Give Thanks 

Psalm 107:1
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

The evolution of love is seen in the relationship between children and parents. An infant child cannot survive on his own and is completely dependent upon the mercy, grace and love of the parents. In a proper relationship the parents give time, energy, even sleep for the benefit of the child. As the relationship develops so does the love, it is not long before the parents begin to see the return in their investment. I can remember being so excited when my children began to smile and laugh, or when they would crawl across the room only to get up on my lap and snuggle. What a joy! Just this week I received messages from each of my boys expressing Father’s Day wishes in their own humorous ways. Our relationship has become one of an exchange of love. This Psalm is an illustration of that kind of love relationship with God. The Psalmist cries out with thankful praise as a response to what God has done for them. Paul used an interesting word for thanks when writing to Timothy, he said “Thanks be to God…” and the word he used was “karis” which is the word used to speak of God’s giving nature. Because of the grace we have received from the Lord, we give grace back to Him.

The Psalmist describes here that exchange of grace and thanksgiving.

He recalls the history of God’s people and reminds them of all that God has done for them. The list includes being redeemed, provided for, delivered, protected, forgiven, and comforted in the storms of life. Sprinkled throughout the Psalm is a continued exhortation;

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

Perhaps it would be of great value to our love relationship with the Lord if we took time to recall to mind all that God has done for us and respond in thankful praise.

Pastor Jim

Double Standard 

Genesis 34:14
“And they said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us.'”


If this verse were standing alone in Scripture, it would warrant our unwavering obedience. One of the great pitfalls for Israel, and for us, is when we get involved in unhealthy and ungodly relationships. This has been the downfall of godly men and women throughout the ages, and we would do well to consider ourselves and make sure we are not becoming unequally yoked together with unbelievers. That being said, this verse does not stand alone. The same voices that uttered this statement, also, devised a plan to wipe out the people of Shechem, because their sister had been mistreated. They are willing to justify a murderous rage, while at the same time, keeping a level of religious activity.

As a believer, it is important to read the Bible, pray, go to church, worship, give, and share the love of Christ with others. However, these actions were never designed to undo sinful behavior. We cannot justify sin by doing a charitable act or by following a religious principle. If you are involved in an ungodly relationship, it is not justified by going to church or singing louder than everyone else during worship. Our time with Jesus should include a time of examination. We should allow the Lord to probe into every area of our life and make whatever changes He sees as necessary.

Perhaps it is time to allow God to examine your private life or your marriage. Perhaps it is time to make some long overdo changes in the way you are living, rather than holding on to a religious principle, or activity, as the justification for misbehaving.

Pastor Jim

 

Famous People 

Isaiah 66:2
“For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”

Imagine walking into someone’s home, where, on the mantle, they had a picture of themselves with a famous or powerful person. As you looked closer, there was not one picture but many. You saw them having a meal together, strolling down the street, and perhaps even sailing the deep blue sea. If you are anything like me, you might begin to wonder how that was possible. How did they get to be so close to that person, so that they were able to be a part of their daily life?

Isaiah declares, God is so vast and majestic that the heavens themselves are His throne, and He uses the earth as if we were a foot stool. He is the one who both, created all things, and the one who holds it all together. It would seem impossible for anyone to gain an audience with someone so great. Yet Isaiah declares, God looks on those who are poor, contrite and trembling.

The word poor is used to speak of a person who is in want. This could be physically, monetarily or even emotionally. It is a word that could speak of a person suffering depression. Isaiah declares that God Himself looks down upon those in need. It is His desire that we look back to Him as the one who can meet that need. It is natural for us, when in need, to look to others for help. We run to whoever we think can give us the prescription to make our difficulty disappear. Often however,  we fail to look up to the God who sees, and has allowed these things to draw us to Himself. If you are needy, He is watching, and wants you to draw near.

The word contrite speaks of a person who is stricken, lame or broken. It is natural for us to look away from a broken person. If an advertisement comes on the TV for an organization seeking to give aid to suffering children, it is natural to look away. We feel guilt and we feel powerless to help. What a blessing to know that God looks upon the broken. In fact God is actually looking for the broken. He is the only craftsman who selects the broken tool to accomplish the task.

Finally, those who have an audience with God, are those who tremble; not at a scary movie, or the uncertainty of the future, but those who tremble at His word. God is looking for people who will fear His word and do what it says. It seems, we live in an age where most people have only enough Bible knowledge to hurt themselves. They are able to pull a verse or two out to accuse the Bible of wrong, or to justify their sinful behavior. God is looking for those who will hold the Word of God in high esteem, and practice what it preaches.

Let’s seek to fill our photo albums with scenes of walking through life with the Lord. Let’s be people who look to Him, follow His word, and enjoy the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Come On Down

Isaiah 64:1
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!”

As Isaiah looked at the present condition of his world, his heart cried out for the Lord to come. He was not alone in this cry, for the apostle John brought the book of Revelation to a close crying out for Jesus to return. Saints throughout the ages have echoed his plea. There will be a literal fulfillment of Isaiah’s prayer; Jesus will return for His church and He will set up His kingdom. That being said, Isaiah’s prayer has a much broader scope as well. I have found myself, on multiple occasions, praying for God to rend the heavens to meet with me. In times of quiet prayer, as I am about to face a situation that I know I am less than equipped for, my heart pleads for God to rend the heavens and meet with me. In times of corporate worship, as I lift my voice and raise my hands, I often cry for Him to rend the heavens to minister to His church.

