Who Is Afflicted 

Job 6:14
“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

Life is filled with opportunities to minister to hurting people. Sometimes these hurts are caused by the unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances, other times they are self inflicted. Regardless of the cause we are all surrounded with opportunities to “strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.”

In the midst of his pain filled trial, Job gives an insight that will help each of us do a better Job “comforting the fainthearted and upholding the weak.” He pleads with his friends to show him kindness.

One of the chief character traits in the life of Jesus was his compassion. He was not quick to be judge and jury of a person’s actions but to show forth His loving kindness and care. We see this on multiple occasions. We observe Him stretching forth His hand to touch a leper, providing food for the hungry masses and extending mercy to the woman caught in adultery. It is clear that although Jesus knew their sin, He wanted to emphasize His grace.

Imagine what it must have been like for Job. He lost his family, livelihood and health. His wife who had been his companion is so overcome with grief that she begins to become filled with bitter anger. Now his friends who came to comfort him put him under the microscope and begin to examine his every action. Instead of seeking to come alongside and build him up they determine their role is to correct his actions.

While I understand there is a time for correction and even for rebuke it is also important to remember it is the task of the Holy Spirit to convict and correct and the role of the believer is to love. The more we show kindness to the hurting the greater chance they will have of being freed from the miry clay that is bogging them down.

Jim

 

Pray About It

James 5:13
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”

As this letter comes to a close, James addresses as many scenarios as he can think of that the believers might be facing. Some are suffering, others are cheerful, sick, or struggling with sin. In each case, the solution is the same. James says PRAY. The simplest definition of prayer is to talk to God. James is encouraging believers to live in open communication with the Lord. Whatever life may throw at you, learn to take those things to the Lord.

Jesus put it like this,

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have an open invitation to come to the Lord, no matter what struggles we have; and He promises to provide heavenly assistance. The Psalmist declared, He will even give His angels charge over us, lest we dash our feet against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). What are you facing today? Is it an illness, fear, or easily besetting sin? Whatever you are going through, the secret to your success is to cast all your cares upon Him in prayer.

James is known as that practical Apostle. As he writes about prayer, he gives some simple guidelines to ensure our prayers are the most effective. First, he suggests we get others involved in praying for us. Too often, we use the excuse of privacy to keep us from invoking others to pray with us, for the struggles we are facing. James exhorts the sick and the sinning to get others to pray with them, and for them.

Second, he exhorts us to pray in faith, believing God wants to heal and forgive. This is not something James made up based on wishful thinking, but rather something he understood by reading the Bible. Effective prayer is always based on what the Bible teaches. Whatever we are facing, we should look into the Word, learn what the Bile has to say on the subject, and then pray for God to do what He promises.

Finally, James speaks of fervent prayer. He is not suggesting we need to become emotional in our prayers, or to scream and shout. Instead, he is speaking about the intensity with which we bring things to the Lord. Often, when faced with a trying experience, we begin to complain; we may even invite others to complain with us. Our complaining will at times help to take the edge off our struggles. We call it venting, which means to delegate pressure. The problem is, when the pressure is released, we often neglect to take our struggle before the Lord. Instead of complaining about our difficulties, we should be entering the presence of the Lord, and seeking His assistance.

The trials you are facing today have been designed by God to draw you closer to Him. Take some time right now to invoke His assistance, as you seek to live for His pleasure.

(Joseph M. Scriven)

What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Pastor Jim

That’s Refreshing 

Philemon 1:7

“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”

The world honors men for many reasons. We have a Hall of Fame for most sporting endeavors. Men’s lives are immortalized for throwing a ball, riding a wave, or taking a punch. What an amazing thing it must be for a living legend to see a bronze statue of himself outside a stadium, or a street in his home town, named after him. Here, in our text, we find God is immortalizing the actions of a man named Philemon. In it we learn something very important about the economy of God.

“. . . the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”

While we do not know a lot about this man, we do know his life was a source of encouragement for others. There are many things in life that can tear us down, wear us out, or discourage us from continuing to follow and serve Christ. However, there are also many things that can build us up and keep us going. What a blessing it is, when we find a man like Philemon who will refresh our hearts.

