Weeping

Psalms 137:1
“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”

The story of Israel is a familiar one. They were saved by the marvelous grace and mighty hand of God who provided for their needs and gave them victory over their enemies. Soon they began to compromise with sin and struggle to follow the commands of God. As time went on, those whom they had victory over, once again began to rule their lives until finally, they were taken captive and lost almost all God had provided for them. In a sense they are the story of the prodigal who wandered from his father’s grace only to find out how miserable life is apart from God. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Israel to scoop water from the Euphrates only to begin weeping for all they had lost through rebellion and disobedience to God. But that in itself is another testimony of the incredible mercy of God. Instead of forsaking them for their continual sin, He promised to restore them into the land and give them a marvelous future and hope.

Perhaps the best place to be in is when we find ourselves weeping at the rivers of Babylon. When we look around and realize all that we lost when we chose to wander from the Lord. History is laden with men and women whose lives suffered greatly when they turned from the Lord, but when they came to their senses, weeped over their condition and cried out to God they were restored by His mercy and once again enjoyed sweet communion with God.

There are worse things than to be broken by our failures. For it is in that brokenness that we will be restored.

Jim

 

Judge Of The Earth

Psalm 94:1-3
“O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs— O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;render punishment to the proud.
Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?”

There are certain Biblical topics that we love to avoid. While it is wonderful to share about the love, mercy and grace of God, we are a bit more reluctant to speak regarding His holiness or the reality of divine judgment. The Bible, however, has much to say regarding God’s view of sin, and the fact that the day is coming when He will exact vengeance on those who live in rebellion against Him.

It is not as though there are two irreconcilable sides of God’s personality. His mercy and His vengeance both stem from His great love. His love for all humanity, and desire for the salvation of every man woman and child in the world, causes Him to endure the mocking jeers of the rebel, as well as allowing His children to suffer the weight of an increasingly ungodly world. When your heart breaks over the condition of the world, think about how God is holding back His judgment so sinners have time to hear and respond to the message of the Gospel. Nevertheless, the day is coming when God will exact His vengeance on this fallen and rebellious planet. The cries of His people for justice are stored up in the throne room of heaven and will one day be poured out on the earth. The workers of iniquity will be punished for their rebellion against God and their mistreatment of His children.

No man has to face the judgment of God. We can all avoid it by trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. If we choose to reject Christ then we are choosing to face the vengeance of God, without the covering of Christ. Imagine standing alone and unguarded in the face of a violent storm, with nothing to provide you with covering or protection.

Pastor Jim

Mercy

Psalms 31:9
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body!”

We cannot be certain of the situation that caused this psalm, but it is very clear the Psalmist was going through an extremely difficult season in life. He describes himself as being under severe attack and needing the Lord to be his fortress. He speaks of his troubles and his adversities, and his eyes wasting away in grief, as he cries before the Lord. He also goes into great length to speak of his emotional condition during this time. He describes himself as, “wasting away with grief, in both his soul and body” and being “like a broken vessel.” 

Without knowing the exact situation that caused his condition, we can still relate to what David was going through. All of us have known times in life of severe attack, grief and pain. The encouraging thing is, that no matter what David faced, he knew that the mercy of God was large enough, not only to comfort him, but to comfort all who endure the pain and hardship of life.

Whatever you are facing, take time today to sit at the feet of Jesus and cry out to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Mercy And Compassion 

Proverbs 11:17
“The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”

Mercy is often defined as not getting what we deserve. While that is true, the word carries a greater meaning. It also means to show compassion and kindness to those who are in need or distressed. We see it evidenced in the life of Jesus. When He heard the leper calling out for Him, we read Jesus was moved with compassion, reached out His hand, touched the man, and cleansed him. Mercy stirred the heart of Jesus to touch the untouchable, and restore what leprosy had destroyed (Mark 1:40-41). When He felt a tug on His garment, He turned to see a woman who had been struggling with an illness for 12 years, without any hope of healing. Mercy stirred Him to heal her sickness, and reward her great faith (Luke 8:43). When He arrived on the scene of Lazarus’ funeral, and heard the wailing of his family and friends, mercy stirred the heart of Jesus, to weep with those who wept, and to intervene by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-17). Over and over, page after page, person after person, we see Jesus expressing His mercy, in compassion and kindness, to those in need. Nowhere, is this seen more clearly than in the cross. Our need was much greater than that of a woman with a blood disease, a man with leprosy, or even a family with a dead brother. Our need was caused by sin, and the only cure was the death of God. Jesus saw our condition, and bore the weight of all our sin, as He hung on Calvary’s cross. Mercy was extended as His blood was shed.

Mercy is something we are to receive and to spread. Solomon stated, it is the merciful man who does good for his own soul. Jesus said we are blessed when we are merciful. Just as Jesus looked for, and aided those in need, we should be looking for ways to express the mercy of God to others. Mercy is expressed in forgiveness. When we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, and treat them as though they had never acted that way, we are expressing mercy. When we choose to be kind to someone, not because they have been kind to us, or in hopes of being rewarded, we are expressing mercy. When we go out of our way to show the love of Christ to others, whether it be in word or action, we are expressing mercy. This mercy will benefit the receiver and the giver alike. Those who receive mercy are learning something of the nature of God, and those giving it, are doing good to their own soul.

Pastor Jim

 

Sow What? 

