Times Like These 

Daniel 11:32
“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

Daniel describes a very difficult time in Israel. Constant battles between the Seleucid and Ptolemian empires have wreaked havoc on the people of God. They have been an occupied territory for several years, and now face the threat of annihilation, as the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, has set his attention on destroying Israel. He outlawed the Jewish religion, ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacred thousands of people, burned the Holy Scriptures, and desecrated the Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing pigs on the altar. It is with this dark, and seemingly hopeless, backdrop that Daniel declares, “the people who know their God will be strong and carry out great exploits.” In other words, the darker the backdrop, the greater opportunity for the child of God to shine.

History records, during this time, a priest by the name of Mattathias, and his five sons, mounted a rebellion against Antiochus and his forces. They soon began to succeed in one battle after another, until they had taken back the city of Jerusalem, and restored worship within the Temple. It was at this time, the events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah took place. The story is told, when the temple was rededicated, they had only enough oil to light the lamp stand for one day, and it would take several days to prepare more oil. They lit the lamp and began preparing more oil. Eight days later, the oil was completed, and the lamp was miraculously still burning. Hanukkah, in many ways, is the celebration of the people of God doing great exploits.

We live in dark days, that seem to be getting darker. Personal freedoms are being lost in the name of tolerance, the rising threat of terrorism impacts almost every aspect of life, and immorality is on the rise, in what seems to be unprecedented levels. This is not the time for the child of God to cower in fear or lean on the arm of the flesh. These are times for “the people who know their God [to be] strong, and carry out great exploits.” These are times for us to live more committed to Christ, and to declare with an ever increasing boldness, the simple message of the Gospel. Times like these are the birthplace of heroes.

Pastor Jim

 

Your Land 

Ezekiel 48:29
“‘This is the land which you shall divide by lot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions,’ says the Lord God.”

As the prophecies of Ezekiel come to a close, he describes the allotments of land that will be given to each of the tribes of Israel. It is striking to me that seven times in the chapter theses districts are called “holy.” The inheritance the Lord gives to His people is always holy, and the life we live should be lived in holiness.

Holiness is often misunderstood. For many, it is reduced to outward actions. We define it as the clothes we wear, the music we don’t listen to, or the things we no longer practice. While it is true, holiness will affect the way we dress and behave, holiness is much more than that. Perhaps a better definition would be, a life that reflects the life of Christ. That is what God has called each of us to, as we grow in the Lord we become more like Jesus. We become more loving, gracious, merciful, kind, and willing to reach out to and share with others. Jesus lived a righteous life without sin, yet He did not live a life of isolation. Instead He sought to bring life to others.

Whatever “lot” has been assigned to you. Whether you are a student or a working mom, married or a single believer, you have been given a holy district, where you have been called to let the light of Christ shine into the life of others. Let your light shine today. Who knows how God may use you in the life of another.

Pastor Jim

 

Feeling Special

Ezekiel 25:8
“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Because Moab and Seir say, “Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations…”‘

Moab and Israel had a long and sorted history, dating back to Israel’s journey to Canaan. It was the king of Moab who hired the prophet Balaam to curse the people of God. Unable to curse those whom God had blessed, Balaam resorted to counseling Moab on how to put a stumbling block in the way of the people of God. They sent many of the young, attractive Moab women into the camp of Israel, with the purpose of luring the men into ungodly relationships and activity. This plan worked and many of the people of God fell into sin, and some even died for their misconduct. This animosity between the two nations continued, and almost a thousand years later, Ezekiel explains the reason Moab despised Israel. He writes

“Because Moab and Seir say, ‘Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations . . .’”

Although God considered Israel to be different than the nation’s surrounding them, Moab and Seir thought of them just as any other group of people. It is not difficult to understand their position. The Israelites looked no different than the nation’s around them; they had many of the same problems, conflicts, and personal weaknesses of their neighbors. The reality is, Israel was not special because of their strength, might, or even godliness. They were special because God, in His sovereignty, chose to place his hand of blessing upon them. Joshua tells us, it was while Abraham and his family were living in Babylon worshipping false gods that the Lord appeared to him.  God called him, gave him the promise of many defendants, of being given a land, of becoming a nation, and of being the conduit by which the Messiah would come into the world. Later, Moses would explain that Israel was chosen, not because they were the greatest of people in the world, but because God chose to put His love upon them.
The same is true of you and me. As a child of God, we are a special people above those who have not chosen to trust in Christ. Our favor is not because we are smarter, taller, stronger, or even holier, than those who have not trusted Christ. This favor comes from the simple fact that we are in a relationship with God through Christ. Mary, the mother of Jesus was called, “highly favored and blessed among women”, her favor was based upon the sovereign choice of God, and the fact that Christ dwelt in her. If you have accepted Christ, Paul refers to you as “accepted in the beloved”, which is the same phrase used of Mary. You are highly favored because of the sovereign choice of God, and the fact that Christ dwells in you.
Don’t make the same mistake Moab did by considering yourself, or others who have come to Christ, just like all other people. We are the children of God. Also, let’s be careful not to neglect the responsibility that comes with that blessing. Israel often failed to see that their position was designed by God as a means to be the light of the world, leading others to faith in Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Our Influence 

Ezekiel 23:37
“For they have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”

Ezekiel points out that the sins of the parents resulted in the sacrifice of the children. When they stopped following the Lord, their decision impacted the next generation. I think it would do us good to keep in mind that we have a much greater influence on others than we might think. Jesus compared us to a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). Paul explained, the whole world is watching the Christian as though we were on display. When we decide to commit ourselves to the Lord, living to please to Him, that decision will impact others. People will take notice and decide to further their commitment  to Christ. On the other hand, if we wander from the Lord, we will have a domino effect upon others who may fall along with us.

