Exercise

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

If you are like me, you have probably seen a great number of motivational quotes posted on your Facebook wall. Things like “Pain is only weakness leaving the body” – “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” – or “just do it”. While many of us might benefit from a little more exercise, ALL of us will benefit from a little more godliness. Paul is not suggesting that getting in better physical shape is a bad thing, but is contrasting it with the benefits of being in better spiritual shape. He speaks of the profitability of godliness.

Godliness is a term which means to be living in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. The godly man is one who is not considering his personal happiness, comfort, or his own wishes, as the determining factor in his decision-making. Instead, he is making decisions based upon what God has revealed in His Word. Often, when faced with a conflict, an impasse, or a fork in the road, we are tempted to make our decisions solely based upon our own desires. That will often lead us away from what God has for us. The godly man will look into the Word to determine what God has to say on the subject and ultimately make decisions that will be well-pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Paul speaks of the great benefits of living such a life.

First, he says godliness benefits us in this life. Many of the trials, pains, and scars we endure, are self-inflicted. They have been caused by getting off track and doing things our way, instead of God’s way. If we trace some of our difficulties back to their source, we will find they started with a decision to do what we wanted, instead of submitting to God’s Word. It is wonderful to know, God can always pick up the pieces of a broken life and do great things with it. We need only think of Legion, the naked, demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs, to see that God can always repair a shattered life that is surrendered to Him (Mark 5:2-15). However, it is also important to remember, much of the hardships of life can be avoided by surrendering all to Christ, and determining to live in line with His Word.

Second, he says godliness has great benefits in the life to come. While much of what heaven will be like is still shrouded in darkness, we do know that entrance into heaven is reserved for those who have trusted Christ for salvation. Jesus said He alone was the way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We also know, while entrance into heaven is a free gift received by faith, treasures are stored in heaven for those who live committed to Christ. Paul spoke of crowns that were awaiting the righteous. I do not pretend to know all the mysteries of heaven, but I do trust the words of Christ, who exhorted us to live this life in a way to be rewarded in the next.

Let’s be sure to commit ourselves to a daily exercise program that includes reading the Word, doing what it says, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and looking for ways to serve the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Following The Crowd 

Exodus 23:2
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil…”

The Law of God was given as a standard to show the people their need for a Savior, and as a pattern to ensure that the people lived righteous lives. Here we find a principle that would protect Israel from becoming like the surrounding pagan nations. God is declaring that popular opinion is not what determines right from wrong. Almost every child has heard his parents say, “Would you jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it?” We attempt to instill within our children the principle that just because the crowd is behaving a certain way, it does not make it right. Sociologist refer to “mob mentality.” They say it is possible for individuals to lose the ability to think for themselves, and begin to follow whatever the crowd is doing. Living in a democratic state can make this even more complicated. God declares to Israel that popular vote is not the standard of righteousness. If all the people vote to erect a golden calf to represent God, that does not make God a gold cow. His righteous standard will never be changed simply by getting a crowd to reject it.

We live in a time, perhaps like no other, where the Word of God is challenged. The very foundational principles of righteousness are being questioned, ridiculed, and legislated away. We need to keep in mind, righteousness is not a floating standard that can be voted upon. No matter what society tells us, God has a standard of right and wrong, and we must not follow a crowd to do evil.

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. Later, 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

 

Add To Your Faith . . .

2 Peter 1:5-7
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

Building a healthy relationship with the Lord is made up of a number of elements, the first of which is faith. In Hebrews 11, we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God. We might say, faith is the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the means by which we receive from God. The gift of eternal life, the promises of the Word, and the work of the Spirit are all received by faith. For anyone to begin a relationship with God, it must start by entrusting your life to Christ, and becoming His follower.

