Clap Your Hands

Psalm 47:1
“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”

Sometimes knowing the setting in which a psalm was written is beneficial to understanding its content. Other times, like in this psalm, the setting is not given because the truth is universal. Whatever our condition, whether we would classify it as good or bad, blessing or trial, God remains the same and is always worthy of the highest praise. The truths tucked away in this psalm transcend every experience the child of God endures. Whatever state you are currently facing, it is a good idea to clap your hands and shout out the loudest praise.

The Psalmist declares that God is awesome because He is the great King who subdues all things under His feet. Our praise is often lost when we become frightened or overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control. We wonder how anything good could come from the difficulties we are facing. It is during those times that we must realize God is King of all the earth, and capable of moving mountains in order to accomplish His purposes. We can then learn to celebrate Him, even when are circumstances seem bleak.

The Psalmist declares that God will select our inheritance for us because He loves us dearly. For Israel, the inheritance speaks of the land allotted to each tribe. For the Christian, our inheritance is the blessed life God desires us to experience. Israel needed to trust God beyond fear and circumstance if they were to walk in the land. We must do the same if we are going to walk out the life God intends for us. We must be willing to set emotion and selfish desire aside, take up our cross, and walk after the things of Christ if we want to find the inheritance He has laid aside for each of us.

Finally, the Psalmist speaks of the shields of the earth belonging to God. What a blessing it is when we realize, the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. Sometimes, walking with the Lord will make us vulnerable and that can lead to worry and fear, unless we realize the center of His will is the safest place for us. Israel’s fear kept them from entering Canaan, which in turn put them outside of the protective care of God. What frightened them was the very thing keeping them from experiencing the protective care of God.

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”

Pastor Jim

 

Raging Rapids 

Ephesians 2:1
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

When I was a child, my family lived in a house located at the bottom of one hill, and the top of another. Whenever one of the neighbors up the street would wash his car, a flowing river would form in the gutter outside the house. I can vividly remember using the debris to create obstacles, rapids, and even dams. I would run up the street with small plastic boats filled with passengers and drop them into the river. As they traveled downstream, they would be tossed about by the currents heading towards the rudimentary dam designed to stop them. Often, the flow would become so strong the dam would burst, sending the toy boat and its occupants rushing toward a large drain that went deep underground to the sewers. Frantically, I would run after the small boat, hoping to rescue it from impending doom. Whenever I read Paul’s description of the world, found in Ephesians 2, I am reminded of those toys heading toward destruction, and my frantic attempts to rescue them. Paul describes every person who has not yet received Jesus Christ, as being like a dead body floating downstream, and heading for eternal loss. He also describes God as the great Savior, who reached down to rescue all who will cry out to Him.

Ephesians 2:4-5
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
. . ”

Every person alienated from Christ is dead in sin, and destined to live eternally separated from God. Although it is impossible for us to understand the true danger we are in, we can get a glimpse of our horrible condition by observing God’s actions to rescue us. Paul describes God’s great love producing rich mercy, and stirring Him to come to the aid of man, by sending His only Son. The cross is nothing short of a rescue mission. God does not want anyone to suffer the horror of spending eternity apart from Him. He has done all, to make a way for each and every one of us to be saved. All that is required of us is to believe and receive.

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. .”

Unlike the plastic passengers in the gutter river, we have all been given free will, and the ability to choose for ourselves. Many, realizing their hopeless state apart from Christ, cry out to Him, and are delivered from spiritual death and eternal loss. Others, seem to be enjoying the thrill of the ride so much they are unwilling to cry out for deliverance. They may see the dam breaking, yet think they can ride it out just a little longer, failing to realize how short life is and how suddenly death appears. Still others refuse to believe they are in any danger. They make up their own reality, removing God, sin, and judgment from their thinking. They carry on in life as though they will never answer for the sins they have committed. Acting like Jonah, and going to sleep in the storm, does not remove the reality of where the boat is heading. It is high time we all wake up and cry out to our loving Savior to rescue us from wrath.

If you want your sins forgiven join me in prayer. “Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner and recognize that You are the Savior. I ask that you would forgive my sins, enter into my life, and help me to follow after You.”

If you prayed that prayer contact me at jg@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim

 

Purim 

Esther 9:26
“So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur.”

