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

 

Testophobia 

Deuteronomy 8:2
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Like most of us, much of my childhood was spent in school, and one of the worst words for any student to hear is “test.” For some of us, this word  still conjures up feelings of fear, defeat and humiliation. As a student, I was never quite sure why we had to take so many tests. Years later, and much to my own surprise, I actually became a teacher and had a totally different view of the purpose of all those tests. They were not to make the children suffer as much as they were to show, student and teacher alike, what they already knew and what we needed to work on. The tests God put Israel through had a similar purpose. He allowed them to walk through some difficulties to show them what was in them and what work He still needed to do.

Trials are designed to show us how much or how little we have grown in Christ. When we face a difficulty and we are filled with fear, we know that we need to get to know the faithfulness of God better and learn to trust Him. When the trial reveals our impatience, we understand it is time to begin to trust in the purposes, will, and timing of God. It is not as though trials make us afraid, impatient, angry or anxious, as much as they reveal that those things are still within us. When trials expose the weaknesses of our humanity, it is time for us to cling to Christ and allow Him to mature us.

The next time you fail a test, instead of getting discouraged, realize that God has just revealed to you the thing He wants to work on. Take time to carefully seek Him in His word, to help you mature through your difficulties.

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

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

 

I Am With You

Isaiah 41:10
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Life is filled with reasons to fear. We fear the unknown and the known, we fear change, and often fear that things will never change, we fear for ourselves, our families, and especially for our children. It would not take any of us very long to be crippled with fear, if we chose to dwell too long on any of those things. Isaiah is reminded, in the midst of frightening times, there are some pretty valid reasons not to fear. The first of the list is God’s promise to be with the believer.

“I am with you…”

This phrase is often repeated within Scripture, as it serves to comfort and encouragement those facing difficult and overwhelming circumstances. It was first promised to Isaac when the neighboring people were attempting to drive him out of Canaan. Later, when Jacob was fleeing for his life from Esau, he heard the same promise. Without family, friends, finances, or any idea of what the future holds, Jacob was promised the presence of the Lord. When young Jeremiah was commissioned as a prophet to the nations, God promised to be with him. Jesus made the same promise to us, as He sent us into the world with the message of the Gospel.

Whatever you may be facing, whatever fear, anxiety, worry, or fret may be welling up within you, remember that if you have trusted Christ, He promises to be with you, and  to never leave you or forsake you. Is there any challenge that is too big for you and God to handle?

Pastor Jim

Don’t Be Shaken

2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”

One of the primary themes of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church is the return of Jesus Christ. Paul lived with the expectation that Christ would return in his lifetime, and urged others to always be on guard. He had warned in his first letter that, “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Looking around at the condition of the world they lived in, through the lens of Biblical prophecy, had caused some of them to be alarmed, and even gripped with fear. Paul mentions how they were shaken in mind and troubled. The term ‘shaken’ would describe a ship being tossed to and fro by the raging seas. The word ‘troubled’ carries the idea of crying out for help. Paul had written to a group of Christians facing turbulent times, with the purpose of encouraging them with the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yet the message designed to give them hope, had actually robbed them of peace, filled them with fear, and was causing them to cry out in despair.

In my experience, this response is all too common. We look around at the present world conditions, and realize the sun is setting, and the day of the Lord is approaching. Because we do not fully understand what that entails, we are often gripped with fear, instead of being filled with expectancy, joy, and a new vigor to share Christ with friends and family. The Thessalonians were shaken and troubled because they misunderstood the Bible’s teaching regarding the return of Christ. Some thought it had happened and they had missed out. In an age without satellite TV, Google, or cell phones, news did not travel in real-time; rumors of what had taken place in a distant land could take weeks to verify. Paul wrote to assure them the return of Christ is imminent, but still ahead.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”

“The coming” is a translation of the Greek word “parousia.” This word was used to describe the visit of a king or dignitary to a city, in order to show his magnificence to the people. Paul is stating, King Jesus is coming back in all His glory to set up His kingdom and rule in righteousness. He assures them that before this event can happen, another ruler must appear on the scene. This ruler is called “the Man of Sin”, who will exalt himself as God. The Bible uses many different terms to describe this individual; the most well-known is the term Antichrist. Paul explains, before Christ comes back as King, the Antichrist will be revealed. If this verse stood alone, we might conclude that we should not be looking for the return of Jesus, but for the reign of this Man of Sin. Our eyes would be taken off Christ and His Word, and we would be searching the news feeds for information on world leaders. But this verse does not stand alone. Paul adds,

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

Notice the words “And then the lawless one…” it is after the restraining force in the world is removed, that the Antichrist is revealed. It is after this event that Christ will return from heaven, with a shout and set up His earthly reign. It is believed by many, that the restraining force Paul refers to, is the church. Paul is reminding us, the next event we should be looking forward to is the sudden and instant removal of the church from earth, and into the presence of the Lord. He described this event to the Corinthians as something that would happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Rather than being filled with fear, we should be living in expectancy; looking forward to the trumpet sound when Christ will call His church home to heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

For Nothing 

Job 1:9-10
“So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’”

Job is described as the greatest man in all the East. His greatness was measured by his success and his character. He is described as a man who feared God and shunned evil; one who accumulated great wealth. When the scene shifted from earth to heaven, we find Satan called into question the motive for Job’s faithfulness to God. He asks, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Then he gives a list of reasons why Job trusted in, and followed after the Lord. I am thankful the answer to Satan’s question is no.

None of us “fear God for nothing”. If we carefully consider our lives, we will see the good hand of our God upon us. The success we have is directly attributed to the grace of God. Some people consider themselves “self made”, yet fail to consider the gifts and opportunities afforded to them are given by God. An athlete, while he must work hard to hone his skills, has been given the athletic ability by grace, apart from his own work. There is an old saying among basketball coaches that ” you can’t teach tall”. They recognize height to be a gift, not something to be earned.

The same is true of a business man, a family man, a successful teacher, doctor or other professional. What we have must be attributed to the grace and goodness of God. The only question that remains is, how will we react to all we have been given? Will we stand upon the walls of the city, like king Nebuchadnezzar of old, and claim our accomplishments are our own; or will we, like Job, choose to fear God and shun evil?

Without question, we do not “fear Him for nothing”. His goodness, grace and mercy, while immeasurable, can, in some ways, be measured by looking at the blessings He has poured into our lives.

Take some time to thank Him for all He has done for you.

Pastor Jim