Abundant Life

Numbers 33:52
“. . . then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; . . .”

God described the land He was giving Israel as a land that flowed with milk and honey. He was of course speaking figuratively of the blessed life that the children of Israel would experience within the land. This blessed life was conditional upon their obedience to Him, and their obedience included some driving out, and some demolition. They were instructed to tear down all of the images and the places where the false gods were worshipped. They were to leave nothing that would serve as a source of temptation. Moses went on to explain,

“. . . those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” 

Sadly, as the story unfolds, we will learn that Israel failed to drive out and demolish, and for centuries struggled with the temptation of the sins they allowed to remain in the land.

It is not difficult to draw a parallel between their experience and our lives. In order for us to experience the abundant life that Jesus offers, we also must do some driving out and some demolition. There are things that cannot remain in our lives if we are going to successfully walk with Christ. Those things include anyone or anything that will be an irritant, tempting us to sin and leading us away from the ways of God. Israe failed to obey this command partly due to the fact that they liked having some of those things around. They placed value on what God had banned and it was not long before they were caught in sin.

Stand back for a moment and examine the things in your life. Is there anything that needs to be removed? The way to do it is to go to the cross and lay it at the feet of Jesus, asking for His pardon, and strength to never pick it up again.

Pastor Jim

 

Idols

Leviticus 26:1
“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”

Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.

One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.

I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew  we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt  to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.

If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.

Pastor Jim

 

Throw That Out

Isaiah 31:6-7
“Return to Him against whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. For in that day every man shall throw away his idols of silver and his idols of gold—sin, which your own hands have made for yourselves.”

Isaiah prophesied of a day when a nation would come against Judah, and the Lord would defend His people. This happened at the end of the 8th Century BC when the Assyrian forces besieged Jerusalem, and were supernaturally defeated. In light of this, Isaiah calls people to return to the Lord. I find it interesting, that he couples coming to the Lord, with the laying aside of idols.

It is not difficult to imagine this scene. A person hears about the true God, makes a commitment to him, returns to his home, gathers up any and all images to other gods, and throws them in the trash. Meeting the Lord results in turning from false gods. It would be difficult for any of us to believe a person had truly repented if we visited their home and it was still filled with images to Molech, Baal or Ashtoreth. What we often fail to understand is, idols are physical representations of the desires of the flesh. A person who lived for pleasure would worship Molech, so getting rid of the idol was an evidence of turning from sin.

Today, at least in western culture, it is not common for people to have images which they bow down to in worship. Instead, we tend to live for the sin the idols represent. As a result, it is a little more difficult to see whether or not a person has truly repented. However, a little closer look into the fridge, movie cabinet, or Google search history, might reveal some idols that have not been thrown away.

Perhaps it is time to do some personal inventory. Have you turned to Christ and trusted Him alone to save you? Have you gone through your life, and your home, and removed the things you once lived for, which are not pleasing to God? Maybe it is time to do some spiritual house cleaning. Why not start this morning?

Pastor Jim

 

Praise Him

Psalm 138:1|
“I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.”

David paints a picture that is familiar to all of us. He is surrounded by those who are not following Jehovah, and are feverishly pursuing other things. The false gods of the heathen nations represented the pursuits of the flesh. They had gods of sexual passion, pride, possessions, power, intellect and more. David found himself surrounded by those who rejected God, pursued the flesh, and looked down upon him as he looked up to the Lord.

Sadly, it was not just the surrounding nations who thought David a fool for committing himself to Jehovah. Idolatry was rampant within the nation of Israel. Many of the people had developed their theology based upon experience and personal desire, instead of on the revelation of God.

David goes on in this psalm to declare, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Psalm 138:2

The word of God is magnified because of its value. It is His word which creates, sustains, quickens, enlightens, and comforts. However, the greatest value of the Word is what it reveals. It is through the Word of God that we see the true and living God. What we know about Him is revealed in the pages of His Word. His Word declares His love and care of His children.

When our hearts condemn us, His merciful, loving-kindness provides forgiveness and restoration. When fear grips us from within, His Word screams of His power, protection, and provision. Our fear can be replaced with an all consuming peace, because of the promises of God. When confusion clouds our thoughts and makes the way of the wicked seem appealing, it is His Word that reveals the end of the road, and the reward that awaits the faithful child of God.

You may be surrounded by those who seem to have no interest in the things of God. They may even treat you as a fool for putting your trust in Him, and mock you for living His way. Note what David goes on to say, “All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, When they hear the words of Your mouth.” Psalm 138:4

Certainly, there is a day coming when, “every knee will bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father” Philippians 2:10-11.

But there is another day coming, even sooner. It is the day when you will see many of those around you turn, and surrender their hearts to Jesus. Some of your family members, coworkers, and friends will one day, turn to Christ because of the work He has done in you. In the midst of all the confusion, do not lose heart.

Paul declared, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Pastor Jim

No Idols

Exodus 20:4
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;”

IMG_1422On the top of a mountain covered in smoke, Moses met with God, and heard the standard upon which relationship with God would be established. The Lord gives a list of ten commands that reveal His holiness, and our need for sacrifice. The first four commands reveal things about the nature of God. We learn, along with being jealous, just, merciful, faithful and holy, He is also the only true God and must not be reduced to an image or an idol.

Icons or religious artifacts are a part of every religious system. People cling to man-made objects thinking they are closer to God if they kiss an image, wear a necklace, or carry a religious charm. God makes it clear, this has no place in relationship with Him. It seems to me there are two primary reasons for this.

First, no image can adequately represent God. If we try to make something that shows His love, He often looks weak. If we try to replicate His power, it makes Him looks tyrannical. If we showcase His mercy, we neglect to reveal His justice and holiness. There is no earthly image that can reveal the majesty of His divine nature. That does not mean we cannot know God. In fact, Paul wrote,

Colossians 1:15
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

The person of God will never be adequately revealed in a poster, icon or artifact. However, we can see deeply into the nature of God by examining the words and ways of His only begotten Son.

Second, images not only fail to represent God, they also give a false sense of his presence. When we cling to an icon as a reflection of God, we lose sight of the fact that He is ever near His children, and wants us to cry out to Him. We must learn not to look to an image, but beyond the image to the very throne of God, where Jesus sits ready to pour out His grace, mercy, love and power, to help us walk with God.

Pastor Jim