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

 

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

 

Fire Resistant 

Jeremiah 36:27-28
“Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words which Baruch had written at the instruction of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: ‘Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.'”

In the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Jeremiah the prophet began to write his prophecies into a book. A year later he sent this book by the hand of his assistant, Baruch, to the house of the Lord, to read it in the hearing of the people. As the people heard the Words of the Lord, they began to be cut to the heart. Soon word came to some of the king’s counsellors, who quickly took the scroll to the palace and read it to the king. In a what sounds like a startling plot twist, the king, after hearing only a few lines of this prophecy, took a knife, cut the scroll in two, and cast it into the fire, where he and his counsellors watched it burn.

Clearly,  Jehoiakim was not interested in what God had to say and wanted everyone in the room to know it. He attempted to silence God and destroy His word. What he didn’t know was, the Word of God is unbreakable and as soon as he burned it, Jeremiah began to transcribe another copy. Twenty-six hundred years later, King Jehoiakim remains a somewhat obscure character in the chronicles of history, while the book of Jeremiah remains a part of the most published, read, and cherished book of all time.

Jehoiakim is not alone in his attempts to silence the Word of God. Down through the ages, many have attempted to keep the Bible out of the hands of people. Even today, there is great effort made to keep the Bible out of schools and other public places. It is somewhat ironic that the enemies of God seem to have a better understanding of the power of the word of God, than many believers do. They seem to realize, if we let the Bible speak to the culture, it will change the culture, so they work diligently to silence the Bible. Meanwhile, many Christians fail to see the inherent power of the Word, and as a result, they neglect it. They do not make it a part of their daily life, then wonder why they struggle to walk with Christ. Even many leaders in the church fail to see they power of the Word, and turn their pulpits into platforms for motivational speeches or political monologues. We need to realize, like Jehoiakim,  the Word of God is powerful, but unlike Jehoiakim, we need to respond in obedience to its message.

Jeremiah 23:22 “But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

Pastor Jim

Double Agent

Titus 1:16
“They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”

  • The church in Crete was like most churches. It had a pastor, who was seeking to minister to the spiritual needs of the people, while facing many struggles from within and without. It had members who were growing in the Lord and seeking to serve Him, and members whose growth was stunted, due to a variety of lingering and tolerated personal sins. Then there were others, who only pretended to be Christians. Paul describes this group as ones who claim to be followers of Christ, yet they fail to really follow Him.

“They profess to know God…”

The word “profess” is a very important word. It is used in Romans 10 to describe personal responsibility in salvation. We are told, in order to be saved, we must “confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus” (Romans 10:9). The word “confess” is the same word translated profess in our text. It is used again in 1 John 1:9 where we are told “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us”, and is also used in Hebrews 11 to describe those who lived lives committed to the Lord. Those individuals are also described as men of whom the world was not worthy. Paul is suggesting there are people in the church who look like they are believers. When we see them on Sunday mornings we assume they are living lives committed to Christ. They say all the right things, speak the language, know the songs, maybe even lift their hands in worship, or hand out bulletins at the door. The problem is, their lives from Monday through Saturday don’t back up the profession of their lips. They are only pretending, play acting, putting on a show in order to hide the fact that they have never surrendered all to Christ.

“in works they deny Him…”

The word “deny” is also a very important Biblical word. Jesus used it in Luke 12:9 when He said, “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Paul also used the word when writing to Timothy stating “If we deny Him, He will also deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12) The word “deny” means to reject, and was used to describe those, who on Palm Sunday raised their voices in praise, but on Friday cried out “crucify Him.” Paul explains in this verse, the word means more than a simple statement. While it is necessary to confess Christ with our lips, it is also necessary that our lives back up our profession. Coming forward at the altar call is an important step in your Christian life, but it does not stop there. We must move on to walking after Jesus in our daily lives. If you are putting on your best Christianity to show up at church each week, only to live a double life throughout the week, you are not only in sin, but in grave danger. Deception is always dangerous, but self-deception is deadly.

Don’t wait another minute to lay down your sin and get things right with the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Finish Line 

2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Paul has come to the end of his road. While prison was an all too common experience for the apostle, he had been delivered from it, and other perils, time and time again. Somehow, he knew this time would be different, and his deliverance would be through death. Not long after this letter was written, Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ. As his journey concludes, Paul examines his life, looking at his past, present and future.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Looking back over his years as a believer, Paul sums his life up by comparing it to a race. The simple statement that he has reached the finish line, reminds us of the training, self-discipline, and obstacles he faced along the way. Finishing well starts when we decide to live for Christ. Many sit back, thinking about how they should get more serious about their relationship with Jesus, but as days become weeks and weeks years, they have done nothing about it. If we want to end this life as Paul did, we must decide, today, that we will live for eternity, laying down whatever is keeping us from moving ahead. Paul used another word to describe his life, he called it a fight. While fights may be something we enjoy watching, they are not something enjoyable to do. Sometimes, the only way to get in the race, is to stand firm, and fight against the desires of the flesh that keep us bound.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, . . .”

