Look Back

Job 8:8
“For inquire, please, of the former age, And consider the things discovered by their fathers”

Not everything Bibdad the Shuhite had to say is worth listening to, but he has unlocked a very valuable treasure with this statement. He encourages Job to look back upon the lessons the generations before us have learned as we seek to chart out our course forward. There are others who have said the same thing in a different way.

Italian philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” And it was Solomon who wrote “There is nothing new under the sun.” However we choose to say it the reality is that there are very important lessons that must be passed from one generation to the next.

While the world we live in is different than it has ever been the rules set in place to keep order have not changed. Regardless of how many people occupy the planet or how quickly information is acquired, gravity still causes things to plummet toward the surface of the earth and water still freezes at 32 degree Fahrenheit. Righteousness, like the rules of science do not change from generation to generation. If we want to learn to navigate our way through life it would do us well to become familiar with the timeless lessons of the Word of God that are both tried and tested.

Jim

 

The Good Old Days

Lamentations 1:7
“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old.”

Lamentations is a book of mourning that has been compared to a funeral durge. Jeremiah is not weeping over the death of a family member, but over the fall of a nation. We know that, although Judah fell, they would be restored. Seventy years after the captivity began, a remnant of believers would return to rebuild the Temple and the city. Within a century, Jerusalem would be bustling again; cured of idolatry and actively worshipping the Lord. In our text, we see the first step that led them back to the Lord.

“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things That she had in the days of old.”

The first step back was to remember; a word that implies the use of our minds. For them to return to Jehovah, they had to think about how much better life was when they were walking with Him. This was true of the prodigal son who “came to his senses” and remembered what life was like in his father’s house (Luke 15:11-31). It was also true of the church of Ephesus, who had left their first love and needed to remember from where they had fallen (Revelation 2:1-6). This is also true of us. Those who will take the time to consider how much better off they were when they were following Christ, will take the necessary steps to return to Him.

Sin has a way of blinding us. We get so caught up in what we are doing, we fail to simply lift our heads, look around, and see if we truly want to be living like this. Most backsliders are not happy. They are guilt ridden because of their failures. The things that allured them away from the Lord no longer provide the pleasures they once did. It is time to take the Psalmist’s advice and look up. Get your eyes off of what you are doing, look around, and determine if you are better off since you wandered from the Lord.

Just as remembering is a thinking word, so is repentance. It means to change your mind. To repent, we simply decide we are no longer going to live in the things that keep us from walking with Christ. We then set those down and begin to follow Him once again.

“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old.”

Pastor Jim

 

Pardon The Preserved 

Jeremiah 50:20

“‘In those days and in that time,’ says the Lord,
‘The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none;
And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found;
For I will pardon those whom I preserve.'”

One of the greatest benefits of being in a relationship with God is the forgiveness of sin. God explains that although we have transgressed His laws, the covenant provides pardon. In Israel’s case, it was through temple sacrifice, in ours, it is through the blood Christ shed at Calvary. The forgiveness He offers is complete. All sin, and it’s penalties, are washed away in the priceless blood of Christ. When God forgives, nothing will ever be brought up again.

I am captivated by the statement in this verse where sins are sought, but cannot be found. It is not saying that we cannot find a way to sin, but rather that the sins of the past have been completely pardoned. Whoever might bring a charge against the child of God, the answer will remain the same, “What sin, I don’t remember it.”

Guilt is one of the strongest anchors which holds us back, from accomplishing great things for the Lord, but it is not God who is filling our minds with guilt from past failures. Those things have been forgiven and we can move on to a life which brings glory, honor, and praise to God. I have often thought, how little Paul would have ever accomplished if he let his past failures hold him back from pursuing and serving Christ.

If you are feeling guilty about present sin, turn from it and to the Lord, but if you are plagued by past failures, it is time to look past them and at the cross, where all sin was washed in the blood of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Memories

Job 29:2
“Oh, that I were as in months past, As in the days when God watched over me”

My phone currently contains over 900 photos. Each one reminds me of something from the past few years. Most are pictures of my family or some fun activity we did together. Whenever I travel, I find myself scrolling through those photos and remembering the times we spent together. Job has a similar experience, in the midst of his trial, he begins to look back at a time in his life when things were much better. He reminds himself of how things used to be and longs for those days to return. Looking back, especially in trying times, can be very helpful, but it is important how we look back.

