Filters 

Isaiah 51:6
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.”

We use filters every day to keep things pure. A coffee filter keeps the grinds out of the cup, an air filter helps to eliminate dirt and pollens from the air and a water filter keeps harmful impurities out of our drinking water. Isaiah suggests that it is a good idea for us to have a filter for our eyes. He declares that we should look up at the heavens and down upon the earth. The purpose of his “eye filter” is to help us see the difference between the temporal and the eternal. Too often we get fixated upon things that will not last while ignoring the eternal. Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He said; “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will by no means pass away.” Peter wrote that the heavens will melt with a fervent heat and John spoke of a new heaven and earth replacing the one we live in.

I wonder how are decision making might change if we kept in mind that much of what we are living for will not last. So much energy is spent trying to gain things that are passing while we neglect the things that are eternal. Jesus exhorted us not to waste our lives storing up treasures on earth but to live for His kingdom and store up treasures in heaven. The Bible explains that when we use our time, talents and treasures to invest in the spreading of the gospel or assisting others in growing in Christ, we are in fact investing in the eternal.

As you go about your day look for ways to invest in the kingdom of God.

Jim

 

Exonerated 

Daniel 6:5
“Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.’”

Daniel is one of the greatest heroes in all of Scripture. His personal commitment and public ministry impacted the lives of his companions, co-workers, and even kings. We know he had opportunity to witness to the most powerful and influential men in the world, and it seems some of them were converted. One of the reasons for his success in ministry was his faithfulness. Daniel set himself apart to the Lord and sought to live a godly life. His commitment to the Lord affected every area of his life. Privately, we know he was a man of prayer and the Word. Publicly, we know he was a man of commitment, faithfulness and conviction. When his accusers sought to find some charge to bring against him, they realized that the only way they could find fault was if his religious convictions forbid him to obey an earthly law.

We should seek to follow the example Daniel set. The secret to being found above reproach, when examined by others, is to first carefully examine yourself in light of the Word of God. If we will daily let the light of the Word shine into the dark places of our lives, and make the appropriate changes, we will find ourselves absolved of all charges when examined by others.

Take a few moments to allow God to examine you. If you find you are practicing something He forbids, or holding on to something you need to let go of, then respond appropriately. Lay those things at the cross, where you can be forgiven and they can be removed.

Pastor Jim

Living Stone 

1 Peter 2:5
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

Peter describes Christians as Living Stones. This simple phrase reveals the miraculous nature of our salvation. Individuals can no more have their sins forgiven than a stone can come to life. However, what is impossible with men, is possible for God. We, who are dead in sin, are made alive through faith in Christ. Peter adds to the miracle of salvation by explaining, once we have been made alive, we now have a divine purpose, “we are being built up a spiritual house.” God is shaping us into the people He created us to be, that we might experience abundant life and have an impact upon others, for the kingdom of heaven. We, who were once without God and without hope in this world, have been made alive and given a life of purpose. How should we respond ?

“. . . to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter explains that one of the primary purposes of our life, is to offer up spiritual sacrifices that have been approved by God. In other words, there are things God desires in return for the salvation He has freely given. First, we are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This is done when we willingly surrender ourselves to Christ, and seek to live in accordance with His Word. A living sacrifice is one who reads the Bible and does what it says. Peter goes on to speak of abstaining from fleshly lusts, obeying authority, and following after the example of Christ. The living sacrifice looks to the Word, and seeks to put these things into practice in his life. Are there any fleshly lusts you have been toying with, instead of abstaining from? Perhaps your eyes have been looking, your lips speaking, or you ears hearing, things that they shouldn’t be. The right thing to do, as a living stone, is offer yourself back to God.

