Do The Wicked Prosper? 

Jeremiah 12:1-2
“​ Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”

Jeremiah’s question interests me because it seem to be the opposite of what God is accused of today. How many times have we heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The inference is that good, innocent even righteous people are being mistreated by a vengeful and unfair God. Jeremiah had a different perspective, he saw God as a righteous judge and realized that men were sinners. This led him to wonder why it was that wicked people were prospering.

In any situation in life, if we are going to effectively problem solve we have to accuratly diagnose the problem. If a doctor misdiagnosis a person he will also fail to prescribe the proper treatment. If a mechanic misdiagnosis the problem with the engine he will replace the wrong part and if we continue to place blame on God for the wicked actions of men we will never really find a cure. When we backslide and get involved in things God specifically tells us to avoid we cannot then turn and ask why God has allowed this to happen to us. We must take responsibility for wandering from the Lord and into harmful things. The way of escape will be found when we turn from our wanderings and begin again to follow closely after Christ.

Sometimes it is difficult to trust the Lord because we see others who have chosen not to follow Christ going through life without many of the difficulties we are struggling through. If you feel that way, you are not alone. The psalmist wrote that it was the carefree lifestyle of the wicked that caused him to question the value of trusting in the Lord. All that changed for him when he looked passed the immediate and considered their end. Jesus explained that there are only two roads in life. One leads to eternal life, the other to judgment. The question is not how difficult the roads might be, but where they are ultimately taking us. Instead of being discouraged by the hardships you are currently facing, look to the end of the road and the glory that awaits all who trust in Christ.

Jim

Surrounded 

Psalms 118:12
“They surrounded me like bees; They were quenched like a fire of thorns; For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.”

A few years ago I was part of an outreach in a remote area of northern Ghana. One afternoon a few of us went for a walk along a path that led us to the small river that skirted the village. As we weaved our way through the bush we were suddenly confronted with an odd buzzing sound. At first it was difficult to discern exactly where it was coming from, that is, until, we made our way past a large tree and the obscure noise suddenly made sense. We had inadvertently walked right beside a large bee hive. We could now see what was making all that noise. We immediately turned and began to run as fast as our legs would take us. As we ran a friend reminded us of the B-budget movie from the 70’s about a  swarm of killer African bees that attacked unsuspecting people. All we could think of was to run for a body of water to dive into and escape. 

Fortunately, we escaped unharmed and were able to laugh about our close encounter with the dangers of wild Africa. Apparently,  the psalmist had some bee experiences of his own that he reflected upon when times got tough. He speaks of his trials surrounding him like a swarm of bees. It does not take personal experience to know that this would create chaos, confusion and fatigue. While we may not all have been chased by bees, we can all speak of times when difficulties mounted up against us and made life almost unbearable and all we could think of was how to escape.  During those times it is important to remember that the mercy of God endures forever and that He wants to come to our aid and to provide us with comfort for the difficulty and ultimately deliverance from our struggles. 

If life is like a swarm of bees turning your world upside down, remember that there is a secret place of the most high where you can hide and find comfort, protection and deliverance. 

Jim 

Guilt Free

Psalm 38:4
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”

In this Psalm, we find David enduring the consequences of sin. Like all of us, he was drawn into something forbidden and chose to trespass, because sin always makes promises it cannot keep. He was, no doubt, hoping to find some level of pleasure by disobeying the law of God. Whatever enjoyment he derived from his sin, was soon eclipsed by the pain and sorrow sin always brings. Here we find David in travail of soul and under severe attack from his enemies. He describes himself as being pierced by arrows of conviction, being under the heavy weight of guilt, and even undergoing attack from others who think that he deserves the sufferings he is facing.

Sadly, David is not alone. This is a common experience for the child of God. We see something forbidden and desire it anyway, soon we find ourselves neck deep in sin and under its heavy hand. The pleasures of sin are quickly replaced with conviction and guilt, and those who we know best, may even keep their distance not knowing how to react toward us.

In those times, we must learn that there is only one place to turn. If we look inward or outward we will be defeated, but if we look upward, we will find that Christ has provided pardon, and we can be forgiven. The Lord will forgive our sins when we confess them, and as time goes on, will even remove the heavy hand of guilt that rests upon us. So often, we become paralyzed when we realize how badly we have messed things up through our failure, instead of allowing the cleansing work of Christ to wash us, and to begin the process of restoring all that we have destroyed.