As Israel walked with God, they experienced some pretty amazing things. They received tablets written by the finger of God, had manna miraculously appear on their doorstep each morning, and saw the Jordan part. After each of these events, they were instructed to memorialize them. The tablets and manna went into the ark, and an altar was built near the Jordan crossing. Each of these events was to remind them of how God had worked in the past. There is great value in looking back at how God has ministered to us, and the ways we have served in times gone by. When we find ourselves drifting from the Lord, it can be helpful to look to a time when we were tight with Him, and repent and do our first works.

That being said, looking back can also be detrimental. Paul declared, the secret to his success in following Christ was his refusal to look back. That does not mean he had no memories, but that he did not live in the past. Bruce Springsteen sang about the glory days, portraying a person who let past experiences be the best days of their life. I do not think our best is behind us. No matter what your past may have been like, God desires to do a work in your present, and your future. Rather than always looking back, take some time to look up and receive your marching orders for today.

Pastor Jim

 

Repeat

Job 20:4-5
“Do you not know this of old, Since man was placed on earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, And the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment?”

Once again, Job’s agony is answered by one of his self-appointed counselors. This time, Zophar, the Naamathite, raises his voice and refutes Job’s cries, telling him that all of human history testifies against his logic. I find it interesting that Zophar sites history in support of his argument.

We can learn a lot from those who have gone before. It was philosopher George Santayana who wrote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The idea being, if we attempt to do the same things generations before us have done, we should expect the same results. One common definition of insanity is when a person does the same action over and over, and expects a different result. Much could be avoided if we honestly looked back at those who have gone before us. If young people would look at the affect drugs, alcohol, and even smoking, have had on the generation that’s gone before them, they would avoid the temptation to party. If married couples looked at the impact adultery has had on countless marriages and families, they would avoid those flirtatious moments that lead to sin. If we, as a culture, were to carefully examine Israel’s heritage, we would find that sin weakens a nation, and we would vote for leaders who were willing to take a stand for righteousness.

We cannot make decisions for others, but we can make personal decisions that will impact on others. Don’t wait for the world to change.  Instead, determine that you will live for Christ in such a way as to impact others for His Kingdom.

Pastor Jim

 

The Record

In the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles we find a sea of names. One after another, the genealogical records of Israel are listed. The records were vitally important to the nation because land distribution, priestly service, the throne, and the coming Messiah were determined by lineage.

Reading through all these names can be somewhat tedious. We know very little about many of the characters, and some of the names are quite difficult to pronounce. That being said, I am encouraged by many of those whose names are listed. The records include the likes of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Caleb, David and many others. These names should flood our minds with memories of great, even heroic acts of faith and faithfulness. These men were used by God to turn the world upside down. Their simple lives, lived out in faith and obedience, have forever changed to history of humanity.

When it comes to your life, what will the record show? Will you have lived in a way that sets a pattern for generations to follow? Or are you living only to satisfy your own selfish desires? Life is short and one day your name will be listed among those who once walked the face of the earth. What testimony will you leave behind?

Pastor Jim

 

Memories 

Psalm 79:8
“Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”

Memory is a funny thing. There are certain things that no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to remember, and other things I can never forget. Names are particularly hard for me. It is not that I don’t care, or don’t want to remember; I just have a mental block. I have tried all the tricks: concentrating when the person introduces themselves, repeating the name back to them, using it in the conversation, and even relating their name to something else. Still, if some time has passed, and I encounter them again, the file that holds their name has been corrupted, and my memory refuses to access it.

