God Is Just

Numbers 31:1-2
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.’”

Webster defines vengeance as, “the act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you or someone else.” Some synonymous would include payback, reprisal or even revenge. We seem to be fascinated with the concept of vengeance. It is the premise behind famous works of literature like; The Iliad, Hamlet and The Count of Monty Christo. It seems that the idea of paying back those who have wronged us resonates within the heart of man. This is probably due to the fact that all of us have felt wronged one time or another and wished that we were able to do something to get back at the ones who hurt us. There seems to be an innate cry in the heart of all men for what we perceive as justice. We have all heard children complain that things are not fair, and we see adults, young and old, rallying behind politicians who have stirred in them the desire to get what is theirs.

When it comes to the concept of divine vengeance it is vital to realize some very important distinctions between the judgment of God and the judgment of men. First off, the very definition is different. Instead of being a form of payback for being hurt, divine vengeance would better be seen as, “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an offense.” God does not lash out in a fit of rage, nor does He seek to get back at those who have hurt Him. Instead, God metes out perfect justice upon those who have violated His laws. Throughout Scripture we find that the vengeance of God does not come without warning and long periods of forbearance  with the rebellious ways of mankind. The Canaanites were given over four hundreds years before judgment came, Egypt received numerous plagues before the angel of death arrived, the judgments recorded in the book of Revelation are distributed in waves.  God gives every individual numerous opportunities to turn to Him before ever pouring out His wrath.

While judgement is not our favorite subject to meditate upon, it is important for us to realize there is a time coming for every individual, and for the world as a whole, when we will give an account to God for the life we lived, and the decision we made regarding His Son. There is no way to avoid that day, but there is a way to avoid the judgment. The Bible teaches that, apart from Christ, we are all under the wrath of God, but when we receive Christ, wrath is replaced with mercy. Instead of facing judgment, we can receive the free gift of eternal life. One thing we can count on is that God will be fair. If we want to avoid punishment and receive reward, we must allow Christ to take the judgment we deserve.

Pastor  Jim

 

Consecrate Yourself

Leviticus 20:7-8
“Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”

Consecration is an important part of Christianity. A person who desires to walk with God, must set himself apart from the world and to the Lord. We cannot successfully follow the Lord when only a portion of our lives is given to Him. Jesus said it is impossible to serve two masters because we will be loyal to one at the expense of another (Matthew 6:24). It is also impossible to serve the Lord when we continue to bring things into our lives that distract or defile us.

Here in Leviticus we have some key insight into a practical way of consecrating ourselves to the Lord. We are told to keep His statutes and perform them, because God will sanctify us.

Statutes is a word that speaks of governing principles, set down by the authorities that rule over us. Every nation, state, organization, community group, and family have statutes that govern the behaviors of those who belong to them. Without these statutes, we could not have a healthy and safe environment where civilization can grow. In the same way, the Word of God is designed to govern the life of the believer. When we are faced with a decision, trial, or any situation, for that matter, we should look to the Word for guidance. When we apply the teaching of the Bible to our current circumstances God uses His word to sanctify us and make us more useful for His kingdom.

The other day I was speaking with a young lady who is single. She expressed her desire to find someone, but stated she wanted to be sure to find the right guy. Immediately, we went to Matthew’s gospel, where he records Jesus saying, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Not only is this a great promise, it is a statute designed to govern our goals, ambitions and the way we approach fulfilling them. If we use this verse as a guiding principle in our lives, we will be sure to find ourselves being set apart from the world and unto the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

By The Blood

Leviticus 8:30
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”

The priests wore garments designed by God and put together by the finest craftsmen in the land. These garments included a tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastplate and even a turban. When the priest was fully dressed, all eyes would be upon his attire. That is why this verse is so striking. Once clothed, the priest would approach the altar, sacrifice a ram and sprinkle its blood upon his clothing. Instead of seeing the glory of the garments, all eyes would be fixed upon the stain left by the blood.

Too often we are fixated upon our own works. When we are doing well, we allow our accomplishments to make us feel as though we are better than those who are not serving as much or in the same ministries. When we are failing, we think God is disappointed with us, and sometimes this will push us farther and farther away from the Lord. I think it is time we realize that our eyes are not to be fixed upon the garments of our actions, but upon the blood that makes us right with God. Just as the ram was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the priest, so Christ shed His blood to wash us from all sin and set us apart to God.

Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

When facing great temptation, trial, or difficulty, we will always find success when our eyes are fixed upon the work Christ accomplished for us on the cross. It was not, is not and never will be, our great accomplishments that make us right with God. It is the shed blood of Jesus alone that we look to as the means of making us and keeping us righteous.

Pastor Jim

 

Word Art

Exodus 30:1
​ “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood.”

The book of Exodus not only tells the story of the building of the Tabernacle and it’s furnishing, it also serves as a wonderfully detailed illustration of the New Testament work of salvation. The altar serves as a portrait of the cross, which provides atonement for sin and access to God. Each of the remaining articles illustrate some aspect of our walk with God.

