Give Thanks 

Psalm 107:1
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

The evolution of love is seen in the relationship between children and parents. An infant child cannot survive on his own and is completely dependent upon the mercy, grace and love of the parents. In a proper relationship the parents give time, energy, even sleep for the benefit of the child. As the relationship develops so does the love, it is not long before the parents begin to see the return in their investment. I can remember being so excited when my children began to smile and laugh, or when they would crawl across the room only to get up on my lap and snuggle. What a joy! Just this week I received messages from each of my boys expressing Father’s Day wishes in their own humorous ways. Our relationship has become one of an exchange of love. This Psalm is an illustration of that kind of love relationship with God. The Psalmist cries out with thankful praise as a response to what God has done for them. Paul used an interesting word for thanks when writing to Timothy, he said “Thanks be to God…” and the word he used was “karis” which is the word used to speak of God’s giving nature. Because of the grace we have received from the Lord, we give grace back to Him.

The Psalmist describes here that exchange of grace and thanksgiving.

He recalls the history of God’s people and reminds them of all that God has done for them. The list includes being redeemed, provided for, delivered, protected, forgiven, and comforted in the storms of life. Sprinkled throughout the Psalm is a continued exhortation;

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

Perhaps it would be of great value to our love relationship with the Lord if we took time to recall to mind all that God has done for us and respond in thankful praise.

Pastor Jim

Sin, Sinless, Sin Less

1 John 2:1-2

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

One of the greatest benefits of reading the Bible is that the Word of God will keep us from sin. The famous evangelist, D.L. Moody said, “Sin will keep you from this book and this book will keep you from sin.” The Psalmist wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). The Apostle explains one of the purposes of this letter is that we might not sin. In addition to the Word of God building us up spiritually, as we read through 1John, we will discover valuable insights that will help us to sin less.

“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

The problem remains, as long as we are in these bodies, we will still struggle with sin. We wake up determined to love God and be a godly witness, yet before too long, we have become upset at the children, distracted from the Lord or we have stumbled back into a sin of the past. Instead of being riddled with guilt, or overcome with fear that we will never outgrow our sin, we need to realize Jesus is our advocate; He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes on our behalf. John explains that His intercession is accepted because,

“He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

The word ‘propitiation’ refers to the fact that Jesus gave Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice. Being without sin, He took our place on the cross; receiving the punishment for our sin. His blood works as a cleansing agent, removing the penalty and the guilt of sin. There ever remains a flow of mercy for our failures and sin. It is time we learn to accept the forgiveness offered to us and get back to pressing forward in our walk with the Lord. Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 24:16 “For a righteous man may fall seven times, And rise again”

For my cleansing this I see—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Robert Lowry)

Pastor Jim

 

Everlasting Love 

Jeremiah 31:3
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'”

One of the great pitfalls for every believer is failing to realize how God actually feels about us. Because so much of our experience in this life is based upon performance, we project that onto our relationship with God. We think, if we are doing the right things He loves us, but if we do something wrong, He is angry, disappointed, and may even shun us. How precious to hear the voice of God say to Jeremiah, “I love you with an everlasting love and I have drawn you to myself.” The basis of this love is not in the behavior of Jeremiah, but in the character of God.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say, “The only thing God expects from you is failure.” His point was simply that God understands who we are.  We are weak, and prone to stumble and fail, in our attempts to walk with Christ. This is not an excuse to sin, but a reality that we are going to get tripped up from time to time. The secret to continuing on in the Lord, is to realize that even at our worst, God loves us with an everlasting love.

Earlier this week, I was in the midst of a discussion with another believer about accountability. We spoke of the need to to be accountable to God first, and how the fear of the Lord is the greatest deterrent to personal sin. As the conversation continued, we began to reflect upon the mercy of God, and how even with our best attempts, we still fail to be adequately holy in all our behaviors. It is during these times,  we need to be particularly mindful of the everlasting love of God. Instead of allowing a momentary weakness to lead us into a permanent state of backsliding, we must realize the love of God is greater than all our sin, and once again draw near to Him.

God chose a number of ways to illustrate who He is, and how He feels about us. Not the least of which, is referring to Himself as our Heavenly Father. We can understand the father-son relationship, although none of us had the perfect father, and none of us is the perfect father. We can still relate to the fact that a father does not cast away his son because he fails. Instead, a father will bring his son close, and seek to help him succeed and overcome his failure.

How sweet it is to realize that the love of God is everlasting.

Pastor Jim

 

Favorite One 

Song of Songs 6:9
My dove, my perfect one, Is the only one, the only one of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The daughters saw her and called her blessed, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

This young Shulamite woman has become the envy of everyone in the nation. She is looked upon as the favorite of her mother and receives praises from queens and concubines alike. Her beauty seems to have no rival within Israel, and she is put upon display for all the world to see. This had not always been the case. Earlier we read of how this young woman was viewed by those who knew her.

Song of Songs 1:6 “Do not look upon me, because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.

Her mother and her brothers saw no beauty in her, and sent her to work the fields. She soon saw herself in the light of the rejection she had always received, and describes herself as being unkept. It was not until Solomon saw her, and poured his love upon her, that her real beauty began to appear. As others saw the love, attention, praise and affection given to her by the king, they began to reevaluate her. Soon, she was no longer the forgotten child in the fields, but became the princess admired by all. How she saw herself, and how others saw her, was now determined by the love given to her by the king.

There is a valuable illustration here, for those who have received Christ. We often see ourselves in light of the way we are treated by others. If we grew up being neglected, not having many friends, rarely picked for sporting events, or invited to the parties, we probably have developed a very low view of ourselves. We might not think  of ourselves as pretty, valuable, or worth very much. The problem here is, we are looking at ourselves through the eyes of others, instead of through the eyes of Christ. If we want to uncover our true value, we must begin to evaluate ourselves in light of how He sees us.

Jesus laid aside the glories of heaven, wrapped himself in human skin, and laid His life down, in order to purchase us as His beloved. While we were living our own life with little thought of Him, He has been thinking of us more than there are grains of sand on the sea shores. He is watching over us as a father does his children, and has been praying for us daily. He orchestrated events in our lives to get our attention, and sent forth His Spirit to draw us unto Himself. When we finally received Him, He turned heaven into a celebration in anticipation of our arrival. When we stumble back into the things from which He delivered us, He provides forgiveness through the cross, cleansing through His word, and strength by His Spirit. All this, so we might overcome these failures and grow ever more like Him. When we talk about Him, He writes it in His journal, and even spends time singing about us.

Beyond question we are His beloved.

Pastor Jim