My Fault

2 Chronicles 28:19
“For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord.”

It seems to me that men are addicted to titles. We give nicknames to our friends and relatives, the moment a catastrophe happens people are racing to give it a catchy name and every era is classified by some behavior associated with it. We have been introduced to the hippies, the yuppies, genX and the Millennials. I think if we were to honestly evaluate the age we live in today we might call it the “blame someone elsers.”

The moment something bad happens we begin to look for someone to blame. Just recently my son was rear-ended by another driver. Within seconds of the accident the person claimed he backed into them. They were on a flat surface, waiting at a stop light and the woman was looking down at her phone, yet the accident was clearly someone else’s fault. This problem has become an epidemic and has spread throughout our land. If we don’t want this to continue and destroy us, it is time we start looking for a cure.

If we will look into the Bible and allow it to look into us we will find that we are taught to take responsibility for our own actions and that personal sin will result in being brought low. When something bad happens, instead of hunting for someone else to blame we should immediately look within to see what we have done wrong and look up to God seeking His forgiveness and remedy to the problem.

Jim

 

God Who Forgives

Psalms 99:8
“You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.”

The Psalmist writes regarding the forgiveness of God and the fact that He will mete out vengeance on certain actions. These concepts often seem contrary to one another. We associate forgiveness with the removal of any and all consequences, but God does not see it that way. Abraham was forgiven for his sin with Hagar, but Ishmael was still born. Samson was forgiven for his sin, but the pillars still fell upon him. David was forgiven of adultery, but Bathsheba’s child still died. Peter was forgiven for denying Christ, but still had to live with the image of Christ’s gaze and the memory of the rooster’s cry.

Calling upon God to forgive will remove the judicial penalty for sin; you will no longer be held accountable before God for your actions. This forgiveness will also remove any barriers that are keeping you from experiencing the presence of God, but this does not mean there will be no consequences for your actions. When a husband cheats on his wife, he can be forgiven, but the damage has been done to his family, and it may take years before his wife will ever truly trust him again. When a person steals from their place of business, they can be forgiven, but may lose their job and even face jail time. We must never think that forgiveness means there will not be consequences, for they are often the reason we should truly fear sin and what it will do to our lives.

If you are close to crossing a line, be sure to realize you cannot take it back, and may suffer the consequences of that decision for as long as you are alive.

Pastor Jim

 

Cry Out

Psalms 61:1-2
“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I .”

We cannot be certain of the occasion that stirred David to write this psalm. It may have been a time of great difficulty, opposition or trial. He may have been facing severe attacks from Saul, the Philistines or one of the neighboring kingdoms. It is also possible the struggles he faced were not external. It may have been that David was engaged in that great inner struggle between his desire to do what is right in the eyes of God, and his own human weaknesses. Whatever caused the dilemma, he concluded that the only solution was to cry out to the Lord. Crying out to God should include at least three things.

First, we cry out for deliverance from whatever it is that is attacking us. We need to realize,  no matter what the cause, Jesus is the solution. If you are being plagued by consequences to your own actions, cry out to God. If you are being unfairly attacked because you have chosen to live for Christ, cry out to God. If you are under the stress of inward turmoil or temptation, cry out to God. He alone has the strength to deliver us from all things.

Second, cry out to God for forgiveness. Often the hardships we face are allowed by God to expose things that are amiss within us. We learn to justify sinful behavior or cover it up, as if we could hide it from the Lord. During times of great opposition, our own sinfulness is often exposed. Those things are brought to the surface so we can cry out to God for forgiveness. Sometimes, this can be done privately by dropping to your knees and confessing your sin to our Heavenly Father, who delights to forgive us. Other times, there is value in making your way forward at church and treating the stage as an altar, where you can cry out to God and confess your sin and recommit your life to Him.

