Eyes Wide Open

Genesis 40:6-7
“And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’”

We cannot be sure how much time Joseph spent in prison. We know it would have taken some time to prove himself trustworthy enough to be placed in a position of authority, and we know that after the events recorded here, he remained incarcerated for another two years. While we cannot know how long his sentence lasted, we do know what led to his deliverance; faithfully interpreting the dream of the chief butler was the key to his release. What strikes me about the story is what led to interpreting that dream in the first place. We read that Joseph, a wrongly imprisoned man, noticed that others around him were sad. The fact that his eyes were open to notice the needs of others, opened doors of ministry, and ultimately set him free from his own bondage.

We all have good reason to focus on ourselves, and could even justify neglecting others because our life’s situations have become so pressing. However, it is when we take our eyes off ourselves and our own problems, and fix them upon others, that we will not only find ample opportunities to serve, but these opportunities will ultimately lead to our own freedom. The life of self-sacrifice modeled by Jesus, and taught to the disciples, actually leads to a life of freedom and of great spiritual reward.

Take some time today to notice the needs of others around you, and prayerfully consider how God may want to use you to help others.

Pastor Jim

 

Self Examination 

Job 15:12,13
“Why does your heart carry you away, And what do your eyes wink at, That you turn your spirit against God, And let such words go out of your mouth?”

Job has been plagued by a series of severe hardships that have caused others to believe he must be experiencing judgment from God for hidden sins. The body of the book is like a debate between Job and three men who are convinced he is hiding something. It is important to keep in mind, while their premise is wrong, much of what they say is in fact true. Here we find Eliphaz asking a very probing question that we would all benefit from taking a few minutes to consider. He asks, what it is in our hearts that is carrying us away from the Lord? Jesus asked a similar question, He inquired “what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Both of these questions reveal that it is possible to have something in our lives which keeps us from true surrender to Christ, and may even be keeping us from salvation.

Eliphaz asks a second question that gives insight into the solution to the problem. He asks, “What do your eyes wink at?” Jesus declared that if the eye is good the whole body will be full of light, but if the eye is bad the body will be full of darkness (Luke 11:34). The idea is that the eyes are like a gate that brings information into he brain, and if we can control what we look at, we can also control that to which our heart becomes attached.

Perhaps it is time to consider what place Christ really has your life. Have you given Him reign as Lord, or is there something else that is the passion of your life?

Pastor Jim

 

Always Watching 

2 Chronicles 27:6
“So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”

My early years in ministry were spent as a Bible teacher at a Christian school. I recall one occasion, when I was called out of the classroom and into the hallway, I told the students to continue with the assignment I had given them. About five minutes later, I returned to the class to find the students had not followed my instructions. All but a few, were no longer working on the assignment, and some were completely out of control. I remember seeing paper flying across the room, and at least two students standing on their desks. I can attest, these behaviors NEVER happened while I was in the room. There is something about human nature which causes us to behave better when we know we are being watched.

The same was true of the ancient king, Jotham. We read in 2 Chronicles 27:2, he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and that his secret was, he “prepared his ways BEFORE the Lord.” How differently would you behave, if you kept in mind, everything you do is before the eyes of the Lord? The New Testament tells us every thing we do is “. . . naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13). In other words, God is watching everything we do, and we will one day have to account to Him for our behavior.

There are many things we do because we know no one is watching, or we fail to do unless someone is watching. The proper attitude is to “. . . do ALL things heartily as unto the Lord. . . ” Colossians 3:23).

Pastor Jim

 

Introspective 

2 Kings 9:6
“Then he arose and went into the house. And he poured the oil on his head, and said to him, Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I have anointed you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel.'”

Many men have been called and anointed by God for service. Unfortunately, too many follow the example of Jehu. He spent the beginning of his calling ridding Israel of those who had turned the nation against the Lord. One by one, his sword was a vehicle of judgment against the wicked leaders who went before him. Joram the king of Israel, Jezebel the queen mother, and Ahaziah king of Judah, were all slain for their wickedness, and crimes against the nation. After showing great zeal for righteousness in others, Jehu failed to show the same zeal for his own commitment to the Lord. After successfully using the sword against others, he allowed sin to run rampant in his own life. We read of him,

2 Kings 10:29 “However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan.”

One of the great dangers of Christian ministry is to become tolerant of your own sin, while focusing on helping to remove the sins of others. The devil is good at what he does, and what he does is deceive. He will spend great energies to get us to take the spotlight off ourselves, and only use it on others. The value of being in the Word of God daily, is that God will use it to probe into our lives and keep us on track.

Be careful to let God remove planks from your life, as He equips you to remove splinters from others (Matthew 7:3-4).

Pastor Jim

 

It Stands To Reason 

1 Samuel 12:7
“Now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers . . .”

After a great battle in which the men of Jabesh Gilead were rescued from certain destruction, the nation of Israel gathered in Gilgal to inaugurate Saul as their king. As part of the process, Samuel the prophet, now an aged man, stood before the people to persuade them to continue to follow the Lord. To influence their decision, he did not seek to stir their emotions, but to incite their reason. He suggests that it is reasonable to believe in, follow after, and serve the Lord.

