Victory

Numbers 24:17
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”

Unknown-1.jpegThe final prophecy from Balaam, regarding Israel, declares God will defeat all their enemies. The nations that surrounded Israel, as well as those who lived within its borders, would be brought under the mighty hand of the Lord.

As believers we should take great comfort in this. We all face constant attacks from without and within. Not only do we struggle through the difficulties of life, but we are also faced with inward temptation and trial. It is good to know that the enemy will be defeated. As we continue to walk with Christ, we will find that He carries us through the trials of life, and gives us victory over the struggles of our flesh. Even if you are struggling to keep your head above water, you can look back at the faithfulness of God and rejoice in the things from which He has already delivered you. This should give you a deeper desire to allow Him to set you free from whatever struggle you might currently be enduring.

God is faithful and will always be victorious. Pauls declare we are more than conquerors because of the work of Christ (Romans 8:37).

Pastor Jim

 

Healing For The Backslidden 

Hosea 14:4
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.”

Backsliding refers to a condition where a person who was once closely following the Lord, is now far from Him. Israel was in a condition of perpetual backsliding. They would turn, wander, or be led away from the Lord on such a regular basis, that their experience with God was more like a roller coaster or a pendulum, than a walk with God. Hosea speaks of God healing their backsliding. This in no way implies that backsliding is a disease a person has no control over. Instead, Hosea is suggesting that God is able to fix, restore or heal the damage done to a person during their backslidden state.

When we are walking with Jesus, it is like being a branch that is connected to a healthy tree. We find a constant flow,  causing us to bear fruit in our lives, that is not natural to us. A person who has a propensity toward anger, finds they have self control, a person who is melancholy by nature, becomes filled with joy, and a person who tends to worry about everything, finds peace for whatever life throws at them. When we stop walking closely with Christ, this supply becomes restricted.  Soon, we are like a branch that is cut off from the vine. We begin to act and react to the circumstances of life without the power of God. It does not take long before those closest to us begin to suffer from our lack of abiding in Christ. In many cases, when this backsliding continues, we find that relationships are destroyed. Marriages, families and friendships have all been drastically impacted by the behaviors of a backslidden believer. Hosea promises, when we return to the Lord, our backsliding can be healed.

Life is filled with testimonies that support this truth. In our church, we have many families who were devastated by the behaviors of a backslidden believer, only to have those relationships restored when the person returned to the Lord. Whatever damage you have created by wandering away from Christ, be confident in the fact that God wants to restore you to Himself, and is able to heal that which has been broken.

Pastor Jim

 

Sealed And Sent

Revelation 7:3
“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7 begins with four angels holding the winds of judgment in their hands, waiting to be released upon a Christ-rejecting world. Fortunately, before they are allowed to begin, another angel is released from heaven to seal those who belong to God. We are not told exactly what this seal looks like, but we know that it is a mark that God places upon the forehead of these believers. It indicates that they belong to Him. There is a similar picture to this found in Ezekiel 9, where prior to judgment coming upon Israel, a messenger of God clothed in linen, marks all who belong to God rescuing them from divine judgment.

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .”

While it is clear, Revelation 7 is speaking of a particular group of people, sealed during the great tribulation, it is also true that all who trust in Christ receive a seal which marks them as God’s possession. That seal is the Holy Spirit, who indwells us at the moment we trust Christ for salvation. Paul tells us, upon receiving the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

Just yesterday, I was privileged to meet a woman and watch as she made a decision to trust Christ. She was beaming with joy so great, she could hardly contain it. All the pain and anguish of the difficulties of life, both past and present, seemed to be overshadowed by the intense joy that filled her upon receiving Christ. She was sealed with the spirit of promise.

Revelation 7:9-10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Those sealed by the Lord did not simply stand around and discuss how they had been sealed. Instead, they looked upon the world they lived in, and saw multitudes in need of Christ, and they declared the Gospel. What an amazing thing it will be, to stand in heaven and meet those who you helped lead to Christ.

Recently, I met a woman, who when she learned I was from America, began to thank me for those missionaries who came to the former Soviet Union in the early 90′s. She and her husband, along with many friends, had come to Christ through the ministry of one such missionary. What she did not know, the man standing with me, was one of those early missionaries. Fresh out of High School, he had given a year of his life to take the Gospel to Eastern Europe. What joy filled her eyes as she met, not the man who led her to Christ, but one who symbolized for her, all who loved her enough to risk it all for the Kingdom. What a joy! One day we will be in heaven with saints from every tribe and tongue, who have been washed in the Blood of the lamb and sealed with the Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Walking Through Waters

Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

Isaiah gives us two very different promises. First, he promises life will be filled with difficulty. He writes of passing through waters, facing floods, and raging fires. There are times when the road of life takes us straight into difficulty. We might be struck with disease, discomfort, heartbreak or tragedy. None of us are immune to any of these things. But Isaiah gives a second promise that is true for all who have trusted Christ. He declares that God will be with us in the midst of the darkest hours of life.

Over the years I have found myself walking through some pretty difficult, unnerving, and even fear-filled times. In some cases, it seemed as though I might not make it through the difficulty. Yet, I have also found that in every case, God has been faithful to His promises. I have not only experienced the trial come to an end, but have experienced the presence of God in the midst of it. Whether I was facing something head on or dealing with the burden of someone I loved struggling to keep their head above water, I have always found the presence of God within His promises.