Feasts were an important part of Israel’s annual worship. In the Law, God established seven feasts which occurred during three different seasons of their calendar year. These feasts were a reminder of the work of God. They were designed to bring the people together, and to fix their attention upon the things of the Lord. Each feast included times of worship, reading of the Word, and celebrating the Lord together. Historically, it was during these feasts, commitments were made to the Lord, and even times of national revival broke out. Here, in Esther, we see the feast of Purim added to their worship calendar. Purim was not one of the feasts established by the Law. This one was added to celebrate the events described in Esther, and to remember the good hand of God upon them.

While it is not required of the Christian to celebrate the Old Testament feasts, it is important we take time to remember what God has done for us; to gather with other believers for times of deeper dedication to the Lord. This should be done on a weekly basis in a church setting.  Jesus designed the church as a place where believers could meet, worship the Lord, study His Word, and establish a deeper commitment to Christ. One of the great dangers for every believer, is to neglect gathering regularly with God’s people. It is not uncommon to hear the suggestion, a Christian can grow on his own, apart from church life. Empirical data proves that to be untrue. Most Christians who isolate themselves, soon return to the sins from which Jesus delivered them. Let’s be sure not to neglect celebrating the work of the Lord together.

Pastor Jim

 

Celebration 

Nehemiah 8:10
“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”

Chapter 8 brings us to the climax of the book of Nehemiah. After the grueling task of building the walls was completed, the people gathered together to celebrate the Lord. Ezra the priest, stood on the a stage and began reading and explaining the Word of God. One by one the people began to weep as their sins were exposed in light of the Word.

I find it interesting that Nehemiah told the people not to weep. In essence, he was saying this was not a day to weep, but to rejoice. His reason, this was a holy day. The word holy carries the idea of separation. This day was to be dedicated to the Lord, and instead of sorrowing over past failures, they should be celebrating the work of God. There is nothing more worthy of our celebration than when a person turns to Christ. The Bible teaches us, when that happens, sins are forgiven, eternal life is granted, and the work of the Spirit begins transforming us into the image of Christ.

While it is important that we realize our sins and turn from them, it is also important that we move past them into the wonderful mercy of God. As long as we let the past hold onto us, we will be hindered from moving forward in the Lord. It is time to let go of our failures, trust the mercy of the Lord, and move into the life He has written for us.

Pastor Jim

 

Hitting Rock Bottom

Exodus 17:7
“So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”

IMG_1418When the sojourning camp of Israel reached Rephidim, they were horrified to discover there was no water. There are many things in life we view as necessities, which are actually comforts; water is not one of them. A person can survive in difficult desert conditions for about three days without water. Their situation was grave, to say the least. This truly could have been the end for Israel. As the people assessed the problem, the only solution they could come up with was to return to Egypt. They knew if water was not discovered quickly, they would certainly perish.

When Moses heard their complaint, he immediately sought counsel from the Lord. After crying out to God, he received a remarkable promise. If he would take his rod and strike a rock, water would be provided for the people. Rather than relying upon the science that a rock is more dense than a stick, and if rock hits stick, the stick will break, Moses chose to trust in the word of God and strike the rock. Miraculously, water began to gush forth, and Israel lived to see another day.

After the events had been accomplished, Moses decided to name the area. Whatever this particular site had been known as before, it would now have a different name. Reflecting on the events, many names would be applicable; he could have called it “Miracle Water,” “Where the Rock Struck,” “Provision from God,” “Watering Hole”; truly the possibilities seem endless. I am struck by he name Moses chose;

“So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah”

Massah means tempted and Miribah means contention. Of all the things Moses chose to take away from the events of this day, he thought they should remember the contention of the people, rather than the amazing work of the Lord. This is a dangerous and costly way to live. We will read, some thirty-eight years later,  Moses will once again find himself with the people, and without sufficient water. The seeds of his hostility toward the people which were planted here, will get the best of him, and he will strike another rock in anger, costing him his position as leader of the nation.

Whatever situation in life we are facing, there is always more than one perspective. If we choose to look through the eyes of doubt, bitterness, anger, fear or frustration, we will walk away with seeds that will produce the same kind of fruit later. On the other hand, if we choose to look for the hand of God in the midst of our struggles, we will have our faith strengthened and be more conditioned to face the next difficulty life throws our way.

Moses was a great man who served the Lord in tremendous ways, but here he chose to look at things from the wrong perspective. Let’s learn from his example.

Pastor Jim