Guilt Free

Psalm 38:4
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”

In this Psalm, we find David enduring the consequences of sin. Like all of us, he was drawn into something forbidden and chose to trespass, because sin always makes promises it cannot keep. He was, no doubt, hoping to find some level of pleasure by disobeying the law of God. Whatever enjoyment he derived from his sin, was soon eclipsed by the pain and sorrow sin always brings. Here we find David in travail of soul and under severe attack from his enemies. He describes himself as being pierced by arrows of conviction, being under the heavy weight of guilt, and even undergoing attack from others who think that he deserves the sufferings he is facing.

Sadly, David is not alone. This is a common experience for the child of God. We see something forbidden and desire it anyway, soon we find ourselves neck deep in sin and under its heavy hand. The pleasures of sin are quickly replaced with conviction and guilt, and those who we know best, may even keep their distance not knowing how to react toward us.

In those times, we must learn that there is only one place to turn. If we look inward or outward we will be defeated, but if we look upward, we will find that Christ has provided pardon, and we can be forgiven. The Lord will forgive our sins when we confess them, and as time goes on, will even remove the heavy hand of guilt that rests upon us. So often, we become paralyzed when we realize how badly we have messed things up through our failure, instead of allowing the cleansing work of Christ to wash us, and to begin the process of restoring all that we have destroyed.

If you are burdened by sin, be sure to take it to the Lord, who alone can remove its heavy weight and restore what has been lost.

Pastor Jim

 

Right In His Own Eyes

Deuteronomy 12:8
“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—”

1_d-highplace-altar-dan-0005.jpg

Ignoring the Word of God, and doing whatever we determine to be right, has always been a problem for mankind, and is a reoccurring theme within Scripture. It was the driving force behind the problems recorded in the book of Judges, and was the ultimate cause of Israel’s civil war, and their fall to Assyria and Babylon. Here, this self-reliant attitude is used as it related  to the way people chose to worship. God declared, once Israel entered into the promised land they were to set the tabernacle in a designated location, and there the people would congregate to worship God. No one was allowed to set up his own altar on a hillside or under a tree. God established a centralized location for worship that would unite the people to one another. Years later, Israel would experience a civil war that resulted in the kingdom being divided. Ten tribes formed the northern nation of Israel, and two tribes the southern nation of Judah. The first thing Jeroboam, king of Israel, did upon taking the throne, was to set up new places of worship so the people would not go back to Jerusalem. He understood the way to unite people was to worship God together.

Sadly, this same attitude is all too common, today, among followers of Christ. Way too many Christians are separating themselves from the church, and attempting to worship God apart from congregating with other believers. Among the more common excuses for this behavior include: I can’t find a good church, those people are all hypocrites, or we might allude to how our feelings were hurt by the way the church treated us. It is important to keep in mind, the church is not a perfect entity, but has been designed by God as the means in which believers grow, and the gospel is declared to the world. Instead of isolating ourselves, we should seek to surround ourselves with others who will be used by God, to both encourage and challenge us to become more like Christ.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

Pastor Jim

 

Curses

Zechariah 5:2-3
“And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I answered, ‘I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth…'”

hqdefault-1.jpgOver the years, Hollywood has gone to elaborate ends to depict the results of a curse. The storyline of the hit movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is built upon the fact that a group of pirates stole enchanted treasure and were forced to live forever under its curse. The curse forced them to live forever, without taste or feeling.

The Bible teaches we are actually under the curse of sin. Paul explained, it was Adam’s disobedience which brought sin into the world, and each of us have followed in Adam’s footsteps by living a life of sin. Our nature causes us to sin, and our sinful actions condemn us to a life divorced from God. If this condition is not repaired we will end up eternally separated from God.

The message of the Bible is a message of redemption. From the very beginning, it tells the story of God providing a means for sin to be pardoned, and the strength of the curse broken. After fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, written over a period of fifteen centuries, Jesus paid the ultimate price to free us from sin’s curse.

Paul put it this way,

Galatians 3:10
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'”

Galatians 3:13
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)”

Any of us, who have broken the least of God’s commands, are condemned under the curse of sin. If you have ever lied, taken something that does not belong to you, coveted someone else’s stuff, become angry without cause or looked at a woman with lustful eyes, then you are sitting under sin’s curse. The only force strong enough to break the curse of sin, is the power of God; that was demonstrated on the cross. It was there, on that tree, that Christ bore the curse for us,so we could bear the righteousness of God, and be free.

The only means of escaping the curse of sin,is to receive the forgiveness of Christ. Have you accepted His generous offer? Will you ask Christ to pardon you and give you eternal life?It is free for the asking.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Pardon The Preserved 

Jeremiah 50:20

“‘In those days and in that time,’ says the Lord,
‘The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none;
And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found;
For I will pardon those whom I preserve.'”

One of the greatest benefits of being in a relationship with God is the forgiveness of sin. God explains that although we have transgressed His laws, the covenant provides pardon. In Israel’s case, it was through temple sacrifice, in ours, it is through the blood Christ shed at Calvary. The forgiveness He offers is complete. All sin, and it’s penalties, are washed away in the priceless blood of Christ. When God forgives, nothing will ever be brought up again.

I am captivated by the statement in this verse where sins are sought, but cannot be found. It is not saying that we cannot find a way to sin, but rather that the sins of the past have been completely pardoned. Whoever might bring a charge against the child of God, the answer will remain the same, “What sin, I don’t remember it.”

