Turn To Me

Joel 2:12-13
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”

Sadly, the people of God had once again wandered from their God. The allure of idolatry, with its lack of morality, had seduced the people. They were now distant from God and beginning to suffer the consequences of a life lived apart from Him. Once again, the mercy of God is revealed as Joel encourages the people to turn back to YHWH and be restored. He explains the way back and the results.

The way back to a right relationship with God involves a 180 degree turn. They were involved in a lifestyle that was unacceptable to God, and it was necessary for them to leave that behind, if they were ever going to experience restoration and true spiritual blessing. Joel makes it clear that there must be both inward and outward change. They were to weep over sin and set up a fast, to show they were truly interested in getting their lives right with God; but these external changes were not enough. They must also rend their hearts. True repentance is more than cleaning up the exterior of our lives. If we want to be right with God, we need a heart change, and that is something He alone can do. We turn from sin and to God, and He will begin to transform us from the inside out.

Joel goes on to give two amazing promises to the people who will make the “U-Turn” and get their lives right with God.

Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”

The land of Israel had suffered greatly from a locust invasion. Crops had been destroyed and the economy shattered. Instead of chalking this up to nature or high carbon emissions, Joel realized the natural phenomenon was a consequence of sin, and could only be remedied by the people turning back to their God. Individually, we will find the same thing to be true today. Our lives are marred by our rebellion against God. We have left a trail of consequences behind us that can only be remedied by turning back to Christ and following Him. The great promise is,  He can and will restore shattered relationships and broken lives. Even those who have lived a lifetime apart from God, can be useful for the kingdom in their latter years.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…

The greatest promise in the prophecies of Joel is regarding the Holy Spirit. Joel foretold of a time when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh, and those who received the Spirit would be given spiritual gifts for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This promise was fulfilled, initially, in Acts 2 when the church was born, but continues to be fulfilled each time a believer turns to the Lord and asks to be filled with the Spirit. When we turn from the things that are not pleasing to God, we are restored to right relationship with Him and given the Spirit of God, in order to serve. A life surrendered to Christ, is a life empowered by the Spirit.

Turn toward the Lord and see all that He will do in you and through you.

Pastor Jim

 

Come Back 

Hosea 6:1
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

The mercy of God is so great that He not only invites us to come to Him for salvation, but invites us to return to Him if we have wandered. After describing the spiritual condition of the nation, as though they had been involved in spiritual prostitution, God does not cast His people aside, but pleads with them to return and be restored. No matter how far you have wandered and what consequences you are facing, the Lord wants to restore your relationship with Him. He promises to heal what has been torn, and bind up whatever has been stricken.

With such a great promise, it would seem logical to read that the nation accepted the invitation, returned to the Lord, and was restored to its former glory. Sadly, that was not the case. Despite the mercy of God, and His continued pleas, the people continued to rebel against His word and ultimately suffered the consequences. While the mercy of God is new every morning, and we have an open door to return to Him, we must take advantage of it. We must get off the road that is leading us away from Christ, and put ourselves under the authority of His Word.

Will you return to Him today and allow Him to restore to you the joy of your salvation?

Pastor Jim

 

Secrets

Ezekiel 8:8-9
“Then He said to me,’Son of man, dig into the wall’; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door. And He said to me, ‘Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.’”

Some of the imagery of the Bible is designed to get the attention of the reader. This passage certainly does that. Ezekiel explains, while he was sitting in his living room surrounded by the elders of Israel, he was suddenly lifted out of his chair by his hair, and transported hundreds of miles away to the city of Jerusalem. There he was shown a series of scenes that exposed the wickedness of the people, and in particular the leaders. One of those scenes took him to the the Temple where he dug a hole in the wall, found a hidden door, opened it up, and exposed the hidden sins of those who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the nation.

This passage has been preserved for us for two primary reasons. First, it gives insight into the real cause of the fall of Judah. The nation was defeated by their enemies, not because of military weakness, but because they had departed from the ways of God. This is true on every level. A person, church, or nation who turns its back on God, will find they no longer have the ability to stand, and will soon be defeated.