Another acceptable spiritual sacrifice is worship. Worship falls into at least three categories, and we should be consistently involved in all three. First, we worship God for who He is. No matter what our circumstances might be, God has not changed, and He is worthy of praise for being God. The Bible describes Him as dwelling in unapproachable light, being surrounded by companies of angels that declare His holiness and majesty. We should join Heaven’s chorus and offer praise. Second, we worship God for what He has done. When life hits us hard, we are able to look back to the cross where the Son of God died for us. We look at His bleeding hands and feet, and we are reminded of His love for us; a love that understands our weakness and knows our pain. Looking to the cross will fill us with faith, enabling us to press forward, despite the trials. Finally, we worship because of what He promises to do. The Bible is filled with promises for the child of God. Each of them stronger than any obstacle in our way. We must learn to look to the promises and to cling to them. Paul, referring to the promises of God, said they were all “yes and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20), meaning that every promise of God is certain to come true.

Christian, it is time to offer up spiritual sacrifices, no matter what you are facing, give God your highest praise.

Pastor Jim

 

Moving Forward 

Galatians 4:8-9
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

Paul is reminding the Galatians that many of the behaviors and activities they were involved in, before coming to Christ, are no longer fitting. Before accepting Christ, much of our existence is spent trying to find the meaning of life, or at least some semblance of meaning. We realize something is missing, and continually search for it. We may party for while, thinking that will make us happy, or get involved in a relationship or multiple relationships, all in pursuit of filling a void or adding something to life. Some are able to realize the inability of these cravings to satisfy, and move on to something else. However, many become addicted and find themselves in bondage to the very pursuits that falsely promised freedom. Whatever your story is, you will not find life’s missing puzzle piece until you come to Christ. It is in Christ that we are made complete. “. . .and you are complete in Him, . . .” Colossians 2 :10

Paul wrote, when we come to Christ we are redeemed with the blood of God, adopted as sons of God, filled with the Spirit of God and we become the heirs of God. Those are amazing benefits, especially when we consider all we did to receive them was believe Jesus Christ is the Savior, and invite Him to rule our lives. The moment you received Christ, those things became true of you. If you felt like a different person it was because you were. We might say, you are now a complete person.

Now that you have been so dramatically changed by Christ, the things you once sought in life are no longer necessary. Returning to those trappings, would be like an idol worshipper meeting the true and living God, then returning to bow before his little clay image. We would say to that man, “You don’t need those things any more.” In the same way, you don’t need to go partying, live in an ungodly relationship, or use sin as a stimulus in life any longer. YOU KNOW GOD and you can experience the life that is found in Jesus.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12

Pastor Jim

 

Exams 

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

This verse carries two vital commands. First, we are told to examine ourselves, then we are told to test ourselves. Both carry the idea of looking at our lives in the light of the Word of God, to determine whether or not we are truly saved. Not all exams are of equal importance, but this is a test we must not avoid, or fail. What is at stake is not a low-grade in class, or the possibility of summer school, but where we will spend eternity.

“Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

The first question on the test is whether or not you have received Christ. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, . . .” (John 1 :12). He went on to explain that we receive Him when we believe. It is vital to ask yourself: have you recognized you are a sinner, that your sins have eternally separated you from God, and there is no effort that can be made on your part to remove those sins? Then we must realize, Jesus Christ went to the cross in order to provide a way for sin to be forgiven and removed. If you will look to the cross, confess your sin, and believe Jesus died for you, then Christ is in you.

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” James 2:19

Paul wrote to people who believed they were saved. Perhaps many of them went forward, responding to an altar call, or prayed with a prayer-team member after hearing a message of salvation. Some of those who prayed may have gone out the doors and right back into the sin-filled lifestyles in which they had been living. They may have placed their confidence for eternity in a raised hand or a walk forward. James reminds us, there is a faith that saves and a faith that does not save. Paul put it like this,

“ . . .that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Believing with the heart is more than making a one time confession; it involves the surrender of a life to Jesus. Heart believing is ‘trust in and reliance upon’. The person who has truly believed on Jesus, is the person who is walking after Him, and being changed by Him. “By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1John 2:5b-6

Another important part of this exam is to look at your life before and after you made a decision to follow Jesus. How has it changed? John spoke of two very important changes that will take place in a person who is truly saved. First, he spoke of us “walking in the light.” Darkness and light are often used in the Bible to speak of sin and holiness. We are told to cast off the works of darkness or to have no fellowship with the fruits of darkness, while at the same time, being told to walk in the light. Since receiving Christ, what sins have you cast off? Are you still looking at the same things, going to the same places, drinking the same stuff? Or have you begun to exam your life in light of the cross? The best way to cast off the works of darkness is to look at the life of Christ, and to live for the things that are pleasing to Him.

