Prepare For The Future

Genesis 41:28
“This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.”

On a night that probably started out like every other night, Pharaoh’s life was suddenly interrupted by the Divine. While sleeping, he had a dream, so vivid, he realized it must be a message from God. After unsuccessfully searching for the meaning, he was introduced to Joseph, who, under the influence of the Spirit of God, was able to explain the meaning of his dream. Without going into the details, we find that God revealed the future to Pharaoh. He was told what was coming and given the opportunity to prepare in advance.

Pharaoh is not he only one whose life was interrupted by the Lord. Years later, the king of Babylon saw the finger of God write a message on the palace wall. He was being warned of what was coming that he might prepare in advance. Instead of responding to the message, the king ignored the warning and lived as though it was never given.

What would you do? How would you react if God suddenly interrupted what you were doing and told you what was coming? Would you act like Pharaoh and change your living in preparation for the future, or would you act like Belshazzar and ignore the warnings of God?

The reality is, God has gone to great lengths to reveal what is coming. He tells us, this life is temporary, and designed to prepare us for the life that is eternal. He explains that if we trust in Christ for salvation, our sins are forgiven, and we are thus prepared to face death. He goes on to explain, we can daily live for Christ and the things that matter to Him, and by doing so, we can store up treasures we will enjoy for all eternity.

Let’s take a page from Pharaoh’s book and prepare for what is coming, by living for Jesus today.

Pastor Jim

 

A Good Defense 

Nahum 2:1
He who scatters has come up before your face. Man the fort! Watch the road! Strengthen your flanks! Fortify your power mightily.”

Nahum wrote to warn Assyria of the destruction that was coming upon them, because of their violent and immoral rebellion against God, His word, and His ways. He foretold of a time when the ancient city of Nineveh would be razed to the ground. Like Jonah before him, his message reveals the mercy of God, as the people are warned in advance and told how to be prepared. They are told to man the fort, watch the road and fortify the city. This is good advice no matter what enemy we are facing. In ancient times, cities were defended by being surrounded by high walls. The less defensive the terrain, the higher the walls had to be. If a city sat on a hilltop surrounded by steep cliffs, it’s walls did not have to be nearly as high as a city situated in the plains.

In many ways, the believer is like an ancient city. The more we become like Christ, the higher a target we become to the enemy of our souls, and the more likely we are to be under his attack. Every Christian who has stepped into ministry has experienced this. If you sign up for a mission trip, join the prayer team, or become a children’s ministry volunteer, you know this will come with increased opposition, temptation and difficulty. The key is not to retreat from service, but to build better defenses. We need to know what our weaknesses are if we are going to successfully prepare for an attack, and we need to have a defense system set in place. Often, this is done by making it more and more difficult to sin. For example, if you struggle with worry, then it is a good idea to build a defense system that makes worrying more difficult. This can be done by focusing less on the things that cause concern and spending time meditating in the promises of God. If I were prescribing medication to the worrier, it would be to take a healthy does of the promises of Jesus.

Whatever your greatest area of spiritual weakness might be, the solution is to build a good defense system against it.

Pastor Jim

 

Prepared 

Amos 4:12
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Whenever a big event is on the horizon, it is a good idea to spend the necessary time preparing for it. Every year the women’s ministry at our church has a mid-summer luncheon. If you were to wander onto the campus you would see the place decorated to the hilt. Every table, backdrop, wall covering and notebook fits within the overall motif, and the place always looks amazing. It would be clear, even to the most casual observer, that lots of planning and preparation had gone into this particular day.

Amos speaks of an event far more important than any luncheon, vacation, or travel destination. Amos speaks of us preparing for the unavoidable day when we will all come face to face with the Lord. No matter what your personal beliefs might be, the Bible assures us, everyone will stand before the throne of God, when this life comes to an end. The question is, have you done what is necessary in order to be prepared?  Jesus told two parables to illustrate the preparations necessary to be ready to face God.

First, He told the story of 10 bridesmaids who were awaiting the arrival of the groom. They were told to fill their lamps with oil as the awaited his coming. Five of these young women prepared themselves, and when He arrived they were welcomed into the celebration. The other five failed to do what was necessary, and were forbidden entrance (Matthew 25:1-15). The one thing that prepared these women for the coming of the groom was a lamp filled with oil. Biblically speaking, oil is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying, the way to be ready to face the Lord is to be born of the Spirit; which happens when we trust in Christ for salvation.

Jesus went on to tell another story. This time He spoke of a king who gave varying sums of money to there different individuals. The first and second took the funds and made investments with it, the third hid the money out of fear of losing it. When the king returned he commended the first two and rebuked the third, for failing to prepare (Matthew 25:15-28). The illustration is quite clear. We prepare for eternity by making eternal investments. Jesus called this storing up treasures in heaven; which is done by using our time, talents and treasures in he service of the Lord.

One day time will run out for all of us. It is important that we prepare in advance for the day when we will come face to face with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

The Ant 

“Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

Solomon used the natural world as a teacher of spiritual truth. Not to the extent that his understanding of God was built on what he saw in nature, but rather that nature has a way of illustrating many Biblical truths. In Proverbs, it is common to find references to the animal kingdom as a teaching method.

The ant is a means of reminding us of the need to plan ahead. To the casual observer, they seem to have no ruler, yet they all march in line to store up for the future. Solomon suggests the reason we fail to prepare for what is ahead is laziness. Twice in the passage, the man who does not plan for his future is referred to as a sluggard. Webster defines a sluggard as an habitually lazy person, or someone who is inactive.

