Prayer Of The Broken

Psalms 102:17
“He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer.”

Sometimes the Psalms come with titles that give insight into the situation that stirred the author to write. In his case, we are not given the details of his life circumstances, but are told of the purpose behind this song. He writes,

“A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”

Affliction is designed by God to drive us to Him, that we might receive His mercy and find the necessary comfort. Sadly, that is not always the way we react to difficulties. I recently attended an event where a group of people gathered in response to a tragedy that affected all of them. While I understand that difficulty often causes our emotions to speak for us, I was stunned by much of what I heard. Instead of realizing our mutual weakness and need for the mercy of God, I heard person after person speak of how they would not allow this tragedy to break them or to change them. It is as though, the hardship they faced gave them greater resolve and increased resistance against the Lord.

I do not think this was an isolated incident. In fact, in the final years of Judah, the people expressed this same stubborn rebellion against God. While the Babylonians conquered their land and began taking the children into captivity, we read of the leaders continuing with their wicked lifestyles. Instead of allowing the common tragedy to break them, they determined to stand strong in their opposition to God. It is as if they were saying, “You can’t break us and we will never bend.”

Perhaps you are facing a difficult season. Please keep in mind, that part of the reason for this hardship is to bring you to your knees, where you would allow the affliction you are facing, cause you to cry out to the Lord for His mercy.

Pastor Jim

 

Lacking Nothing 

Psalm 34:10
“The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”

One of the great benefits of being a Christian is the promise that God will provide for the needs of His people. This same truth is repeated throughout scripture in a variety of ways. Abraham heard God say He would be his shield and his reward, the Levites were promised that God would be their inheritance, the widow was told her oil would be multiplied, and Jesus promised to care for us as He does for the lilies and the sparrows. It is not difficult to find promises declaring that God will meet our needs, but at times, it is very difficult to trust them.

I recently spoke to a young lady who was praying for the Lord to provide her with a particular job. She had been on the mission field for several months and was hoping to be able to continue. She thought to approach someone and tell them of her desire to remain, when she felt as though he Lord told her no. She began to discuss it with God, questioning how anyone would know of her desire if she did not tell them. Again, she felt as though the Lord told her to simply pray. Several weeks later, she was approached by the leadership who asked her if she would stay on and perform the exact job for which she had been praying. By waiting on the Lord, she was able to learn that, “Those who seek the Lord shall lack no good thing.” 

We have all heard the phrase, “It does not hurt to ask.” This is often used as a motivator to encourage us to seek assistance form someone else. In some cases, a person may even misquote the Bible and declare, “you have not, because you ask not.” I think it is important to remember that James is exhorting us to pray, not to ask others for help. Also, we need to realize, there are many times when it does hurt to ask. Sometimes it can hurt a relationship, because we are pressuring others. At other times, it can hurt us personally, because we never get to experience the miraculous ways God will provide for us when things look hopeless.

There are certainly times when we need the help of others, but we should not look to others at the expense of being able to learn, “Those who seek the Lord shall lack no good thing.”

Pastor Jim

 

Holier Than Thou

Isaiah 65:5
“Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,
Do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!'”

“Holier than thou” is defined by a modern dictionary as, “having a superior attitude or view of one’s self.” It is most commonly used as an accusation against a Christian who calls out sinful behavior. Have you ever been accused of being ‘holier than thou’? If you have, it was probably because you attempted to share Christ with someone. This verse is often coupled with Jesus’ command not to judge lest we be judged, and is used as a defense mechanism by those who are involved in ungodly practices. I think it is worth noting, this statement was actually first used by unbelievers who claimed they were holy enough on their own, and did not need a savior. In fact, anyone who refuses Christ and the cross, is essentially claiming to be ‘holier than thou’.

The fact is, the cross declares, universally, that all of mankind is not holy on their own. As Jesus pleaded with God in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39), we realize salvation is not possible apart from the cross. It is there, and there alone, where sin can be pardoned. If we do not see our need for Christ as our Savior, we are confused about who God is, and who we are. If we truly examined the God of Scripture, we would find He is holy and just, and must judge sin. If we truly examine ourselves, we will find that we are sinners in need of salvation.

Instead of ignoring sin and thinking you are fine the way you are, take your sin before the cross and allow Jesus to wash you and make you new.