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 2:3

John mentions another vital question on our exam. He writes, the way to discern we know Him, is that we are doing what His Word says. As you read your Bible (which you should do daily) it is important, not only that you mark it, but that it marks you. You should allow the Bible to write on your life. How has your private life, family life, public life, and church life been changed by the daily reading of the Bible? Are you loving your spouse, raising your children in the things of the Lord, seeking to influence your neighbors, co-workers, and friends to follow Christ? Are you attending and serving at your local church? Simply put, are you letting God’s Word redirect your living? These are not things to take lightly. This is not an exam that you can afford to fail. It is critical that you honestly evaluate your life, not in light of what you think, but in light of what the Bible says, and ask yourself “Am I ready to face eternity?”

Pastor Jim

 

Fellowship

Nehemiah 4:19-20
“Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, ‘The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.’”

Nehemiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were facing the challenge of rebuilding the walls of the city, while facing opposition from the enemy. Their task was difficult and dangerous. In order to secure the success of the project, and the safety of the people, Nehemiah established a means of aiding one another. Each section of the city was assigned a trumpeter. When the situation became intense, he would blow the trumpet calling others to aid those in the midst of opposition. This practice drew the people to one another, and ensured the success of their endeavor.

One of the key components of success in following Christ, is to surround yourself with others who want to walk with the Lord. The New Testament calls this, “fellowship”, and encourages each Christian to get involved with others who will help us follow Christ. Too often, we let pride, hurt feelings, selfishness, or some other petty thing, get in the way of admitting our dependence upon one another. The fact is, we are all facing trials and temptations too much for us to handle. We need to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

If you are facing a difficult time, blow your trumpet and call others to your side to pray with you and encourage you with the promises of the Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Walking Through The Land 

1 Kings 16:32
“Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.”

If a traveler from a distant land were to arrive in Israel during the reign of Ahab, there would be little to convince him that these were a people chosen by God. If he entered from the north, the first thing to catch his eye would have been a massive altar built on a high hill in the area of Dan. This altar was erected to give worship to a massive golden cow the people revered as their god. If he came from the south, he would see a similar site erected in Bethel. If he made his way into the heart of the nation, to the newly built city of Samaria, he would find the focal point of the city was an altar built to Baal, the god of fertility. If our traveler were to continue through the towns and villages of Israel, he would see a wide variety of altars and high places built to almost every imaginable god under the son. Essentially, Israel had deteriorated from a nation whose purpose was to glorify YHWH, and be a beacon of light to the world, to a nation just like their neighbors. They had all the same problems, and addressed them with all the same solutions, as those who had never met the Lord.

I wonder what our fictitious friend would find if he were to enter our homes? If he opened the video cabinet, the refrigerator, or scanned through the search history on our computers or mobile devices, would he find different results than our neighbors who have never met Christ? If he observed the way we treat our spouse, or the time we give to personal devotions, would he conclude we were a people who desire to please God and obey His Word? If he were to measure the amount of time we spend instructing our children in the Word, and encouraging the behaviors that please the Lord, would he have hope that the next generation will follow Christ more closely than the current one?

Israel failed because they never got off the path on which Jeroboam put them. The longer they walked that road, the farther they got from the Lord. Perhaps it is time to stop going down the road you are traveling and make some changes in the way you apply Christ to your daily living. While this may seem like an insurmountable challenge, it is really as simple as turning to the Lord for help.

Pastor Jim