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

Life, What Does It Offer? 

Isaiah 48:18-19
“Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.”


The Word of God is given to the child of God as a light to guide us through life’s darkness. Whatever we are facing, we should learn to look to the Bible for guidance. Isaiah details some of the benefits of living life like that.

First, he declares, this will lead to having peace like a river. Rivers have a constant flow that keeps the water fresh. A life lived in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, will be flowing with peace, even in the most difficult times. Jesus spoke of this peace being unlike anything the world could ever provide (John 14:27). In contrast, Isaiah writes,

Isaiah 48:22 “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

Second, Isaiah declares, a life lived in accordance with the ways of God will experience righteousness like the waves of the sea. Waves are an interesting phenomenon, they are created by storms; the larger the storm the larger the wave. Waves also develop by traveling over great distances. Strong winds, and lots of time, are what make waves bigger and better. In the same way, God will use the difficulties of life, and the time we spend walking with Him, to produce righteousness in us. This is only true, however, when we use the time to apply the Word of God. I remember hearing, as a kid, “Practice makes perfect.” As time went on, I also learned that practicing something incorrectly only makes it more difficult to re-learn correctly, later. In our trying times, we want to look to the Lord, and do things His way.

Finally, Isaiah speaks of the impact this will have on the next generation. He speaks of our offspring and our descendants being positively impacted by Our right living. I don’t think the impact our lifestyle has on the next generation could ever be overstated. If we want to see our children and grandchildren love, honor, and follow Jesus, we must set the pattern for them.

Remember, no matter what the past looks like, it is not to late for you to commit to Christ and live for His glory.

Pastor Jim

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen? 

Job 30:17
“My bones are pierced in me at night, And my gnawing pains take no rest.”

One of the great quandaries we face in life is how to reconcile the problem of evil with what we understand about the nature of God. The Bible teaches us the God is love and that He cares about each of His children and desires what is best for us. At the same time life seems to teach that evil runs rampant and bad things happen to good people. When we see an evil person suffer we might be able to chalk it up to justice but when we see those we perceive to be innocent impacted by great difficulty we often scratch our heads in bewilderment, struggling to understand how a loving God could allow such things to happen. No doubt the experiences of Job fit into this category. If we are going to understand the problem of evil there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

First most of the things we regard as evil stem not from nature or an act of God but from the selfish desires of sinful men. We read of massacres taking place around the world which are driven by man’s drive for power or possessions. War, famine, starvation and the like are not a result of the hand of God but of men who refuse to submit their selfish will to the authority of God. Just the other day I was approached by a man whose friend was in a car accident where she almost lost her leg. The accident was caused by another driver who was texting. He asked me how God could allow this to happen. I find it interesting that an accident caused by a person who put self above the law and concern for others could be blamed on God. If we fail to see the real problem we will never find an adequate solution.

The story of Job presents us with an entirely different issue. The struggles he faced were not caused by men but allowed by God. As he stood in anguish because God allowed him to suffer even though he was by all standards a righteous man. In this case we want to ask how God could allow bad things to happen to a good man? It is important that we not only ask the question but that we are also willing to receive the answer. One thing we see in scripture is that what we perceive to be a bad thing is not always bad. The story of Joseph serves as a good illustration of this. We would all say that it is a bad thing if our brothers go on a jealous rampage, throw us into a pit and sell us off as a slave. We would all agree that it is a bad thing to be accused falsely of rape, sent to prison and forgotten in the dungeon. But that is partly because we cannot always see the big picture. God wanted to rescue Israel from famine so he strategically placed Joseph in a place where he could be selected as counselor to the king. It was the prison that prepared Joseph for the palace.

We are certain to face difficulties in this life. We do after all live in a fallen world with fallen people. But if we are willing to embrace the struggles we are facing we may find that what we thought to be a bad thing actually turned out to be a great benefit for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

Jim

 

Living Differently

Esther 3:8
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.”

Haman’s problem with Mordecai and the Jewish people as a whole was not that they were lawless, insubordinate, unruly or even rebellious. His problem was that they lived by a higher law and as a result were not easily swayed by the changing tides of cultural. As a result he determined to rid the landscape of all those who named the name of YHWH. As a follower of Christ we should seek not to be lawless but to live by a higher law. When the apostles were being threatened they responded “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

A careful examination of the commands of Christ teach us that believers are to love God with all their heart, love others with a self sacrificing love, take the low place and serve one another, turn the other cheek when mistreated, give without any expectation of return, pray for those who mistreat us, seek to win people over with words of grace and truth, behave with patience, speak words that are edifying, forgive when wronged, and the list goes on and on. What is it about those behaviors that is so unpalatable to the world we live in? I think the answer to that question is that the person living under the law of Christ is not swayed by the changing tides of culture.

