Misguided Theology 

Habakkuk 1:13
“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”

Habakkuk struggled to understand what was happening in his life, because his theology did not allow for the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer. His definition of holiness meant that those he considered to be wicked, could never prosper above the righteous. The prophet is not alone in the struggle to reconcile life experiences with what we think to be true of God.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a young lady who had developed the idea that it is the desire of God to heal everyone, and if a person is not healed, it must be because they either have sin in their life or they do not have enough faith. Her theology of healing was not developed from Scripture, but from her understanding of love. When I confronted her with passages where godly people like Paul and Timothy both encountered illness without healing, she ignored them and expressed that, if she as a parent had he ability to heal her child she would, and that God loves His children more than we do ours. It was her misguided theology of healing that made it difficult to reconcile the love of God with personal suffering. The fact is, God does allow His children to endure hardships that will draw us nearer to Him, perfect holiness within us, and develop a longing in our hearts for heaven.

If you are facing difficulties that are unsettling to your faith, it may be that it is time to look into the Scriptures and make sure your faith is resting on the sure foundation of the promises of God, rather than a doctrine that has been developed out of personal experience or desire.

Pastor Jim

 

River Of Life

Ezekiel 47:8,9
“When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.”

Jerusalem sits atop the mountain range known as mount Moriah. The city is surrounded by valleys, and is supplied with water through various springs, because there are no rivers that flow through the city or surrounding hillsides. Ezekiel is seeing into the future, to the time of the millennial reign of Christ. As Jesus sits upon the throne of David to rule the nations, the topography of Jerusalem is changed. A stream flows from the temple of God into the Kidron Valley, then turning south continues past the Hinnom Valley, heading toward the Dead Sea. What Ezekiel is seeing is both literal and symbolical. His vision is a beautiful picture of God, as the Source of life for a world that thirsts for spiritual truth, including forgiveness and salvation.

One day Christ will reign over the earth, and a river will flow from the Temple, supplying abundant food and a source of healing for the nations. While we must wait for that day to ultimately come, much of what is promised is available to those who are in a relationship with Christ.

John 4:14 “. . . but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

An open invitation is given to everyone of us to come to Christ and experience true life. Jesus compared a relationship with Himself to a flowing river. Later, Jesus would explain that the source of this life is the Holy Spirit. The more of the Spirit we have the more of the life we will experience.

Take time right now to ask God to fill you to overflowing with His Spirit. As you do, be prepared to lay things aside that might be keeping you from the abundant flow of life He promises.

Pastor Jim

 

Pray About It

James 5:13
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”

As this letter comes to a close, James addresses as many scenarios as he can think of that the believers might be facing. Some are suffering, others are cheerful, sick, or struggling with sin. In each case, the solution is the same. James says PRAY. The simplest definition of prayer is to talk to God. James is encouraging believers to live in open communication with the Lord. Whatever life may throw at you, learn to take those things to the Lord.

Jesus put it like this,

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have an open invitation to come to the Lord, no matter what struggles we have; and He promises to provide heavenly assistance. The Psalmist declared, He will even give His angels charge over us, lest we dash our feet against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). What are you facing today? Is it an illness, fear, or easily besetting sin? Whatever you are going through, the secret to your success is to cast all your cares upon Him in prayer.

James is known as that practical Apostle. As he writes about prayer, he gives some simple guidelines to ensure our prayers are the most effective. First, he suggests we get others involved in praying for us. Too often, we use the excuse of privacy to keep us from invoking others to pray with us, for the struggles we are facing. James exhorts the sick and the sinning to get others to pray with them, and for them.

Second, he exhorts us to pray in faith, believing God wants to heal and forgive. This is not something James made up based on wishful thinking, but rather something he understood by reading the Bible. Effective prayer is always based on what the Bible teaches. Whatever we are facing, we should look into the Word, learn what the Bile has to say on the subject, and then pray for God to do what He promises.

Finally, James speaks of fervent prayer. He is not suggesting we need to become emotional in our prayers, or to scream and shout. Instead, he is speaking about the intensity with which we bring things to the Lord. Often, when faced with a trying experience, we begin to complain; we may even invite others to complain with us. Our complaining will at times help to take the edge off our struggles. We call it venting, which means to delegate pressure. The problem is, when the pressure is released, we often neglect to take our struggle before the Lord. Instead of complaining about our difficulties, we should be entering the presence of the Lord, and seeking His assistance.

