Insomnia 

Esther 6:1
“That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.”

We don’t always get to see what God is doing on the other side of our trials. This is one of those rare cases and should provide us with a great deal of comfort. Esther had been encouraged by her uncle to use her position as Queen to make a request on behalf of the Jewish people who were being targeted for extermination. She knew this was a dangerous move since it would require her accessing the king without permission as well as exposing that she too was Jewish. None the less she boldly requested the king and Haman to attend a banquet where she would expose Haman as a fiend and plead for the salvation of her people. What Esther did not know is that God was working behind the scenes in an extraordinary way.

That night the king was unable to sleep and decided to review the official book of records. It seems that even then the cure for insomnia was a good old fashion history text book. While examining these records he came across a section that described a murderous plot against the king that had been thwarted by a Jewish man named Mordecai, yet there was no record of him being rewarded for his service. The very man who wanted to destroy the Jews found himself having to honor one of the Jews.

When Esther arrives at the banquet to make request on behalf of her people the Lord has already prepared the heart of the king. The same thing is true in our lives. The Lord is faithfully working behind the scenes to prepare the way for what He has called us to accomplish.

Jim

 

Give Thanks 

Psalm 107:1
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

The evolution of love is seen in the relationship between children and parents. An infant child cannot survive on his own and is completely dependent upon the mercy, grace and love of the parents. In a proper relationship the parents give time, energy, even sleep for the benefit of the child. As the relationship develops so does the love, it is not long before the parents begin to see the return in their investment. I can remember being so excited when my children began to smile and laugh, or when they would crawl across the room only to get up on my lap and snuggle. What a joy! Just this week I received messages from each of my boys expressing Father’s Day wishes in their own humorous ways. Our relationship has become one of an exchange of love. This Psalm is an illustration of that kind of love relationship with God. The Psalmist cries out with thankful praise as a response to what God has done for them. Paul used an interesting word for thanks when writing to Timothy, he said “Thanks be to God…” and the word he used was “karis” which is the word used to speak of God’s giving nature. Because of the grace we have received from the Lord, we give grace back to Him.

The Psalmist describes here that exchange of grace and thanksgiving.

He recalls the history of God’s people and reminds them of all that God has done for them. The list includes being redeemed, provided for, delivered, protected, forgiven, and comforted in the storms of life. Sprinkled throughout the Psalm is a continued exhortation;

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

Perhaps it would be of great value to our love relationship with the Lord if we took time to recall to mind all that God has done for us and respond in thankful praise.

Pastor Jim

Innumerable Promises 

Numbers 34:2
“Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.”

Israel stood on the brink of entering the promised land. For almost five hundred years the people had heard stories of the land of their fathers. They referred to it as the land of milk and honey, and longed to settle down and enjoy its fruits. Before entering in, Moses reminded them of how vast the land was; He spoke of its borders from the far northern hills to the southern dessert and from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. The land represented the abundant life God desired for His people to walk in, but before they could enjoy any of it, they had to be willing to do battle. The land was given as a promise, but received through continuous warfare.

The Christian life is a lot like that. We have been given great and precious promises that result in a life that surpasses any and all circumstances. We are promised peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable, love shed abroad in our hearts, power to overcome sin and fear, and a life filled with the fruit of righteousness. We are told we can have a marriage that honors God, testifies to others, and blesses us. We are told we can have children who will rise up and call us blessed, and that we can leave a righteous heritage behind for them to follow. We are told, our lives can be a witness to others so they can see our good works, glorify our Father in heaven, and be drawn into a relationship with Christ. The promises of God are almost innumerable, but just as the promise given to Israel, much of these are only received through continuous warfare. If we are going to walk in the abundant life God has promised, we must be willing to fight for it.

