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1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

There are certain things that God’s Word clearly encourages, and other things that are clearly condemned. Earlier in the chapter, Paul gave a list of actions that, if a person is practicing, they “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Among the forbidden acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, and extortion. Clearly, Paul is not saying that unlawful things are lawful for him. Instead, he is saying, he is free to practice all things that are not forbidden, but is careful to add that he will not be controlled by them. Paul is giving us a principle by which he lived his life, a principle we would all do well to follow. Hebrews 12:1 warns us to,

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…

“Easily ensnaring sins” are sins we are more prone to fall into. For some it is lust, others covetousness, jealousy or envy, while others may struggle with pride or discouragement. We all know what our “easily besetting sins” are. While we all have the same freedoms in Christ, we know if we practice these freedoms, we will fall into sin again.

In order to guard against personal failure, Paul set up a system for success. That system included looking at the grey areas, the things Scripture is silent about, and putting them through a filter. He would ask, “although this is lawful, is it helpful?” When I was a young Christian, I began a practice of asking myself a simple question, “Will doing this help me get to heaven?” I understand we do not earn our way to heaven, but I also understand, there are many things that can trip us up along the way. So, I would examine what I was doing in light of where I was going. Before indulging in the activities so common to our culture, ask yourself if it will help your walk with God, or hinder it.

Some things are so dirty, they must be filtered more than once; so Paul added a second question, “Will practicing this put me under its control?” Jesus died to set us free from the power of sin. One of the great experiences, when a person receives Christ, is the realization that their sin is forgiven, and they no longer have to live under its dominion. That being said, there are many things which will lead us right back under sin’s control.

I once knew a man who had a drug problem, prior to coming to Christ. After months of freedom, he fell again into sin. I asked him what happened, to which he explained, he chose to take a shortcut home that led him by an area where he used to purchase drugs. Before he knew it, he was using again. As a Christian, he was free to drive down whatever road he wanted, but because of his ensnaring sins, if he wanted to succeed, he had to forever avoid that part of town. We all have things which will draw us back into sin. We all must honestly evaluate our lives, if we want to ensure we are not brought back under sin’s power.

What things do you need to remove from your life in order to ensure victory in Christ? Is it time to set aside certain music, TV shows, computer time, or even relationships? Keep in mind, although they may be lawful, they might not be helpful.

Pastor Jim

Works Of God 

Psalms 66:5
“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”

Where we can go to see God work?

We could start by attending a church where people are serving the Lord. We can watch God work in the lives of others. We can observe His transforming work as people respond to the Gospel, or His equipping work as young and old, men and women, offer themselves in service of the Lord. We might see His comforting work as the broken hearted are encouraged by the Word of God, and the presence of Christ. We might see His restoring work as the prodigals return to relationship with Jesus. But there is another way to see the works of God. We can step out of our comfort zone and offer ourselves as servants. The chief reason people don’t see God work in their lives is because they are afraid to step out in faith and serve the Lord. If we continue to use the excuse that we can’t, we will never find the power and enabling of God to assist us beyond our abilities. On one occasion the disciples found they could not accomplish the ministry they were faced with, when they asked Jesus why He responded,

Matthew 17:20
“Why could we not cast it out?
‘So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.'”

Jesus promised if they trusted Him, they would see God accomplish tasks they knew to be impossible. Our problem is we do not want to be in impossible situations. We like to have control of our life and the events surrounding us. It is when we will step out in faith, trusting in the provision of God, and enlisting ourselves in His service, that we will see the works of God.

Perhaps God has been stirring your heart to serve. Maybe you have been thinking about volunteering to teach children or to join a mission team or to open your house for a home fellowship, but you have resisted because you feel inadequate. Allow me to encourage you,  God always calls the inadequate. His methods are to choose the weak and foolish things of the world so He is always glorified through whatever is accomplished.

“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”

Pastor Jim

 

Need Help? 

Psalms 6:2
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can do this,” as a mantra for finding the strength to face the challenge before you? Life often forces us to be stronger than we think we are and to stand up to the opportunity before us. In a passionate plea for the Corinthians to stand against the opposition they were facing, Paul declared,

1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

While there are times when we must be strong, there are also times when we must realize our weakness. There are times when coming to grips with the fact that we are weak, is the very thing that will ensure we find victory. Image having to move a heavy item. We think we are strong enough, and dig deep within to muster all we have, yet the item still remains in its current location, unaffected by our efforts. On the other hand, if we realize our weakness and invite a few friends to help us, we find the object moved without too much work or injury.

As a believer, it is critical that we realize our weakness and learn to look to the Lord for strength. Those who have done so have accomplished feats well beyond themselves. It was not the military strategy of Joshua that brought down Jericho’s walls, nor was it the accuracy of David’s sling that topped the giant. These men, and others like them, were victorious because they realized their own weakness and learned to look to the Lord for strength.

Whatever you are facing today the supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus is enough for the challenge. Like the psalmist, go to the Lord confessing your weakness and ask Him to provide you with His strength.

Pastor Jim

 

Called And Equipped 

Luke 9:1 “Then He called His twelve disciples . . .”

When the Lord calls us to serve Him there seems to be a universal response. Our hearts cry out, “I can’t.” This was the same response of Moses, Saul and Gideon. We feel this way because the Lord always seems to call us to do what is beyond our capacities. A young woman with small children senses a call to teach in children’s church, or a retired couple hears the call to the mission field, or a young man has a burning in his heart to become a pastor, and the voice in our head cries out, “I can’t.”

