Cry Out

Psalms 61:1-2
“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I .”

We cannot be certain of the occasion that stirred David to write this psalm. It may have been a time of great difficulty, opposition or trial. He may have been facing severe attacks from Saul, the Philistines or one of the neighboring kingdoms. It is also possible the struggles he faced were not external. It may have been that David was engaged in that great inner struggle between his desire to do what is right in the eyes of God, and his own human weaknesses. Whatever caused the dilemma, he concluded that the only solution was to cry out to the Lord. Crying out to God should include at least three things.

First, we cry out for deliverance from whatever it is that is attacking us. We need to realize,  no matter what the cause, Jesus is the solution. If you are being plagued by consequences to your own actions, cry out to God. If you are being unfairly attacked because you have chosen to live for Christ, cry out to God. If you are under the stress of inward turmoil or temptation, cry out to God. He alone has the strength to deliver us from all things.

Second, cry out to God for forgiveness. Often the hardships we face are allowed by God to expose things that are amiss within us. We learn to justify sinful behavior or cover it up, as if we could hide it from the Lord. During times of great opposition, our own sinfulness is often exposed. Those things are brought to the surface so we can cry out to God for forgiveness. Sometimes, this can be done privately by dropping to your knees and confessing your sin to our Heavenly Father, who delights to forgive us. Other times, there is value in making your way forward at church and treating the stage as an altar, where you can cry out to God and confess your sin and recommit your life to Him.

Finally, we should cry out to God for more of Him. Difficulty reveals weakness and weakness should reveal our need for God. Our needs can be met when He pours His Spirit out upon us. Individually and corporately, the greatest need the Christian has is for a fresh and deeper work of the Spirit. Looking at the current condition of the world, as well as most Christians individually, I would say we are in need of revival. We need God to pour out, from heaven, a larger measure of His Spirit upon His church. Join with me as we cry out to God to be filled again with Holy Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Baptism

Matthew 3:15“Jesus answered and said to John, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”

The baptism of Jesus was a critical event in His life and ministry. It becomes a great illustration for us, of Christian living and service. First off, note that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Water baptism is a picture of a spiritual baptism, which happens the moment a person believes in Christ.

Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” 1Corinthians 12:13

While water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement for obedience. We are commanded, upon receiving Christ, to make it public with baptism. Jesus, to illustrate the value of this public declaration, submitted Himself to the rite of baptism. 

Second, note what happened upon His baptism; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. This is a picture of a second baptism that the Bible speaks of; not when we are submerged in water, but in the Holy Spirit. I find it of the highest importance, that before Jesus began public ministry, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, any who asked would receive the Holy Spirit, and along with the outpouring of the Spirit, would receive power to walk with Christ. Take time right now to ask God to baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and empower you to live for Christ and serve Him. 

Finally, note that Jesus heard the voice of God. One thing abundantly clear in Scripture is that God honors obedience. I believe whenever we take steps of obedience in our lives, we will hear the voice of God more clearly. Whatever He is asking of you, do it, and His voice will become louder and clearer to you.

Pastor Jim

  

Jim Gallagher

Matthew 3:15
“Jesus answered and said to John, ‘permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”

The baptism of Jesus was a critical event in His life and ministry. It becomes a great illustration for us of Christian living and service. First off, note that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Water baptism is a picture of a spiritual baptism that happens the moment a person believes in Christ.

Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”  1Corinthians 12:13

While water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement for obedience. We are commanded, upon receiving Christ, to make it public with baptism. Jesus, to illustrate the value of this public declaration, submitted Himself to the rite of baptism. Second, note what happened upon His baptism; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him…

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Ready?

Zechariah 14:1
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming…”

Paul Revere is famous for warning the the colonial militia of the coming of the British army, before the battles of Lexington and Concord. He actually helped establish an intelligence and alarm system designed to prepare the colonies for the movements of the British troops. A good warning system will help us prepare for what is coming. We may never know how many lives were saved by the efforts of men like Revere.

Zechariah is seeking to warn us of an event far more important than the movements of British forces. He warns us of the coming day of the Lord. This is a Biblical reference to end time events. It includes the rapture of the church and the return of Christ. Zechariah reminds us of this event, the question is, what have you done to prepare for it?