Just like Matthew rose from his tax office and began to follow after Jesus, we must leave our old life behind and trust our lives into the care of Jesus. When that is done, a relationship with God begins. But notice, Peter makes it clear that receiving Christ is not the finish line, but the starting gate. He exhorts us to add to our faith. His list is not exhaustive, there are certainly other things that can be added to our relationship with Christ, that will ensure our spiritual growth, but these seven things are a great place to start.

These 7 Things:

To faith add virtue – Virtue was defined in ancient times by Socrates as “doing something as well as it can be done”. Paul wrote, we should “do all things heartily as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). The Christian should seek to do all things well as a testimony to the world, and as an offering of worship to the Lord.

To virtue add knowledge – Knowledge is both information and experience. As Christians, we should be good students of the Bible, seeking to get to know the Word of God. This does not mean, we are searching for hidden meanings in the Bible, but we are learning to take the Bible at face value, and apply the truths to our lives. This word ‘knowledge’ also carries the idea of experience. It is not just information about the Lord that is important, but that we are getting to know Him better, by walking with Him day-to-day.

To knowledge add self-control – To exercise self-control, the Christian must learn to deny or say no to himself. Not everything we desire is healthy for us, or helpful in walking with the Lord. There are times when the flesh is tempted toward things that will lead us away from Christ. We must resist the devil and draw near to God.

To self-control add perseverance – This means simply to press on. Wherever you are currently in your relationship with Christ, it is not the end. Paul reminds us, there is a day when we will complete the race and be in the presence of God, but until that day we must keep pressing forward.

To perseverance add godliness – There are many aspects to godliness, one of which is the idea of reverence. This is a word which has sadly lost its place, not only in our vocabularies, but in our culture. It is rare to see people acting with proper reverence. The word carries the idea of having a healthy fear. When people enter the ocean without proper fear, they are often swept away by large surf or caught in rip tides. When we do not have a healthy fear of God, we will toy with sins that should have been cast aside long ago.

To godliness add brotherly kindness – It always amuses me when the New Testament writers have to encourage Christians to be nice to each other. You would think we would realize we are all saved by grace, all are adopted into the family of Christ, and we should be kind to each other. But just as a parent has to break up the bickering between siblings, we must be reminded to be kind to one another. Don’t forget the world is watching how we treat each other.

Finally, to brotherly kindness add love – As faith is the starting point of a relationship with the Lord, love is the chief evidence. Paul stated, upon receiving Christ, the love of God would be shed abroad in our hearts. As Christians, our lives should be marked by love, and that love should be categorized properly. First, love is toward God. We are to love Him with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Second, love is to be toward others, Finally, we are to fall in love with the things that God loves.

Pastor Jim

 

A Hard Heart 

Hebrews 3:12-13
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

Life is dangerous and filled with pitfalls. We are constantly warned to be on the lookout for danger. We see signs warning us that the road is slippery, the coffee is hot, there is a low beam, animals may cross the highway; riptide, sharks, jellyfish and high surf face us in the ocean. Paul reminds us of a hazard that is far more dangerous because it has taken many more away than any riptide ever has. He warns us against having a hardened heart. Biblically speaking, a hard heart could be defined as being unwilling to do what God asks. This was the primary issue with the pharaoh in Moses’ day. He clearly heard the word and will of God, yet he was unwilling to submit to it and fought against God. This proved costly to him, as it always will to us. Our text reveals three things we must avoid because they will result in a hardened heart.

First, we are warned against unbelief. Unbelief is simply not trusting the Word of God, whether it is warning, instructing, or providing us with promises. Israel in the wilderness is cited as an example of unbelief. God promised them victory as they entered the land, yet they cowered in fear and refused to enter. Looking at their circumstances, instead of looking to the Lord, resulted in unbelief that led to a hardened heart. We can avoid our hearts hardening by taking God at His word and doing what He asks.

