Living Differently

Esther 3:8
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.”

Haman’s problem with Mordecai and the Jewish people as a whole was not that they were lawless, insubordinate, unruly or even rebellious. His problem was that they lived by a higher law and as a result were not easily swayed by the changing tides of cultural. As a result he determined to rid the landscape of all those who named the name of YHWH. As a follower of Christ we should seek not to be lawless but to live by a higher law. When the apostles were being threatened they responded “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

A careful examination of the commands of Christ teach us that believers are to love God with all their heart, love others with a self sacrificing love, take the low place and serve one another, turn the other cheek when mistreated, give without any expectation of return, pray for those who mistreat us, seek to win people over with words of grace and truth, behave with patience, speak words that are edifying, forgive when wronged, and the list goes on and on. What is it about those behaviors that is so unpalatable to the world we live in? I think the answer to that question is that the person living under the law of Christ is not swayed by the changing tides of culture.

If we live for Jesus we cannot avoid opposition from a world that is floating in another direction, but we can be sure that the opposition is not because we are failing to rightly represent Christ.

Jim

 

Limitless

1 Kings 7:13-14
“Now King Solomon sent and brought Huram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a bronze worker; he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill in working with all kinds of bronze work. So he came to King Solomon and did all his work.”

Solomon’s reign was the golden age for Israel. David’s exploits had created peace, which allowed for the economy to flourish and the nation to go through a building boom. Across the landscape, Israel was building lavish structures for the king and his kingdom. When it came time for the plans to be enacted and the work to begin, Solomon brought in a skilled builder from Tyre named Huram. The text gives us three interesting details regarding this man. First He was filled with wisdom, second he was skillful, and third he was the son of a Jewish woman and a man from Tyre. Tyre was a Phoenician city on the Mediterranean coast north of Israel. This meant it is likely that Huram was the son of a believing mother and unbelieving father. Like Timothy, he would have grown up in a mixed home. This often creates confusion in children, but in this case, he grew to be mightily used by God for  the kingdom, by using his talents for the Lord.

Many of us are faced with less than ideal situations in which to follow Christ. For some, their spouse is not following Christ, or they have a prodigal child. For others, they seem to be the lone believer at work, and others live in an area without a strong bible teaching church, to help them walk out their faith. This passages provides great encouragement; knowing it is possible to accomplish great things for the kingdom, even when we are faced with troubling and trying experiences.

Let’s take a page from Huram’s book and not let our difficulties limit our commitment to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Consider God

Psalms 10:4
“The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.”

The Psalmist points out at least four characteristics of the wicked. First, he declares that they do not think about God. One of the surest ways to live a life that pleases the Lord is to consider Him before you act. If you take the time to ask yourself, “What does God think about this?” you will find that you begin to make better and wiser decisions.

Psalms 10:5 “His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight…”

The Bible was designed to be a light for our path. It’s purpose is to be a guide instructing us to live a life that will be rewarded by God. One of the keys to successful living is to familiarize ourselves with its contents. The better you know the Word, the easier it becomes to make decisions that please the Lord. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that the Spirit of God empowers the word of God. In other words, we are not left to our own strength to do what the Bible says. As we read it, we are transformed by it and find ourselves living according to it.

Psalms 10:11 “He has said in his heart, ‘God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.’”

It is amazing what we will do if we don’t think anyone is watching us. It is not uncommon to catch a person singing along to a favorite song in the car. They have lost sight of the fact that others can see them. When they realize that another car has pulled up next to them, they are filled with embarrassment. When we realize God watches everything we do, we will be much more careful not to misbehave when we are alone.

Psalms 10:13 “Why do the wicked renounce God?  He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.’”

The end of every road is the throne of God. One day we will all stand before Him, to give an account for the life we lived. If we keep this fact in the forefront of our minds, it will effect every area of our lives.
Let us remember the Lord and live our life according to His ways.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Looking To The Future

Numbers 36:7
“So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.”

The children of Gilead, from the tribe of Manasseh, brought an interesting case to Moses. The father of one of the families had died without having any sons, as a result they were concerned with what would become of the family inheritance if the daughters married outside of their tribe. If the land became the property of the husband’s tribe, it would not be long before some tribal inheritance was lost. Moses sought the Lord and determined that an ordinance be put in place where the land would not pass from tribe to tribe. To ensure this, a woman without brothers would need to consider her inheritance and marry within her tribe.

Clearly, this particular rule is not in play under the New Covenant. As a follower of Jesus, we have no promise of receiving land, nor of that land being passed on as an inheritance to our children. That being said, I think this passage brings to light a much bigger principle; when we are determining who we should marry, we need to keep our inheritance in mind.

Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers that they would know the hope of their calling (Ephesians 1:18). This is an important truth for all of us. We need to know that we have been called to leave the world behind,  to follow Jesus, and serve Christ. When it comes to determining who we will date and ultimately marry, we must keep our calling in mind. Too often, we find believers neglecting their inheritance for the sake of a relationship. They pursue a person because they are attracted to them physically, without giving any consideration to that person’s walk with God, or calling. The Bible clearly teaches that a follower of Jesus should not be in a relationship with someone who is not following Christ; but there are other things to keep in mind as well. What evidences does this person show that they are a disciple of Christ? How are they currently serving Jesus? What part does the Word of God play in their decision making? Do they have the same long term goals of serving the Lord that you have?

