Unite My Heart

Psalms 86:11
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

Uncertainty makes life difficult. There are times in each of our lives when we have been crippled by indecision. We struggled so long to make a decision, that the decision was ultimately made for us. In those times, we might say our problem was double-mindedness. We could not make a decision because we either wanted to go both directions or neither direction. James referred to that as being a double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The Psalmist refers to a problem even deeper than being double minded, he refers to the person whose heart is split between opposing desires.

Anyone who has walked with Christ for any length of time knows to what the Psalmist is referring. There are times when our desire to please God is overshadowed by a desire for something we know is wrong, or perhaps just a desire for comfort, ease or complacency. If we are going to move  into deeper intimacy with Jesus, and more effective service for His kingdom, we must have our hearts united with a single desire to do that which pleases Christ. The Psalmist links learning the ways of God with having a singleness of heart. The implication is that through regular intake of God’s word, we will develop a desire to live for the things that please God.

Will you join me in praying for a heart united with a desire to fear the Lord and do what is pleasing in His eyes?

Pastor Jim

 

The Call Of God

Hebrews 5:1
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

Hebrews 5:4
“And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

The purpose in referring to the old testament priesthood, was to show that the ministry of Jesus is far superior to their ministry. However, by bringing these verses to our attention, the text gives some key insights into serving the Lord. There are four words in these two verses that are worthy of our consideration. We are told the priests were “taken” and “appointed.” This means they were chosen out of the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron, and set apart for the service of God. Next we are told, their service was an “honor” and a “calling.” No one could step into this service, apart from the sons of Aaron. It was the highest of all callings, and carried with it the greatest honor.

I think, in some ways, we have lost sight of the call of God. It seems to me, many of us have a “take it or leave it” attitude when it comes to serving the Lord. We may sense that God is stirring us to get involved in serving, in one capacity or another, only to put it off because we think we are not qualified, it is not important, or we will one day get around to it. We need to have a better understanding of the call of God.

Notice, we are told, “no man takes this honor unto himself”. When it comes to Christian service, the sovereignty of God plays a critical role. In the Priesthood, it was God who selected the family of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. When it comes to New Testament ministry, we are told the Holy Spirit gives us gifts “individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11 KJV). Those gifts are given so ministry might be accomplished. When you sense a stirring within you to get involved in service, recognize that as the high call of God.

When this life comes to its end, we will care very little about the time we kept for ourselves, but we will revel in the time given to the Lord, in the service of others.

Pastor Jim

 

Unbreakable 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Solomon’s search for life has led him to the conclusion that life is better when we do not have to walk it alone. He gives four examples to illustrate his conclusion. These examples are more practical than they are poetic. First, he suggests that having a companion is better because we can get more work done. Second, if we fall down, we have someone to help us get back up. Third, we can warm one another, and finally, if attacked, we have a better chance of survival.

This passage has application for all relationships, but especially in marriage. We will find success when we view our spouse as a helpmate, and we seek to assist, support, comfort and protect each other. However, the real beauty of this passage,  and what makes it so very practical, is the final line.

“And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

The true strength of any relationship is when it is built around a relationship with Christ. If you are married, and want to have a healthy, blessed and growing relationship with your spouse, the key is to place Christ at the center of your marriage. This can be done by seeking to please Him in the way you treat your spouse. Often, marriages collapse because we fail to treat our spouse with the same dignity that we treat a stranger or co-worker. Peter encouraged wives to seek to win their husbands. I think that advice can be applied to husband and wife.

If you are not married, but are seeking to be, it is important to keep Christ at the center of your current relationships. Too often, we make compromises and concessions before marriage, because we have not sought to live pleasing to the Lord. Christ will be a stabilizing element in those relationships, where He is allowed to influence the way we behave. Too often, we want Jesus to bless us, but we are unwilling to live the kind of life He can bless.

Whatever your current state, it is not too late to put Christ at the center. If you are misbehaving in your relationship, stop, turn to Jesus, ask for forgiveness and help to change. When He becomes the center, you will experience the blessings He intends.

Pastor Jim

 

Love And Respect 

Esther 1:20
“When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”

The opening scene of Esther sheds a bright light on the needs of men. Ahasuerus, king of Persia, had invited all the nobles of his kingdom to a great celebration. It is likely, he was trying to persuade them to get behind his program of sending a massive army to overthrow Greece. During this celebration, he called for his wife to come and parade herself before him and his friends. No doubt, this would be an embarrassing act for any woman, so she refused. Ahasuerus took her refusal as a personal attack against him. He felt as though his wife was not behind him, supporting and honoring him as king. This sent a chilling message to all the men, if the queen did not honor her husband, what chance did they have of being honored by their wives.

Those who study human behavior suggest the greatest need a man has in a relationship is to be honored or respected. When a man senses his wife supports and believes in him, he is able to face just about anything. While I am not suggesting Ahasuerus’ behavior is noble, I do see a picture of how important it is for a wife to support her husband. One of the greatest women of Scripture is Sarah, who was honored by God for the honor she gave to her husband. Paul declared, the number one responsibility of a wife is to respect her husband.