Pastor Jim

 

Come On Down

Isaiah 64:1
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!”

As Isaiah looked at the present condition of his world, his heart cried out for the Lord to come. He was not alone in this cry, for the apostle John brought the book of Revelation to a close crying out for Jesus to return. Saints throughout the ages have echoed his plea. There will be a literal fulfillment of Isaiah’s prayer; Jesus will return for His church and He will set up His kingdom. That being said, Isaiah’s prayer has a much broader scope as well. I have found myself, on multiple occasions, praying for God to rend the heavens to meet with me. In times of quiet prayer, as I am about to face a situation that I know I am less than equipped for, my heart pleads for God to rend the heavens and meet with me. In times of corporate worship, as I lift my voice and raise my hands, I often cry for Him to rend the heavens to minister to His church.

Whatever the setting may be, I am fully aware of the vast difference between God and man. We are dependent upon the greatest advances in technology to even get a glimpse of the heavens, while He stoops to look through them to meet with us. What an amazing God we serve! He was willing to step out of glory to die for us, and continues to show us His great love as He meets with us daily.

Pastor Jim

 

Wrong Number 

Isaiah 15:2
“He has gone up to the temple and Dibon, to the high places to weep. Moab will wail over Nebo and over Medeba; On all their heads will be baldness, And every beard cut off.”

Isaiah describes the fall of Moab. He explains that it will be devastating and it will take place very soon. While this is clearly a divine prophecy which will include specific details, including the time in which this fall will take place, it did not come without warning. The Assyria troops were marching throughout the region and conquering all who opposed them. Since Moab was no match for Assyria, it was inevitable,  they would soon be overthrown. I am struck by their reaction to these warning signs.

“He has gone up to the temple and Dibon, to the high places to weep…”

Knowing things were falling apart, the people became religious. They inundated the temples, made offerings, and cried out in prayer. The problem is, they were crying out to a god who could not help them, for he was the creation of their own hearts, minds and culture.

It is common today, on a personal and even a national scale, for people to cry out to God when things begin to go wrong. Whenever someone is hit by tragedy or personal difficulty, their prayer life begins to soar, and in some cases, they even make their way into a church. We see this happen on a large scale whenever a community, state, or nation is struck with calamity. The problem is, people often cry out to the god of their imagination, instead of bowing to the true and living God. A god we fashion after our own design, is not a god who is able to assist us when our world falls apart. There was help available for Moab.  Had they turned to YHWH, they would have been delivered just as Judah was. There is help for you and me if we will turn to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Thirsty

Psalm 42:1-2
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

This Psalm begins with the Psalmist describing his hunger for more of God. In a beautifully poetic fashion, he compares his desire for God to a deer panting for water. Thirst is one of our most basic drives, second only to the body’s need for oxygen. He is not only stating that he desires more of God in his life, but that he cannot live without Him. Psychologists have made lists of basic human needs for mental and emotional health. These lists often include things like companionship, communication, a good diet, human touch, self acceptance and proper rest. Unfortunately, they often neglect man’s greatest need; our need for God. Paul wrote:

Colossians 2:10 “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Man is made complete only when in a right relationship with God, through Christ. Someone aptly described man as created with a God shaped void. This void creates a longing within us to know God. Tragically, many failing to realize they need a personal relationship with God, attempt to fill this void with other things. It is common to see people trying to find satisfaction in relationship, experience, or even substance abuse, when the real solution will only be found in receiving and surrendering all to Jesus.

Perhaps the reason for this longing in the Psalmist is unveiled when he declares:

“For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.”

Notice he says, “I used to go.” Something has happened in his life that hindered his gathering with the people of God, and enjoying corporate fellowship with God. His longing for God may be due to his lack of fellowship with God. It seems that a relationship gone bad was the cause of his broken fellowship, and this broken fellowship created a thirst within him to get right with God. How about you? Are you hungering for God? Is there a longing for more of Him in your life? If so the answer is found in crying out to Him and regularly gathering with those who love Him in corporate worship. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being around the people of God, if we want to grow in Christ.

There is a condition much worse than being distant from God, and longing to get things right. That is, the condition of thinking that you are fine, just like you are. If that describes you, understand you are treading on very thin ice. The day is coming for all of us when we will appear before Him.

Pastor Jim