Outcast 

John 4:9
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

A few years ago, I was in Serbia speaking at a conference for some of the local churches. On the last day of our trip, we were invited by one of the pastors to visit a Gypsy village, where he had been ministering to the families for some time. Upon arriving, we broke up into groups, and began visiting some of the homes of the sick, and gathering with many of the children. After about an hour, a woman from a nearby town approached us. She stood out to us because she was wearing a beautiful purple dress with a purple overcoat. One of the other pastors approached her; she asked him who we were and what we were doing here. He responded that we were from America, and had come to Serbia to teach the Bible and share Christ. Her response was quite shocking. She said, “I meant what are you doing in the Gypsy’s village. No one cares about the Gypsies.” We were a little shocked by her statement, but began to share with her that Jesus loved all people, even those who were despised by the world. She made a decision to receive Christ that day because of His love for those whom no one else cared.

The world has always been filled with “Samaritans”. Even today, there is no shortage of people about whom no one seems to care. People, whose lifestyle has isolated them from society. It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was always drawn to those who the world rejected. Two thousand years later, and Jesus still “must go through Samaria.” He wants to use us, His church, to reach them with His love.

Keep your eyes open; there is a world out there in need of Christ. A world filled with neglected, even rejected people, who Jesus loves and died for.

Pastor Jim

 

Sealed And Sent

Revelation 7:3
“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7 begins with four angels holding the winds of judgment in their hands, waiting to be released upon a Christ-rejecting world. Fortunately, before they are allowed to begin, another angel is released from heaven to seal those who belong to God. We are not told exactly what this seal looks like, but we know that it is a mark that God places upon the forehead of these believers. It indicates that they belong to Him. There is a similar picture to this found in Ezekiel 9, where prior to judgment coming upon Israel, a messenger of God clothed in linen, marks all who belong to God rescuing them from divine judgment.

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .”

While it is clear, Revelation 7 is speaking of a particular group of people, sealed during the great tribulation, it is also true that all who trust in Christ receive a seal which marks them as God’s possession. That seal is the Holy Spirit, who indwells us at the moment we trust Christ for salvation. Paul tells us, upon receiving the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

Just yesterday, I was privileged to meet a woman and watch as she made a decision to trust Christ. She was beaming with joy so great, she could hardly contain it. All the pain and anguish of the difficulties of life, both past and present, seemed to be overshadowed by the intense joy that filled her upon receiving Christ. She was sealed with the spirit of promise.

Revelation 7:9-10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Those sealed by the Lord did not simply stand around and discuss how they had been sealed. Instead, they looked upon the world they lived in, and saw multitudes in need of Christ, and they declared the Gospel. What an amazing thing it will be, to stand in heaven and meet those who you helped lead to Christ.

Recently, I met a woman, who when she learned I was from America, began to thank me for those missionaries who came to the former Soviet Union in the early 90′s. She and her husband, along with many friends, had come to Christ through the ministry of one such missionary. What she did not know, the man standing with me, was one of those early missionaries. Fresh out of High School, he had given a year of his life to take the Gospel to Eastern Europe. What joy filled her eyes as she met, not the man who led her to Christ, but one who symbolized for her, all who loved her enough to risk it all for the Kingdom. What a joy! One day we will be in heaven with saints from every tribe and tongue, who have been washed in the Blood of the lamb and sealed with the Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Not Forsaken 

Jeremiah 51:5

“For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, the Lord of hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.”

As Jeremiah writes this, Jerusalem is smoldering in the rubble of its own destruction. Babylonian forces have taken the people captive, burned the city to the ground, and set up their own government to rule over Israel. Since the cause of Judah’s fall was their stubborn rebellion against the Word of the Lord, it would seem logical to conclude that God had forsaken His people. Jeremiah declares that those who are in covenant relationship with God, will not be utterly forsaken, even when we have sinned against Him.

Obviously, sin is damaging and has long lasting effects upon our lives. The children of Israel experienced this first hand, as they were defeated in battle, taken captive, and became strangers in a foreign land for seventy years. The same will be true of us. A man who is unfaithful to his wife and family, may destroy his marriage and lose the trust of his children. A person who is  dishonest at work, may lose his job and find it very difficult to support his family. But a child of God, no matter how hard he falls, will not be forsaken.

Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

The promise that God will never leave us should keep us close to Him, not living on the edges as far away as possible, while maintaining a relationship with God. This promise should drive us closer and closer to the one who loves us with an everlasting love. This truth should motivate us to cry our for mercy, and allow ourselves to be washed in His amazing grace.

No matter what you have done, His mercy is new every morning, and your relationship with Him can be restored.

Pastor Jim

 

Freedom

Deuteronomy 15:16-17
“And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.”

 Even in ancient times, life was often difficult. Conditions, beyond the control of an individual, would leave him in a place where he could not pay his debts. To address this issue, God set up a system in Israel where a person could become an indentured servant for a period of seven years. During this time the work done by the individual was treated as payment for the debt owed. At the end of seven years his debt was considered as paid-in- full and he was set free. This was called the year of release, and when it arrived the servant was set free and loaded up with provisions to begin a new lease on life.

In addition to writing out the rules for the year of release, Moses also explained a very interesting clause. If a person did not want to be set free, they could willingly offer themselves into continued servitude. He would show his commitment by having his ear pierced with an awl. It might seem odd to us why a person would willingly accept servitude over freedom, but the reason for it is explained in the text;

“If he says I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you. . .”

A person would choose servitude over freedom because of the way they were treated by their master. If they realized they actually had more freedom and a better living by being under their master than they ever would on their own, they would remain a slave.

This is a good example of what is true of the follower of Christ. Living for Jesus demands a surrender of our will. It is actually impossible to follow Jesus, if we do not lay down our will. While that may be a difficult thing for us to do, the result is, we get to pick His will up. God always has better things in mind for us than we do. Paul, quoting Isaiah wrote,

1 Corinthians 2:9
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

To those who knew Him best, it was clear that the height of life would be found, not in keeping our will, but by submitting ourselves, our life, and our ways completely to God.

Let’s drive that figurative awl through our ears, and devote ourselves completely as servants of Christ.

 

Pastor Jim