The second is much more personal. This passage illustrates the fact that God sees into the hidden chambers of the heart of every man. No sin is really committed in secret. Everything we do is done in the open before the eyes of God. Think about any secret sin you might be practicing, and think about doing it on a stage in a room filled with people. In reality, our sins are performed in the very sight of God. It is as if we have ushered everyone else out of the room, set up a private stage, and performed our secret sins for an audience of God. The writer of Hebrews put it this way,

Hebrews 4:12-13

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Notice the final line in that statement, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Every action we perform, no matter how careful we might be, is done openly in the sight of God. As frightening as that may be, the verse before it gives us the solution. We are told of the ability of the word of God to act like a sword that cuts into our lives and makes the appropriate changes.

Instead of hiding sin in a secret chamber of your heart, take the time to confess your sins to God, receive the forgiveness He offers, and look into His word for help and strength to put those things behind you.

Proverbs 28:13

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

Pastor Jim

 

Backsliding 

Jeremiah 3:22
“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.”

Paul warned against having an attitude toward grace that encourages sin. Some were suggesting, since God is gracious, it is okay to sin, knowing we will receive forgiveness. He put it this way,

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1

This attitude not only cheapens the grace of God, but also leaves a door open for sin to damage our lives. I think we often forget that sin is not bad because God forbids it, but that God forbids it because it is bad.

Jeremiah alludes to the dangers of sin when he declares, if we return to the Lord, He will “heal our backsliding.” Jeremiah understood that backsliding has grave consequences and will do us much harm. Some of the most common scars on the backslidden Christian include, shame, defeat, a shattered witness, broken families, lost years and even addictions. If we think we can toy around with sinful behavior without any consequence, then we are failing to understand the danger of sin, or the purpose of Grace.

Judah failed to heed the warnings of the prophets. They thought they could continue down a road of compromise without any lasting impact. It was not long after Jeremiah uttered these words that the nation collapsed. It would do us good to examine our lives and see if we are allowing compromise to keep us from complete commitment to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s Not Broken 

Isaiah 42:3
“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.”

The Bible teaches that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Our bodies, designed by God, are amazing machines. One of the more important functions of the body is the Central Nervous System. This elaborate system is responsible for communication between the brain and the members of the body. Information is passed to the brain through ventricles and the spinal cord. Although we may not understand the intricacies, we have all experienced the process. If I twist my ankle and the ligaments stretched beyond capacity, the injury is reported to the brain. The brain responds by telling the nearby muscles to be on high alert and treat the injured member with care. Simply put, God designed the human body to take care of the weak and injured members by treating them gently, and seeking to restore them to proper health. Isaiah reminds us that God feels the same way about the struggling believer.

“A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench…”

When we stumble, struggle, or even fall, the heart of God is not to remove us from the body, but to restore us to proper health. I am glad for the comparisons between myself and a bruised reed. I recently began walking down a particular beach path surrounded by high grass and reeds. One of the reeds grew into the pathway and was constantly in my way. Finally, after days of running into it, I bent it down in the middle. I noticed, although it was not dead, it never recovered from the injury. What Isaiah is promising is a miracle. God looks at the wounded Christian, even those who seem to have fatal wounds, and promises restoration. It would do us good, as the church of Christ, to treat the wounded the same way Jesus does, with gentleness; seeking to restore, rather than remove. Keep in mind, even church discipline has at its core the purpose of restoration.

Pastor Jim

 

Quick Fix

2 Kings 8:18
“And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

Sometimes, the reason a person fails to walk with the Lord is quite simple. In the case of Jehoram, king of Judah, it was anything but complicated; he got involved with an ungodly woman, who turned his heart from the Lord.

What would we find if we took a few minutes to examine you? Would we be able to discover anything that is keeping you from walking with Jesus? Would we find that past hurt has created a bitterness of which you refuse to let go? Or perhaps a compromise has led to a sin thats grip is so tight, you feel incapable of ever breaking away? Maybe it is as simple as it was for Jehoram, and you are involved in a wrong relationship, or at least in doing relationships wrong? What ever the case, the way to get things right,is to do an honest self evaluation, and make the proper adjustments.

The other day I was driving, and suddenly the car began to shake so ferociously, I was barely able to steer, and unable to continue driving. When I pulled over, I found the cause of what was keeping me from moving forward, was a simple flat tire. It was hot, it took some work, and I got dirty. However, after a relatively short period of time, the problem was addressed, fixed, and I was moving forward to my desired destination. Whatever is keeping you from moving forward has to be addressed and repaired if you are going to find yourself pressing toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ.

Pastor Jim