I have found, in many marriages, wives are failing to honor their husbands because they don’t sense they are being loved. This turns into a vain battle where the wife is not honoring, because she is not being loved, and the husband is not loving, because he is not being honored. If that describes your marriage – STOP IT. Instead of waiting for your spouse to do the right thing, offer yourself to the Lord and determine you will live pleasing to Him. Whatever the current state of your marriage, take comfort in knowing God is able to do great things in the lives of all who are willing to do things His way.

Pastor Jim

 

Looking Ahead

1 Chronicles 28:8
“Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.”

David lists two very important reasons, even motivators, for keeping the commands of God. First, he states by doing so, they would posses the land. Second, they would have something to leave behind for the next generation. These same principles should motivate each of us to live according to the Word of God.

The land of Israel was an integral part of the promise of God. Declaring they would possess the good land, was a way of saying they would experience the life God intended for them. Jesus referred to abundant life as the possession of every one of His followers (John 10:10b). This life is found when a person receives Christ, and walks according to the Word of God. Instead of making decisions that will bring immediate gratification, we should be seeking the ways of God, and making decisions based on His promises.

Realizing the effect on the generations that follow us, is another great motivator for walking with the Lord. Too many decisions are made in life without considering the long term consequences. Marriages end because things have become difficult; not realizing others are watching and our decisions effect everyone around us, especially our children. Laws are passed that give a generation freedom to behave in immoral ways. These decisions will have a long term, devastating effect upon the generations to come. They not only weaken the nation and put us under divine judgment, but they also confuse young people, causing them to grow up with baggage that will make the rest of life difficult to navigate.

We would all do well to take the advice of David and seek the commandments of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Window To The Soul

Psalm 101:3
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.”

One of the saddest experiences in life is to see a close friend fall away from the Lord. From the outside, the process often looks the same. A person, who once walked closely with the Lord and was involved in Christian service, begins to drift ever so slightly. First, their conversation changes. Instead of talking about the Lord, sharing from their times of Bible reading or service, they begin to talk only of the waves and the weather. Next, we begin to see them a little less frequently around the church. In some cases, only the responsibility of a service commitment keeps them coming; until finally they step down from their responsibility, and seem to vanish. Sometimes, it will take weeks or even months before we realize what has happened, and by that time, they have cut ties from most of their Christian friends, and are back involved in the things of the world.

This experience is not limited to modern times. The Psalmist saw it happen in his day, and as a result declares, “I hate the work of those who fall away.” He also gives a little insight into what those works are when he states, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.”

It has been said, the eye is the window into the soul. That phrase has always seemed a bit eerie to me, perhaps because I have misunderstood the truth about the eyes of man. It is not as though a person can look into your eyes and see the inner man, but information enters our mind through the eye gate, which in turn, feeds the soul. Paul spoke about the flesh and the spirit being in a daily battle with one another (Galatians 5:17). We all know there are times when we have lost the battle to the flesh, and times when we have been victorious and remained faithful to the Lord, in the midst of temptation.

The secret to success in the battle against the flesh is training. As in any fight, the one who is stronger and more prepared, is the one who will be victorious. If we want to live well-pleasing to the Lord, we must use our eyes to look away from the things that will lead us to stumble, and onto the things that will help us to grow. Jesus put it like this, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

My wife and I were walking the streets of Paris when I saw a chocolate croissant in the window of a bakery. It looked amazing! However, we were on our way to dinner, so stopping was out of the question, but I could not get it out of my head. You know, first thing the next morning, I was in a bakery ordering a croissant. If you are struggling with a particular sin, the solution may be as simple as removing the things that you are looking at, that are feeding that sinful desire. Magazines, movies, internet searches, should all be removed, as you seek the Lord for victory in your life. Let’s take the example of the Psalmist to heart, who decreed, “It shall not cling to me.”

Pastor Jim

 

Love

 Mark 12:30
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these
.”

IMG_1452The world is fascinated with love. Innumerable songs, books, plays and poetry have been written on the subject. Love is the favorite theme of Hollywood movies, gossip rags and television shows. We even have Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate love with flowers, candy and romantic sentiments. I grew up hearing the words “all we need is love” heralded through the airwaves. Love was an important subject in the times of Christ as well. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments He responded, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 The scribes understood exactly what Jesus was saying and agreed with Him fully. They said “to love God and to love others is more than all the offerings and sacrifices.” We have taken the greatest commandment and put it through the word processor of modern times and reduced it to one word: love. Even those who do not follow Jesus (and a few who do not even believe in Him) will quote Him as saying the greatest commandment is love. They will go on to espouse, that if we want to live and die right, all we need to do is be loving toward one another. Since Jesus declares that this is the most important of all commandments, it is vital that we understand that the command not only states love is the greatest responsibility of man, but also declares who we are to love. Just to love our family, or be compassionate toward those less fortunate than us, or to be kind to our fellow man, does not satisfy this commandment. We are only fulfilling the great commandment when we are loving God first, and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Ask yourself this morning, do I love God first? If you do, He should have first place in your life, which means He will have first place in your living. If you love Him, you will spend time with Him, in His Word and in prayer. You will seek to please Him with your actions and express your love to Him in worship. Just to love, or to herald the importance of love, does not satisfy the greatest commandment. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Pastor Jim