We can avoid a lifetime of difficulty if we keep our inheritance in mind, before entering into a relationship.

Pastor Jim

 

Friendship

Numbers 25:1-3
“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.”

A dangerous and all too common cycle is exposed in these verses. Some of the men of Israel were drawn into unhealthy relationships, which led to ungodly practices. Their sin led them out from under the blessings of God and into a place where they were chastened by the Lord. Unhealthy relationships are one of the chief causes of sin throughout Israel’s history. Whenever they were drawn to the nations around them, it was not long before they were involved in the practices of those nations. After years of this cycle repeating itself, Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

There is another cycle that we also see repeated in Scripture and in life. When a person chooses to surround himself with those who are committed to, and living for, the Lord, he will find that he grow more quickly and serve more faithfully. Joshua found that to be true by spending time with Moses, David was bettered by his relationship with Jonathan, Timothy developed into a mighty man of God, through the time he spent with Paul.

The relationships we choose to invest in are the ones that will forge us into the person we become. While it is true that we live in the world, and God wants to use us to bring others to himself, it is also true that many Christians have slipped away from the Lord because of the worldly friendships they have chosen to keep. If you are involved in a relationship that is pulling you away from the Lord, perhaps it is time to establish some new relationships, with those who are committed to following after and serving Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Pray For Our Leaders 

Exodus 22:28
“You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”

The purpose of Israel’s time at Mount Sinai was to develop as a nation upon the foundation stone of the Word of God. Moses went up the mountain alone, and came down the mountain with clear and detailed instructions from heaven regarding how the people should live. These instructions are referred to simply as “the Law” and can be divided into three groups. The Moral Law is a list of unchanging standards God set upon mankind. The Religious Law was designed to instruct the people regarding relationship with God.  The Civil Law was created to keep order. Since God was forming this traveling band into a nation, it would be necessary to also establish leadership, and because of the nature of men, it would not be long before the people would begin to complain about those who are in charge. Knowing this was coming, God declares,

Exodus 22:28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”

Simply put, God made it illegal for the people to curse their rulers. This is not because the rulers would always prove to be faultless, nor did it mean they were above the law, or their actions could not be questioned. In fact, God always puts a higher standard on rulers, than he does on the rest of the people. What this law was designed to do was point out the folly of sitting around complaining about those who are in charge.

Instead of grousing about our leaders, the laws, or the direction the nation is heading, the Bible gives us a far more productive way to handle poor leadership, and a declining culture. God instructs us to pray for our leadership, and to infiltrate culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I wonder what would happen, if we took half the time we spent complaining about the condition of our nation, and invested that time in prayer and seeking effective ways to bring the Gospel message to others.

Pastor Jim

A Happy Marriage 

Malachi 2:15
“But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? and why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”

Malachi has a lot to say about marriage. He warns the people of the danger of marrying badly, by choosing an ungodly spouse. He refers to marriage as both, “The Lord’s holy institution which He loves,” and as a “Covenant.” He exhorts husbands to think of their wife as a companion, and to be careful not to deal treacherously with the wife of their youth. And he declares that God hates divorce because of the impact it has upon the children.

There are many reasons why we should treat our spouse and our marriages with the upmost care.

1. A happy wife makes for a happy life. Paul put it like this, Ephesians 5:28 “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.”

Love is a very interest thing. It is not an emotion, but something that affects all the emotions. It is something that can be stirred up or neglected, so as to become almost dormant. Solomon warned young men not to stir up love before its time (Song of Solomon 8:4) and Jesus warned about a time when peoples love would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). Since love can ebb and flow, it is important to make installments of love in our marriages. We need to realize, we will fall in love with the things into which we invest love. Years ago, I turned a closet into bookshelves. It was not the fanciest nor the most artistic piece of furniture in the house, but I loved it because of all the hours I had spent making it. If your marriage has grown cold, it is time to make some love investments into your spouse.

2. Your witness depends upon it. God designed marriage as a way to testify of His love for the world. Ephesians 5:32-33 “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

When God wanted to illustrate the relationship He wants to have with us, He compared it to the most loving and intimate human relationship we could ever experience. I often think of this verse when I see the face of a groom, as his bride makes her way down the aisle. The sheer joy he is expressing gives us a glimpse into the the way God feels about mankind. Our marriages were designed by God to show the continued love God has for us. It is to illustrate His daily care, His nurturing hand, and His ability to forgive and love, even through difficult times.

3. It’s for the family. Marriage was designed by God as a greenhouse, where godly offspring are to be grown. Malachi 2:15, “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? and why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”

The healthiest environment for children to be reared is one where both mom and dad love the Lord and each other. It has often puzzled me when I hear adults claim they have ended their marriage for the sake of the children, because almost every adult whose parents divorced when they were children, speaks of how devastated they were by that event. In some cases, people who have had substance abuse issues, trace the start of their problem back to the time when their parents split up. I understand it is not healthy for children to be in an environment where their parents are constantly fighting, but I also understand that difficulties in marriage, are not the reason to end a marriage. They should be the catalyst causing us to work on our marriages.

If your love for your spouse has grown cold, or if it feels like their love for you has waned, perhaps it is time to make some investments into your marriage. Think back to how you expressed love to the wife of your youth. Reflect upon the ways you put her needs above your own, and showed her how much she mattered to you.

It will be worth the investment.

Pastor Jim