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

 

Turn Back Time 

Lamentations 5:16-17

“The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our heart is faint;
Because of these things our eyes grow dim”

Sin is a funny thing. It promises pleasure, but can only bring pain. Day after day the Word of God was presented to the people, and day after day they rejected it. It was not until the walls of the city were breeched, and the city lit on fire, that many realized their mistake. The sin they thought was giving them life, was actually leading them into bondage.

It is highly doubtful that an army is encircling your home, waiting for you to turn from the Lord for a pursuit of the flesh. But it is certain, fleshly pursuits will lead to bondage. Everyone who is enslaved to drugs, alcohol, pornography or any other vice, began their journey thinking their sin was bringing them pleasure. The key to ensure we do not end up bound to these things, is to never get started. I am certain, if you never take the first drink, you will never be bound to a bottle. But what about those who find themselves enslaved to sin? Is there any hope ?

Lamentations 5:21 “Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old”

The wonderful promise of Scripture is that no matter how far we have fallen, if we turn to the Lord, we will be restored. Like the thief on the cross, there remains hope for us as long as we have breath.

Don’t wait another moment, turn to the Lord today. His mercies are new every morning.

Pastor Jim

 

Get Out Of Jail

Jeremiah 52:31

“Now it came to pass in the thirty- seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach, King of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, King of Judah and brought him out of prison.”

Jehoiachin, the last King of Judah, will forever be known as the one sitting on the throne when the nation fell. The collapse was not entirely his fault, although his wickedness did play a part. While very few details are preserved regarding his actual reign, we are told that after 37 years in prison, he was suddenly released and treated favorably. Jeremiah does not give an explanation of the details leading up to his release, but as Scripture unfolds, we can uncover the heavenly reasons behind it.

Thirty-three years after Jehoiachin was released, Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem to repatriate the land and rebuild the Temple. The remnant that returned was led by Zerubbabel, who would serve as their governor and liaison between Israel and Persia. Zerrubabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin. That means, although imprisoned for 37 years, God still had a plan for Jehoiachin’s life. Although he failed as a king, he seems to have succeeded as a grandfather, by raising a son, who in turn, would raise a son, who would serve the Lord.

Zerrubabel would become a great leader in Israel. His ministry would combine the gifts of Moses, who led Israel into the land, and Solomon who built the first temple. In the midst of great opposition, he would find great victory.

None of us should aspire to take the route of Jehoiachin; a wicked life that results in bondage should never be our aspiration. However, if we have traveled a road that has cost us our freedom, and perhaps even our family’s, it is not too late to get off that road and determine, from this point forward, we will live for the Christ and His kingdom. It may be, in the time you have left, the Lord may use you to influence those who will influence the nations.

Pastor Jim

 

Free From Sin’s Control

Romans 8:
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

As we read through the Word, it is important to remember the chapter breaks were added later to make it easier to find specific passages. At times, they can create a break in thought not intended by the author. This often causes us to miss something vital in the text. The thoughts of Romans 8 are an obvious conclusion of what Paul declared in Chapter 7. He referred to himself as carnal, a word meaning worldly; and wretched, meaning deeply afflicted, or extremely bad. The reason for his dire view is that he found himself incapable of living a proper Christian life. The Word of God clearly expresses the kind of life which pleases God, and the particular behaviors, thoughts, desires and actions that are regarded as sinful. By his own admission, Paul knew what was right, but lacked the power to accomplish these things. He writes,

“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans 7:19

Have you ever been sitting in a church service, hearing a particularly convicting message, knowing that you come short, desiring with all your heart to live up to it, yet walking out the door and failing again? Understand, you are not alone in this, even Paul faced the same struggles. While it is encouraging to know we are not alone in this battle, Paul did not write about his experience in order to make us feel better when we fail. Instead, he is writing his story to offer us help. He goes on to give the secret of his success; “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” While Chapter 7 describes the struggle Paul faced attempting to live for Christ, Chapter 8 gives the secret behind his victory.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

The life of victory over sin, results in a life filled with the fruit of the spirit, has impact upon others, and produces treasures stored up in Heaven; this is the life empowered by the Spirit of God. The Christian life was never meant to be lived in the energy of human strength. God requires that we learn to depend upon His Spirit for our strength. It is the one who sits daily before the throne of grace who will be filled with the Spirit of Christ. He will find himself with an increased ability to conquer personal sin and live well pleasing to the Lord. STOP trying to win the battle against the flesh with will power and human strategy. Instead, sit daily at the feet of Jesus, in the Word of God, and ask Him, nay, plead with Him, to fill you beyond capacity, with the Spirit of holiness that raised Christ from the dead.

Take a few minutes to ask God to baptize you with His Spirit. Ask Him to give you power to set down the sins you keep picking up, and to give you spiritual gifts that you might be useful for His Kingdom purposes. Then, read through the rest of Romans 8 to find insights into how to walk in the Spirit. Especially note what Paul says about the mind.

