You Have Forsaken Me

2 Chronicles 12:5
“Thus says the Lord:‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak. ’”

A few years ago I was traveling to West Africa to speak at a conference for pastors and church workers. Most of the preparation for the event took place on the ground in Africa leaving me to only be responsible for my own travel needs. Three documents are necessary for entrance into Ghana. First like all countries a passport is necessary, second Ghana requires a visa and finally an immunization card showing that I have received an inoculation against Yellow Fever. Having been to Ghana before I knew of the requirements, planned my trip and headed toward the airport. About fifteen miles into my drive I had an urge to check my documents. I pulled over and dug through my bag to find that I had a passport and visa but had left my immunization card behind. I was forced at that point to turn around and go get it.

Judah under Reheboam had forgotten the Lord. Their prosperity had made them comfortable and in their comfort they had neglected God. It wasn’t until things began to go bad that they realized they had left behind the most important aspect of traveling through this life. They had neglected the Lord. The solution was the same for them as it is for us. They must turn around. Stop going in a direction that led them away from the Lord and start moving in direction toward Him.

Perhaps you have been neglecting the Lord, perhaps you have been busy but have not been busy doing the things that will bring about eternal reward. Stop moving in a direction away from God, turn around and get busy following Jesus.

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

 

A Safe Place 

Revelation 14:1
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty- four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

The tribulation years will be the most difficult time period the earth has ever known. Any hardship we have ever experienced, will pale by comparison, to say the least of the trials during those few years. It is prudent that we each do everything we can to avoid being left here when these events begin to transpire. The way out is to trust in, and surrender to, Christ as Lord and Savior. If you have not yet made the decision to receive Christ, stop reading and pray. Invite Him to forgive your sins and be your Lord.

That being said, Chapter 14 gives a glimpse into the life of 144,000 believers, living and serving God through these dark times. It is particularly striking to me, that these individuals have the seal of God on their lives which, among other things, is certainly a seal of protection. With all the opposition to Christ and His followers, these believers remain untouchable as long as they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rrevelation 14:4) Their lives serve as a great example that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

I am reminded of David as he walked into the valley to face Goliath. Unarmed and untrained for battle, there was no safer place for Him to be than face to face with the giant. I think also of Gideon, with only 300 men at his side, and facing an army too large to number, he was both protected and victorious in battle. Conversely, I also think of Jonah. He was a man who knew the danger an Israelite would be in if he walked into the city of Nineveh. Unwilling to yield to the way of the Lord, he found himself in even graver danger.

While we are not to live foolishly, seeking adventure for adventure sake, we must not let the fear of the unknown or the threat of the “what if” keep us out of the center of God’s will for our lives. Just as these men were marked by God, and protected until it was time to call them home, so is the child of God who is walking in the will of God. We need never fear as long as we are following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Pastor Jim

 

Bedrock To Build On 

Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

There are certain bedrock principles within the Bible, upon which we can build our lives. One of those is recorded here. Jeremiah explains, the heart is deceitful and as a result cannot be trusted. Like today, many ancient cultures referred to the innermost being of a man as the heart. They were not referring to the organ that pumps blood through the body, but of the central place of emotions, affection and the will. It is common today to be encouraged to follow our hearts. If we are in a relationship and don’t know if we should move forward, we are told to “follow our heart.” The same is true of almost every decision in life. If we can learn the principle that Jeremiah is seeking to teach us, we will not only avoid being deceived by our hearts, but we will also seek to find a compass outside of ourselves, that will help to guide us through the challenges of life.

In the verses leading up to this principle, Jeremiah contrasts the folly of trusting in ourselves with the benefits of trusting in the Lord. He compares those who learn to trust God to a fruit-filled tree planted by the waters of life. Trusting in the Lord is activated when we decide to let the Word of God be our guide through life. If you will honestly evaluate your life in light of the Word of God, you will no longer be deceived about how to live. Instead you will find yourself beginning to bear the kind of fruit God has always intended to come from your life and ministry.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s Ruined 

Jeremiah 13:1
“Thus the Lord said to me:’Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist…'”

Often the prophets were instructed to illustrate their messages. God so greatly desired His message to be heard that He would wrap it in packages that would be difficult to forget. In this case, Jeremiah was instructed to strut around town wearing a beautiful sash. Since the normal attire of a prophet was quite drab, this sash would certainly grab the people’s attention. After some time, Jeremiah buried the sash in the muddy banks of the Euphrates river. There it sat until it was ruined and could no longer serve its purpose. Jeremiah then dug it up, put it on and once again strutted through the city. As much as the beautiful sash had captured the attention of the people, this filthy, worn and tattered garment would be difficult to miss. When asked why he was wearing it, Jeremiah was to reply that just as the sash was ruined by the weather, so Judah had been ruined by ignoring the ways of God and living after their own desires.