Paul did not see his present situation as a victory for the enemy, but as an opportunity to minister to others. In Old Testament times, the drink offering was to accompany the sacrifices that were burned on the altar. It would add to the beautiful aroma of the sacrifice. Earlier, Paul used the phrase, “if I am being poured out as an offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith” (Philippians 2:17). Paul saw his current struggles as a means to minister to others. Suffering is never pleasant, but God wants to use it in our lives as a witness to others. It is often through the difficult experiences, that we find inroads into reaching others with the Gospel.

“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

One of the most comforting truths that kept the Apostle moving forward, was knowing death was not the end. He knew a final breath in this body, meant the first step into eternity. As a result, Paul lived to bring glory to God. This led to the expectation that upon entering glory, Paul would be rewarded with the crown of righteousness. This crown is not Paul’s alone, but for all who live committed to Christ, and anticipate seeing Him face to face; they will one day receive the crown of righteousness.

Let’s live today in expectation of His soon return.

Pastor Jim

 

Be Prepared 

1 Timothy 6:7
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Famous American inventor and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with saying, “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.” It seems we spend much of our time, effort, and energy, trying to avoid these things, rather than preparing for them. Some of us will exercise regularly, change our diet, and get regular checkups with our family doctor, in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Others, will avoid any thought whatsoever of death or dying, and live this life as though it will last forever. Some, might have a risk-it-all attitude, where they live life on the edge, while others will attempt to amass as much stuff in this life as possible. Remember the mantra “He who dies with the most toys wins”?While I am not suggesting that eating healthy or enjoying life are bad ideas, I am saying, attempts to avoid or ignore death, are not nearly as important as attempts to prepare for it.

Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Jesus explained the folly of living for this life only. He reminds us that all we have acquired in this life, is subject to theft or decay. Not long ago, a water line under our house sprung a leak and ruined the flooring in our living room. I can remember the excitement on my wife’s face when the floor was first laid. While we knew it would not last forever, neither of us thought it would go so quickly. Life is like that, we live as though things will continue on forever, not because evidence suggests it, but because we do not want to face the reality that we are temporal beings with a shelf life. All of us must take seriously the words of the Apostle, realize the brevity of life, and prepare for eternity.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

While it is true we can take nothing with us, we certainly can send things on ahead. Jesus maitained, we can store up treasures in heaven. We are all taking a trip one day into the unknown, to a destination where we have never traveled. While we cannot know everything we will face when we arrive, we can prepare in advance for our destination. Step one is to receive Christ; He alone is the way into heaven. Step two, get to know His Word, and live for the things that will outlast this life. The Bible teaches us there are only three things which are eternal: God, His Word, and the souls of men. If we want to live for that which will outlast this life, we must put Jesus first, get to know Him through the pages of our Bible, and seek to impact as many as possible for the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Countdown 

Isaiah 16:14
“But now the Lord has spoken, saying, ‘Within three years, as the years of a hired man, the glory of Moab will be despised with all that great multitude, and the remnant will be very small and feeble.’”

The Moabites were not only Israel’s neighbors, they were also relatives. The Moabites were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Their relationship should have created an alliance between the nations. Instead, their history was one of constant conflict. One of the most costly attacks during the wilderness years was masterminded by Balak, King of Moab. It was this constant conflict, against the people of God, which led Moab to the brink of destruction. Isaiah predicted, in three short years, Moab would be defeated and the inhabitants would be fleeing for refuge.

Since Isaiah did not date this prediction, we cannot know exactly when it was given. However, we do know, during the time of Isaiah’s ministry, the Assyrians were mounting attacks against the entire region. It was only a matter of time before Syria, Israel and Moab, fell to Assyrian forces. Hearing the warning from Isaiah, and looking around at the signs of the times, Moab should have concluded their time was short. They should seek to prepare for the unavoidable reality of coming face to face with God.

Isaiah presents an interesting scenario; he puts a shelf life on the Moabites, in order to help them prepare for eternity. It is as though they went to the doctor and heard compelling evidence that they would only live for three more years. I wonder, if the countdown officially started for me, and I knew I only had a few short years left, would I live differently? Perhaps it would do us good to examine our lives within the following categories, to determine if changes need to be made.

First, our spiritual life. God created us with a need to worship and a desire for Him. As a result, people must worship something; everyone, in one way or another, is religious. The issue is not whether or not you worship, but who you worship. Jesus explained that He came to this planet to enable us to prepare for eternity by getting right with God. This happens when we trust Christ as our Savior, and follow Him as Lord.

Second, our private life. We learn, at a very young age, to hide our wrong-doings so others cannot see them. It is important to remember, we cannot hide our sin from God, and our private life is a representation of our walk with God. Instead of hiding secret sins, we should be confessing them. Instead of spending our private time doing what we shouldn’t, we should spend that time with the Lord, in His Word and prayer.

Third, our family life. Perhaps the most important place for us to live out our Christianity is in the home. Our spouse and children learn far more from us than they ever will in a Sunday school classroom or a Bible study. Our Christian life should show itself in the home and in the way we treat our loved ones.

Finally, our community life. Jesus called people publicly, and sent them out into the world to make a difference. It is important for us to realize, we can make a difference when we live committed to the Lord. Our community life includes how we live at work, in recreation, and at our local church.

Life is short, let’s live for eternity.

Pastor Jim