This fight is not against others, but against the desires we have within ourselves for things that God forbids. Some of the attacks are continuous. There are certain easily besetting sins we must always be aware of and resist. Other attacks seem to come from no where. We are suddenly and unexpectedly hit with fear, depression, guilt, unworthiness, or some other intense emotion that tells us to flee from the battle and cower like Gideon in his cave. If we are going to win the battle and walk in the promises of God we must fight. We must learn to counterattack the enemies of faith with the promises of God.

Whatever you are facing today, take some time to dwell on the love, grace, mercy and power of God. Don’t look your enemy straight in the eyes, but look at him through the glorious promises and power of the God who loves you and died for you.

Until we all taste the sweet victory of walking in abundant life,

Pastor Jim

 

Finding Grace

Genesis 6:8

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

The story of the flood is a story of judgment and redemption. Mankind had turned its back to God. Moses is careful to describe the condition of the world at that time,

Genesis 6:5

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

People were living in open defiance against God. The line between the godly and the ungodly had become so blurred that the sons of God were marrying the daughters of men. The men of renown, the leaders of the ancient world, wanted nothing to do with the things of God. There was open demonic activity taking place among men and Jesus described a spiritual apathy that even when Noah preached of coming judgment the people continues on with their lives as though they would never have to give an account to the God who created them. After of 100 years of warning the sky suddenly became dark, the rain began to fall and the earth began to rumble and split open. The judgment of God broke forth on the very people He had created to fellowship with. In the midst of this we read,

Genesis 6:8

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

As much as this is a story of God judging sin it is also a story of God redeeming man. Noah was the recipient of the grace of God that rescued him from wrath. Nothing has changed. God is still Holy and will forever judge sin, but He is also gracious providing a way for sin to be forgiven and and men to be delivered. We receive the grace of God when we choose to accept the pardon for sin that He has provided through the death of Christ upon the cross. When we receive Christ all our sins are washed and we are rescued from wrath.

We see in Noah a picture of how this grace affects a man. We read that Noah “walked with God.” Walking with God is a common idiom found throughout the Bible and used to illustrate a person who is living a life that is well pleasing to the Lord. We read of three distinct things about Noah’s walk. First he obeyed the Lord. Four times we read that “Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him” Not all that was commanded seemed to make sense, instead of arguing, rationalizing, complaining or disobeying Noah did as the Lord commanded. Secondly we read that Noah’s faith impacted his family. Unlike Lot, Noah lived out his walk with God for others to see and won his family members to the Lord. Too often our best Christianity happens at church and we fail to live for Christ within the home. Finally we read that upon exiting the ark Noah offered sacrifice to the Lord. He realized that salvation was not based upon his good work and he accepted the pardon that God provided.

Jesus told us that the times leading up to His return would be like the days of Noah. With evil increasing we must walk with the Lord all the more.

Jim

  

Jim Gallagher

Genesis 6:8
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

The story of the flood is a story of judgment and redemption. Mankind had turned its back on God. Moses is careful to describe the condition of the world at that time;

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

People were living in open defiance of God. The line between the godly and the ungodly had become so blurred that the sons of God were marrying the daughters of men. The men of renown, the leaders of the ancient world, wanted nothing to do with the things of God. There was open demonic activity taking place among men. Jesus described a scene of such spiritual apathy that even Noah’s preaching of coming judgment, did…

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Israel

Ezekiel 28:25 “Thus says the Lord God: ‘When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant.'”

Without a doubt, the Bible is the most extraordinary book you will ever read. It is filled with fascinating stories designed not only to encourage moral behavior, but to reveal the character of God. Beyond that, the Bible actually paints a picture of what will unfold in the future. This type of writing is called prophecy, and its purpose is to prove the inspiration of the Bible, as well as to make us ready to face the Lord. One of the most intriguing areas of Biblical prophecy has to do with the nation of Israel.

Ezekiel lived to see the fall of the city of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jewish people. Because of their unwillingness to obey the Lord, they were defeated by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces and deported to various provinces within Babylon. Here in captivity, God makes them an amazing promise. They are told they will one day return to dwell safely in the land. This prophecy was fulfillment in at least three ways.