Guilt is one of the strongest anchors which holds us back, from accomplishing great things for the Lord, but it is not God who is filling our minds with guilt from past failures. Those things have been forgiven and we can move on to a life which brings glory, honor, and praise to God. I have often thought, how little Paul would have ever accomplished if he let his past failures hold him back from pursuing and serving Christ.

If you are feeling guilty about present sin, turn from it and to the Lord, but if you are plagued by past failures, it is time to look past them and at the cross, where all sin was washed in the blood of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15

“. . . looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; . . .”

Bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive. We are warned against allowing bitterness to take root in our lives, thus springing up and defiling us. Roots, for the most part, are the unseen part of the tree. We understand for a large tree to be able to support itself, its roots must go deep and spread wide. Bitterness begins to develop its root system in us the moment we choose to keep record of wrong, rather than forgive the wrong doings of others. While we are able to continue on for some time unaffected by it, this unforgiveness will soon spring up and bitterness will reveal itself.

It seems to me, bitterness may have been one of the chief causes behind Moses’ failure, which kept him from entering the promised land. Scripture records that the children of Israel once again complained about their circumstances in the desert. They were thirsty, and rather than trusting in the provision of God, they looked to Moses and began to complain that their needs were not being met. Moses went to the Lord with the problem and was told to speak to the rock and water would be provided for the people. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses unleashed his fury on the people, then in his rage he struck the rock. God, in His mercy, provided for the people. However, Moses was disciplined for his disobedience; he was forbidden to enter Canaan. The punishment might seem severe if we do not keep in mind that the spiritual leaders must rightly represent the Lord to the people, or they will develop a wrong view of God. This was not the first time God provided water in the wilderness, He had done it years earlier, and in response, Moses named the place “Meribah” meaning contention.

This has always struck me. Moses took a stick, struck a rock and water, enough for two million people, was provided in the desert. Rather than naming the place “God is Awesome” or “Great Provision”, or something else that would forever remind the people of how amazing the Lord is, Moses chose to remember the failure of the people. Now we find him, years later, facing similar circumstances. His unforgiveness has birthed bitterness, and his bitterness springs up as he lashes out in rage against the people.

While bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive; forgiveness stems from looking at the cross and realizing all that Jesus has forgiven you. The forgiveness of God is complete. Paul wrote, our sins were nailed to the cross never to be brought up again. Forgiveness means to treat someone as though they had never done the thing that hurt you, or that has made it hard to be kind to them. Choosing to forgive is sometimes very difficult, but being unwilling to forgive has much greater consequences. If there is anyone who you are harboring bitterness toward, take some time right now and pray that God would help you to forgive them and treat them as though they had never hurt you in the first place. Do it now before the roots take hold of you.

Pastor Jim

Poison 

Job 42:10
“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Job lost his health, wealth, family and friends, yet he “Did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22),No matter what the devil threw at him, he remained faithful to the Lord. When his wife told him he should curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”(Job 2:10)  We are told “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” However, by the end of the book, Job, in fact, sinned and charged God with doing wrong. It wasn’t his circumstances or the attacks of the devil that led Job to sin, but the treatment he received from his friends. What Satan was unable to do, his friends did. Their treatment led him to sin with his mouth. It is no wonder Job declared,

Job 16:2 “I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all!”

Job seems to have had every reason to hold a grudge against those who tore him down instead of building him up, but he chose to forgive. We read “The LORD restored Job’s losses WHEN he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” The blessings of God flowed into Job’s life when he chose to forgive those who had wronged him. No matter how we have been wronged, forgiveness is always the road to take. Failing to forgive will slow your progress and keep you from experiencing the blessings of God in your own life. One man put it like this, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else will die.”

Sadly, Job is not alone in this experience. It is common, in our times of greatest need, to find those who we thought were our closest friends and allies are no where to be found. I have met many people who wandered from the Lord and are currently backslidden. They once had a vibrant relationship with the Lord, but that bond is in the distant past. Now, they find themselves far from the Lord and missing out on His blessings. Frequently, their fall from the Lord can be traced to a time when they were hurt by another Christian, or let down by their church. Instead of forgiving and moving forward, they harbored bitterness; and it has eaten away at their relationship with the Lord.

Let’s learn a lesson from the closing verses of Job. No matter how we have been wronged, lets choose the road of forgiveness and allow the Lord to pour forth His blessings on our life.

Pastor Jim

 

What Are Words For? 

Job 7:11
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

As a child, I learned a simple proverb designed to help when someone said something unkind, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As the years passed, I found, for many, the wounds caused by unkind words are much greater than anything a kick or a stick could ever inflict. The closer the relationship, the more painful it is when the sword of the mouth cuts deep. This seems to be especially true in marriage relationships. It is common for a couple to be upset with one another, and lash out with unkind words. The hurt caused by letting insults fly, may take weeks to repair. In some cases, a person never seems able to get over it. I think we can learn a valuable lesson from Job regarding the unkind words that flow out of our mouth in a moment of rage, pain or confusion. Job declares,

“I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

Job realized, much of what he was saying was fueled by the intense pain he was experiencing. He seems to be pleading with his friends to understand that some of what he was saying was more of a reaction to his anguish, than an expression of what he really believed. I believe it is important to be very forgiving of a person who speaks out of pain, sorrow or confusion. Just as when the hammer hits our thumb, and a word comes out that we would never say otherwise. It is common for a person to say things in distress, they don’t really mean.

If in the midst of a heated argument, your spouse said something you are having a difficult time getting past, give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were speaking from the anguish of their spirit. Be willing to extend the mercy Job was hoping to receive from his friends. After all, when the story reaches its end, we find out how wrong they both were.
Pastor Jim