Pastor Jim

 

Unraveling 

2 Chronicles 9:6
“However I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You exceed the fame of which I heard.”

A person, standing at a distance and looking in at Solomon’s kingdom, would be struck by the enormous wealth and prosperity. We read of merchants traveling the world and returning with treasures of gold and precious stones, as well as exotic spices and animals. We are told, the landscape was marked with elaborate building projects, fine arts, and gourmet foods. Beyond question, the nation looked to be at its apex, and was envied by the world around them. In fact, we are told that delegations, including kings and queens, would make their way to Israel just to see its highly developed society and vast wealth. All the world wanted to be like Israel. Sadly, things were not really as they appeared. Underneath the surface was a cancer that was eating away at the fabric of the nation, and in a few short years would cause its collapse.

1 Kings 11:6-7

“Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.”

The real strength of Israel was not their military, their economy, their foreign policy, or the wisdom of their leaders. The real strength was their commitment to the Lord and His Word. They were a nation founded on the principles of God’s Word, which gave them a foundation that could support their vast growth and success. When they departed from the Lord, it was only a matter of time before the nation imploded.

Today, across our nation, we are celebrating freedom. Flags, fireworks, and family cookouts remind us that we are part of the greatest nation in the world. Our freedom has resulted in vast wealth, and has made us the envy of the world. People from all over the globe dream of making their way to America to find a better life. Unfortunately, some view freedom as a license to behave without law. They believe that freedom means that no one, especially not God, has the right to tell them their behaviors are wrong. They want to celebrate being free with licentiousness. Sadly, this will ultimately lead not only to greater bondage, but will destroy the fabric that holds our nation together.

If we want true freedom, it will never be found in breaking away from the laws of God, but in living in step with the One who designed us, loves us and desires the best for us.

Pastor Jim

 

4 Leprous Men

2 Kings 7:3
“…four leprous men…”

The city of Samaria was under siege. The Syrian army with all it’s forces, had surrounded the city, and was starving out the people. The difficult times had caused the people to behave in deplorable ways. Sins so repulsive they are difficult to mention, ran rampant throughout the city. Within this scene, we read of four men living on the outskirts of the city. These men were lepers who were no longer living, as much as they were waiting to die. In this condition, they looked at one another and determined, starving to death was a worse way to die than being a Syrian POW. As a result, they decide to leave Samaria and surrender to the Syrian army.

When they arrived at the Syrian camp, they were shocked by what they found. Instead of being greeted by angry soldiers, they found the entire camp was deserted. The soldiers had fled, but all their supplies were left behind. As they moved from tent to tent, the lepers soon found food, already prepared, set on the table for the officers. After filling their pockets with gold and silver, and eating and drinking their fill, these four lepers began to feel a sense of responsibility to their friends and families in Samaria. They realized, they owed it to Israel to share the good news of their find.

Upon arriving in Samaria with a message of hope and deliverance, they were immediately met with skepticism. No one believed that just outside the walls of the city where people were starving to death, could be a camp full of food and riches. Skepticism, unbelief, and the fact that the message was being delivered by four lepers, caused the people to almost miss out on the only hope they had of survival. Fortunately, a few men were willing to take a chance. On the word of the lepers, they made their way to the camp to find everything about the lepers’ testimony was, in fact, true. Returning to the camp they declared the message that saved a nation.

It is not difficult to see the parallels between their story and our calling. We were once men and women afflicted by sin, and under a curse of death. By coming to Christ, we have been blessed with abundant life. After tasting of the goodness of the Lord, we realize we have a responsibility to declare the hope of heaven to the world around us. As we begin to share, we find many respond with skepticism and unbelief. As time continues, we will find some are willing to check it out for themselves. Some of these who come to Christ, may be gifted to lead multitudes into the hope of heaven.

Paul realized, he was in debt to all men because Christ had saved him. Take time today to invite someone to come with you to church and hear the glorious message of salvation through Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Freedom

Deuteronomy 15:16-17
“And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.”

 Even in ancient times, life was often difficult. Conditions, beyond the control of an individual, would leave him in a place where he could not pay his debts. To address this issue, God set up a system in Israel where a person could become an indentured servant for a period of seven years. During this time the work done by the individual was treated as payment for the debt owed. At the end of seven years his debt was considered as paid-in- full and he was set free. This was called the year of release, and when it arrived the servant was set free and loaded up with provisions to begin a new lease on life.

In addition to writing out the rules for the year of release, Moses also explained a very interesting clause. If a person did not want to be set free, they could willingly offer themselves into continued servitude. He would show his commitment by having his ear pierced with an awl. It might seem odd to us why a person would willingly accept servitude over freedom, but the reason for it is explained in the text;

“If he says I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you. . .”

A person would choose servitude over freedom because of the way they were treated by their master. If they realized they actually had more freedom and a better living by being under their master than they ever would on their own, they would remain a slave.

This is a good example of what is true of the follower of Christ. Living for Jesus demands a surrender of our will. It is actually impossible to follow Jesus, if we do not lay down our will. While that may be a difficult thing for us to do, the result is, we get to pick His will up. God always has better things in mind for us than we do. Paul, quoting Isaiah wrote,

1 Corinthians 2:9
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

To those who knew Him best, it was clear that the height of life would be found, not in keeping our will, but by submitting ourselves, our life, and our ways completely to God.

Let’s drive that figurative awl through our ears, and devote ourselves completely as servants of Christ.

 

Pastor Jim