Stand In The Gap

Ezekiel 22:30“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

Israel, in Ezekiel’s day, was a mess. The people had long ago left the Word of God and chose to follow the ways of the world around them. This led them into gross immorality, putting them at odds with God. As a result, the Babylonians were fast approaching the city and the people would be destroyed. Prophet after prophet had filled the airwaves with warnings of coming judgment and the way of escape. Sadly however, instead of turning to the Lord, the people remained entrenched in their immoral ways, hoping against reality, that life would continue unchanged, regardless of their backslidden state. All the while, God was looking for men and women who would respond to him in repentance and obedience, but none were found. In many ways times have not changed, God is still looking for those who will build a wall and stand in the gap.

Building a wall might illustrate taking a personal stand against the sinful practices so common among us. Regretfully, the same sins that are rampant in the world, are also running amuck in the church. It is time we took a personal stand to be men and women who are committed to the Lord. It is time for men to be the husbands, fathers and citizens God has called us to be. Standing in the gap, is a picture of a person who will stand between men and God, seeking to make a difference. We stand in the gap in two ways. First, in prayer. Instead of only complaining about the way things are and wishing for days gone by, we should be praying for those around us. If you are struck by a particular person’s behavior, put them on your prayer list. Pray they would come to Christ and be transformed. Second, to stand in the gap is to share the message of the Gospel. More than anything else, the World needs to hear the saving message of the Gospel. It is the Word of God, through the Spirit of God, that will transform the lives of those who believe.

Let’s commit to be those who will stand the gap.

Pastor Jim

 

What Does That Mean? 

1 Kings 10:14
“The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty- six talents of gold, . . .”

Webster’s dictionary defines numerology as “the secret meaning of numbers.” Clearly, as we read through the Bible, we find specific numbers used to emphasize certain truths. The number seven seems to speak of a complete cycle, and is used to illustrate perfection. In the book of Revelation, we read of the “Seven Spirits of God”, which does not mean there are seven Holy Spirits, but refers to the perfect work of the Spirit. The number forty seems to speak of judgment. The children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness because of their sin, and Paul was beaten by the Jews “forty times minus one.” One was subtracted to show mercy, thus thirty-nine became a number for mercy. In the book of Revelation, we are told that six is the number of man, and the number of the “beast” is 666.

Revelation 13:18  “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man:His number is 666.”

We cannot help but notice the amount of gold delivered to Solomon every year, is the same in number as that of the beast of Revelation. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “What does that mean?” Is there any significance to the use of the number here? I think the answer is, “I don’t know.” While every reader familiar with Revelation would certainly pause and notice the similarity, no further information is given. None of the New Testament writers remark on Solomon’s gold, as it relates to the number 666. I think we must simply conclude that the intent of the Spirit was to draw our attention to the fact that Solomon’s sin, of trying to find life in possessions, was fueled by the work of the devil.

I think this brings up a very important point, as it relates to Bible study. We want to be very careful, as students, to examine our Bible, and let it speak for itself. We will run into danger when we project meaning into verses that were not meant by the original authors. Instead of always trying to find a hidden meaning in the Scriptures, we should be looking for the obvious meaning and spend our energies putting that into practice.

Pastor Jim

 

I Did It My Way

Psalm 59:13
And let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth.”

In the early eighties, a well-known Christian band wrote a song called “God Rules.” In some ways, it became the anthem of many young Christians. I remember having a “God Rules” bumper sticker on my car, and proudly writing it on my school notebook. To me, that phrase was a slang term meaning little more than the fact God was best. I believe the Psalmist is saying much more than that, he is speaking of the sovereignty of God. The word sovereign means ‘to possess supreme power.’ David is declaring that God has supreme power over His people.

Throughout Scripture, we see evidence of God’s supreme power. We see nature bow to His authority when seas part, storms cease, and the sun stands still. Sickness, demons, and death are also at His beckoning, and obey His commands. It is clear, there is no power in heaven or on earth that is not subject to the sovereign rule of God. No power, that is, except the will of man.

In His sovereignty, God will not force you (at least not now) to bow to Him. He gives each of us a choice. We can choose to bow our will to Him in obedient surrender, or we can choose to resist His love and live our own way.

A modern song writer penned these words in contrast; “For what is a man, what has he got, If not himself, then he has not. To say the things he truly feels, And not the words of one who kneels. The record shows, I took the blows, and did it my way. Yes, it was my way”

David is boasting in the rule of God, while others boast in the fact that they have refused to submit to God’s ways. Again, Scripture makes it clear, one day all will bow to God. Paul declared, “. . . that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, . . . ” (Philippians 2:10). Even those who declare “I did it my way,” will bow before the One who sovereignly rules, and recognize that He truly is King and Lord. The problem is, only bowing then, is too late to reap the benefits of His rule. I would hope that as we age and come toward the end of our life’s journey, we would be singing, not that we ignored God, fought against Him and lived in rebellion, but that we had bowed to His supreme authority, and did it His way. The benefits are far-reaching. Paul said that godliness is profitable for all things having promise for this life and the one to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

Then and now, God still rules.

