Storms Of Life

2 Chronicles 13:18
“Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers.”

I spent much of my life in California before moving to Florida. The people I first met in Florida would often tell me they could never live in California because of the earthquakes, when I visited California people would say they could never live in Florida because of the Hurricanes. If you live in the Midwest it is the tornado that people fear and if your in the north east it is the cold. The reality is everywhere in the world has its challenges and things that make life difficult.

Walking with the Lord is like that. Every season of life comes with its trials and challenges. The struggles we face today might not be the same ones we were facing in our youth and may not be the same ones we will face in the years to come. As the seasons of life change so too the trials we face often change. That being said the solution is always the same. 2,800 years ago Abijah and his troops found that they prevailed in the trials of life when they chose to rely upon the Lord.

We may not be surrounded by angry and hostile enemy armed with sword and bow, but even if we are the solution is to put our confidence in the Lord, cling to His precious promises, cry out to Him and keep marching forward.

Jim

 

Idols

Leviticus 26:1
“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”

Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.

One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.

I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew  we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt  to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.

If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.

Pastor Jim

 

Glamping 

Exodus 25:2
“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

A few years ago I heard a word I had never heard before, or ever dreamed could be real. That word was “glamping.” “Glamping,” according to the urban dictionary, is “a form of glamorous camping done by urban types.” Those who “glamp” turn tents into elaborate structures with all the comforts of home. Once inside the tent, you are sure to forget you are in the wild. Of all the glamorous tents ever constructed by these wanna be campers, none could compare in beauty or cost to the Tabernacle Israel built in the wilderness. At the current value of an ounce of gold, the Tabernacle would have cost more than $50 million just in materials. The question is, where did all that money come from?

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

Moses laid out the building plans for the Tabernacle, then instructed the people to go home and consider what part they would play in the construction of the Tabernacle. Each family was to prayerfully consider their financial condition, in light of the work that God wanted to do. In the end, the people were to give willingly to the work.

I am sure many factors were considered as families got together to examine their finances. They needed to look at their net worth, what expenses they had to cover, and to keep in mind that the future was unknown, and they could not be certain what kind of provision was around the corner. I am sure, in addition to looking at their needs, they also considered some wants. If they gave to the work of the Lord, that would mean they had less to spend on pleasure, amusement or vacations. Another factor they needed to consider, was that by giving to the Lord, they were giving to something bigger than themselves; a work that would continue long after they were gone. So much of our expenses are spent on things that don’t last, giving to the Tabernacle was giving to something that would be used for the furtherance of the kingdom for years to come.

When considering your finances, and what to do with them, it is important to carefully examine what you have, but it is also important to consider what kind of lasting impact you are making for the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is time to prayerfully consider what investments you are making in the furtherance of the Gospel.

Pastor Jim

What’s In Your Hand? 

Exodus 4:2
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’  He said, ‘A rod.’”

This passage has always encouraged me. We find Moses wanting some evidence that God had truly called him, and God chooses to take what was in Moses’ hand and use it in a miraculous way. He did the same thing with the twelve when all they had was five loaves and two fish. He did it with David, when he entered the valley with a sling and a rock. He will do it with us, when we will offer who we are and what we have, for His service.

There are some stories in Scripture that I relate to more than others. However, when Joshua runs toward the Angel of the Lord, or when Abraham rises early to offer his son, I am not sure I picture myself responding in quite the same way. I think I would fit right in with Moses in this account,though. Even after God promises to use what is in his hand, and goes so far as to demonstrate how He would use him, Moses still doubts. I think it is a matter of perspective. Moses looked at how weak he was, while God looked at how strong He is.

If we want God to take what is in our hands and use it for His glory, we must be willing to trust that His strength is always revealed in our weakness. Instead of focussing upon what we cannot do, it is time to focus on what He can do.

Take some time to pray about how God may want to use you, especially in your local church.

Pastor Jim

 

He Reigns 

Daniel 4:32
“…until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”

This lesson is so important that it is set in an unforgettable backdrop. God allowed the most powerful ruler in the world to lose his mind, and behave like a wild beast, for a period of seven seasons, that he might learn that it is God who rules the affairs of men. While very few will go through Nebuchadnezzar’s experience, all of us need to come to the realization that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.