We are not told exactly how he did that, but a story from the life of David may shed a little light on how we can refresh the hearts of one another. The Bible tells us, David became discouraged. After being called by God and used by God, as a general and a worship leader, David was forced to flee like a fugitive, from the increasing threats of King Saul. He left his wife, home, friends and ministry. He was forced to hide away in one of the many caves in the Judean wilderness. At times, the difficulties of his life took their toll on David, and he became discouraged. On one such occasion, we are told he received a visit from his friend, Jonathan, who “strengthened his hands in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16) A phrase that is synonymous with the “the hearts of the saints are refreshed by you”

The question is, how did Jonathan refresh David’s heart or strengthen his hands? The story, told in 1 Samuel, explains that Jonathan simply reminded David of the promises found in the Word of God. Saddened, overwhelmed, defeated and afraid, David heard the great and precious promises of the Scripture and was suddenly strengthened from within. He was not alone in this experience. When Daniel was weakened by seeing the direction the world was taking, moving farther and farther from God, we are told, he heard God speak and was strengthened and rose to his feet to continue the task to which he was called.

If you find yourself weary, you may need a nap, a Sabbath, or a vacation, but you also need to sit down with the promises of God and allow him to refresh your heart. If you see someone else who is worn out, instead of rehearsing with them how unfair or difficult things may be, remind them of the promises of God, and watch as their hands are strengthened in the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Famous People 

Isaiah 66:2
“For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”

Imagine walking into someone’s home, where, on the mantle, they had a picture of themselves with a famous or powerful person. As you looked closer, there was not one picture but many. You saw them having a meal together, strolling down the street, and perhaps even sailing the deep blue sea. If you are anything like me, you might begin to wonder how that was possible. How did they get to be so close to that person, so that they were able to be a part of their daily life?

Isaiah declares, God is so vast and majestic that the heavens themselves are His throne, and He uses the earth as if we were a foot stool. He is the one who both, created all things, and the one who holds it all together. It would seem impossible for anyone to gain an audience with someone so great. Yet Isaiah declares, God looks on those who are poor, contrite and trembling.

The word poor is used to speak of a person who is in want. This could be physically, monetarily or even emotionally. It is a word that could speak of a person suffering depression. Isaiah declares that God Himself looks down upon those in need. It is His desire that we look back to Him as the one who can meet that need. It is natural for us, when in need, to look to others for help. We run to whoever we think can give us the prescription to make our difficulty disappear. Often however,  we fail to look up to the God who sees, and has allowed these things to draw us to Himself. If you are needy, He is watching, and wants you to draw near.

The word contrite speaks of a person who is stricken, lame or broken. It is natural for us to look away from a broken person. If an advertisement comes on the TV for an organization seeking to give aid to suffering children, it is natural to look away. We feel guilt and we feel powerless to help. What a blessing to know that God looks upon the broken. In fact God is actually looking for the broken. He is the only craftsman who selects the broken tool to accomplish the task.

Finally, those who have an audience with God, are those who tremble; not at a scary movie, or the uncertainty of the future, but those who tremble at His word. God is looking for people who will fear His word and do what it says. It seems, we live in an age where most people have only enough Bible knowledge to hurt themselves. They are able to pull a verse or two out to accuse the Bible of wrong, or to justify their sinful behavior. God is looking for those who will hold the Word of God in high esteem, and practice what it preaches.

Let’s seek to fill our photo albums with scenes of walking through life with the Lord. Let’s be people who look to Him, follow His word, and enjoy the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Burden Bearers

Exodus 28:12
“And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.”

IMG_1450When I am deciding on what to wear, one of the key factors is comfort. I have owned clothing that fit and might even have looked nice, but I rarely ever wore, because it simply was not comfortable. I imagine if I had a coat with two large stone shoulder pads, it would not be my first choice for a Sunday service.

When it came to the clothing of the priests ,comfort was not the goal. Instead, their clothing was designed for symbolism. Every article they wore spoke volumes regarding God and the ministry. One of the most telling pieces was the stone shoulder pads with the names of the tribes engraved upon them. Each morning, when the priests suited up, they were reminded that they carried the burdens of the people into the presence of the Lord. I cannot think of a better way to illustrate the need for, and value of, intercessory prayer, than a man carrying the names of his friends and family members on his shoulders.

The New Testament reminds us to bear one another’s burdens. This can be accomplished by entering the Throne of Grace on behalf of another and praying for the things which are bearing weight upon their lives. When a friend is struggling with loss, sickness, confusion, or any other of a long list of things that tend to weigh upon us, we can ease their burden with intercession.

Take some time to make a list of people close to you and begin to carry their burdens into the presence of God. You will be amazed by how much you begin to care about them, as well as, seeing how God intervenes in their lives.

Pastor Jim