Jesus told two stories designed to help us prepare for His return. The first starred ten bridesmaids, who were awaiting the coming of the groom. Five of the women prepared by filling their lamps with oil. Five failed to prepare. The application is simple, we need to be ready for Christ to come. We prepare by being filled, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Spirit when we believe that Christ died for our sins, and we receive the forgiveness He offers. Jesus told a second story. This one starred three men, each of whom was given a sum of money to invest, as they awaited the return of their king. One of the men failed to make investments out of fear of doing the wrong thing. When the king returned, this man was rebuked. Again, the application is not complicated. Those who have trusted Christ need to invest their time, talents, and treasures, in eternal things.

The day of the Lord is coming whether we are ready for it or not. However, we can be ready, first by receiving Christ, then by living to make investments in eternity. We spend so much time worrying about earthly treasures that wear out, but often neglect to invest in things that will last for eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

Prepared 

Amos 4:12
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Whenever a big event is on the horizon, it is a good idea to spend the necessary time preparing for it. Every year the women’s ministry at our church has a mid-summer luncheon. If you were to wander onto the campus you would see the place decorated to the hilt. Every table, backdrop, wall covering and notebook fits within the overall motif, and the place always looks amazing. It would be clear, even to the most casual observer, that lots of planning and preparation had gone into this particular day.

Amos speaks of an event far more important than any luncheon, vacation, or travel destination. Amos speaks of us preparing for the unavoidable day when we will all come face to face with the Lord. No matter what your personal beliefs might be, the Bible assures us, everyone will stand before the throne of God, when this life comes to an end. The question is, have you done what is necessary in order to be prepared?  Jesus told two parables to illustrate the preparations necessary to be ready to face God.

First, He told the story of 10 bridesmaids who were awaiting the arrival of the groom. They were told to fill their lamps with oil as the awaited his coming. Five of these young women prepared themselves, and when He arrived they were welcomed into the celebration. The other five failed to do what was necessary, and were forbidden entrance (Matthew 25:1-15). The one thing that prepared these women for the coming of the groom was a lamp filled with oil. Biblically speaking, oil is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying, the way to be ready to face the Lord is to be born of the Spirit; which happens when we trust in Christ for salvation.

Jesus went on to tell another story. This time He spoke of a king who gave varying sums of money to there different individuals. The first and second took the funds and made investments with it, the third hid the money out of fear of losing it. When the king returned he commended the first two and rebuked the third, for failing to prepare (Matthew 25:15-28). The illustration is quite clear. We prepare for eternity by making eternal investments. Jesus called this storing up treasures in heaven; which is done by using our time, talents and treasures in he service of the Lord.

One day time will run out for all of us. It is important that we prepare in advance for the day when we will come face to face with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

What’s In It For Me? 

Ezekiel 36:25-27
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

Often, when someone is attempting to convince us to do something we are not sure we want to do, a little voice softly speaks in the back of our mind asking simply, “What’s in it for me?” We want to know if we make a commitment, what we will get in return. If you are struggling to make a decision to commit to Christ, perhaps it would help if you took a few minutes to consider what you will get out of the deal. Ezekiel promises three benefits that will not be found anywhere else.

First, he promises we will be made clean. Sin is uncleanness, and when we practice it, we know we are guilty. That guilt haunts us and we exert great effort trying to remove it. Some try to convince themselves that sin is not bad, others drown themselves deeper in vices, while many use drugs, alcohol, or counseling to try to make the guilt go away. What we are forgetting when we try to remove guilt this way, is that sin carries not only an emotional guilt, but a judicial guilt as well. When we sin, we violate the law of God, which carries a penalty. It is possible to remove the feelings of guilt with these and other measures, but there is only one way to remove the judicial penalty associated with our sins, that is, through the shed blood of Christ. Ezekiel promises, converting to Christ will make us clean.

Second, we are promised a new heart. This is necessary because our hearts are sinful. It is possible to fall in love with things that will destroy us. Many have given themselves over to the longings of their heart, only to be destroyed by them. Our hearts often beat for things that are destructive. We are promised that coming to Christ will result in a new heart, which will long for those things which are pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to us.

Finally, we are promised the Spirit of God. The work of the Spirit is to enable us to live out the Christian life. Being washed deters from going back into uncleanness, a new heart makes us want to please the Lord, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to leave sin and live for the Lord. Ezekiel states, the Spirit will cause us to walk in His statues and keep His commands. The New Testament reveals that the believer needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and this filling is a reoccurring act. If you have come to Christ, but you find you are constantly falling into the temptations of the flesh, it is time you make it a daily prayer to be filled with the Spirit. Take the time right now to drop to your knees and ask for a fresh work of the Spirit of God in your life.