It is not a memory problem, because there are many things that I have a hard time forgetting. Those are usually my failures. I can be haunted by the ways I have let others down, or been a disappointment. I am particularly plagued, at times, by past sins. It is during those times that I am encouraged by the way God’s memory works. While He is omniscient, He chooses to forget our sins and refuses to forget our accomplishments.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12

When we are plagued with a failure from the past, it is important to remember that it is not the Lord who is bringing it to mind. When that sin was committed, the blood of Christ had already made payment for it. Our Savior already paid the price, carried the punishment, and removed the sin, as far as the East is from the West; drowning it in the depths of the sea. There is someone who loves to bring up the past, his name is Satan, and one of his titles is the Accuser of the Brethren. Scripture tells us he lives to bring accusation against us for our failures. Since God refuses to listen to the accusations, he has to find another audience; that audience is usually the sinner. I don’t know how much time he spends trying to convince others of my unworthiness, but I know he expends a tremendous amount of energy on me. During those times I am so thankful that I can cry out with the Psalmist “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, . . .”

If you are struggling with a past failure, whether it ended ten years ago or ten minutes ago, the solution is the same. Confess your sin and receive the complete and total pardon that Christ offers through His shed blood. Do not dwell on your failure, but on His mercy. Instead of playing back that event over and over in your mind, use your thoughts to recall the cross. Think back to His love for you, that was displayed as He gave His life to pardon your sin. Allow His blood and love to wash you clean and restore your strength.

Pastor Jim

Remember When…

Joshua 12:1

“These are the kings of the land whom the children of Israel defeated, and whose land they possessed on the other side of the Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the River Arnon to Mount Hermon, and all the eastern Jordan plain:”

 

This chapter recounts the kingdoms that Joshua and the children of Israel overthrew. In a few cases, there are some minor details recorded, but in most, a simple list of victories is given. All in all, thirty-one kings were conquered by Joshua and the armies of Israel. Each one of these victories represents a great obstacle for Joshua, as well as a giant leap of faith, and his finding God to be forever faithful. 

 

I wonder what we might discover if we took time to recall the victories we have seen in our walk with God. All of us should be able to recount the amazing grace God extended to us that resulted in our salvation. Then, we should be able to walk through times of God giving us victory over certain personal struggles, like unforgiveness, lust, anger, a foul mouth or some level of prodigal living. Finally, we should be able to recall times when we took great steps of faith and began to serve the Lord by reaching out to minister to others. We should be able to list people whose lives have been impacted by the way we chose to live out loud for the kingdom of God. 

 

While there is great benefit to looking back we should do so only to propel us forward. Whatever stories you have of God’s faithfulness in your yesterday’s, be sure to add to those stories by how you live for Him today.

 

Pastor Jim 

 

 

 

 

Blessed

Genesis 49:22-24
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.
The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him.
But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), . . .”

2015/01/img_1374.jpgAs the day of his death rapidly approached, Jacob gathered his children together and spoke regarding what lay ahead. The writer of Hebrews summed up this chapter by saying,

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.” Hebrews 11:21

When he finally comes to his son, Joseph, instead of looking forward, he looks back. He does not speak of what is to come, but of what has already transpired. The story of Joseph, remains one of the most amazing stories ever told. A young man, who fell victim to the bitter envy of his brothers, was sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison, and forgotten; he is somehow raised to the highest honor in the land of Egypt. This great prince, instead of becoming bitter and seeking revenge, uses his position of power to rescue his family, and restore their relationship. It was important to Jacob that Joseph remember the secret of his great strength.

“But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob . . .”

The only way Joseph survived and excelled, was the strength of God. Even to the most casual observer, it is clear, the hand of God was upon Joseph, as he overcame obstacles and opposition. In the same way, it was the mighty hand of God that prevented him from abusing his power, and retaliating against his brothers.

It is so important for us to recollect what God has done for us if we are going to move forward successfully. Don’t ever forget, the mighty hand of God delivered you from the pit of sin, and the taskmaster of the Law. Don’t ever forget, it was the Son of God, whose work on Calvary, raised you from bitter slavery, made you a child of God, and a joint heir with Jesus. No matter what lies ahead, when we remember that our hands are made strong by the hands of the mighty God, we can overcome.

Pastor Jim