If you are burdened by sin, be sure to take it to the Lord, who alone can remove its heavy weight and restore what has been lost.

Pastor Jim

 

Stain Removal

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems like salespeople will make the most preposterous claims, just to make a sale. We hear of miracle products that have the ability to get stains out of anything. The problem is, when we use the product, it rarely meets their claims or our expectations. No matter how hard we work, the kool-aid stain remains imbedded in the carpet, and the grease is still on the collar of your favorite shirt.
While a lot of different things will leave a mark, there is nothing that stains as deeply as sin. It mars our conscious, our inter-personal relationships, our families, our witness, and even our ability to hear from the Lord. Isaiah wrote, it is not that God’s arms are too short to reach, but that our sins have separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). We learn from the account of Adam and Eve, one sin is so powerful it can forever alter our lives and our destinies. For the stain of sin to be removed we need a cleansing agent that is more powerful than sin itself. Zechariah promises, there is a fountain where all sin can be cleansed and man can be restored to fellowship with God.

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems that after Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, a fountain will be erected in Jerusalem, symbolizing the cleansing work of Christ. While we have to wait until then to see the fountain, there is no need to wait to have our sins washed away. Jesus, Himself, through His death, provided a fountain that flows continuously; always providing cleansing for even the most heinous of sins. It is at this fountain that the thief, the murderer, the cheat, the deceiver, the liar, the home wrecker, and everyone else can come, be washed, forgiven, and restored into relationship with God. Hymn writer William Cowper wrote,

“There is a fountain filled with blood 
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; 
And sinners plunged beneath that flood 
Lose all their guilty stains.”

Will you plunge into the fountain of forgiveness that is provided for us at the cross? Will you allow all your stains to be removed, in the precious atoning blood of Christ? Forgiveness is ours for the asking.

1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Pastor Jim

 

Don’t Worry

Proverbs 12:25
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Anxiety can be defined as an abnormal and overwhelming concern over the reality of a threat, and our inability to cope with it. Similar words would be care, concern, fear, nervousness or worry. Anxiety is usually accompanied by an inability to focus on other tasks, difficulty sleeping, and either no appetite or one that seems to rage out of control. Solomon observed that unchecked anxiety can lead to a much worse condition, that of all out depression. No doubt, life is filled with challenges greater than we can handle, which bring us to the brink of anxiety. Many of us may feel as though we have already slipped off that cliff. Fortunately, the Bible addresses the subject of anxiety and gives us some clear cures for our common worries.

Jesus told us not to worry, but to observe how our Heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields (Matthew 6:26). He went on to explain that we are of much greater value to God than any other part of His creation, and He promises to meet our needs. The first step in curing common worries is to place your trust in the loving arms of God. Those who handle life’s challenges best, are those who have come to trust in the loving care of God. When all else fails, they remain calm because they know their lives are wrapped up in the arms of God.

Paul declared, instead of worrying about the challenges we are facing, we should pray. Worry does not have the ability to fix anything. In fact, it has been proven, worry can actually create physical problems. Jesus asked, “which of you by worrying can add a cubit to your stature?” (Luke 12:26) Worry does not help matters, but makes them worse. The clear alternatives to worry is to take my concerns to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps.

Solomon adds an interesting step in curing worry. He reminds us of the value of a word carefully spoken. There are certain people who seem to have a gift for stirring up unwarranted concern, while others seem to be a calming voice of reason. We have all experienced times when a person opens their mouths and makes matters worse. The words that carry the ability to put gladness in the heart of the worrier, are the promises of God. In those times, when we are overwhelmed, we need to learn to cling to the promises of God.

Perhaps now would be a good time to set your worries aside and replace them with trust, by casting your cares upon the Lord, and filling your mind with His great and precious promises.

Pastor Jim

 

A Fork In The Road 

Proverbs 8:2
“She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet.”

Have you ever been following someone’s directions to a place you have never been, and encountered an unexpected fork in the road? When that happens, we are forced to stop, study the map again, ask for help, and make a decision as to which way to go. Solomon tells us, that in life, when we encounter the unexpected fork in the road, wisdom is there to meet us, and provide direction for our lives. While wisdom is always available to us, there are times when it may be more difficult to know the right path to take. Solomon gives a description of wisdom so we will be able to recognize it the next time we are in need.