If we live for Jesus we cannot avoid opposition from a world that is floating in another direction, but we can be sure that the opposition is not because we are failing to rightly represent Christ.

Jim

 

Storms Of Life

2 Chronicles 13:18
“Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers.”

I spent much of my life in California before moving to Florida. The people I first met in Florida would often tell me they could never live in California because of the earthquakes, when I visited California people would say they could never live in Florida because of the Hurricanes. If you live in the Midwest it is the tornado that people fear and if your in the north east it is the cold. The reality is everywhere in the world has its challenges and things that make life difficult.

Walking with the Lord is like that. Every season of life comes with its trials and challenges. The struggles we face today might not be the same ones we were facing in our youth and may not be the same ones we will face in the years to come. As the seasons of life change so too the trials we face often change. That being said the solution is always the same. 2,800 years ago Abijah and his troops found that they prevailed in the trials of life when they chose to rely upon the Lord.

We may not be surrounded by angry and hostile enemy armed with sword and bow, but even if we are the solution is to put our confidence in the Lord, cling to His precious promises, cry out to Him and keep marching forward.

Jim

 

Salvation Among The Nations

Psalms 67:2
“That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.”

Psalm 67 was written by an unknown author. We cannot know for sure who wrote it or what circumstances influenced its content. The one thing we know for sure is that it was penned by a person with a desire for others to come to the Lord. He pleads with God for mercy in his own life, in order that the world around him may come to a saving knowledge of God. The Psalmist is not alone in this. Paul declared

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).

As a result of this desire, Paul risked his life to bring the gospel message to his countrymen. At the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Paul made his way to Jerusalem with one goal in mind, he wanted to tell others about Christ. He received continual warnings regarding the danger he would face and the beating and imprisonment that lay ahead. Regardless of these threats, Paul pressed forward because his desire was for others to come to Christ.

The pattern of Paul has been followed by saints down through the centuries. Men, like Saint Patrick, who in the 6th century brought the gospel to the unreached pagans of Scotland and his contemporary, Saint Augustine, who brought the gospel to England. Saint Boniface, who in the 8th century brought the gospel to Germany,  Hudson Taylor, whose efforts brought the Gospel deep into China, in the 19th century. CT Studd gave up a life of wealth and comfort to bring the Gospel into Africa. Or the countless unnamed Methodist circuit preachers who took the Gospel to the settlers in the United States.

What the world needs today are men and women with a desire to see others come to Christ, regardless the personal cost.

Psalms 67:2 “That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.”

Pastor Jim

 

If…Then…

1 Kings 9:4
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments…” 

If you are a parent, you understand conditional promises. Almost daily you find yourself saying things like “If you keep your room clean, then…” Or “if you get good grades, then…” Basically you are declaring that if certain conditions are met, certain rewards will be given.

The Bible is filled with these same kind of promises. Here Solomon is told, if Israel walks in line with the commands of God, they will experience the blessings of God, but if they turn from God, they will be chastened by Him. This is not a difficult concept to understand. If we choose to walk with Christ and live obediently to His word, we will be blessed. If we turn from Him and pursue things that His word forbids, we will begin to experience the chastening of God. We will find that the sinful activities we pursued actually robbed us of the life they promised to provide.

The narrative of Scripture reveals that Israel ignored these warnings. They were attracted to the lifestyles of the nations around them and they forsook the ways of God, for the ways of the world. It did not take long for this to have negative affects on the nation. After Solomon died, the nation experienced a devastating civil conflict that split the kingdom in two. Weakened by the split and continual rebellion against God, the nations were later overrun by enemies and taken captive to distant lands. What had once been a beautiful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a testimony to the horrible consequences of sin.

No matter how great the temptation to turn from God and embrace the ways of the world, we must remember the example of Israel. If we meet the conditions we receive the promises. We will have a blessed life as we follow after, and live pleasing to, the Lord.

Pastor Jim

He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins

Judges 8:21
“So Zebah and Zalmunna said, ‘Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength.’ . . .”