Remember, after the death of Christ, when Peter decided to return to fishing? He was distraught over the events that had transpired, and he seems to have stepped backwards in his relationship with Christ. I find it interesting, he was not fishing alone, other men were drawn away with him. This always seems to be the case. The decisions we make, for or against the Lord, will always create a current, pulling others along with us.

Let’s make sure to keep pressing toward the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Watchman 

Ezekiel 3:17

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me”

A watchman bore the responsibility of keeping an eye on the horizon, in order to warn the inhabitants of the city of any possible threats to their safety. He would be strategically placed on the highest point of the city wall, where he would have the best vantage point to observe the surroundings. A watchman, who failed to do his job, might be responsible for countless lost lives. Ezekiel uses the role of the watchman to teach us something about evangelism. There are three things we need to keep in mind.

First, it is necessary for us to remember that each person is responsible to make his own decision for Christ. Each individual must choose for himself to surrender to Christ. I cannot choose for another, nor can he choose for me.

Second, while we cannot make a decision for others, we can have an impact upon the decision they make. A watchman could not make the people bar the gates or draw their weapons, but he could clearly warn them of the dangers that were ahead. In the same way, while each person must decide for Christ, we can help them make that decision by sharing the gospel, praying for them, inviting them to church, and seeking in every way possible to let our light shine before men.

Third, it is important that we see our witness as bigger than a tool to win the lost. Ezekiel was exhorted to warn the righteous and the unrighteousness alike. Christians are constantly under pressure to compromise, backslide, give up or give in. As a result, we are in constant need of encouragement. We are exhorted to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen the hands that hang down, and to pray for one another. We need to look at one another in the body of Christ as those who are in need of help and encouragement to continue.

Christianity is a race, but it is not a game. If we are going to be successful, we need to take our role seriously and realize God has strategically placed us so we might have an effect on others for eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

Walking In The Light

1 John 1:5
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Light is used to illustrate holiness. John is declaring that God is perfectly holy and without sin. This creates a problem, since we are all sinners. In this text, John explains how sinful people can have a relationship with a holy God. In the opening verses of the chapter, he refers to Christ becoming a man and making fellowship with God possible. That was accomplished through the cross, where Jesus died as a substitute for us. The sinless, in place of the sinner, so we might be saved. John is now writing to the one who recognizes his sin, and begins to follow Christ.

1 John 1:6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Coming to Christ involves more than raising your hand in response to a message, or walking forward at a church service. John declares, the one who has received Christ will have a life change. If we continue to live unchanged by the experience, then we have not truly experienced Christ. The Bible speaks of a young man who had an encounter with Christ, but was unwilling to truly commit to following Him. He walked away from the experience, unchanged and unsaved. We call him the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23).

1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”

On the other hand, the one who has truly met Jesus, will begin to change the way he is living. Instead of choosing to invest in the things that lead away from Christ, he will take steps toward growing in Christ. Notice he writes “walking in the light as He is in the light.” This refers to living the way Christ lived.

The Bible is more than a religious book, it is the owner’s manual. It explains how to live a life well pleasing to the Lord. John does not suggest that we will be without sin, but that as we walk with Christ, there is a continual flow of forgiveness when we stumble.

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

I have yet to meet a person who truly believes they have never done anything wrong. We know that we sin. The problem is, we attempt to move things out of the sin category, and into the acceptable-to-God category. This is all too common for couples who are not married, and yet, get involved physically. They attempt to excuse their sin with words like, “we are in love” or “we are married in God’s eyes.” The truth is, sin is sin, and it interrupts fellowship with God. If we are to walk with the Lord, we must get sin out of our lives.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The word confess has two meetings. First, it means to be in agreement. Instead of arguing with God about what He says is sin, we simply agree with Him. Second, the word means to admit. When we sin, we must admit it to God. We confess our sin and ask for His pardon. John promises the result will be both forgiveness and cleansing. If there is anything you need to confess, do it now. Don’t take another step down the wrong road; instead, begin to make steps toward a restored relationship with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Walking In The Dark

Isaiah 50:10
“Who walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”


Life can be confusing. There are times when it seems as though we are walking in darkness and it is very difficult to navigate our way. These dark times can be caused by illness, the loss of a loved one, having a prodigal child, or a host of other hardships. Fortunately, Isaiah was no stranger to difficulty, and writes to give us assistance as we make our way through the struggles we are facing.

“Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”

Isaiah uses two verbs to describe the action we should take when we do not know how to handle the things we are facing.

First, he says we are to “Trust in the name of The Lord”. The word trust can mean to believe, depend on or put confidence in. This particular word also could be used to speak of a place to hide for refuge from a storm or attack. What is alluded to, is the name of the Lord is like a bomb shelter, during the greatest trials of life. Not long ago, I was in a bomb shelter, and found it was not only a place of security, but was stocked with everything necessary to sustain life until the attack was over. No matter what we face, we can hide away in the name of the Lord.

Second, he writes we should rely upon God. The word rely means to support yourself, as you would if you had an injury and needed a crutch or a cane. The idea is, the difficulties we face are too much for us and we need assistance. What a wonderful thing it is to know we can always lean upon the Lord.

No matter what you are facing, don’t try to make it through on your own. Instead, look to God who loves you and sent His Son to die for you. He wants to help you navigate through the journey of life, even in the darkest parts.

Pastor Jim