God Speaks

1 Chronicles 25:1
“Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals…”

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Worship is an important part of the life of the believer and the health of the local church. It is a time when we are able to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances and put them on the Lord. It is a time when we are able to declare the truths about the character and behavior of God in a way that brings Him glory and magnifies His name. It is often in these times of worship that we are able to see our lives from the proper perspective. Instead of seeing our circumstances as hopeless and ourselves as helpless we are able to see the God who can part seas, provide water in the desert or counsel the confused Christian. Worship is certainly a very important exercise for every follower of Christ.

That being said we find yet another value of worship tucked away in the narrative of the Chronicles. We are told that worship leaders were trained and appointed so they could prophecy with stringed instruments and percussions. Prophecy is when God speaks to His people and worship is one of the key mediums that God chooses to use to speak to us. Often when a believer will fix his attention upon the Lord and begin to pour out praise he will find that God speaks to him in an unexpected way.

There have been numerous times in my life, when in the midst of worship I, have sensed the voice of God speaking to my heart and directing my life. On one such occasion I was considering returning for a second trip to west Africa. My children were very young and the church was quite small and needed my attention, so I was struggling with the decision to go. As I sat in worship I recall singing a song about the faithfulness of God. I was almost overcome with the sense that God was calling me back to Africa. My fears, worries and concerns were somewhat alleviated when I realized that God was giving me the green light to go. As the years have passed and we have seen God accomplish so many wonderful things through the ministry in west Africa I am so thankful for that time of worship when God spoke prophetic word.

Jim

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What’s Your Story

Psalms 78:1-2
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old”

Asaph, Israel’s chief musician during the reign of David, took it upon himself to write a song depicting the history of the nation. His tale is one that magnifies the mercy of God, while revealing the continual unfaithfulness of Israel. Time, and time again, the people turned from the Lord out of fear or desire for things that He had forbidden. He spoke of their experiences in Egypt, when they feared the king more than the Lord, and of their time in the wilderness, when the trials they faced caused them to doubt the provision of God. He told of their time in the Promised Land, when comfort and ease drove them to complacency toward God, and into idolatry. Imagine how the first readers of this psalm might want to go back and make changes to their history, or at least make changes to their personal lives.

Asaph referred to his message as a parable. The idea, of course, is that the psalm has a meaning that sits underneath the surface. Instead of just being a message indicting Israel for their sin, it also serves as an illustration of the life of many believers. We, like Israel, have been redeemed from bondage into a relationship with God. In this relationship, we find ourselves in times of trial or battle, and in times of ease and comfort. If we read the psalm carefully, we can see ourselves in the story, as well as learn from Israel’s mistakes.

What would a psalm read like that told your story? What amazing ways would the mercy of God be reveled as your conversion was told? How would His faithfulness be seen in your daily walk? What changes would you want to make in how you walk with Him, in whatever time you may have left?

Take a few minutes to contemplate your testimony. Perhaps even write it out. Then consider what you will do to ensure that the remaining chapters of your story give glory to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Inquire Of God

1 Kings 22:7-8
“And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?’So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say such things!’”

Syrian forces occupied land that belonged to Israel and Ahab was determined to get it back. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, arrived for a visit, Ahab seized the opportunity to enlist Judah as an ally in his campaign against Syria. Not wanting to bring his people into an unnecessary war, Jehoshaphat wanted to take a moment to hear from the Lord, so he asked to hear from a prophet. Ahab paraded a host of prophets before the king who all declared victory in battle. The problem was, they were not prophets of God, but were a variety of fetish priests who worshiped idols. Jehoshaphat objected to their counsel and sought to hear the Word of God. It is here where the true heart of Ahab is revealed. He declares,

“There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

The king of Israel had no interest in hearing the truth. In fact, as the story unfolds, we find that Micaiah will be thrown in prison for speaking the word of God. Ahab’s desire was to silence anyone who did not declare the truth as he saw it.

What a sad parallel to much of what we see happening in our world today. We have accepted a worldview where tolerance is the highest form of morality. We are required to accept the choices people make as though every choice was equal, and those who would dare speak out against certain behaviors as immoral, are immediately silenced. The approach of silencing the word of God was not good for Ahab and Israel, and it will not turn out positively for us either.

Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pastor Jim

 

Mind Of The Lord

Leviticus 24:12
“Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.”

This chapter contains one of only two narrative passages in the book of Leviticus and tells the story of two men who were fighting. One man, the son of Shelomith allowed his anger to lead to sin and he blasphemed the name of the Lord. Under the old covenant this was a crime punishable by death. Because of the seriousness of his actions, he was placed in custody while the leaders took the necessary time to seek the mind of the Lord. Two important principles stand out to me.