Pastor Jim

 

Man Up 

1 Kings 2:2-3
“I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.”

Israel is facing some very serious challenges. Their beloved king has grown old and is on the eve of his death, and the nation is divided between two drastically different successors. Surrounded by enemies and struggling with an array of internal conflicts, Solomon is chosen to take the throne and lead the nation. With what amounts to his final words, we read of a charge given by King David to his teenage son,

“I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man…

Today, there seems to be great confusion regarding what it means to be a man. An iconic figure from a few years ago was the Marlboro Man; a cowboy with a cigarette. More recently, we have been introduced to the most interesting man in the world; an aged playboy who consumes alcohol. We have movies like Fight Club, or the Fast and Furious series that portray manhood as living a fast paced life, not worrying about the consequences, and social media taught us a new term – YOLO – meaning you only live once. David had none of these things in mind when he charged Solomon to be a man. Instead, he defined true manhood when he said,

“Keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.”

A real man is one who looks to the word of God and lives by its principles. A real man is one who will not let culture shape him, but will be transformed by the Scriptures, into the image of Christ. It was Pilate, who looking at the beaten Christ declared, “Behold the Man.” And it is Christ who is the true image of manhood.

Like David, I believe that what our world needs is young people who will step up and act like men. Young men who will not be swayed by culture, but will seek to influence it, by taking heed to the Word of God and live accordingly.

Pastor Jim

 

Man Or God? 

Acts 28:6
” 
However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”

After the ship ran aground and all the passengers and crew arrived safely on shore, it would not take long for the onlookers to see who was who. Even after saving the lives of the entire crew, Paul is still treated as a criminal, and is sent to gather sticks for the fire. While reaching for a stick, Paul encounters what many people fear the most… a snake.

I have seen grown men scream like little girls, push their friends out of the way, and even leave friends stranded in the dark, at the sight of a snake. Paul did not just see a snake, but it struck him and refused to let go. What a sight that must have been! The darkness illuminated by the fire’s flames, and in the shadows, Paul swinging his arms around, attempting to get this poisonous viper to release its grip. The natives of the island, seeing this scene, determined that Paul must be a guilty man; although he was able to escape the sea, the viper got him. As they looked on, expecting him to be killed, their opinion drastically changed. They began to think that he was not a guilty man or even a man at all, but that he must be a god, for only a god could survive such things. What would cause them to have such a drastic swing in their opinion of Paul? I think it was due to their lack of a spiritual foundation upon which to build their understanding of God.

While we probably are not often mistaken for gods, we certainly live in a time when people seem to have little or no spiritual foundation. Outside the church, we find people searching everywhere to find spiritual encounters. Just the other day, I saw signs around our town for a “Psychic Seminar,” where people could come and have a spiritual experience. Within the church, emotions and experience are often mistaken for the moving of the Spirit; and popular opinion shapes our view of the love and holiness of God. We live in a time when a firm spiritual foundation is essential to develop our understanding of God; and that foundation can be nothing less than the Word of God.

Rather than being tossed around, wondering what God is really like, we need to take the time to see who He declares Himself to be, within the pages of His Word. It is very common to hear people say, “We can’t limit God” or “You cannot put God in a box.” While it is true that we often limit God and miss out on what He wants to do in and through us, it is also true that God has put boundaries upon Himself. Those boundaries are found in the pages of His Word. God is not different from who He declares Himself to be, nor will He change His viewpoint based upon public opinion. Let’s determine today to get to know the God of Scripture, rather than the god of culture.

Pastor Jim

 

The Fear Of The Lord

Matthew 26:5
“But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”

2015/01/img_1380.jpgMatthew 26 and 27 record the final events in the life of Jesus. The hostility toward Him has reached a climax, and His opponents are seeking to kill Him. Theirs is the most heinous of sins, the murder of the Son of God! But the text reveals that their sin was motivated by what commonly drives you and I to sin; the fear of man. The fear of man might simply be defined as being more concerned with what man thinks, than what God thinks. On the other hand, the fear of God is being more concerned with what God thinks, than what man thinks. Solomon wrote

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” Proverbs 29:25

The hunter sets the trap for the wild animal, disguises it as best he can, making it look like something it is not, but his real goal is to catch, kill and eat the animal. The fear of man is a lot like that. So subtly, we set aside what is well-pleasing to the Lord, in order to be pleasing to others. The opponents of Jesus did not want to lose favor with the people because of the position they had and the comforts that went along with it. It was their social status and the fear of losing it, which led them to commit this great sin. John tells us, this is one of the great dangers for all Christians. He said, “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)The pride of life speaks of position, status, wanting to fit in, or fearing we might no longer be accepted in our peer group. We call that “peer pressure,” and warn our children of the destruction it brings. However, even adults fall prey to the pressure of the fear of man. Solomon not only warns of the fear of man, he also speaks of the antidote.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Proverbs 8:13

Wanting to live well-pleasing to the Lord will produce in us a hate for the things that are displeasing. Had the religious leader’s foremost concern been pleasing God, they would have never committed such a horrible act, as crucifying the Son of God. The same will always be true of us. Today, if we will allow the fear of God to influence all we do, we will find, at the end of the day, we have lived lives well-pleasing to Him.

Pastor Jim