find evil. We have all been dumbfounded by reports of shootings at schools or job sites, where an expressionless gunman shoots innocent victims; leaving the victim’s families to grieve in shock and horror. We all know, and perhaps even are the victims of abuse. I have sat in my office with people who were molested by the very ones who should have loved them, and seen the far reaching and devastating effects of that evil. As a result, we are all left to wonder how these two truths can be reconciled. We ask the age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Allow me to have Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck answer this question for us: “It is a strange thing. Dozens of times I have been asked by patients or acquaintances: ‘Dr. Peck, why is there evil in the world?’ Yet no one has ever asked me in all these years: ‘Why is there good in the world?’ It is as if we automatically assume this is a naturally good world that has somehow been contaminated by evil. In terms of what we know of science, however, it is actually easier to explain evil. That things decay is quite explainable in accord with the natural law of physics. That life should evolve into more and more complex forms is not so easily understandable. That children generally lie and steal and cheat is routinely observable. The fact that sometimes they grow up to become truly honest adults is what seems the more remarkable. Laziness is more the rule than diligence. If we seriously think about it, it probably makes more sense to assume this is a naturally evil world that has somehow been mysteriously “contaminated” by goodness, rather than the other way around.”

The mystery of goodness is even greater than the mystery of evil. “An evil world contaminated with goodness.” The Bible explains this clearly. When Adam sinned, sin entered the world, and has affected everything. However, God, through Christ, has infused His goodness into this world. James went on to explain, that every good and perfect gift comes from God. The evil in this world goes against the nature of God, and is caused by sin. The good in this world is left by the fingerprint of God, who loves us, and desires to work in us, even to be a fortress when evil is on the rise. Will you cling to Him today?

“At the tree in the garden we passed from good to evil
At the tree on the hill we passed from evil to good.”

Pastor Jim

Psalm 52

  1. Read chapter 21 and 22 of 2Samuel, for background on the writing of this Psalm.
  2. What is the confidence and strength of the wicked man?  Where does he place his trust and what does he love?
  3. Yet what is the end of the wicked man?
  4. In contrast what is the strength, confidence, and trust of the righteous before God?