Proverbs 8:7 “For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

God’s wisdom will always lead us away from wickedness and sin. Later, Solomon defines the fear of the Lord as hating evil (Proverbs 8:13). Any direction that leads you closer to sin, or away from fellowship with God, is not the way of wisdom. If you are trying to decide whether to go out with the guy from work, look at his life. Has he been showing evidence that he wants to walk with, serve and please God? If you are trying to decide about a move. Is there a healthy church nearby where you will be able to continue to grow in Christ and raise your family around the things of the Lord? The way of wisdom always leads us toward the Lord.

Proverbs 8:12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.

Wisdom does not travel alone, she has a partner named Prudence. Prudence is defined as the ability to govern oneself, especially as it related to being circumspect in times of peril. We are able to recognize the way of wisdom when we realize that God’s way will always lead us to denying the flesh, and to personal growth in Christ. We were all taught about adrenaline and the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to danger. It is natural for all of us to want to avoid danger or difficulty; to choose the easy road over the difficult one. There are times, however, when God wants us to take the more challenging road, because He desires to do a work within us. That work will always involve the cutting away of the flesh. While that may be difficult, the end of that road, is our becoming the persons God created us to be, in Christ.

Proverbs 8:20 “I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice”

Righteousness, like holiness, is a word we sometimes struggle to define. I recently saw a sign that referred to a location as a holy site, and stated “no smoking, bare feet or loud talking.” Apparently, their definition of holy was to be quiet, not smoke and have covered toes. Biblical righteousness is best defined as becoming more like Jesus, and the path of wisdom always leads us to Christ.

Proverbs 8:23 “I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”

Solomon takes us back to the very beginning, when all things were created, and reminds us that wisdom was there. We learn true godly wisdom does not change when culture does. The things that will lead us toward or away from God, do not change like the tide. Cultural mores may be different now than they were back in the “good old days”, but the wisdom of God has not changed. Regardless of what Hollywood says, or what new laws are passed in Washington, the wisdom of God will never change. Sin will always be sin, and righteousness will always be righteousness. Wisdom and prudence lead us to knowledge and discretion.

Let’s be sure, as we face a fork in the road, that we are looking for signs that point to heaven’s wisdom.

Pastor Jim

 

Silly Bird 

Hosea 7:11
“Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense— They call to Egypt, They go to Assyria.”

There are times in Scripture when God will resort to name calling, not as a way to be mean, but as a means of illustrating the behavior of His people. There is that famous passage in Matthew 16 where Jesus calls Peter, Satan. He does this because like the devil, Peter was attempting to stand between Jesus and the cross. Whenever a person obstructs the work of the cross, they are supporting the work of the devil. Here, God uses a different analogy. It may not be quite as striking as referring to a disciple as the devil, but it paints a very clear picture of how God viewed the nation of Israel. He saw them as a silly bird, without any sense. A parallel illustration could have been to compare them to a squirrel, who seems to run around without any real clue of what it is doing.

Israel’s folly was expressed in their unwillingness to trust in the Lord. Instead of resting on the promises of God, they looked for other things to trust in. They believed an alliance with Egypt would protect them from the threat of Assyria. They soon found that trusting in anything other than the Lord, would be like leaning upon a stalk of grass, in hopes of being supported. Israel is not alone in trusting in things that cannot support us. We are constantly faced with difficulties beyond ourselves and often choose to worry, instead of trusting in the promises of God. In essence, we are saying,  God cannot be trusted, but our own intellect and hard work will provide a way out of the mess we are in. Oh, silly bird, you are not smart enough, strong enough, or consistent enough to resolve the issues of life. In fact, all the worrying you do will never produce the results you desire. Jesus put it this way,

Matthew 6:27
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”

Worrying about anything in life is like worrying about being too short. At the end of the day, all the worry in the world will not add an inch to your height. Now I realize that planning and preparation are necessary in life, but I also realize, that we are masters of masking worry behind other things. It is time to take our lives, offer them to God, and trust in His promises, as we seek to fulfill our calling.

Pastor Jim