Second, we are warned against departing from the living God. Departing means to move away. The closer you are to Jesus the easier it is to trust Him. Mark records the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast, where the host had run out of refreshments for the guests. When word came to Jesus, he sent his disciples to fill large contains with water from the local well. Upon arriving back at the party, the water was served but had miraculously been turned into wine. The guests were unaware of what had been accomplished, but those closest to Jesus experienced the miracle. Close proximity to Jesus is always beneficial to walking with Him. James exhorts us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

Finally, we are warned against our hearts becoming hardened by sin. Sin is doing what God has forbidden. We often sin because, from our limited perspective, we cannot see why something is bad. This is very common in relationships. We see many Christians get involved with someone who is not pursuing the Lord, but is a very nice person. They cannot understand why that is forbidden. Others cross the line physically, because they believe they are in love and convince themselves that sexual activity is acceptable. In every case, sin leads to a hardened heart and must be avoided. Be very careful that you do not cross verses out of your Bible, in order to justify your behaviors.

Let us not harden our heart, but keep it soft to hear all the Lord has to say to us.

Pastor Jim

A Storm Is Coming 

Jeremiah 6:16
Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

The worst hurricane in U.S. History reached landfall in Galveston Texas on September 8, 1900. With winds exceeding 145 mph and a storm surge of over 15ft this category 4 storm had a devastating affect upon the growing city and its inhabitants. Records show that over 3600 homes were destroyed and more than 8,000 people lost their lives. While technology was not what it is today, the storm did not come without warning. As it passed over Cuba, reports were wired, but those in charge chose to ignore them believing the storm would turn and head north up the Atlantic. As a result the people did little to prepare for what would become the worst natural disaster the nation had ever faced.

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah is about to face a devastating storm. It will not be one of wind and rain but rather an invasion by Babylonian forces, so great the walls of the city will have no chance of defending them. This storm would also not come without waring, Jeremiah stood before the people calling them to prepare for the inevitable. Their preparation did not include stockpiling canned goods, or boarding up their windows. Instead they were called to “ask for the old paths and walk in them.” In other words they were to look into the word of God and live accordingly.

I have been meditating lately on the words of a modern hymn written by Michael W. Smith. He writes,

“In this world, where e’er we roam

Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever trueChanging me, and changing you.

We have come with open hearts

Oh let the ancient words impart.”

Things today are not unlike they were in Jeremiah’s day. Our national leaders seem to have forgotten that righteousness exalts a nation and we are enacting laws that will put us under the direct judgment of God. The solution to this is to stop, turn to the Lord and let His word be our guide for life. The first step toward this is not to expect others to intact change but for each of us to devote ourselves to Christ and allow Him to bring about change in our private life, our homes and the way we behave within our community.

A storm is coming, let’s turn to the ancient words and be prepared.

Pastor Jim

 

Don’t Beleive That

Jeremiah 5:25
“Your iniquities have turned these things away,
And your sins have withheld good from you.”

The Bible portrays the devil as a dragon who seeks to defeat the work of God by destroying the followers of God. This fiery beast has opposed the followers of God since the beginning of time. While he is crafty and sly, he seems to revert back to the same old lie whenever he attempts to deceive us. In the garden, he convinced Eve that departing from the ways of God would make life better. She soon discoveredt that true life is not found in freeing ourselves from God, but in walking within the confines of His Word.

People in Jeremiah’s day were buying into this same old lie. In pursuit of life, they were leaving the commands of God and following their own desires. Tragically, they found sin cannot fulfill its promises. The lifestyles they hoped would give them pleasure, only filled them with pain, and led them away from the Lord who made them, and desired to save them. To make matters worse, their sins were ripping them off from life in God, and hardening their hearts against Him.

Thousands of years have passed since Jeremiah’s day, yet this lie is still the number one tactic in the devils playbook. So many refuse to come to Christ, thinking that to do so means to miss out on life. Others, drift from Christ in search of the pleasure sin promises, but can never deliver. It would do us good to remember, freedom is not found in removing all restraints, but in living according to the proper restraints. Just as our bodies cannot survive without air, water and food, so we cannot experience true life apart from Christ, and the boundaries determined by His word.

Pastor Jim