Do The Wicked Prosper? 

Jeremiah 12:1-2
“​ Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”

Jeremiah’s question interests me because it seem to be the opposite of what God is accused of today. How many times have we heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The inference is that good, innocent even righteous people are being mistreated by a vengeful and unfair God. Jeremiah had a different perspective, he saw God as a righteous judge and realized that men were sinners. This led him to wonder why it was that wicked people were prospering.

In any situation in life, if we are going to effectively problem solve we have to accuratly diagnose the problem. If a doctor misdiagnosis a person he will also fail to prescribe the proper treatment. If a mechanic misdiagnosis the problem with the engine he will replace the wrong part and if we continue to place blame on God for the wicked actions of men we will never really find a cure. When we backslide and get involved in things God specifically tells us to avoid we cannot then turn and ask why God has allowed this to happen to us. We must take responsibility for wandering from the Lord and into harmful things. The way of escape will be found when we turn from our wanderings and begin again to follow closely after Christ.

Sometimes it is difficult to trust the Lord because we see others who have chosen not to follow Christ going through life without many of the difficulties we are struggling through. If you feel that way, you are not alone. The psalmist wrote that it was the carefree lifestyle of the wicked that caused him to question the value of trusting in the Lord. All that changed for him when he looked passed the immediate and considered their end. Jesus explained that there are only two roads in life. One leads to eternal life, the other to judgment. The question is not how difficult the roads might be, but where they are ultimately taking us. Instead of being discouraged by the hardships you are currently facing, look to the end of the road and the glory that awaits all who trust in Christ.

Jim

Fasting 

Isaiah 58:6
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”

In one of His longest recorded sermons, Jesus spoke of 3 spiritual exercises that every believer should be practicing. He spoke of giving, praying and fasting. Fasting is the practice of giving up food for a period of time in order to learn to deny ourselves and to devote more attention to the things of God. Sadly, instead of viewing fasting as a way to draw near to God the people in Isaiah’s day were treating it as a religious responsibility. It was almost as though it was part of their checklist. They felt that fasting itself made them spiritual and they saw little need for their lives to be affected by their professed relationship with God. Isaiah declares that a real fast will will give evidence of a transformed life.

William Booth was the man behind the Salvation Army. About one hundred years ago he was asked what he thought were the greatest dangers the church was facing in the years ahead. His response is quite intriguing. He said:

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”

In other words he spoke of a form of Christianity that has little impact upon the way a person lives their life. He foresaw churches filled with people who raise their hands in worship, drop checks in the offering box and perhaps even sign up for ministry opportunities yet they fail to allow the Spirit of God and the Word of God to transform their lives.

Instead of emphasizing religious duties we should be seeking to become like Jesus in every possible way. A real commitment to Christ will show itself in a life that is changed.

Jim

 

Walking Dead 

1 Timothy 5:6
“But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”

Back in the mid 1970′s, disaster movies were the big craze. Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and Tidal Wave, were just a few of the titles that topped the charts. Nowadays, it seems people are fascinated with the concept of the undead. Not only have multiple movies and TV shows been released on the subject, but books, magazines and websites, are devoted to zombies and other undead creatures. There is even a popular TV show called “The Walking Dead.” While these all show mindless creatures, who cannot be killed by normal means, walking about with an insatiable appetite for blood, the Bible paints a different picture of the walking dead. Paul speaks of those who have not surrendered to Christ, as being dead while they live.

Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

The Bible teaches, as long as we are apart from Christ, we live in a condition of being spiritually dead. We are capable of doing many things, contributing to society, even making life better for others, but we are not able to carry on a relationship with God. Our sins act like a giant wedge keeping us from knowing God; which is the primary purpose for our existence. As long as we continue in this condition, we are missing out on the life Jesus intended for us. If we die in this state, we will live forever separated from God. The way to escape death is to trust in Christ. When a person puts faith in Christ, the Bible teaches that his sins are forgiven, and he is made alive spiritually. Since sin is no longer an issue keeping you from God, you can begin to experience the life He created you for; a life of fellowship with God.

John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus came into our lives so we might experience the life God intended for us. That life is found through complete surrender to Him. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus explained one of life’s great paradoxes. He said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) He was speaking about surrendering all to Him. Some of us have never experienced the life Jesus promised because we are holding on to some sin from our past. When we give that up, we will begin to find life in Christ like we have never known before.

Pastor Jim

Plan Ahead 

Isaiah 47:1
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.”

Sitting in the dust, like wearing sackcloth or throwing dirt in the air was a sign of mourning. It was not uncommon in the ancient world for a person stricken with grief to express it outwardly. Those who lost a loved one, or were burdened by personal sin were easily identifiable to the people around them.

At the time Isaiah is writing Babylon was on its way to becoming the most powerful and wealthiest nation of that era. They will soon topple Assyria and spread their empire from Iraq to Egypt. While on the rise it is often difficult to see our need for Christ so Isaiah takes them to the future when their nation, like all nations before them would fall. He describes a coming time when their mothers, wives and children will become captives and their land destroyed.