Webster defines reasonable as, “not extreme or excessive”, or as the use of “sound judgment.” Some words synonymous with reasonable are – rational, logical and sensible. Essentially, Samuel is suggesting the most reasonable thing a person can do is trust in, and follow after, the Lord. We might go a step further and say it is unreasonable not to do so.

Using a telescope to examine the vastness of the universe, or a microscope to uncover the intricate details of nature, it is unreasonable to conclude that such design could exist without a designer. Looking at the words of Christ and His impact upon humanity, it is unreasonable to conclude that He is anything but “other worldly”. Looking at the lives of those who have surrendered to Christ and been transformed by Him, it is unreasonable to conclude He will not do the same for you, if you surrender your life to Him. Looking at His love, mercy, grace and righteous acts, it is unreasonable to do anything short of offering yourself to Him, as a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

As you consider Christ, use your intellect, consider Him, His Words and His ways. Take the time today to look at the promises of Christ and determine to give your all to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Walk This Way

Proverbs 22:3
“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”

IMG_1243.PNGPrudent means to be wise or even shrewd. The prudent man is the one who looks carefully down the road he is walking, in order to avoid falling into sin and away from the Lord. The simple, or foolish man, keeps walking, never aware of the danger he is in until after it has overtaken him. Obviously, Solomon is exhorting us of the need to be watchful. The Greeks were expert story tellers. They had established a vast system of gods, heroes, and villains, to help explain the unexplainable, and instruct the generations to come, regarding morality. One of my favorite stories is of a man whose name means forethought, who was given guardianship of a box that contained all the evil of the world. On one occasion, he left the box in the care of of his brother, whose name meant afterthought, and instructed him to not allow his wife, Pandora, to look inside. After his brother departed, Afterthought was influenced by Pandora to open the box, allowing evil to spread throughout the world. It was not until after he had allowed her to open the box, he realized the danger of his decision. There is a modern proverb that declares much the same truth,”fools rush in…”

If we walk through life not aware of the dangers, pitfalls, snares, and sins that await us around the corner, we will be destined to fall, time and time again, into the same sins. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15). That means we must be aware of the dangers surrounding us if we are going to avoid a fall. The prudent man realizes how slippery the slope is, in which we walk, and travels carefully.

I have some friends who enjoy backpacking. They take vacations to hike along mountain ridges. I have noticed, before they go, they are certain to purchase the right equipment. Instead of marching out in sandals or ice skates, they purchase proper hiking boots. If they are going to be in the ice or snow, they even use crampons, to ensure they will have  firm footing. We can be no less cautious when it comes to walking with the Lord. Looking around at how others have fallen, or looking back at how we have stumbled in the past, is more than enough empirical data to prove the dangers the narrow road contains. Success in our walk will be closely connected to behaving like the prudent man and avoiding evil before we face it.

Pastor Jim

 

Stand Watch

Habakkuk 2:1
“I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,

And what I will answer when I am corrected.”

IMG_1235.JPGEven for those who have committed themselves and their ways to the Lord, life can be tricky. We face difficulties that create confusion in our lives, and even darken our view of God. Hymn writer Edward Mote wrote of times when darkness veils God’s lovely face. Habakkuk was experiencing one of those times. The conditions of life were causing him confusion, and he did not know how to reconcile what he was experiencing, with what he knew to be true of God. He writes this book to explain what he did in his trying times and what he learned from the Lord.

First, let’s notice how Habakkuk responded when life confused him. We read, he set himself in rampart to watch. This is a reference to the job of a watchman. In ancient times, cities were protected by high walls and guarded night and day by watchmen. Their job was to keep their eyes focused on the horizon for anyone who might be a threat to the well- being of the city. Habakkuk declared, he would set watch spiritually, and wait for instruction from the Lord. He expected to hear from God and to be corrected by Him. Learning to wait on the Lord is an important part of our relationship with God. We must understand that He wants to instruct us, but also wants to use the time to teach us to trust and listen. Waiting on the Lord is not a passive activity, but should include prayer, reading the Word, receiving counsel from godly friends, and keeping our eyes open for ways to be used by the Lord.

Second, notice that God answered Habakkuk. He instructed the prophet to write down the message he was about to receive. This message was not for the prophet alone, but for every generation that would follow him. His message was both simple and profound. God explained that in the midst of confusion, the just must live by faith.

There are two theologically-filled words in God’s statement. The word ‘just’ refers to the person who has had their sins forgiven and is a relationship with God. This happens today, when we trust Christ as our Savior and Lord. The second is the word ‘faith’. This word means to trust. Habakkuk is being told, the solution to his confusion will be found in trusting in the person, promises, and ways of God.

Whatever you might be facing, keep in mind, God is forever faithful. He may allow things into our lives we would never choose for ourselves, not because of a lack of love for us, but as an expression of His unending love. One day, our trying time will come to an end. Until then, let’s sets ourselves in ramparts and wait upon the Lord.

Pastor Jim