Build Your House

Nehemiah 7:4
“Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.”

By this time, in the Nehemiah’s story, much has been accomplished. He has experienced the call of God that took him from a highly coveted position in the kings court to becoming a leader among the congregation of Israel. He has seen God provide for his personal needs as well as the needs of his new found ministry. He has seen the people who had been both divided and discouraged rally together to accomplish the work of God and build the city wall. With all that Nehemiah came to realize that the work was still incomplete. There was much more that God wanted to do in and through his life and ministry. As he looked out over the city he discovered that the people had yet to build their own homes.

Consider for a moment the ministry of Joshua. He gathered the tribes of Israel together and drove the Canaanites out of the land. Under his leadership the enemies were defeated and each tribe was given their allotment of the land. As time went on it became clear that the people were neglecting to fight the battles necessary within their own territories and needed to be encouraged to get to the task at hand. A very similar problem is taking place here. The wall is built around the city by the combined efforts of those from every tribe, but the necessary work for the homes to be built has been neglected. The reason given is the limited number of people.

It is not uncommon for people who come to Christ to have victory in a lot of areas of their lives and still neglect to fight battles on the home front. A person might be hailed as a great employee and church member, yet still not treat their family members in a way that brings glory to the Lord. Regardless of how far you have come in your relationship with Christ, allow me to encourage you to consider  how much your relationship with Jesus is affecting your marriage and your family. Are you taking your Christianity home with you and focusing on building up your family? Whether you are a son, daughter, mother, father or grandparent it is time to build up our homes for the sake of the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Jim

 

Family 

Numbers 2:2
“Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.”

God organized the campsite of Israel. The center of the camp was the tabernacle with the tribes encamped around it. Two basic principles governed setting up camp. First, the Lord was the central focus, every family was to camp within sight of the Tabernacle. They could hear the events transpire, smell the sacrifices and easily be part of what transpired there on a daily basis. Second, they were to camp under a particular banner or standard. Each tribe gathered with other tribes as they camped around the tabernacle .

It is easy to derive some clear application for our lives and our families. When you are setting up camp it is important to keep Jesus at the center. If you are having a difficult time doing this personally, it is unlikely you are doing this within your family. If you find that your spouse or children are drifting from the Lord, it might have something to do with the fact that you have also drifted away. The first step to establishing stability within the home is to put Jesus at the center of our personal lives. One way to do that is to take a quick inventory of your life. Is there anything you are involved in which is not pleasing to the Lord? If so, lay it at the cross and walk away. You will be forgiven and set free. The psalmist asked the Lord to search him in order to lead him down the right path (Pslam 139:23-24). Another way to do this is to return to your first love, and follow the example of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word. Reestablish a daily time to sit with Jesus, hear Him speak from the pages of your Bible and enjoy His company.

Remember, Israel also camped together around the tabernacle. It is also important to get yourself and your family plugged into a good and healthy church, where you can be challenged and encouraged. It is there, where you should work to establish good relationships for yourself and your children. Too often we find people arrive late, leave early and wonder why the family loses interest in fellowship. You are part of a much bigger camp, and the more plugged in you get, the more benefits you will receive.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Healing For The Backslidden 

Hosea 14:4
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.”

Backsliding refers to a condition where a person who was once closely following the Lord, is now far from Him. Israel was in a condition of perpetual backsliding. They would turn, wander, or be led away from the Lord on such a regular basis, that their experience with God was more like a roller coaster or a pendulum, than a walk with God. Hosea speaks of God healing their backsliding. This in no way implies that backsliding is a disease a person has no control over. Instead, Hosea is suggesting that God is able to fix, restore or heal the damage done to a person during their backslidden state.

When we are walking with Jesus, it is like being a branch that is connected to a healthy tree. We find a constant flow,  causing us to bear fruit in our lives, that is not natural to us. A person who has a propensity toward anger, finds they have self control, a person who is melancholy by nature, becomes filled with joy, and a person who tends to worry about everything, finds peace for whatever life throws at them. When we stop walking closely with Christ, this supply becomes restricted.  Soon, we are like a branch that is cut off from the vine. We begin to act and react to the circumstances of life without the power of God. It does not take long before those closest to us begin to suffer from our lack of abiding in Christ. In many cases, when this backsliding continues, we find that relationships are destroyed. Marriages, families and friendships have all been drastically impacted by the behaviors of a backslidden believer. Hosea promises, when we return to the Lord, our backsliding can be healed.

Life is filled with testimonies that support this truth. In our church, we have many families who were devastated by the behaviors of a backslidden believer, only to have those relationships restored when the person returned to the Lord. Whatever damage you have created by wandering away from Christ, be confident in the fact that God wants to restore you to Himself, and is able to heal that which has been broken.

Pastor Jim

 

Confusion

Hosea 4:6
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”

The days of Hosea were very dark; the nation had wandered from the ways of God and idolatry was as common in Israel as it was in the pagan nations that surrounded it. Just about every hilltop was the site of an altar to one false god or another, and immorality was rampant throughout the land. While many factors led to their diseased spiritual condition, Hosea addresses the primary one. He says the people were so easily led astray because of their lack of knowledge of God and His Word. This was both the fault of the individual and of the leaders.