It seems that today a great emphasis is placed on planning ahead. I recently saw an advertisement for retirement planning that used blocks to show the value of starting now and setting a little aside each month for the future. While I am certain there is wisdom in planning for retirement their is even greater wisdom in planning for eternity. The first step involves turning to the Lord and away from a lifestyle that is unacceptable to Him.

How sad for the Babylonians who ignored the warnings of the word and continued on a path that led to their own destruction.

Jim

 

Teddy Bear 

Isaiah 46:6-7
“They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and  set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble.”

In Isaiah’s time, it was a common practice, among the people, to fashion gods out of metal, wood, or clay. These little idols formed by their hands, were a reflection, not of the God of Scripture, but rather of the imaginations of men. Their idols were designed to bring them comfort in times of trouble. When things became difficult, they might hold their idol close like a small child with a stuffed doll. The problem, of course, was the comfort these idols brought was merely psychological. These graven images could not heal a sickness, provide during times of need, deliver from oppression, or give eternal life.

Today, it is just as common for people to create gods who will give them comfort and ease their anxieties. The problem is, these manmade gods really provide nothing more than the comfort a child derives from a favorite blanket or a teddy bear.

Instead of fashioning a god to satisfy our emotions, wouldn’t it be better to get to know the God who created the heavens and the earth? He alone is the One who has what is necessary for us to make our way through life and into eternity,

Isaiah 45:22.
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

Pastor Jim

 

Slaying Dragons 

Isaiah 27:1
“In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.”

The Bible often uses figurative language to enhance our understanding of spiritual things. Jesus is referred to as a Lion so we would reflect upon His power and a Lamb so we would understand His humility and willingness to be sacrificed for our sin. The devil is also represented with figurative language. He is referred to as an angel of light who goes about to deceive and a roaring lion who seeks to devour his prey. Here in this text it seems likely that Isaiah is referring to Satan as a twisted serpent who will ultimately be destroyed by the sword of the Lord. Satan is referred to as a serpent in other texts. In fact the first mention of him is in the garden where he appears as a serpent to deceive Eve and lead her into rebellion against God. Later, the book of Revelation takes us into the future where we see the dragon defeated, chained and cast into the bottomless pit.

I find it interesting that in the midst of the spiritual, social and economic chaos that Israel was facing during the time of Isaiah the he would draw the attention of the people to a time when the devil will ultimately be judged. I also find the weapon of choice quite interesting; He uses the “great and strong sword of the Lord.” The weapon that will ultimately defeat the devil is the same weapon that is needed to deal with his attacks on a daily basis. Paul referred to the Bible as “the sword of the Spirit” and Jesus used the scriptures to forge a counterattack against the temptations He faced in the wilderness. It is through the word of God that Satan will ultimately be defeated and it is with the Word of God that we will have victory over him on a daily basis.

The Bible teaches that Satan casts fiery darts into the mind of the believer. These darts come in the form of thoughts that are ungodly in nature. We are made aware of a situation and are immediately filled with thoughts of fear, worry, unforgiveness or even rage. It is at that point when we must wield the sword of the Spirit and counterattack our thoughts with what the Bible teaches. Instead of continuing down a train of thought that leads us to ungodly action we must choose to let the sword defeat the dragon. Because of the importance of the God’s word it is no wonder that the first spiritual attack recorded in Scripture was a frontal assault against the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible. The serpent said, “has God really said…”

What comfort there is in knowing that a day is coming when the dragon will be defeated and we will be free of all the trouble he has created.

Jim

 

Build Your House

Nehemiah 7:4
“Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.”

By this time, in the Nehemiah’s story, much has been accomplished. He has experienced the call of God that took him from a highly coveted position in the kings court to becoming a leader among the congregation of Israel. He has seen God provide for his personal needs as well as the needs of his new found ministry. He has seen the people who had been both divided and discouraged rally together to accomplish the work of God and build the city wall. With all that Nehemiah came to realize that the work was still incomplete. There was much more that God wanted to do in and through his life and ministry. As he looked out over the city he discovered that the people had yet to build their own homes.

Consider for a moment the ministry of Joshua. He gathered the tribes of Israel together and drove the Canaanites out of the land. Under his leadership the enemies were defeated and each tribe was given their allotment of the land. As time went on it became clear that the people were neglecting to fight the battles necessary within their own territories and needed to be encouraged to get to the task at hand. A very similar problem is taking place here. The wall is built around the city by the combined efforts of those from every tribe, but the necessary work for the homes to be built has been neglected. The reason given is the limited number of people.

It is not uncommon for people who come to Christ to have victory in a lot of areas of their lives and still neglect to fight battles on the home front. A person might be hailed as a great employee and church member, yet still not treat their family members in a way that brings glory to the Lord. Regardless of how far you have come in your relationship with Christ, allow me to encourage you to consider  how much your relationship with Jesus is affecting your marriage and your family. Are you taking your Christianity home with you and focusing on building up your family? Whether you are a son, daughter, mother, father or grandparent it is time to build up our homes for the sake of the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Jim