First, after 70 years of captivity, Israel was allowed to return to Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, 50,000 people returned to begin the long and arduous task of rebuilding the Temple, and repopulating the city of Jerusalem. Their stories are recorded in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Second, years later, Jerusalem would once again be destroyed. This took place in 70 AD when, after rejecting Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah, Israel rebelled against occupation. Roman forces conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish people went without a homeland for almost two thousand years. At the end of WWII, many nations of the world agreed it was time for the heavily persecuted Jewish people to be given a homeland. In 1947 they were granted land and began once again to repatriate the Promised land. Today,the fact that Israel exists is a remarkable sign of Biblical prophecy. That being said, we all recognize Israel is not experiencing the peace and safety that Ezekiel promised.

Finally, the Bible promises that Jesus Christ will one day return to set up a kingdom from which He will rule in righteousness and peace. This kingdom will have its headquarters in Jerusalem, which will finally experience the peace the Bible promises.

While we are not yet experiencing the return and reign of Christ, looking at the accuracy in which the prophecies of Scripture have been fulfilled, should encourage us to trust the promises of our Bibles, and live more devoted to our Savior.

Pastor Jim

 

Perspective

Ezekiel 24:18
“So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded.”

It is very common for tragedy to become an excuse to misbehave. We complain, doubt, or even sin, believing we are justified in doing so because of the difficulties we are enduring. Perhaps it would do us good to examine the actions of Ezekiel, when he faced the greatest trial of his life.

Ezekiel was no stranger to hardship. Years before the events of chapter twenty-four, he was taken captive by Babylonian forces and led as a prisoner of war from his home to a distant land. Living in what amounted to a refugee camp, Ezekiel became a prophet to a group of people who refused to listen to his message. God told him the only way he would be successful was to be more stubborn for the cause of God, than the people were for their sins. During his years of ministry, he experienced ridicule, sleeplessness, rejection, and hunger, but the trial he was about to face was more difficult than all of this things combined. Ezekiel’s wife would die suddenly.

We know how hard this was for him, because after all the years of marriage, she is described as, “The desire of your eyes.” What a beautiful picture of the relationship between the prophet and his bride. It is likely they had walked hand-in-hand through whatever life threw at them, until suddenly, almost without warning, she was taken from him. Rather than blaming God or even stumbling in his walk, we read,

“So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded.”

In the midst of the most difficult time in life, Ezekiel chose to remain obedient to the Lord. I think this is possible because of the years he spent faithfully sowing into his relationship with God. As a result, he had something to draw from when his world collapsed.

We cannot avoid the difficulties of life. The longer we live, the more likely we are to be struck by them. We can, however, control how we respond to them. We can either allow hardship to bring us to the Lord, or to put a wedge in our relationship with Him.

Choose to allow the difficulties to bring you closer into the presence of God and see His faithfulness.

Pastor Jim

 

First Love 

Revelation 2:4-5
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

In a very poetic fashion, Jesus describes Himself walking through and observing the goings on, in the church of Ephesus. It is both encouraging and frightening to know that Jesus is so involved with His church. He knows, and intimately describes, the affairs of the church, both good and bad. While He has much that is positive to share, the indictment He brings overshadows their successes. He declares they have left their first love.

“First love” may refer to what some have called the love of espousal. That love, where nothing else matters but the desire to be with and please another. Certainly, we could all afford a greater degree of that kind of love, but I suggest, “first love” is a reference to something more. John explained that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), which makes our love for Him is a reflection. If my love for Him is waning, then I must focus upon the love God has for me. Taking time to consider the cross, where the love of God was poured out, will always stir us to a greater degree of love for Him. That is the great value of the communion table. Reflecting upon the broken body and the shed blood of Christ, is an extremely helpful way to return to your first love.

Take some time to reflect upon the cross, and thank the Lord for His great love for you.

Pastor Jim