Way back in the wilderness, God set aside the tribe of Levi to assist the priests in ministering to the people. Along with helping in the sacrifices, and other worship ordinances around the Temple, they were spread throughout the land and given the responsibility to instruct the people in the ways of God. Sadly, in many cases, those who had been commissioned to teach the people, did very little to expound upon the Scriptures and instruct the people. Though thousands of years have passed, things are not so different today. Many Christian leaders have lost sight of the importance of teaching the Word of God to the people of God. Some have left the Bible for ritual, others have turned the sanctuary into a political platform, and still others seem to think the purpose of the pulpit is to entertain the people or to stir them to a frenzy. You might not be able to control what happens in the pulpit, but you can control what pulpit you place yourself under. Be sure you are attending a church where the Word of God is being taught.

The leaders were not the only ones who had failed to teach the Word. God designed the home as the primary place where children are instructed in the ways of God. Sadly, many families gave up that responsibility expecting others to care for the spiritual needs of their kids. We do not have to be a scholar to instruct our children from the Bible. All we need to do is spend time in the Word with our children, and search the scriptures for direction when we face a situation we do not know how to handle.

Much of what is wrong in life can be resolved by simply becoming familiar with what the Bible says, and putting it into practice in our daily lives.

Pastor Jim

 

The Blame Game 

Ezekiel 18:14
“If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise, he shall surely live.”

It seems we have become a generation who blames our faults on others. No one wants to take responsibility for their own actions. Attitudes of the heart, as well as sinful behavior, are often blamed on our upbringing or our genetics. As much as this may seem like a modern problem, Ezekiel reveals this is actually a human nature problem. 2600 years ago this attitude was so commonplace it was captured in a proverb; the people could be heard saying,

“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge”

Ezekiel’s message is twofold. First, he begins by making it clear, in the eyes of God, each individual is responsible for his own actions. While our genetics and our upbringing may make it easier to fall into certain sins, these things do not excuse improper behavior. Each one will stand individually before God for his actions. Second, Ezekiel also makes it clear that we can turn from our past actions and live pleasing to the Lord.

Many people seem to repeat the same mistakes their parents and grandparents made. If a person was mistreated or neglected by their parents, they have a greater tendancy to treat their children the same way. If a person grew up with parents who abused alcohol or drugs, it is common for the children to follow the same path. One of the great promises of Ezekiel is that you can get out of that cycle. If we choose to surrender to Christ, allow His Word to direct us, and His Spirit to empower us, we can be freed from the tyranny of the cycle that has ruled our familes for generations.

Whatever your past may have been, now is the time to turn to the Lord and live.

Pastor Jim

 

Get Out Of Jail

Jeremiah 52:31

“Now it came to pass in the thirty- seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach, King of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, King of Judah and brought him out of prison.”

Jehoiachin, the last King of Judah, will forever be known as the one sitting on the throne when the nation fell. The collapse was not entirely his fault, although his wickedness did play a part. While very few details are preserved regarding his actual reign, we are told that after 37 years in prison, he was suddenly released and treated favorably. Jeremiah does not give an explanation of the details leading up to his release, but as Scripture unfolds, we can uncover the heavenly reasons behind it.

Thirty-three years after Jehoiachin was released, Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem to repatriate the land and rebuild the Temple. The remnant that returned was led by Zerubbabel, who would serve as their governor and liaison between Israel and Persia. Zerrubabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin. That means, although imprisoned for 37 years, God still had a plan for Jehoiachin’s life. Although he failed as a king, he seems to have succeeded as a grandfather, by raising a son, who in turn, would raise a son, who would serve the Lord.

Zerrubabel would become a great leader in Israel. His ministry would combine the gifts of Moses, who led Israel into the land, and Solomon who built the first temple. In the midst of great opposition, he would find great victory.

None of us should aspire to take the route of Jehoiachin; a wicked life that results in bondage should never be our aspiration. However, if we have traveled a road that has cost us our freedom, and perhaps even our family’s, it is not too late to get off that road and determine, from this point forward, we will live for the Christ and His kingdom. It may be, in the time you have left, the Lord may use you to influence those who will influence the nations.

Pastor Jim

 

Godly Home 

2 Timothy 1:5
When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

Timothy is one of the stars of the New Testament. His story has all the makings of a blockbuster hit. When we are first introduced to him, he is a teenager described as “being well spoken of in all the churches.” We know that his commitment to Christ struck a chord with the apostle Paul, who invited him to join the ministry team and take the Gospel to the unreached people of the ancient world. While traveling with some of the greatest saints of all time, Timothy rose to the top and became Paul’s most trusted ally and closest friend. By the time his story comes to a close, he is pastoring one of the most influential churches the world has ever known, in the bustling city of Ephesus. We know his success in following and serving Christ had much to do with a teenage decision to surrender to Jesus and the influence of Paul, but we also find that he was greatly impacted at home.

From the few scattered pieces recorded about Timothy’s home life, we can surmise that he grew up in a family with an unbelieving father and a committed mother. Since we know that his mom was Jewish, and as such, was forbidden to marry a gentile, we know that her past included a time of having wandered from the Lord. Rather than letting her past define her present, Eunice determined to raise her son around the things of the Lord. Along with the assistance of her mother, Lois, they raised Timothy on a healthy diet of the Word of God. It is not a stretch to conclude, he was actually taught to read and write using the Word of God as his textbook. With such a godly foundation having been laid, it is no wonder this young man became one of the great saints of all time.

Perhaps you are in a less than ideal family situation. Perhaps you are even the cause of much of the struggle. Instead of letting the past write your future, take the time to surrender all to Christ, and make your home a place where others will be instructed in the ways of God. It is not too late to allow God to use your life to influence others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Jim