We live in an interesting time, when big philosophical ideas are compressed into quaint little sayings and scattered across social media. We are bombarded with these phrases that often express a worldview diametrically opposed to the teaching of Scripture.

We hear things like “follow your heart,” “yolo,” or some of us might remember “he who dies with the most toys wins.” These phrases become popular, and in some cases, even become the mantra by which people live their lives.

This is not a new phenomenon, this has been going on for thousands and thousands of years, and one such case is recorded here, in the book of Judges. As Gideon stood before the enemies of Israel, he was exhorted by some of the people with a quaint saying that would probably find its way, today, into most of our Facebook feeds. They said “as a man is so is his strength.” It would’ve been a good idea for Gideon and those around him to examine that statement to see what it was really saying, and to see it in light of what the Bible teaches. Had they done so, they would have realized, their philosophy was actually teaching that all the strength we ever need will be found within ourselves. A worldview that is clearly developed by avoiding reality. In fact, Israel had spent years oppressed by the Midianites because they had no strength in themselves to withstand the vast armies of their enemies.

Regardless of the realities of life, there are many who hold that same view today. I recently came across this phrase on social media, “The task at hand is never greater than the strength within.” While this phrase, and others like it, might excite the emotions and stir us to action, they are simply untrue. If followed, they will even cause us to miss out on the true source of real strength; the Lord. There are plenty of tasks that are stronger than us individually, and there are plenty of tasks that are stronger than us collectively. There are things we will face in life which simply cannot be accomplished in the strength of man. We need to learn to lean upon the strength of the Lord. When I think I am strong enough on my own, I will neglect to seek the Lord for the strength, or I will try and fail, only to realize how weak I actually am. After a handful of attempts, that prove to be failures,  it won’t be long before I will neglect to venture out, because I realize my own weakness. On the other hand, if I realize my weakness and learn to trust in the strength of the Lord, then there is no task, no matter how great or seemingly impossible, that cannot be accomplished in the strength of the Lord. The Bible is filled with examples of people doing what they could never do on their own, because they trusted in the power of God.

Instead of clinging to things like, “as a man is so also is a strength,” I should cling to promises like, “man’s weakness doesn’t weaken God” or “my inabilities will never limit the ability of God.”

Perhaps we can learn even more from the statement that was made to Gideon. What if we learned to take any quote or phrase that represents an ideology and examine it? First, we could dissect it to see what it is really saying. Then we could examine what the Bible says about the statement.  Finally, we could counteract the statement with truths from Scripture that encourage us to live right and glorify the Lord. As you listen to music, watch TV, or peruse social media, keep a careful eye out for what is the truth behind the quotes, and always examine them in light of the teachings of the Word.

Pastor Jim

 

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

 

Family 

Numbers 2:2
“Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.”

God organized the campsite of Israel. The center of the camp was the tabernacle with the tribes encamped around it. Two basic principles governed setting up camp. First, the Lord was the central focus, every family was to camp within sight of the Tabernacle. They could hear the events transpire, smell the sacrifices and easily be part of what transpired there on a daily basis. Second, they were to camp under a particular banner or standard. Each tribe gathered with other tribes as they camped around the tabernacle .

It is easy to derive some clear application for our lives and our families. When you are setting up camp it is important to keep Jesus at the center. If you are having a difficult time doing this personally, it is unlikely you are doing this within your family. If you find that your spouse or children are drifting from the Lord, it might have something to do with the fact that you have also drifted away. The first step to establishing stability within the home is to put Jesus at the center of our personal lives. One way to do that is to take a quick inventory of your life. Is there anything you are involved in which is not pleasing to the Lord? If so, lay it at the cross and walk away. You will be forgiven and set free. The psalmist asked the Lord to search him in order to lead him down the right path (Pslam 139:23-24). Another way to do this is to return to your first love, and follow the example of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word. Reestablish a daily time to sit with Jesus, hear Him speak from the pages of your Bible and enjoy His company.

Remember, Israel also camped together around the tabernacle. It is also important to get yourself and your family plugged into a good and healthy church, where you can be challenged and encouraged. It is there, where you should work to establish good relationships for yourself and your children. Too often we find people arrive late, leave early and wonder why the family loses interest in fellowship. You are part of a much bigger camp, and the more plugged in you get, the more benefits you will receive.

Pastor Jim