We were designed by God with a purpose. That purpose is wrapped up in living after the precepts found in His Word. When we neglect or reject the ways of God, we are no longer living according to the design. A flower planter made from a muscle car might be unique and even capture people’s attention, but that is certainly not what that vehicle was designed to be. We were designed to bring glory to God, and will find the greatest fulfillment in life when we choose to surrender to, and follow after, Christ.

Don’t be a muddy sash.

Pastor Jim

 

Sermon On The Mount

Matthew 5:1-2
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: . . .”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1296.jpgMatthew 5-7 contain one continuous message that Jesus preached to His followers on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Although it is called a sea, it is actually a lake. The Greek word for sea and lake are the same word.

Verse 1 gives us the setting in which this sermon was given. We read, “seeing the multitude, He went up…” This great message on Christian ethics and Christian living was motivated by seeing the multitude. The word “multitude” simply means a large group of people. It is used in the Gospels to speak of the great number of people who, while being drawn to Jesus, had not yet received Him. The multitude illustrates for us the unbelieving world. The Bible teaches us how Jesus feels about the unbeliever. He loves them so much He bled and died for them. So, here we find Jesus wanting to save the lost; wanting to reach the multitude, and as a result, He departs from them to spend time with His disciples. A disciple is one who has received Christ and is following Him.

You see, the method Jesus uses to reach a lost world, is through the lives of His followers. The more time we spend with Him, and the more we become the Christian of the sermon on the mount, the greater influence we will have upon the world, for Christ.

As you read Matthew 5-7 pray and apply the Scriptures to your daily living and let’s see God use you to reach the world for the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

A Fork In The Road

Proverbs 8:2 “She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet.”

Have you ever been following someone’s directions to a place you have never been, and encountered an unexpected fork in the road? When that happens, we are forced to stop, study the map again, ask for help, and make a decision as to which way to go. Solomon tells us, that in life, when we encounter the unexpected fork in the road, wisdom is there to meet us, and provide direction for our lives. While wisdom is always available to us, there are times when it may be more difficult to know the right path to take. Solomon gives a description of wisdom so we will be able to recognize it the next time we are in need.

Proverbs 8:7 “For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

God’s wisdom will always lead us away from wickedness and sin. Late,r Solomon defines the fear of the Lord as hating evil (Proverbs 8:13). Any direction that leads you closer to sin, or away from fellowship with God, is not the way of wisdom. If you are trying to decide whether to go out with the guy from work, look at his life. Has he been showing evidence that he wants to walk with, serve and please God? If you are trying to decide about a move. Is there a healthy church nearby where you will be able to continue to grow in Christ and raise your family around the things of the Lord? The way of wisdom always leads us toward the Lord.

Proverbs 8:12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.

Wisdom does not travel alone, she has a partner named Prudence. Prudence is defined as the ability to govern oneself, especially as it related to being circumspect in times of peril. We are able to recognize the way of wisdom when we realize that God’s way will always lead us to denying the flesh, and to personal growth in Christ. We were all taught about adrenaline and the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to danger. It is natural for all of us to want to avoid danger or difficulty; to choose the easy road over the difficult one. There are times, however, when God wants us to take the more challenging road, because He desires to do a work within us. That work will always involve the cutting away of the flesh. While that may be difficult, the end of that road, is our becoming the persons God created us to be, in Christ.

Proverbs 8:20 “I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice”

Righteousness, like holiness, is a word we sometimes struggle to define. I recently saw a sign that referred to a location as a holy site, and stated “no smoking, bare feet or loud talking.” Apparently, their definition of holy was to be quiet, not smoke and have covered toes. Biblical righteousness is best defined as becoming more like Jesus, and the path of wisdom always leads us to Christ.

Proverbs 8:23 “I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”

Solomon takes us back to the very beginning, when all things were created, and reminds us that wisdom was there. We learn  true godly wisdom does not change when culture does. The things that will lead us toward or away from God, do not change like the tide. Cultural mores may be different now than they were back in the “good old days”, but the wisdom of God has not changed. Regardless of what Hollywood says, or what new laws are passed in Washington, the wisdom of God will never change. Sin will always be sin, and righteousness will always be righteousness.  Wisdom and prudence lead us to knowledge and discretion.

Let’s be sure, as we face a fork in the road, that we are looking for signs that point to heaven’s wisdom.

Pastor Jim

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