The trials you are facing today have been designed by God to draw you closer to Him. Take some time right now to invoke His assistance, as you seek to live for His pleasure.

(Joseph M. Scriven)

What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Pastor Jim

Spiritual Gifts 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Natural gifts, while given by God, are quite different from Spiritual gifts. If you have been given athletic, scholastic, or artistic gifts, you should use those for the glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom. However, spiritual gifts are an entirely different subject. Paul writes concerning the supernatural enabling God gives to the believer, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the growth of the church. There is a great variety of these gifts, but they all serve the purpose of equipping the church to more effectively reach the world for the Christ. Before listing these gifts, Paul gives a few principles for how they work.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

The word ‘diversity’ speaks of variety and reminds us that many different gifts are required for the church to function properly. Like setting up the Tabernacle in Old Testament times, the church functions properly when many gifts are in operation at the same time. Those with the gift of helps serve quietly behind the scenes, preparing the church for the people to arrive. They often stand in the back providing sound, video, worship screens, live streaming, etc. At the same time, those with the gift of hospitality greet people as they arrive, helping visitors find their place, and providing an element where fellowship is most conducive. The times of fellowship provide a way for Christians to exercise spiritual gifts and minister to each other. In those brief encounters over coffee and a snack, God often gives a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge that will help a Christian outgrow a particular sin, or be encouraged through a trying time. From the stage, spiritual gifts are essential. The worship team needs the gift of prophecy, so the heart of God is revealed to the people as they bring high praises to God and prepare themselves for the teaching of the Word. The pastor is perhaps the most dependent upon the gifts. If he is to effectively communicate God’s Word, he will need both the gift of teaching and evangelism. Fortunately, Paul reminds us, while there is much ministry, there are also many gifts.

“There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.”

Just as there are many gifts, so there are a variety of places to exercise those gifts. At our church, while the worship band is playing in the sanctuary, the youth band is leading worship, and the children’s ministers are leading in song. Three different ministries all in need of similar spiritual gifts. In the same way, as the pastor presents the Gospel on Sunday morning, the people are sharing it throughout the week. Just as he needs the gift of evangelism to preach on Sunday, the people need the gift in the break room, at the park, or on the phone with a friend or relative. The same gift is provided in a variety of ministry opportunities, all of which are of equal importance. Rather than complaining that we don’t get to do something we want at the church, let’s look for ways to be used by God throughout the week. Reading through the book of Acts, you will notice most of the Spiritual gifts were in operation out in the world, not behind the closed doors of the church building.

And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The term ‘activities’ comes from a word that means energy. Paul explains, the same gift may be given to two different people at two different levels. Certainly, every pastor must have the gift of teaching, but not all have the same teaching gift. The same is true of all the gifts. None would question that Billy Graham has the gift of evangelism, nor would any who know Ron Keenan (one of the two men who led me to the Lord), question he has the same gift. But it is also clear, they have the gift at different levels. Ron, gifted for the ministry he has been called to, living within his community and within his circle of influence, and Billy Graham for his ministry of bringing the Gospel message to millions.

I think the right response to Paul’s instruction is to pray. We should pray for more gifts, more ministry, and a greater energy of those gifts, in order to more effectively minister to others, and further the Kingdom of God. As a pastor, I would certainly appreciate others joining me in praying that prayer for myself, and for all those who attend our fellowship.

Pastor Jim

 

Church Life

2 Kings 5:3
“Then she said to her mistress, ‘If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.’”

Namaan was a Syrian general and a man of prominence within that nation. He was a courageous, well-spoken individual, who seemed to be both well liked and morally sound, by the standard of the day. With all Namaan had going for him, he was struck with a blow that would undo the strongest of men. A quick visit to his local doctor had revealed he had contracted the deadly and painful disease of leprosy. No doubt, he gathered with his family and closest friends to share the news. That meeting would have been filled with weeping and despair. No amount of money, power, or position could undo the deadly effects of this disease. He was destined for a long, painful struggle that would definitely end badly.