Scripture goes into great detail to teach this lesson to us. We read of Joseph, who was sold into slavery and cast into prison. What looked like a tragic end, was really the route God took to exalt him to a position where he was used to save Israel. We read of Caesar, the most powerful man in the world, who desired to increase revenue by requiring a census for taxation. He made all inhabitants of his empire return to the city of their birth to be registered. We find the real reason was so a pregnant Israeli woman would make her way to Bethlehem to give birth to the Messiah, in fulfillment of Scripture. Paul capsulized this truth in one of the most memorable promises when he said, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 828). All of this is only true because “the Most High rules the kingdom of men.”

For Nebuchadnezzar this lesson was learned the hard way. His refusal to humble himself before God and His word, made for a very difficult and humiliating season of life. It did not have to be that way for him, and it does not have to be that way for us. We can choose, today, to humble ourselves under the hand of God. Then watch as He reveals, His is the hand  that guides and governs the affairs of our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

Healthy Fears 

Ezekiel 32:10
“Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.”

A few years ago, I heard the tragic news that another, once powerful Christian leader, had fallen into sin. I was immediately reminded of a statement David made when he heard the news of King Saul’s death. He declared,

2 Samuel 1:19 “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” 

I began to ask myself, “How is it that the mighty fall?” As I pondeed the question, I realized that the mighty fall the same way that the rest of us fall. Once we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will begin to sink, just like Peter did after taking only a few steps on the waters of the Galilee. The key to staying upright is to keep our eyes fixed on Christ.

Since Jesus no longer physically walks the earth, one of the key ways to keep our eyes on Him, is to read our Bibles and to do what it says. This was the downfall of King Saul. He had clearly heard from the Word of God what he was supposed to do, but time and time again, he refused. He refused to obey the command of God regarding the Amalekites, the sacrifices, and regarding David. It was not long before his heart had grown so hard he was no longer able to clearly identify the voice of the Lord. It was his willful disobedience that led to his downfall.

What we need to realize is, the same thing is true of every one of us. If Saul, later David, and many modern saints, who once battled successfully for the kingdom of heaven, have fallen in the battle, we should be terrified by the truth that this could happen to us as well. This terror should stir us to cling to Christ in daily obedience to His word.

Pastor Jim

 

Throw It All Away

1 Peter 5:7 “. . .casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Cares, concerns, worries, and anxiety are all relatively synonymous terms. They speak of the things in life that fill us with fear, rob us of peace, overwhelm us, and stress us out. There are numerous things that create this kind of anxiety; some of them are real and others irrational, but all of them seem to have the same effect upon us. Peter tells us the solution to dealing with the cares of life.

“. . .casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

The word ‘casting’ is a translation of a compound word in Greek meaning, ‘to throw upon’. It was used in the book of Acts when Paul was traveling by ship to Rome. In the midst of the sea, they experienced a great storm similar to a hurricane. In addition to being tossed around by the large waves and driven off course by the high winds, they had lost all sense of where they were, because for many days they were unable to see the stars to navigate. As the ship was being beat up by the storm and taking on water, the crew began to realize, they may not survive. Suddenly, the precious cargo they were transporting meant little to them, and they began to toss it overboard to lighten the ship, and increase their chances of survival. When the storm continued, they reached the point where they even began throwing the ship’s tackle overboard.

This is an apt illustration of what it means to cast our cares upon Christ. Sometimes, the storms of life cause us to realize that much of what we are living for, or hold dear, matters little in light of eternity. In the storm, we, like those sailors of old, evaluate what is truly precious and we cast all the rest at the feet of Jesus. Maybe now would be a good time to cast some of those cares at His feet. Perhaps there are things you have allowed back into your life that should be left behind, as you press toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

As the storm continued they cast the ship’s tackle overboard. Tackle, unlike cargo is necessary to the sailors. They could not hoist the sails without it. When the storm began, they relied upon their own strength and experience to get them through. As the storm raged on, they reached a point where they realized it was too much for them. All they were accustomed to trusting in proved faulty, and as a last resort they threw the tackle overboard and listened to the instructions, not of the captain, but of the Apostle. Sometimes, life’s storms are allowed so we will stop trusting in our own strength, instead turning to the Lord for direction. It may be that the care that you need to cast at His feet is the idea that you can get through this without Heaven’s help.

Whatever you are facing, cast those cares at His feet. Peter promises that Jesus cares for us.

Pastor Jim