While it seems clear, Solomon has our financial well being in mind, this truth has its fullest application in preparing for eternity. Every person, rich or poor, man or woman, free or slave, will one day breathe his last and step out of time and into eternity. Tragically, not all of us are prepared for that eventuality. Some put it off thinking they will get around to it later, only to be caught, by death, unaware. Others, purposely try to avoid any thought of death or eternity by filling their minds with earthly things. Whatever the case, we must “go to the ant” and learn to prepare for our ultimate fate; being face to face with the God who made us.

The way to prepare for eternity is first to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Accept the fact that you are a sinner and He is the Savior. Bow your head, your heart, and your life to Him and ask Him to forgive your sins. Second, we need to store up treasures in heaven by living for Him on earth. Take time to pray for others and tell them about your relationship with Christ. Look for ways to get involved in serving Him by ministering to others.

Go to the ant, Heaven is waiting.

Pastor Jim

Setting Things In Order

Isaiah 38:1
“In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'”

When Hezekiah heard the report that his condition was terminal, and death was knocking at his door, he immediately began to pray. His prayer recounted the way he had lived his life in commitment to the Lord. All that was left was to beseech the mercy of God, for an extension of days.

The phrase used to report the physical condition of the king has become well known. It is used commonly for those who are facing terminal illness. When medical science reaches its end, a person is encouraged to set their house in order. Often, that means little more than saying a proper goodbye, and making sure those who are left are cared for financially. Certainly, Isaiah had much more than that in mind when he approached the king with the dire news of his life coming to its end.

To properly set our house in order we must prepare for eternity, and prepare those we leave behind for life. We do this by receiving Christ, committing ourselves to Him, living to store up treasures in heaven, and setting a pattern for future generations to follow. The best way to set our house in order, is to consider our spiritual condition before  death looms at our door. Begin today to examine your life. Are you prepared to face the judge of your soul? Have you set a godly example for your children, and their children after them, to mimic? If not, why not start today? Take the appropriate time to confess your sins, and commit your ways to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Battleground 

Ephesians 6:14-18
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints”

In Chapter 5, Paul compared our relationship with Jesus as a walk. Now he compares it to a battleground. We are told we have an enemy, the devil, who plans strategies against us. His goal is to get us to fall into sin, or to live so self-consumed, we have little or no positive effect upon others for the kingdom. As we watch him at work in the pages of God’s Word, we see his method is to use fear and discouragement, as well as to tempt us with the pleasures of the world. Here, Paul explains how we can be prepared for the daily battle we face. His description is of a soldier girded for war. Each element of his armor is designed to deal with a different attack.

The belt of truth refers to the Word of God. Having sound knowledge of Biblical doctrines will keep you from being misled by the subtle schemes of the enemy. Daily reading, and weekly Bible Study, will help prepare you for these attacks. The breastplate protects the heart from mortal wounds. Notice, our breastplate is the righteousness we receive when we trust in Christ for salvation. Daily failures can discourage the believer from moving forward. Those are the times when we look at the cross, remember our sins were paid in full, and His righteousness was given in exchange for simple trust. Since the Christian life is a journey, shoes are important, and we wear Gospel shoes. Everywhere we go, we should seek to take the light of the Gospel of the glory of Jesus with us. When we go on the offensive, we are less likely to be tripped up by the simple things.

Next, Paul mentions a weapon that is, in his own words, more important than all the rest. He states, “above all take the shield of faith.” Faith is critical to our journey and the battle. Faith has become a very mystical word, hard to define. It simply means to trust. If we are going to withstand the enemy’s attacks, we must put our confidence in the promises and warnings of God’s Word. Too often, we ignore the warnings of the Word, thinking somehow we are the exception to the rule. The shield of faith is activated when we choose to trust the Word of God over emotion, circumstances, and the voice of others.

As the breastplate protects the heart, the helmet was designed to protect the head. Head injuries can be mortal or can simply knock us out of the fight for a while. The mind is the battlefield where the enemy discharges his greatest attacks in the night hours, after an argument, before a decision, or in the midst of temptation. The mind becomes a battlefield where war is waged against us. The secret to victory is the helmet of salvation. When we remember what we have been saved from, what we have been saved to, and how God wants to use us in the salvation of others, our minds become filled with the very things which will help us withstand the attack.

Finally, Paul speaks of an offensive weapon. He tells us we have been equipped with a sword, but not just any sword. This is the Sword of the Spirit, defined as the Word of God. Since I have no military training, I am pleased to read that it is the Spirit’s sword. When we open our mouth and begin to share the promises of the Word with others, the Holy Spirit takes those words and uses them like a sword to impact the heart. How often have you heard the Word of God spoken and been convicted, encouraged, empowered or directed? The Holy Spirit will do the same through you, as He has done in you.

Gird up guys, it is time for battle!

Pastor Jim

 

Always Watching 

2 Chronicles 27:6
“So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”

My early years in ministry were spent as a Bible teacher at a Christian school. I recall one occasion, when I was called out of the classroom and into the hallway, I told the students to continue with the assignment I had given them. About five minutes later, I returned to the class to find the students had not followed my instructions. All but a few, were no longer working on the assignment, and some were completely out of control. I remember seeing paper flying across the room, and at least two students standing on their desks. I can attest, these behaviors NEVER happened while I was in the room. There is something about human nature which causes us to behave better when we know we are being watched.

The same was true of the ancient king, Jotham. We read in 2 Chronicles 27:2, he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and that his secret was, he “prepared his ways BEFORE the Lord.” How differently would you behave, if you kept in mind, everything you do is before the eyes of the Lord? The New Testament tells us every thing we do is “. . . naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13). In other words, God is watching everything we do, and we will one day have to account to Him for our behavior.

There are many things we do because we know no one is watching, or we fail to do unless someone is watching. The proper attitude is to “. . . do ALL things heartily as unto the Lord. . . ” Colossians 3:23).

Pastor Jim