I think there is something encouraging here as Jesus calls the twelve. He is sending them out to serve Him. They will encounter many with needs beyond their capabilities to handle. They will cross paths with the sick, who will look to them for the answer, the demoniacs, who are held under by the powers of the devil, and some will oppose the work of God. For their journey they are told to take nothing: no money, no provisions, no extra stuff, for these things will not equip them for the ministry. Jesus wants them to understand, those are not the things that enable them, nor will a lack of those things restrict them. Instead, Jesus provides everything that is necessary. We read,

“. . . He gave them power and authority. . . “

All of their objections, and ours, should be silenced by these six words. Whatever reasons they had for objecting to the call, whatever lack they may have felt, must be silenced when Jesus declares, “I have given you power and authority.” Just as their objections are silenced by His promise, so must ours be silenced. Whatever objections you have to the call of God on your life, understand that what He calls us to, He equips us for. As He said to Gideon (Judges 6:12, 14), He says to you “Mighty man of valor… Go in this might of yours.”

Will you go?

Pastor Jim

Baptism

Matthew 3:15“Jesus answered and said to John, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”

The baptism of Jesus was a critical event in His life and ministry. It becomes a great illustration for us, of Christian living and service. First off, note that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Water baptism is a picture of a spiritual baptism, which happens the moment a person believes in Christ.

Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” 1Corinthians 12:13

While water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement for obedience. We are commanded, upon receiving Christ, to make it public with baptism. Jesus, to illustrate the value of this public declaration, submitted Himself to the rite of baptism. 

Second, note what happened upon His baptism; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. This is a picture of a second baptism that the Bible speaks of; not when we are submerged in water, but in the Holy Spirit. I find it of the highest importance, that before Jesus began public ministry, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, any who asked would receive the Holy Spirit, and along with the outpouring of the Spirit, would receive power to walk with Christ. Take time right now to ask God to baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and empower you to live for Christ and serve Him. 

Finally, note that Jesus heard the voice of God. One thing abundantly clear in Scripture is that God honors obedience. I believe whenever we take steps of obedience in our lives, we will hear the voice of God more clearly. Whatever He is asking of you, do it, and His voice will become louder and clearer to you.

Pastor Jim

  

Jim Gallagher

Matthew 3:15
“Jesus answered and said to John, ‘permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”

The baptism of Jesus was a critical event in His life and ministry. It becomes a great illustration for us of Christian living and service. First off, note that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Water baptism is a picture of a spiritual baptism that happens the moment a person believes in Christ.

Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”  1Corinthians 12:13

While water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement for obedience. We are commanded, upon receiving Christ, to make it public with baptism. Jesus, to illustrate the value of this public declaration, submitted Himself to the rite of baptism. Second, note what happened upon His baptism; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him…

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Source Of Strength 

Zechariah 4:6
“So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the Lord of hosts.'”

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, was responsible for a task far too great for himself. He had led a small group of untrained refugees from Persia back to Jerusalem. There, in the midst of continual opposition, and with limited resources, they began the project of restoring the Temple of God. It did not take long for the people to become discouraged and the work to cease. It was then, that a message came to Zechariah from the Lord. The message was in the form of a vision, and showed the Temple menorah connected to an olive tree by seven golden pipes. These pipes provided oil to the lamp, without the need of human intervention. Puzzled by the meaning of the vision, Zechariah was told this was a message for the governor. Just as the lamp would be fueled supernaturally, so would Zerubbabel be strengthen by the hand of God. He was told that it was ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.

This is one of the simplest yet most profound truths for anyone engaged in ministry. When we step out to serve, we want to offer our absolute best to God, and we often wear the weight of the ministry on our shoulders. We become discouraged and even overwhelmed when we do not see things being accomplished at a rate we are happy with, or when they do not meet our standard. We can even begin to think the growth of the church depends on our achievements. It is during those times it is particularly important for us to remember that, “it is not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of God” that ministry is accomplished. Instead of racking our brains for better methods or more talented people, we should be seeking God for a fresh filling of His Spirit, so we can venture forth and accomplish the work of God.

How encouraging this message must have been for Zerubbabel. Not only was the weight of ministry taken off his shoulders, but he was given the promise that the God who started the work, would finish it. In a matter of months, this promise was fulfilled as the Temple was erected and the worship services reinstated.

Pastor Jim

 

Fully Charged 

Micah 3:8
“But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, aneed of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.”

Two things caused Micah to stand out from the false prophets who filled the pulpits of ancient Israel. First, he had received a message from God and second he was energized by the Spirit of God. These are as necessary today as they have ever been. If we want to effectively serve the Lord, we need a message from God and the power to deliver it. The question to ask is, where will I find these things?

Micah’s message came from two places. First, it was found in the pages of God’s Word. He could scan the scrolls and see what was being proclaimed in the pulpits and practiced by the people, were a violation to God’s written Word. Second, his message came by direct revelation, requiring him to learn to hear the voice of God. We will not hear new messages from God, but we do need to learn to sit quietly and hear Him apply His Word to our lives and circumstances. Jesus said His sheep will hear His voice (John 10:27).

Under the old covenant, God was very selective as to who received the power of the Spirit. Certain individuals, for limited times, were filled with the Spirit. We know both Samson and Saul had the Spirit for a while, and then it was taken from them. In contrast, Joel promised, under the new covenant, the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh without distinction (Joel 2:28). The Spirit is received when you trust Christ for Salvation, but there remains a need for the continual filling with the Spirit of God. Jesus explained that we would receive the Spirit when we ask with persistence.

It is important that we see the need to be used by God to deliver His message to the world. Paul declared that people cannot hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14). Its also critical that we take the time to ask God to give us a message, an opportunity, and the gifting of the Spirit to share Christ with others.

Pastor Jim