Finally, we should cry out to God for more of Him. Difficulty reveals weakness and weakness should reveal our need for God. Our needs can be met when He pours His Spirit out upon us. Individually and corporately, the greatest need the Christian has is for a fresh and deeper work of the Spirit. Looking at the current condition of the world, as well as most Christians individually, I would say we are in need of revival. We need God to pour out, from heaven, a larger measure of His Spirit upon His church. Join with me as we cry out to God to be filled again with Holy Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Turntables 

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion for the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had been turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts  pointing people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim

It’s All Mine 

Obadiah 1:17
“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”

When Abraham was first called by God, he was given great and precious promises. He was told he would become a great nation, possess a great land, and provide a blessing for all nations. While these promises were fulfilled to a limited degree, Israel never experienced their fullness. We might say, they failed to ever really possess their possessions. When Joshua led the people into the land to take occupancy, he heard the Lord say,

“Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1

After years of living in the Promised Land, Israel had yet to experience all God had for them.

Many Christians do the same thing. While we might experience conversion, we neglect to move very far beyond that and find we haven’t really experienced the fulness of our salvation. We, like Israel, fail to possess our possessions; but what are these possessions?

First, we possess the forgiveness of sin. Without coming to Christ for forgiveness, we are not a Christian. However, the moment we will lay down our pride and confess our sins and need for Christ to save us, we are washed in the blood of the lamb and become a child of God. That being said, it is important to realize there is much more to the Christian life than forgiveness. We are also promised victory over sin. In other words, we do not have to live constantly falling back into the same sins over and over again. Paul wrote,

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

And

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:12

Beyond that, the Bible also promises the believer will be given power to effectively serve the King of Kings. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were equipped by God to impact the world for the kingdom of heaven. Each of these individuals did so because they were willing to move on from forgiveness to service. I think a valid question to ask yourself is, “What have I done for the Kingdom of God?” If you have no answer or the answer causes you to look back in time, then you are failing to possess your possessions. It is high time we start investing in the Kingdom, after all, we will be spending eternity there.

Pastor Jim

 

Turn To Me

Joel 2:12-13
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”

Sadly, the people of God had once again wandered from their God. The allure of idolatry, with its lack of morality, had seduced the people. They were now distant from God and beginning to suffer the consequences of a life lived apart from Him. Once again, the mercy of God is revealed as Joel encourages the people to turn back to YHWH and be restored. He explains the way back and the results.

The way back to a right relationship with God involves a 180 degree turn. They were involved in a lifestyle that was unacceptable to God, and it was necessary for them to leave that behind, if they were ever going to experience restoration and true spiritual blessing. Joel makes it clear that there must be both inward and outward change. They were to weep over sin and set up a fast, to show they were truly interested in getting their lives right with God; but these external changes were not enough. They must also rend their hearts. True repentance is more than cleaning up the exterior of our lives. If we want to be right with God, we need a heart change, and that is something He alone can do. We turn from sin and to God, and He will begin to transform us from the inside out.

Joel goes on to give two amazing promises to the people who will make the “U-Turn” and get their lives right with God.

Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”

The land of Israel had suffered greatly from a locust invasion. Crops had been destroyed and the economy shattered. Instead of chalking this up to nature or high carbon emissions, Joel realized the natural phenomenon was a consequence of sin, and could only be remedied by the people turning back to their God. Individually, we will find the same thing to be true today. Our lives are marred by our rebellion against God. We have left a trail of consequences behind us that can only be remedied by turning back to Christ and following Him. The great promise is,  He can and will restore shattered relationships and broken lives. Even those who have lived a lifetime apart from God, can be useful for the kingdom in their latter years.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…

The greatest promise in the prophecies of Joel is regarding the Holy Spirit. Joel foretold of a time when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh, and those who received the Spirit would be given spiritual gifts for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This promise was fulfilled, initially, in Acts 2 when the church was born, but continues to be fulfilled each time a believer turns to the Lord and asks to be filled with the Spirit. When we turn from the things that are not pleasing to God, we are restored to right relationship with Him and given the Spirit of God, in order to serve. A life surrendered to Christ, is a life empowered by the Spirit.

Turn toward the Lord and see all that He will do in you and through you.

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