Under Attack

Psalms 129:1
“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,”

Difficultly is part of the journey for the people of God. Israel as a nation has been under constant scrutiny and attack since its inception and at the same it is true of the child of God. The moment you publicly proclaim the name of Jesus you will become the object of the world’s attack. Most of the positive things that are done in the name of Christ are overlooked, ignored or forgotten while anything and everything the church or the individual Christian does wrong is paraded as a proof that Christians are no different from the world.

After a recent attack at a gay night club by a person with radical Islamic roots the attention soon turned to the church as though this was somehow caused by the Bible’s position that homosexuality is a sin. Soon the news channels began to report on a church in California where the pastor declared that the victims of the attack deserved what happened because of their lifestyle. I was shocked not only to hear that a person would say such a foolish thing but that the media was able to ignore what was being said and done in thousands of churches across the nation and find one church that held this opinion and make it the news. What about the millions of Bible believing followers of Christ who gathered with their congregations to weep for the victims and pray for their families. What about those who made their way to Orlando to pass out food and water as a way to say they were sorry for the tragedy and to condemn the actions of a violent and godless man? The reality is the world has always opposed the followers of God and put them under scrutiny and attack. Jesus put it this way,

John 15:18-25 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

As believers we should do all we can to change the world’s perspective of Christ and the church. When a person attacks Christianity they should have to second guess themselves because of your actions. They should find themselves making generalities about Christians while having to rethink those statements because of your life, love and faithfulness to the word of God. We cannot ever compromise the message of the cross but we should be willing to lay our lives down for others to hear it, see it and know it.

Jim

 

Strong Love 

Song of Songs 8:7
“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.”

There are a host of strong motivators that drive a person to action. Fear of what may come will often lead a person to behave in an unhealthy manner; lying, hate, and worry are often a byproduct of fear. Money can be a strong motivator. People will work themselves to the bone, and even sacrifice their families, to get a little more, because of the false security a savings account brings. Of all the motivating factors in life, none can compare to what will be done for love.

It was love that motivated God to send  His son into the world. It was love that drove Jesus to the cross, knowing the suffering He would endure. It was love that compelled Paul to endure whatever it took, to take the Gospel to the farthest parts of the planet. It is love that causes a young man to risk it all, propose to a young lady, and begin a life together.

Clearly, love is the greatest driving force in the universe. If we want to keep our relationships healthy and strong, we must be careful to feed that love. Jude wrote of our need to, “keep ourselves in the love of God.” This is done by, daily, investing time in the Word, prayer and obedience. Song of Solomon spends eight chapters illustrating the need to invest in our marriage relationship, to keep love strong. The love we invest now will be the driving force that keeps our marriage healthy, in the days and years to come.

Pastor Jim

 

He Loves Me…

Job 16:9
“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; My adversary sharpens His gaze on me.”

When we find ourselves in times of great trial, it is often difficult to discern the voice of God. In Job’s case, the voices of pain, sorrow, suffering, and loss were screaming so loud, the voice of God was drowned out. He could no longer hear God’s Word reminding Him of the great love with which he had been loved. He could no longer hear the voice of compassion, mercy or providence, explaining He would make all things right. All Job could hear was the voice of his anguish, and it was screaming, “God must hate me.”

While we may never face trials as grievous as Job endured, we will no doubt, encounter difficulty that will call into question the character of God. We will all experience times when looking at our circumstances will make it difficult to perceive the love and mercy of God. It is in those times, I lean upon the advice I received from my pastor. He told me when I do not know, I should always fall back on what I do know. In other words, there are foundational truths about God we can cling to in difficult times. Having a grip on those truths will take us through our darkest hours.

First, we must remember, God is good and everything that flows from Him is good. The psalmist put it this way,

“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.” Psalm 73:1-2

He declared the circumstances he faced brought him to the brink of falling, but the cure was to remember the goodness of God. Not only is He good, but He also promises to work all things out for our good. That means He has a plan to work with the circumstances we are facing, in order to accomplish His best for our lives. Often, we fail to see any value in the trials we endure, because we are by nature shortsighted, we cannot see into the future, or understand the big things of God.

Another important, even foundational truth, to rely upon in times of confusion is, God is in all this for the long haul. He is making decisions that will effect, not just the moment we are in, but the generations that will follow. Abraham was promised descendants as the stars, but at his death only Isaac had been born. It was not that the promise failed, but that the vantage point of God was much more far-reaching than Abraham could see. Keep in mind, the way we choose to react to the difficulties we face, will have an affect upon those who come after us.

Finally, no matter how loud your trials may scream that God hates you, the cross cries out emphatically, God is love. The very fact that God initiated the steps to redeem man back to Himself, knowing those steps would lead to the brutal death of His only begotten Son, are proof enough of the magnificence of His love.

In your sorrow, pain or confusion, take the time right now to focus upon the majesty of the cross and allow God to bathe you in His infinite love.

Pastor Jim

 

Love And Hate 

Psalm 97:10
You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”

I find it striking that the Psalmist declares that hate is a necessary expression of true love. He explains that part of being in a healthy love relationship with Jesus is having a hatred for evil. Why is it necessary to hate evil? Why should we hate evil? I can think of at least three pretty strong reasons.

First, we should hate evil because of what evil does to creation. When sin entered the world, death entered and all of creation began to be in a state of decay. We observe this daily. People age and die, things deteriorate and break, everything goes from a state of useful to useless. Paul explains that creation itself even groans to be redeemed. If we could discern the voice of nature we would hear it crying out for redemption.

Second, we should hate evil because of what it does to us. Evil or sin separates man from God placing all humanity under its curse and penalty. Sin has devastated families, wreaked havoc on relationships, fueled racial prejudices, started wars, and will ultimately damn those who reject Christ to eternal separation from God. Even after we are redeemed, sin is like a cancer that eats away at the spiritual life of the believer. When we allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies, it creates distance between us and God, causing us to miss out on experiencing abundant life, for which he died. Instead of life, love, joy,  peace, we find ourselves living under the weight of guilt and fear, suffering the consequences of our personal failures.

Finally, we must hate evil because of what it has done to God. His holiness demands that sinners are separated from Him, but His love drives Him to restore our broken fellowship. The only currency valuable enough to pay the cost for the human soul is the blood of God. It was because of sin that the blood of God was shed. We have all felt the weight of individual sin. We know the guilt and pain that we have been under, as a result of one sinful action. On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of every sin that every man has or will ever commit. The darkness of that day aptly illustrate the severe suffering that Christ endured as He cried out, “My God why have You forsaken Me?” It seems to me, the proper response for the child of God is to hate evil. It has been my experience that we avoid what we hate. A true hatred of evil will cause us to avoid sin, rather than living as close to it as possible. Will you join me in praying that we would have a healthy hatred of sin, and avoid it at all costs?

Pastor Jim