No matter what you might face today, remember He is walking it with you. Part of the purpose behind the hardship, is to learn to fellowship with Christ in your struggles.

Pastor Jim

 

When He Comes 

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder,
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is one of the most well known verses in Isaiah, and perhaps in the entire Bible. It is a verse which predicts the coming of the Messiah, seven hundred years before His birth. In this verse, we have a detailed description of the Savior of humanity. We are told a Child will be born, who is in fact, the Son of God.

This verse was originally penned in the midst of extremely dark times in Israel’s history. Externally, they were facing the threat of destruction. The Assyrians began to expand their empire by conquering the nations adjacent to Israel and Judah. Internally, the nation became increasingly immoral. They lost site of the principles upon which they were founded, had wandered from the Lord, and invited the false gods of the surrounding nations into their borders. In earlier chapters, Isaiah describes these conditions by explaining the culture had begun to “call good evil and evil good.”

It is not difficult to see the similarities between Isaiah’s day and our own. Nations are facing the continual threat of terrorism, stemming from the same area of the world where Assyria once ruled. In addition, the tide of immorality is on the rise. It seems to be almost a daily occurrence, where some judge or legislator seeks to impose their personal immoralities upon the rest of us. We are being forced to accept sinful behavior as normal. We are even considered to be bigots, if we suggest that certain lifestyles are unacceptable to God. The Bible is looked upon either as an antiquated fairy tale, or viewed, like many interpret the constitution, as a document that changes to fit the times.

The ambiguous and shifting moral codes being pushed upon our culture are producing all kinds of social chaos. Yet, our leaders refuse to recognize the real cause of the social chaos is immorality and godlessness. We, like Israel, have pushed God out of the way, and as a result, we are experiencing what many call “the wrath of removal;” where God seems to have taken His hand of blessing off of us. We are suffering the consequences of removing God from our lives.

I am so glad in the midst of those dark days, God promised to send His own Son. The Wonderful, Counselor, and Prince of Peace has come to make a way for our sins to be washed away, and a relationship with God restored. Anyone who will receive Christ can have a brand new start in life, and have the hope of heaven. I am also very  glad to know the Savior promised to return. The predictions concerning the first coming of Christ were fulfilled to the letter, and there are three times as many promises of His return, than there are of His incarnation.

The great hope for humanity is found in the pages of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Has God Forgotten?

Psalm 77:7-9
Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Selah”

If these questions were posed to us on a theology test, we would all answer “No, no, six times no.” We know that He promises:

Hebrews 13:5 “…For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Lamentations 3:22-23 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.”

 

Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Ephesians 2:7 “. . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

His presence, mercy, promises, and grace are eternal. They will never change, wear out, or fail. No matter what our condition, as turbulent as it may seem, the promises of God are sure and steadfast. He will never change. But these questions are not posed as a quiz for the Bible student, but out of the difficulties the Psalmist is facing. We are not privy to the details that caused his condition, but by his own admission, his soul refuses comfort. It is quite common in times like that, to question the promises of God. When the tides of trial swell up against us, and we begin to go downward in sorrow, it can seem as though the promises of God have failed.

The Psalmist does more than state the problem, he also provides the solution.

Psalm 77:11 “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

His trials had robbed him of sleep, but rather than letting worry consume him, he began to recall the mighty works of the Lord. He seems to have called to memory the Red Sea crossing. Thinking back to those who were boxed in, surrounded by mountains, armies, and the waters, it looked as if there was no hope. The promise of a land flowing with milk and honey seemed to be impossible, and the death of a nation imminent. That is, until the Lord showed up and meted out His promise to His people. The Psalmist was not a participant in that event, but since faith comes by hearing the Word of God, his strength was revived by calling to mind the faithfulness of God.

In your trial, don’t be consumed in mind by the storm you are facing, but rather flood your mind with stories of His faithfulness, and watch Him revive your strength as you await His deliverance.

Pastor Jim

 

A Big Misunderstanding 

Judges 11:30-31
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’”

As commander of the armies of Israel, Jephthah is leading his soldiers into a heated battle against the people of Ammon. As the battle approaches, we find Jephthah crying out to God for assistance. It is a good thing to pray, but we find his prayer is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Jephthah thinks he has to barter for the favor of God. “If You will help me I will give you…”

This is a very common misconception. Long before I knew Jesus, or had ever read a page of the Bible, there were times that I found myself praying. I never prayed out of gratitude for how wonderful my life was, but I did pray when I found myself in danger. My prayers would sound much like that of Jephthah. I asked God to get me out of the problem I got myself into, and I would promise to stop some behavior I inherently knew to be wrong. Later, when I heard of the grace of God in sending His Son, and the love of Christ in dying for me, I came to understand that I don’t need to barter with God.

Grace is unearned favor. By definition, it is not something we can earn, buy or trade up for. If you are facing a dilemma, don’t make a deal with God. Instead, cry out to the One who loves you and died for you. Often, God will use our difficulties to reveal behaviors that should not be in our lives. The proper response is to look to His grace, confess and repent.

Pastor Jim