1 Thessalonians 3:3
“That no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

There seems to be a great deal of teaching in the church today regarding prosperity. The messages vary, but the basic idea is God wants to bless and prosper you. This prosperity is defined as being wealthy, healthy and successful. There is no question, by following Jesus, you will avoid many of the pitfalls in life that lead to suffering, but it is wrong to use a secular dictionary to define Biblical terms. The same Jesus who promised abundant life, also promised that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). The same apostle who experienced what it was to abound, also went through times where he was abased; he said, “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12).

Here, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the afflictions that the believers were experiencing. The word translated ‘affliction,’ means to press together. It would speak of someone who is experiencing trials that are squeezing in upon them,  making them feel as though they will be crushed. Similar words to affliction are: distress, oppression, or even tribulation. Paul tells the Thessalonians two things about the trials they are facing.

First, the word is in the plural form, meaning these afflictions come in many shapes and sizes, and are incidents we will experience throughout our Christian walk. Second, Paul reminds us, we have been appointed to theses afflictions. God, in His sovereignty and will, His unlimited love for us, and power toward us, not only allows difficulties, but appoints us to some of them. While it is wrong to blame every trial on God (some things are the consequences of our own sin, or the result of living in a fallen world that fights against God), there are difficulties into which God directs us. Why? Why would a loving, heavenly Father allow us to go through times of difficulty? The answer is manifold, but carries at least two primary thoughts.

First, we are appointed to afflictions so we will grow in Christ. The Thessalonians were known for their faith, love and commitment to the Lord. Their maturity had much to do with the difficulties through which Jesus led them. Second, their growth, through afflictions, worked to lead others to Christ. So often, it is seeing how a believer handles his trial, that leads others to trust in Christ.

Be careful you do not accept prosperity teaching at the expense of the Bible’s teaching on Christian growth and maturity. Paul said his desire was “to know Christ in the fellowship of His suffering”(Philippians 3:10).

Pastor Jim



1 Corinthians 3:1
“I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

Paul mentions four types of people in the opening verses of this chapter. He refers to mere men (some versions read natural man), babes in Christ, carnal men, and finally spiritual men. These terms represent a natural development in the spiritual life of an individual. Natural man refers to a person before they place their faith in Christ. The natural man is living, breathing, walking, talking, perhaps even loving, giving, sharing and caring, but the natural man is separated from God, and living in sin. It is when the natural man hears the message of the cross, recognizes his need for a savior, and places his faith in Christ, that his sin is forgiven and he is born again into the family of God. At that point, he becomes a babe in Christ. Like all babies, the new Christian must be cared for. He needs constant companionship, encouragement, example, and a diet of the simple teachings of the Word of God.

Hebrews 6 gives a list of the foundational truths every young Christian must understand: “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the young Christian ingests a healthy diet of the Word of God, he will begin to grow. Thoughts, words, and actions change, and many of the practices from the old life, are replaced with practices that are pleasing to God. Soon, the young believer is growing in Christ, and impacting others for the kingdom of God. They are no longer controlled by emotions, or by the influences of the world around them, but are now controlled by the Spirit of God. They begin to live a life that sets an example on earth, and stores up treasures in heaven. Paul refers to that individual as spiritual. Sadly however, this is not the route for every Christian. Some, after placing faith in Christ for salvation, never seem to grow out of infancy. Even years after coming to Christ, they are still struggling with the same doubts, fears and sins. Their Christian life is more like a swinging pendulum, than a walk with God. They “feel” close to Him at moments, and far away other times, they let the influences of the world influence them, and are constantly falling into sin. Sometimes, because of the guilt of constant failure, they seclude themselves from other Christians, and may even accuse the church of wrong doing. It is not uncommon to hear them use phrases like, “Christians are judgmental” to help justify the sins they have not outgrown.

Paul minces no words, he refers to that person as carnal, a word meaning worldly. While it is expected, and even cute, to see a baby act like a baby, it is sad to see someone still acting childish as a an adult. Now would be a good time to evaluate your walk with God. Are you growing? If you have been a Christian for only weeks, you should be seeking to surround yourself with godly influences and get to know the Word of God. If you have been a Christian for many years, you should see a dramatic and constant change in your life, because of the daily investment of the Word of God. The Christian life is a life of growth; like a tree, we only stop growing when we are dead.

Pastor Jim


A Fresh Start 

1 Chronicles 4:9-10
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “’Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.”

Tucked away in a sea of names, we find the brief story of a man named Jabez. From the bits of data recorded about him, we learn he was an honorable man who left a mark upon his world. His name reveals much regarding his upbringing. Jabez meant “to cause pain.” He received that name because of the difficulties surrounding his birth. It seems as though his mother never got over that trauma, because Jabez grew up thinking his life would cause continual pain to others. Instead of growing up in a home where he was nurtured and encouraged to become all God had designed him to be, Jabez grew up being reminded that his life would only cause pain in others.

It is sad how often Jabez’ story is repeated. Time and time again, children grow up in circumstances that thwart their growth, rather than encourage it. An absent father, a divorce, substance abuse, or simply the lack of allowing Christ to be the center of the home, will have a profound effect upon a young person. It is common for the sins of the parents to be repeated in the children. A child whose parents divorce, has a greater chance of a failed marriage. Children, whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs, will be more likely to do the same.

It would seem the likely end to the story of Jabez is he would grow to become a man who carried the baggage and bitterness from his difficult upbringing. Instead, we read he was an honorable man, and one worthy of being recorded within the Chronicles of the kingdom.

What happened? What was the secret that raised Jabez out of the slums of despair and turned him into a mighty man of God? The answer is found in one simple phrase, “Jabez called on God.” No matter what the problem is, when we include the Lord in the equation, we will find a solution that is both glorifying to Him, and satisfying to us. Instead of allowing his difficult circumstances to determine who he would become, Jabez sought God and was transformed.