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” – Hosea 10:12

Hosea wrote of the spiritual condition of Israel, which at the time, was quite dark. Sin had led them away from the Lord and from the blessed life He had determined for them. Instead of experiencing the bounty God intended, they were on the brink of total ruin. Hosea writes to make clear their present state, as well as to provide the antidote. No matter how bad things may have become, Hosea provides the way back to the Lord.

“Sow for yourself righteousness and reap in mercy. . .”

Sowing is a farming term which refers to the planting of seeds. There are a few basic and unchanging principles that determine the law of sowing and reaping.

First, we will always reap what we sow. If you continue to sow sin or compromise in search of self-fulfilling pleasures, you will only reap heartache, and distance from the Lord. If however, you begin to sow righteousness, by applying the ways of God to your life, you will reap mercy. One translation reads “you will reap in love.”

Second, we reap after we sow. Farming is not a job for the impatient. A farmer knows great effort must be applied to the task, if they are ever going to receive a return on their labors. Too often, people will respond to exhortations like those Hosea gives, by claiming they already tried that. “I tried loving my wife, I tried reading my bible, I tried going to church, I tried… And it did not work”. I wonder, how long have you tried? Did you give as much time to sowing seeds of righteousness as you did to sowing to the desires of your flesh? If you will sow in righteousness, you will reap in mercy, but it will take time.

Finally, we reap much more than we sow. A small bag of seeds will produce bushels of produce. While sowing in righteousness may seem like a lot of work, the benefits far out weigh the cost. Taking the time to invest in your relationship with Christ will return both earthly and eternal rewards. When Peter spoke of all he had given up to follow Christ, Jesus replied,

Mark 10:29-30 “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Pastor Jim

 

Praise Him

Revelation 15:3-4
“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

IMG_4241.jpgWhile the tribulation continues on earth, John’s attention is drawn once again to the scene in heaven. The contrast alone should be enough to persuade us to surrender to Christ. Earth is experiencing the wrath of God, while heaven is being filled with sweet and continuous praise. Those who have been rescued from the tyrannical reign of the Antichrist stand before the throne and worship.

One of the evidences that a person has met Christ and been set free from sin is a desire for worship. While it is not required to fall on our knees, lift our hands, or even sing loudly, it is hard to imagine a person who has been impacted by the love and mercy of God who will not offer the loudest praise. Just the other night in our worship service, I noticed one young lady who humbly turned, faced her chair and knelt in worship. She has been growing so much in her relationship with Jesus of late that she could not resist the desire to bow in worship. I think we can learn a lot from the praise song of the redeemed found here in a Revelation 15.

““Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!”

Their praise stemmed from focusing upon the works of God. As they stood before the Lord, they recalled the way in which they had been redeemed. Since these are tribulation saints, we know they had neglected the things of God for most of their lives and ignored the gospel. Still, the persistent love of God hunted them down and won them over. They, like we, could look back to the cross, where the love of God was poured out to redeem them from sin and give eternal life. Reflecting upon the work God has done is vital to a life of praise.

“Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy.”

As important as it is to look back upon the works of God, it is also vital that we look up to the person of God. He is worthy of the highest praise for what He has done, and also for who He is. Their praise stems from remembering three things about the nature of God. First, He is just; second, He is the king; and third, He is holy. All of the judgments of God are just. We often accuse Him of being unfair, however when His judgment is finally meted out upon a Christ-rejecting world, we will see how mercy and truth have met one another, and how righteousness and peace have kissed.

“For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Finally, their worship includes an understanding of the promises of God. The judgments that the Word of God has warned about are finally coming to pass. Peter speaks of those who mock God because He waits so long  to execute judgment; failing to recognize it is His mercy which holds back His judgment. One of the best ways to increase a heart of praise is to focus upon the promises of God. Too often, in dire circumstances, we look only to our surroundings, instead of looking into the promises of God. The saint who trusts the promise over the circumstances he faces, or the emotions they stir up, is the saint whose life will be filled with the loudest praise.

Pastor Jim

 

When The Trumpet Sounds 

 

Revelation 9 records the fifth and sixth blast of the angelic trumpets. With each blast, another calamity is poured out upon a Christ-rejecting world. While each of these is intriguing in themselves, two things stand out to me as I read through them.

First, it strikes me, the judgment of God does not come in a single stroke. It is spread throughout seven trumpet blasts, the pouring forth of seven bowls, and a multitude of other expressions. The message screams at me, God truly does not want men to perish. Each judgment is strong enough to grab attention, while allowing many to have the opportunity to respond by crying out to Jesus for salvation. No doubt, many will respond during the tribulation. Sadly however, many will also reject, seeking death rather than conversion. The same is true today. Some, who hear of the love and grace of God, decide to follow Him, while others reject Him, thinking they can escape judgment by ignoring it. Don’t misinterpret the patience and mercy of God, by thinking His judgment can be evaded by ignoring it. Cry out today for Jesus to save and transform you.

Second, I am struck by the fact that God makes a distinction between those who belong to Him and those who do not. A mark is placed on the forehead of all who believe. We are not sure what this mark is or whether others can see it, but we do know it is a distinguishing mark, affecting how a person is treated by God. Those with the mark avoid the judgment. Currently, there is no mark on the forehead of genuine believers. Instead, the evidence of true conversion is the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The Spirit is manifested in that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. God has always been in the business of making a distinction between His people and those who do not yet follow Him. In Egypt, the Israelites avoided many of the plagues; in the tribulation, those with the mark of God, will avoid much of the calamity caused by judgment. Today, the child of God dwells under the mighty hand of God, in a place of sweet fellowship peace and comfort.

Pastor Jim