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

 

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

 

Weeping

Psalms 137:1
“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”

The story of Israel is a familiar one. They were saved by the marvelous grace and mighty hand of God who provided for their needs and gave them victory over their enemies. Soon they began to compromise with sin and struggle to follow the commands of God. As time went on, those whom they had victory over, once again began to rule their lives until finally, they were taken captive and lost almost all God had provided for them. In a sense they are the story of the prodigal who wandered from his father’s grace only to find out how miserable life is apart from God. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Israel to scoop water from the Euphrates only to begin weeping for all they had lost through rebellion and disobedience to God. But that in itself is another testimony of the incredible mercy of God. Instead of forsaking them for their continual sin, He promised to restore them into the land and give them a marvelous future and hope.

Perhaps the best place to be in is when we find ourselves weeping at the rivers of Babylon. When we look around and realize all that we lost when we chose to wander from the Lord. History is laden with men and women whose lives suffered greatly when they turned from the Lord, but when they came to their senses, weeped over their condition and cried out to God they were restored by His mercy and once again enjoyed sweet communion with God.

There are worse things than to be broken by our failures. For it is in that brokenness that we will be restored.

Jim

 

Judge Of The Earth

Psalm 94:1-3
“O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs— O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;render punishment to the proud.
Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?”

There are certain Biblical topics that we love to avoid. While it is wonderful to share about the love, mercy and grace of God, we are a bit more reluctant to speak regarding His holiness or the reality of divine judgment. The Bible, however, has much to say regarding God’s view of sin, and the fact that the day is coming when He will exact vengeance on those who live in rebellion against Him.

It is not as though there are two irreconcilable sides of God’s personality. His mercy and His vengeance both stem from His great love. His love for all humanity, and desire for the salvation of every man woman and child in the world, causes Him to endure the mocking jeers of the rebel, as well as allowing His children to suffer the weight of an increasingly ungodly world. When your heart breaks over the condition of the world, think about how God is holding back His judgment so sinners have time to hear and respond to the message of the Gospel. Nevertheless, the day is coming when God will exact His vengeance on this fallen and rebellious planet. The cries of His people for justice are stored up in the throne room of heaven and will one day be poured out on the earth. The workers of iniquity will be punished for their rebellion against God and their mistreatment of His children.

No man has to face the judgment of God. We can all avoid it by trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. If we choose to reject Christ then we are choosing to face the vengeance of God, without the covering of Christ. Imagine standing alone and unguarded in the face of a violent storm, with nothing to provide you with covering or protection.

Pastor Jim

By The Blood

Leviticus 8:30
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”

The priests wore garments designed by God and put together by the finest craftsmen in the land. These garments included a tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastplate and even a turban. When the priest was fully dressed, all eyes would be upon his attire. That is why this verse is so striking. Once clothed, the priest would approach the altar, sacrifice a ram and sprinkle its blood upon his clothing. Instead of seeing the glory of the garments, all eyes would be fixed upon the stain left by the blood.

Too often we are fixated upon our own works. When we are doing well, we allow our accomplishments to make us feel as though we are better than those who are not serving as much or in the same ministries. When we are failing, we think God is disappointed with us, and sometimes this will push us farther and farther away from the Lord. I think it is time we realize that our eyes are not to be fixed upon the garments of our actions, but upon the blood that makes us right with God. Just as the ram was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the priest, so Christ shed His blood to wash us from all sin and set us apart to God.

Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

When facing great temptation, trial, or difficulty, we will always find success when our eyes are fixed upon the work Christ accomplished for us on the cross. It was not, is not and never will be, our great accomplishments that make us right with God. It is the shed blood of Jesus alone that we look to as the means of making us and keeping us righteous.

Pastor Jim

 

Stained Garment 

Exodus 29:20-21
“Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”

The Lord went to great detail to explain the garments that the High Priest would wear. He referred to them as holy garments, designed for glory and for beauty. In other words, they were designed to both look beautiful and to reveal some aspect of the Lord’s glory. These garments included a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. The most highly skilled artisans in all Israel were commissioned to create them. Once the day of consecration arrived, Aaron and his sons were dressed in the most beautiful and highly technical attire the world had ever seen, but as they approached the altar, something quite striking took place. An innocent ram was killed, it’s flesh offered upon the altar, it’s blood mixed with anointing oil, and this mixture placed upon the Priest. Imagine how shocking to see the High Priest all dressed up, then have blood splattered upon his garments. No longer would our attention be drawn to his beautiful turban, breastplate or sash, now all we would notice was the stain.

God wanted the people, then and now, to understand that access to God is never based on what we try to do to earn it. All the skilled artisans on the planet could not create attire clean enough to grant access to God. Access to God is only granted when sin is covered by the blood of the innocent. This was symbolized by the blood stained garments of the Priests, and pointed to the time when Christ would make a way for all to have access to God.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The blood was also placed upon the ear, toe and thumb of the Priest. This was symbolic of a cleansing of all that he had done, and preparation for where he would go. How often have we laid our head on our pillows at night only to be consumed with guilt, for the things we have heard, seen or touched. We live in a fallen world, and sin is always around us. It is so comforting to know there is cleansing available to free us from sin and guilt.

Pastor Jim

Turntables 

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion for the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had been turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts  pointing people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim