Behind The Scenes

1 Chronicles 27:1
“And the children of Israel, according to their number, the heads of fathers’ houses, the captains of thousands and hundreds and their officers, served the king in every matter of the military divisions. These divisions came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, each division having twenty-four thousand.”

David was the greatest king Israel ever had. Under his leadership the nation reached its apex socially, economical, militarily and spiritually. Within the nation God was being highly exalted and without the enemies of Israel were subdued and peace treaties were established. Every king that would step onto Israel’s throne would be compared to David and their reign would be seen in contrast to his. I think it is important to keep in mind that while David was responsible to surrender his heart and life to the Lord he was not capable of these great victories on his own. David purposed in his heart to follow God and countless others joined him in the task. Israel’s greatness, while attributed to David was really the work of a massive host of men and women who devoted themselves to God.

The same is true today. Churches across our country are often known because of the man who stands in the pulpit and proclaims the Word. He becomes the face of what God is accomplishing in that particular area but is not doing it alone. Behind the scenes there are countless unnamed supporters who are standing with him. Many of these men and women will never become household names but the ministry could not be accomplished without them. They are the ones who hold up their pastors arms in prayer and faithfully serve beside him to assist in any way they can, to be sure the Word of God is faithfully declared in their community. They set up tables, clean up the churches, fold bulletins, teach children, attend prayer meetings, etc. Just as Israel,would not have become what it was without David’s support staff so the church cannot be what God intends without the faithfulness of those who serve alongside their pastor.

Jim

 

Shepherd Or Butcher 

Amos 1:1
“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

When the car breaks we look for a mechanic, when the body breaks we want a doctor, and when pipes leak it is a plumber we are interested in. We realize, to get the job done right we need a well- trained expert. God on the other hand, works by a different set of rules. Since He has no limitations, He is able to choose the foolish things of the world to accomplish his purposes. When he needed to get a message to the nations, he chose a shepherd from the hills of Tekoa. It is not as though Amos had no qualifications, it is just that the qualifications to be used by the Lord are totally different than those necessary to be chosen by men.

Amos met one of the chief requirements for anyone who desires to be used by God. Amos was a shepherd. Not everyone who wants to serve Christ has to train by learning to care for sheep, but all ministry must be done with the heart of a shepherd. The chief role of a shepherd is to care for the sheep, and he does this by focusing upon feeding and protecting them. Basically, a shepherd does what he does, not for his own benefit,  but for that of the sheep he has been given responsibility over.

Prior to entering full-time ministry, I worked as an apprentice butcher at a local market. My responsibility was to cut and display fish, poultry and meat. Every year, as Passover approached, we would receive cases filled with legs of lamb. During that week, I would spend much of my day de-boning dozens of lamb legs for individual customers. I must admit, I did this with my mouth watering as I imagined seasoning them with Italian dressing and placing them on the grill. I learned then, that a butcher looks at sheep differently than a pastor. The butcher looks at how the sheep will benefit him, while the pastor looks out for the interest of the sheep.

If we desire to be called by God, the one requirement, in addition being a follower of Christ, is that we have the heart of a shepherd. We must not look at people for what they can do for us or our vision. We must look at others, seeking how we can serve them, and help them grow into the person God has called them to be.

Pastor Jim

 

Smoke 

Hosea 13:3
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud and like the early dew that passes away, like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.”

When we are young everything seems to take forever, but the older we get, the more we realize how brief life really is. It seems as though I finally get used to writing the calendar year, and suddenly it’s time to change the last a digit. There is nothing we can do to change the brevity of life, but there is much we can do to ensure that our life has a lasting impact on others.

The Bible declares the life of the wicked is like smoke from a chimney that rises and is gone. The righteous, on the other hand, leave a lasting impact on the world. We don’t have to invent the light bulb or discover a planet to leave an impact on the world. Instead, we must leave a righteous standard for others to follow.

A praying grandma, bible reading father, or faithful mom who serves alongside her children at their local church, will have a long lasting impact upon the generations to come. I cannot tell you how often I hear someone tell me their uncle, brother, grandpa or dad was a pastor, and it is usually in the context of them returning to the Lord, or desiring to serve Him more. I have a friend who spent years in the business world, only to one day decide to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. He now pastors a large church where many are being impacted for the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s live like our life matters, seeking to store up treasures in heaven and leaving a pattern for others to follow.

Pastor Jim

 

A Beautiful Song 

Ezekiel 33:32
“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”

It seems, for a a portion of Ezekiel’s ministry, he had become quite popular. His use of imagery and his skills as an orator caused many to flock to hear him speak. Rather than be enamored by this sudden popularity, the Lord reminded Ezekiel that while the people might be coming in droves to hear him speak, they were not living out the things they heard. In essence, they had become like the foolish builders in Jesus’ story who built their lives upon the sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

There is great value in listening to a Bible study, and you should attend a church where the teaching grabs your attention. However, hearing the Word is only the first step. If we want to have a healthy and growing relationship with the Lord, we need to take the next step and put things into practice. Those who have a vibrant relationship with the Lord are the ones who allow the Word of God to change the way they think and behave. When reading your Bible or listing to your pastor teach, you should be looking for ways to put the Word into practice in your life.

The purpose of a good sermon is not just to captivate your attention, it must go beyond that and affect your living. Think back to the message you heard last Sunday, how has that changed the way you think about God or how you treat others.

Let’s be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

Pastor Jim

 

Pillar Of Truth

1 Timothy 3:15
I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

The church, designed by God, serves many purposes in the life of the believer. It is a place for corporate worship, where the gifts and talents of others enhance our expression of praise. The Bible alludes to the fact that our praises are like a sweet aroma, filling the courts of heaven. The church provides a place for corporate prayer. As Jesus instructed us, there is additional power behind prayer when we gather with others to offer our requests to God. The church is also a place for fellowship. God designed us as social beings. We achieve our best when surrounded by those whose lives propel us forward with godly examples. Scripture informs us, that fellowship with other believers is like a steel file sharpening a knife to make it more useful in the masters hand. When we surround ourselves with other believers, we are in a place where we can share each others burdens, encourage each other through struggles, and lift each other up when we fall. While there may be many more benefits we can derive from the church, Paul writes in this passage, about what we might call the primary purpose of the church.

“The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

The city of Ephesus was known in the ancient world, for the grand temple of the goddess Diana. This elaborate building sat on a hill overlooking the city, and in classic Grecian style, was surrounded by enormous pillars. It has been suggested by some that each of the pillars was more elaborate than the next, as they expressed the glory of the temple. Imagine what it must have been like for Timothy, to open this letter from Paul, read that the church is the pillar of the truth, while sitting under the shadow of that temple. Just as the pillars were designed to hold up the roof of that massive structure, so was the church designed to hold up the truth of the Word of God.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly secular, we are in need, more than ever, of the clear and simple teaching of the Word of God. Scripture compares itself to meat, milk and honey, which feeds the soul and strengthen the spirit. It is also equated to light, helping guide us through the difficulties of life and directing us into the will and ways of God. Scripture is synonymous to oil and water, that works to soften our hearts to the things of God. It can act as a hammer, breaking up the fallow ground that keeps us from trusting in His promises. His word is also like a sharp knife, able to cut away things that don’t belong in our lives, thus making us better equipped for service, and able to experience the abundant life He promises. The Word can remove the veil that hides the face of God and reveal who He is, and what He is like. We are told that through the promises of God, we are able to partake of His divine nature.

There have been times in history where the earth has faced a famine of the teaching of the Word. Christians starving spiritually because of a lack of clear teaching of Scripture. This is not one of those times. There are many good churches holding forth the Truth of the Word. It is critical, as a Christian, that you find yourself in regular attendance, where you can grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Striking The Rock

Numbers 20:11
“Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.”

‘The end justifies the means’ is the governing principle in the life of many. The implication is very clear, it does not matter how something is done, as long as positive results are reached. However, Moses would learn, though this is a common principle among men, it is not a principle for ministry.

Numbers 20 opens by recording the death of Miraim, the sister of Moses and Aaron. It seems her death hit Moses rather hard, and he may have even blamed the people. It was, in fact, their disobedience that resulted in her never entering the Land of Promise. Directly on the heels of her burial, we find the congregation once again facing a great dilemma; they marched to a place without a sufficient water supply for their vast numbers. As their custom was, they did not look to the Lord, but to Moses, and as usual,began to complain. Moses quickly cried out to the Lord, who promised to provide for the needs of the people. His instruction to Moses was quite clear; “speak to the rock” and water will be supplied. It is here, where Moses allows his emotions to get the better of Him. Instead of speaking to the Rock, he yells at the people and beats on the rock. Sure enough, water is supplied, but not without consequences. Moses would soon learn he and Aaron would be forbidden from entering Canaan.

Why such grave consequences for what seems to be such a minor infraction? I think two things must be kept in mind. The first, Moses represents God. Moses was Israel’s pastor. It was his job to rightly reflect the way God felt about His people. When his voice was raised in anger, and his staff flying about, the people would no doubt conclude God was angry with them, when He was not. All those who stand before men, on behalf of God, should take careful stock of this event. Preachers who constantly yell at, and demean their congregations for failing to live to the standard of God, would do better to simply wash them with the water of the Word.

Second, the consequences were so great because of what the Rock represented. Paul would later refer to this event by calling Christ the Rock. It was on Calvary where he was beaten to provide living water for all who believe. Now that He has been crucified, we need only to speak to the Rock, and this living water will be given to us. A second beating of the same rock was unnecessary.

Whatever you may be facing today, you can call on the Rock of Ages and He will provide living water to satisfy your thirsty soul.

Pastor Jim

 

The Right Way

Numbers 7:9
“But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.”

About 600 years after these events somebody got it into his head that it would be a great idea to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle. He had lost sight of who God was and thought the Ark of the Covenant was the presence of God. So, seizing the Ark, the army marched into battle, assuming it would ensure victory. They were defeated. The Philistines captured the Ark and took it into their camp. As a result, God began to plague the Philistines, so they put the Ark on a cart hitched to oxen, and sent the cart back to the nation of Israel where it remained in the house of Abinadab until the time of David.

Later in I Chronicles 13, David is on the throne, looking at the spiritual condition of the nation, and realized something was lacking. God was not the central focus of the people, or the nation. So he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and place it in the Tabernacle; symbolizing the centrality of God to Israel. He sent a letter to all the leaders in Israel, asking, “I’ve got this idea, what do you think?” They replied, “Great idea, let’s return the Ark to its rightful place in the Tabernacle.” Then they talked to the people, and the people agreed, “Wonderful idea! Let’s do it!” So they placed the Ark on a brand new cart, and appointed Uzza as driver. The people joined in with a big celebration of singing and rejoicing in the Lord; until they hit a pothole and the cart tipped. Uzza reached back to keep the Ark from falling out and being damaged. When he grabbed the Ark, God struck him and he died. As you can imagine, at that point, the celebration stopped, the people were in shock and David became angry with Lord. Perhaps he thought, “I’m bringing this Ark to the Tabernacle, I’m trying to glorify You, I’m trying to raise the spiritual level in the nation of Israel, and this is what You do?” And so, he stores the Ark in Obed Edom’s house and goes home.

After 3 months, David realized how he had erred. He asked the people if they thought it was a good idea, he asked the leaders if they thought it was a good idea, but he didn’t ask the Lord. He did not go to the Scriptures and see what God said about moving the holy things. So David opened his Bible and began to read. He, no doubt, went to Numbers Chapter 7. He saw that God never intended for the Ark to be carried on a cart. Gathering together the priests and the sons of Kohath, he instructed them. “You can’t look at the Ark, so we need to have the priests cover it first. After it is covered you need to put the Ark on your shoulders.” So the priests covered the Ark, and the sons of Kohath carried it on their shoulders. As they brought the Ark into Jerusalem, they began to worship the Lord again, and set it up in a tent that David had erected for it.

But why? I understand that David broke the rules; but what was the point of the rule? Why did God not allow the Ark and the utensils to be placed on a cart?

Numbers 7:9
“But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things”

I think this is one of those biblical principles that is so foundational in our service to the Lord. The things of the Lord, (the holy things, our service unto the Lord), move differently than the things of the world. It’s OK to throw curtains on a cart, and it’s OK to throw silver blocks on the cart. However, when it comes to the holy things, the things that represent the nature and character of God, they move in a different way. God does things differently.

So many events that happen in the church, happen out of people’s great desire to raise the level of spirituality in the church, or even in the nation . “We’ve got to impact our community. We want to see people come to the Lord, so here’s what we’ll do: we’ll imitate the world’s methods, take the Ark, throw it on a cart, get a bunch of musicians, and start marching to Jerusalem.” Failing to recognize, God is not only interested in the end, He’s also interested in the means. God has a way of doing things, and that way often flies in the face of the way we think. Some things that work wonderfully in the business world, don’t have any place in the church. And so He says, “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to carry it. It’s going to take you longer. It’s going to be more difficult. You’re going to be more fatigued. But, ultimately, I’m going to be glorified. So don’t get carts or oxen.”

There are many models in todays approach to ministry. It seems, every time I open my mail, I am introduced to another tactic on taking the Gospel to the world, or building up the body of Christ. I know, in many cases, they are devised by people who sincerely want to minister to others. The question is, what is the right model? I am so thankful to have God’s way of ministry modeled for us in the book of Acts. I want to encourage you, if you desire to serve the Lord, look to the book of Acts, and follow the only approach to ministry that is actually divine in nature. We need to be careful, when we seek to serve the Lord, that we are not looking to the world for a model, but instead we are looking to the Word.

Pastor Jim