It is in this setting we are introduced to an unnamed young woman. When she heard of Naaman’s condition, her heart leaped; for she knew there was a solution. Not just for this problem, but for every problem. Her solution was to go see the prophet. Something about the ministry of Elisha had convinced her that a man whose life was devastated, could be restored by simply showing up. Her counsel was simple, “if only my master were with the prophet…”

What was it about the ministry of Elisha that caused her to believe the prophet could resolve Naaman’s problem? I believe it was the double portion of the Spirit of God that was upon Elisha. A ministry governed by the Spirit of God is a ministry that will transform even the most devastated lives. What we need in our churches, more than anything else, is a greater portion of the Spirit of God.
We meet people everyday whose lives have been turned upside down by illness, death, divorce, and much more. Would to God they would see the solution is found in coming to Christ. Pray for your church, pray that it would be a place where people would encounter Christ, and their lives would be repaired. If you have a friend who is in pain, get them to a church where they can hear of the wonderful workings of Christ, and become another in the long line of individuals that have been healed, transformed, and saved by the powerful work of God.

Pray for Calvary Chapel and pray for me.

Pastor Jim

 

What Do I Have I Give

Acts 3:6
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, . . .'”

Peter makes reference to a simple rule of life. We can only give away what we personally possess. By his own admission, Peter had no money to give this man. It is interesting to note that from an economic standpoint, Peter’s condition was no different than the beggar’s. In the world’s estimation, a man in his thirties who is too broke to share his change with a beggar, is of very little value. Peter would not make a who’s who list in the 1st Century. However, if we look more closely, we see that Peter possessed something far greater than riches that tarnish and fade. Peter said, 

“. . .what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
 Acts 3:6

Flat broke, jobless, and in a city that was not his home, Peter had more to offer this world than Pilate, Herod, and all the powers of Rome combined. Peter knew Jesus.

I wonder about you and me. What do we possess? If we were stopped on the street and searched, would they be able to find that Jesus resides and reigns in our heart and lives? It is when we allow Jesus to take possession of us, that we find we possess Him. It is when we allow Him to have all of our lives: our thoughts, actions, dreams, possessions, and futures, that we find, like the Psalmist of old, “Our cup runs over.”

What do you possess this morning? Is it Jesus? Could you give Him to the stranger on the street, or the person sitting near you at church, or the family member who is struggling to find meaning in life? Let’s determine together to make it our aim to know Jesus better so, through our lives, the lame may walk and the lost be found.

Pastor Jim

 

You Are Loosed

Luke 13:12
“Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”

woman-thou-art-loosed.PNG-ig.jpgI imagine what the scene must have been like in the Synagogue that day. The crowd had gathered like they did every Sabbath. For some it was no more than a religious duty, for others, it was how they expressed their devotion to God. The scene suddenly shifts from the normal activities of prayer and Bible reading to a woman with a serious medical condition. She had been suffering for eighteen years and nothing could be done for her. Without hesitation Jesus called her to Himself, and when she responded to the call, He healed her. Imagine being there! Imagine the joy that would fill her, perhaps like the lame man in Acts 3, she leaped with joy, celebrating what Jesus had done for her. I would expect to read that the service changed that morning, as the people broke out in unrestrained praise. Sadly however, rather than hearing praise,  we hear the sound of objection.

“There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

Sometimes the only response I can muster is WOW! I am amazed. Jesus changed the life of a woman in agony, but instead of people flocking to Him with praise, they objected to what He had done. Why were they so angry? I think it was because He violated the culture of the day. The religious leaders had developed a whole system of what was allowed on the Sabbath. Healing of the sick was not included. They might have been happy with Jesus making people’s lives better, but when He began to mess with the culture, they were infuriated. We read later, it was his changing of the cultural norm that motivated the religious leaders to make a deal with Rome and have Him crucified.

Things are not so different today.

For the past 2000 years the earth has been filled with people like this woman, who have responded to Jesus and have been transformed by Him. He has taken those who society has neglected, even rejected, and has made them heroes of faith. Yet, many still object to Him. Jesus is not rejected because He has not changed lives, but because He changes culture; because He dares to declare what man tolerates is often abominable to God. Much of what Jesus said and did is contrary to our culture. Rather than falling down before Him in worship for who He is and what He does, many raise up their fists in objection. “How can He say He is the only way?” “How can He say that my lifestyle is wrong, I was born this way, it’s hereditary, we are in love…”

Pastor Jim