First, before making a big decision, Moses and his leadership team took the necessary time to seek the Lord. They realized that God was interested in their lives and had a plan for their current situation. Years later Paul wrote that God has for-ordained good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). That means that He has a wonderful plan for our lives and if we seek Him, He will provide direction that will allow us to make good decisions and remain upon the narrow path that leads to abundant life.

Second, it is important to notice where they went to hear from the Lord. They did not look to past experience, or to the culture around them. They did not gather the people together for a popular vote or allow their emotions to guide them by “following their heart.” Instead they got alone with the Lord and looked into His written word. Their situation was a difficult one and the answer they received from the Word was hard, but they followed it nonetheless.

When we are seeking to make decisions, it would be a good idea to follow the pattern set here. We need to realize that God has a plan for us, but we also need to realize the details for that plan are found in Scripture. The life guided by the light of the Word of God is the life which will be led into the way everlasting.

Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Pastor Jim

 

Personal Devotion 

Zephaniah 1:5
“Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who also swear by Milcom”

Zephaniah was commissioned by the Lord to warn the people of coming judgment. In order to prepare the people for what was ahead, he explained the reason they were facing judgment. His message was both clear and simple, they must change their ways if they were to avoid what was ahead.

The first infraction the people were guilty of was worshipping the hosts of heavens on their rooftops. In ancient times rooftops were considered a part of the house and were used for family gatherings. It was on a rooftop where Bathsheba bathed, Peter rested and had a vision from heaven, where husbands are exhorted to flee from a contentious wife, and where the people of Judah were practicing idolatry.

Zepheniah’s ministry took place during the reign of King Josiah, who had brought about great reforms in the nations. Much of the idolatry that had plagued Judah for generations had been removed from the public sector. The problem was, while these idols had been removed publicly, they still remained in the private life of the people. God’s judgment would come because public reform was not affecting private living.

We are told the people continued to worship Baal, the sun, moon and stars, and Milcom, the false god of the Ammonites. Essentially, they were turning worship into syncretism by blending the worship of the true God with idols. Tragically, this is a common practice today. Many who claim to be followers of Christ, seem to pick and choose verses they like while ignoring others. By doing so, they are essentially creating a god of their liking, rather than submitting to the God of Scripture. This synchronistic idolatry ultimately caused Judah to turn back from following the Lord. When public commitment does not change private living, we will ultimately turn our backs on the Lord as well. It is in private where the real roots of the Christian life are developed.

What you do with your early mornings will chart the course for your entire day. Jesus rose a long while before daylight, departed from others, and spent time alone with the Father. His life was a pattern set for the rest of us to follow. It is important to begin each day with the Lord, in His Word, allowing Him to remove from your private life anything that does not belong.

Pastor Jim

 

A Beautiful Song 

Ezekiel 33:32
“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”

It seems, for a a portion of Ezekiel’s ministry, he had become quite popular. His use of imagery and his skills as an orator caused many to flock to hear him speak. Rather than be enamored by this sudden popularity, the Lord reminded Ezekiel that while the people might be coming in droves to hear him speak, they were not living out the things they heard. In essence, they had become like the foolish builders in Jesus’ story who built their lives upon the sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

There is great value in listening to a Bible study, and you should attend a church where the teaching grabs your attention. However, hearing the Word is only the first step. If we want to have a healthy and growing relationship with the Lord, we need to take the next step and put things into practice. Those who have a vibrant relationship with the Lord are the ones who allow the Word of God to change the way they think and behave. When reading your Bible or listing to your pastor teach, you should be looking for ways to put the Word into practice in your life.

The purpose of a good sermon is not just to captivate your attention, it must go beyond that and affect your living. Think back to the message you heard last Sunday, how has that changed the way you think about God or how you treat others.

Let’s be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

Pastor Jim

 

I’ll Take The Low Road 

Ezekiel 17:24
“And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.”

The Bible is filled with seemingly paradoxical statements. Here God promises to bring the low high and the high low. The context makes it clear that the low are those who willingly submit themselves to His ways, and the high are those exalt their own opinions above the teaching of the Word of God. James said essentially the same thing when he wrote,

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

In the economy of God, the way up is down. If we desire to experience the life God intends for us, it starts with being willing to humble ourselves under the authority of God and His Word. There is something about the fallen nature of man that causes us to resist authority. None of us likes to be told what to do. If we have given thought to something and determined the best way to accomplish a task, then someone “above us” comes in and tells us to do it differently, we become resistant. Our muscles tighten, our emotions rise, our hearts begin to rebel, and we may even lash out against them, as though somehow our character has been challenged. We not only do this with one another, but we do it with God. It is common for us to know what the Bible says, but to make exceptions for ourselves and our circumstances. We will never experience the life God intends as long as we are unwilling to submit ourselves to Him and His Word.

Deuteronomy 29:19

“. . . and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”

We cannot follow our own ways and expect to receive the blessing of God. It is time for us to take the low road of submission to God, to reach the height of living.

Pastor Jim