The incense altar was situated inside the first room of the tabernacle, and serves as a portrait of the beauty of prayer. Morning and evening the priest would bring incense to burn upon this altar, and the fragrance would rise up to the heavens. In the same way, when we take the time to lift our praise, petition, and intercession to the Lord, it rises up and fills the throne room of heaven like a sweet aroma.

Every adult in Israel, no matter how rich or poor, was required to bring a half shekel of silver as an offering for the sanctuary. By some estimates, the Tabernacle would have cost in excess of fifty million dollars. This was an impossible sum for any one man, but everyone could afford half of a shekel. This offering serves as a picture of the need for, and value of, faith. Our simple offering of trust in Christ is all that is required for us to receive the benefit of salvation.

Just outside the door of the Tabernacle sat the bronze laver. It was a big bowl used by the priests to ceremonially wash themselves whenever they approached the tent. This cleansing is a picture of the importance of the Word of God. Jesus spoke of the Word as a cleansing agent in the life of the believer. Each time we open the Bible it is like taking a shower, and the dirt of living in a fallen world is washed away.

Finally, the priests were anointed with a fragrant oil. This oil symbolizes the work of the Holy Spirit who makes ministry possible. Before Jesus began His public ministry, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and before the ministry of the church began the believers were also baptized with the Spirit. We see in Scripture that the work of the Lord is energized by the work of the Spirit on individuals. It is also worth noting, they were not to alter the fragrance. A false incense would not serve as a proper anointing oil. In the same way, we must be careful not to confuse hype and emotion with a work of the Spirit of God.

As we continue through Exodus, we will see more and more of these beautiful portraits of our relationship with the Lord. Keep in mind, Jesus said the entirety of the Bible testifies of Him.

Pastor Jim

Prosperous

Habakkuk 3:17-18
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

It is not uncommon today, to hear messages in the church making it sound as though walking with Jesus will mean we will no longer face difficulty, and our life will be filled with increase. This teaching is referred to as “prosperity doctrine”, and while catchy, it is clearly not Biblical. The saints of old did not expect to walk through life without trial, difficulty or opposition. Instead, they expected that in he midst of whatever life threw at them, they would find help, comfort, consolation and strength from the Lord. Perhaps no one more clearly expresses this than the prophet, Habakuk. He paints the darkest picture a farmer could ever imagine and declares, in spite of it all, he would continue to rejoice in the God of his salvation.

Clearly, the prophet considered life to be much more than the temporal successes or failures we experience here. He looked beyond the hardships of life into the face of eternity, and celebrated the fact that a day would come when this life would reach its end and he would be face to face with the God of salvation. Often, we lose sight of God because we are focused only upon the here and now. We forget, the real reason Christ came was not to make this life better, but to prepare us for the life to come. The trials and triumphs we experience here are only truly understandable when we keep in mind, we will soon be standing in eternity.

If we are only following the Lord in hopes of larger flocks and crops, we are on a course   destined for disappointment. We are certain to become disillusioned the first time we face a trial, or come up against a hardship that is designed to get our eyes on eternity. Instead of looking to Jesus to make you more successful, look to Him to make you more holy.

Pastor Jim

 

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

 

Jealous 

Nahum 1:2-3
“God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; the LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; the LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”

Nahum gives us essential insight into the true nature of God. He declares that “God is Jealous.” Jealousy is a common term in our vernacular; usually used in reference to relationships. The dictionary defines jealous as, “feelings of envy or suspicion.”

We have all felt the effects of jealousy in ourselves, seen it in others, and even read about it in the pages of our Bibles. We know that both Joseph’s brothers and Saul were plagued by jealousy, which caused them to do things harmful to themselves and others. The Hebrew word for jealous literally translates as, “becoming dark red”, and illustrates the emotions that stem from jealousy. Psychologists tell us jealousy is birthed out of concern for self, is often coupled with possessiveness, suspicion, and commonly produces rage, and even a desire for revenge.

Without question, jealousy is a character flaw, yet we read, “God is Jealous.” In order to properly understand what Nahum is saying about God, we must realize, the jealousy of God is quite different than the jealousy of man. God is Jealous, not because He is selfish, but because He loves us so much, and wants what is best for us. God’s jealousy is not a character weakness, but strength. It does not cause Him to be resentful against us, but reveals His deep love and desire for our best. We read much more in Scripture regarding the Jealousy of God.

First, He is Jealous for his glory or His name.

Exodus 34:14 “. . .for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, . . .”

As a result, He will not allow false worship, because false gods cannot save sinners. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Second, He is Jealous for His law.

Exodus 20:5 “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,”

Sin is destructive to the individual committing sin and to those within his or her circle of influence. When a man commits adultery, he, his partner and his family, are all drastically and negatively effected by his actions. God must judge sin for the sake of those who are impacted. Like a doctor removing a cancerous tumor, God must deal with sin, lest it continues to destroy.

Finally, God is Jealous for his people.

Zechariah 2:8 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.’

2 Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

God will not tolerate infidelity. We are His alone; we may not have other ‘gods’. We are to love Him first. It is because of His great love toward us that He is our best, and wants what is best for us.

Pastor Jim