Whatever “baggage” you may have from past experiences, these things do not have to define you. You can come to the One who makes all things new. Allow Him to minister to your wounded heart, and transform you into a person who brings honor to Him, and leaves an example for others to follow.

Pastor Jim


Full Grown 

Psalms 17:15 
“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”

I remember years ago listening to Pastor Chuck Smith teaching from John 15 on the Vine and the branches. To illustrate our need to bear fruit, he asked, “What does a full grown tree look like?” Immediately, my mind was filled with visions of the massive Redwoods of Northern California. I remember, as a child, driving our car through a tunnel cut out of a tree in Humboldt County. After pausing to let the question sink in, he responded, “A full grown tree looks like firewood.” You see, a tree grows as long as it is alive. The moment it stops growing, is the moment it has died.

We are like that. Once we begin a relationship with God, a process known as “Sanctification” begins. Sanctification is the work that God does in our lives to make us more like Jesus. The process starts with God removing the things from our lives that are harmful to us. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, unhealthy relationships, and the like, are all laid down at the cross, when we first receive Christ. But that does not complete our growth. Christianity is not just about what we don’t do. It is much more about who we become. As daily, we invest in the Word of God, prayer, fellowship and service, we find that the characteristics of Christ are being birthed in us. Paul called those attributes the fruit of the Spirit. The more we grow in Christ, the more we become like Him, until one day, we like David, will see His face in righteousness and be satisfied.

Until that day, lets determine to grow in Christ, by abiding in Him daily.

Pastor Jim


Dry Times

Numbers 1

20140228-064915.jpgThe book of Numbers receives its name from the numbering of the people that occurred in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 26. In Chapter 1, those who came out of Egypt were numbered. In Chapter 26, 40 years later, at the end of their wilderness journey, they are numbered again. A careful look will reveal, some of the tribes grew, and some of the tribes shrank. I think there is an important application we can glean which pertains to our lives. Just as they were in the wilderness, we often find ourselves in a spiritually dry time. We may even feel like we’re just wandering around aimlessly. I think it is valuable to remember, based upon what we do in the wilderness, we can either come out having shrunk or having grown.I believe God brings us to those places in our relationship with Him, those difficult times, because He wants to grow us in our relationship with Him. He wants us to learn to trust Him and follow Him.

In the Gospels, we read of the disciples getting into a boat with Jesus. Jesus falls asleep in the front of the boat. As they begin to cross the Sea of Galilee, a storm hits, and the disciples freak out. They were so panicked, they woke Jesus and said, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing.” That translates into, “Jesus, You don’t love us or care about us. If You really loved me, You wouldn’t allow this difficulty in my life, while You were sleeping.” We know, in response, Jesus got up and calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41). They faced a difficulty (you might say they were in a wilderness), and they failed. But was it a total failure?

The next time we see them on the Sea of Galilee in a storm, these same guys, row from evening time ‘till 4:00 am without stopping. Jesus sent them out onto the sea and said, “Go to the other side.” He went up on the mountain to pray and as He prays, He watches them (Mark 6:45-50). He seems to enjoy watching them row. They row and row, hour after hour… as the night grows dark and morning begins to approach, they are still rowing. They haven’t stopped. What happened? Well, in the first storm, they had a wilderness experience, but during that time of difficulty, they learned something. Even though they’d failed, they learned. When we are on the Sea of Galilee and a storm hits, we don’t need to be afraid; even if it looks as though God is sleeping and not involved.

As a result of that experience, you could throw those guys out on that sea, in any storm, and they knew, “Jesus has it covered. Even if He’s sleeping, He’s got it covered.” They were in a wilderness, but they grew.Every one of us will face a wilderness. We go through times of dryness in our relationship with the Lord. Times of difficulty, times when it seems like Jesus is asleep, not hearing us. We can grow or we can shrink. Depending on how we trust and follow the Lord.

Pastor Jim


It’s All Mine


The book of Obadiah is written as a warning to Edom; a people who inhabited the area that is present day Jordan. They are warned that because of their pride, they would soon be overthrown. That prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar passed through the area and conquered Edom.

The book also contains a message for Israel.

“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness;
The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
Obadiah 1:17

When Abraham was first called by God, he was given great and precious promises. He was told he would become a great nation, possess a great land, and provide a blessing for all nations. While these promises were fulfilled to a limited degree, Israel never experienced their fullness. We might say, they failed to ever really possess their possessions. When Joshua led the people into the land to take occupancy, he heard the Lord say,

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1

After years of walking in the Promised Land, Israel had yet to experience all God had for them.

Many Christians do the same thing. While we might experience conversion, we neglect to move very far beyond that and find  we haven’t really experienced the fulness of our salvation. We, like Israel, fail to possess our possessions; but what are these possessions?

First, we possess the forgiveness of sin. Without coming to Christ for forgiveness, we are not a Christian. However, the moment we will lay down our pride and confess our sins and need for Christ to save us, we are washed in the blood of the lamb and become a child of God. That being said, it is important to realize there is much more to the Christian life than forgiveness. We are also promised victory over sin. In other words, we do not have to live constantly falling back into the same sins over and over again. Paul wrote,

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  Romans 8:37


“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:12

Beyond that, the Bible also promises the believer will be given power to effectively serve the King of Kings. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were equipped by God to impact the world for the kingdom of heaven. Each of these individuals did so because they were willing to move on from forgiveness to service. I think a valid question to ask yourself is, “What have I done for the Kingdom of God?” If you have no answer or the answer causes you to look back in time, then you are failing to possess your possessions. It is high time we start investing in the Kingdom, after all, we will be spending eternity there.

Pastor Jim