Pastor Jim

 

Sealed And Sent

Revelation 7:3
“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7 begins with four angels holding the winds of judgment in their hands, waiting to be released upon a Christ-rejecting world. Fortunately, before they are allowed to begin, another angel is released from heaven to seal those who belong to God. We are not told exactly what this seal looks like, but we know that it is a mark that God places upon the forehead of these believers. It indicates that they belong to Him. There is a similar picture to this found in Ezekiel 9, where prior to judgment coming upon Israel, a messenger of God clothed in linen, marks all who belong to God rescuing them from divine judgment.

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .”

While it is clear, Revelation 7 is speaking of a particular group of people, sealed during the great tribulation, it is also true that all who trust in Christ receive a seal which marks them as God’s possession. That seal is the Holy Spirit, who indwells us at the moment we trust Christ for salvation. Paul tells us, upon receiving the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

Just yesterday, I was privileged to meet a woman and watch as she made a decision to trust Christ. She was beaming with joy so great, she could hardly contain it. All the pain and anguish of the difficulties of life, both past and present, seemed to be overshadowed by the intense joy that filled her upon receiving Christ. She was sealed with the spirit of promise.

Revelation 7:9-10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Those sealed by the Lord did not simply stand around and discuss how they had been sealed. Instead, they looked upon the world they lived in, and saw multitudes in need of Christ, and they declared the Gospel. What an amazing thing it will be, to stand in heaven and meet those who you helped lead to Christ.

Recently, I met a woman, who when she learned I was from America, began to thank me for those missionaries who came to the former Soviet Union in the early 90′s. She and her husband, along with many friends, had come to Christ through the ministry of one such missionary. What she did not know, the man standing with me, was one of those early missionaries. Fresh out of High School, he had given a year of his life to take the Gospel to Eastern Europe. What joy filled her eyes as she met, not the man who led her to Christ, but one who symbolized for her, all who loved her enough to risk it all for the Kingdom. What a joy! One day we will be in heaven with saints from every tribe and tongue, who have been washed in the Blood of the lamb and sealed with the Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Hide And Seek 

1 Corinthians 2:9
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The things God has planned for each of us are better than anything we could ever imagine. Rather than leaving us to our imagination, Paul declares these things are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. It is the desire of God that we know Him, and we understand the things He has planned for each of us.

When my oldest son was a toddler, I introduced him to one of my favorite childhood games, hide and seek. While he loved to play, he did not quite grasp the concept. I would hide in an obvious spot, where he could easily find me. When he did, I would act surprised, then he would turn excitedly and say, “I am going to hide under my bed and you try to find me.” For him the exciting thing about the game was not hiding, but rather being found. The same is true of God, He wants us to know who He is, and to understand the things He has planned for our lives. Paul declares that the hidden mysteries of God are revealed to us by the Spirit. In other words, we can know God because the Spirit of God makes Him known. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

At times we hide things from others, not because we do not want them to know, but because we do not know how to express them. This is especially true in relationships. Experts say, one of the most common factors that lead to marriage problems is failed communication. Thankfully, God is not limited in His ability to communicate to us. Paul explains that the Spirit reveals God through both the person of Christ, and His written Word.

One of the terms used in Scripture for Jesus is, “The Word”. This term is used because Jesus is the perfect expression of God. If we want to know what God is like, and what He desires from us, we must look carefully at Christ. Every encounter He had with others reveals something about the way God feels about us, and the things He desires out of us. The more familiar we become with Jesus, the better we will understand who God is, and what He desires from us. In addition to the person of Christ, God has also given us His written Word. Page, after page, reveals the unknowable. The hidden things of God are made known in His Word. Had God left creation alone to reveal His nature, we would have a skewed and limited understanding of Him. We would understand His power, but be very limited in knowing about His love. Since it is the desire of God for us to know Him, He reveals Himself in the Word. It is as if God said, “I am going to hide in My Word and you try to find me.”

Will you take Him up on the challenge? Or will the mysteries of God remain a hidden enigma to you, as you wander about, attempting to discover God with imagination and personal experience.

Pastor Jim