Whatever the setting may be, I am fully aware of the vast difference between God and man. We are dependent upon the greatest advances in technology to even get a glimpse of the heavens, while He stoops to look through them to meet with us. What an amazing God we serve! He was willing to step out of glory to die for us, and continues to show us His great love as He meets with us daily.

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

 

Relationships 

1 Corinthians 7:2
“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The Corinthian Christians wrote a letter to Paul asking him some basic questions about how to live out their Christianity. One of those questions had to do with relationships between men and women. Since they lived in a pagan culture, they grew up with pagan examples of how to be single and how to be married. After coming to Christ, they realized God had different standards, and they wanted to learn His ideal for Christian relationships. This chapter is Paul’s response to their question. It is worth noting that Paul writes concerning three groups of people: the single, the married and the separated.

To the single Christian, Paul explains that physical relationships, while designed by God, are restricted to the marriage relationship. In order to remove all doubt about the danger of getting involved physically before marriage, he writes, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Obviously, he is not speaking about an accidental bump or a handshake, but is referring to the physical acts that arouse and lead to sexual activity. Although it is common, encouraged, and expected for single people today to be sexually active, Paul tells the Christian to wait for marriage.

When it comes to the married Christian, Paul has an entirely different message. He explains that when we are wed, we give ourselves to our spouse. We are no longer two individuals living to fulfill our own wishes, but we have become one. Our lives are now wrapped up inseparably with our spouse.This is particularly true as it relates to our physical relationship. Instead of using sex as a weapon to win our way with our spouse, Paul writes, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” Clearly, the affection a wife desires is different from what a husband wants. In order to have a healthy marriage, we must take our eyes off our own desires and place them upon our spouse. Sometimes, the most affectionate thing a man can do for his wife is to clean the kitchen, do the laundry or help the kids with their homework.

Finally, Paul has a message for those whose marriages are falling apart. They have encountered such storms within their relationship, the only course of action seems to be to dissolve the marriage before anyone else gets hurt. Within the culture of the ancient world, divorce was common. When things get difficult, people always seem to look for a way out. Paul’s message might be summed up by saying, difficulty is not a reason to dissolve a marriage, but to work on the marriage. He writes,

“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The situation he describes is a difficult one. The couple has faced such challenges that one or both, have decided to scrap the marriage and move on. To which Paul explains, we should separate only far enough to work toward reconciliation. If you are facing tough times in your marriage, do not look for a trap door that will release you from the covenant you made before God. Instead, look to how your relationship can be restored. It may be, the only solution is for you to daily sit at the feet of Jesus, and plead for Him to change you and your spouse, and restore your marriage. Obviously, two people are involved, and at times, a spouse may refuse to reconcile, but we must always seek the Lord’s best; not what is culturally common.

If you are married, take some time today to read through 1 Corinthians 7 with your spouse and apply the marriage principles to your relationship. It is not too late for God to make your marriage what He intended it to be.

Pastor Jim

 

Banished 

2 Samuel 14:14
“…God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.”

By killing his brother, Absalom had committed a capital crime. The law required, upon his return to Jerusalem, he be sentenced to death. In addition, he was living as a captive to a foreign king, without the hope of ever being restored. In an attempt to convince David to forgive and restore his wayward son, Absalom, this wise woman from Tekoa speaks of the ways of God. Her words are some of the most beautiful Old Testament expressions of the heart of God for humanity.

We, like Absalom are living under the sentence of death, and held captive by a foreign king. The Bible declares, “. . . all have sinned. . .” Romans 3:23. Empirical evidence supports the Bible’s claim. We have never gone a day without sinning against God’s standards, and our God-given consciences. In addition, the Bible declares, as sinners, we are captives in the enemy’s camp. The Cross of Christ is God’s rescue effort to redeem banished ones back to Himself. When we come to God through Christ, our sins are removed and our fellowship with God is restored.

In the mind of this wise woman, God’s desire to restore placed a responsibility upon David to do the same. Since God is in the business of restoring banished ones, He expects His children to do the same. When someone has hurt us and puts a wedge in what was once a great friendship, we must seek to forgive and restore them. We must look beyond what they have done and focus upon the Cross, where banished ones are no longer expelled from God.

If you are living apart from God, today is the day to come back to Him. Confess your sins and cry out for His mercy to wash, cleanse and restore. If you are living at odds with another, lay the whole thing at the feet of Jesus, ask Him for the mercy to forgive and restore.

Pastor Jim

 

The Veil

Exodus 26:33
“The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.”

IMG_1440Moses was invited by God to ascend Mount Sinai. Upon reaching its pinnacle, he received the Law of God, and the blueprints for the Tabernacle. The Law was given to reveal the perfection of God, and the sinfulness of men. Had Moses descended the mountain with only the Law, humanity would have been forever condemned. Fortunately, Moses was also given design plans for a large and elaborate tent called the Tabernacle. This tent was designed as the meeting place between God and man. Over and over, we read of it being built “according to the pattern which you were shown in the mountain” Exodus 26:30. This heavenly pattern would serve as a means to reveal God’s plan of salvation. Each and every detail of the Tabernacle, would serve as a picture of the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, and the way to fellowship with God. Nothing revealed this more than the veil which divided the Tabernacle.

The veil was hung within the Tabernacle itself, and divided the room into two unequal parts. The larger of the two rooms included the Table of Showbread, the Lamp-stand and the Incense Altar. This room was attended daily, by the priests who would ensure the Lamp had oil, the altar had incense, and the bread was properly cycled out. On the other side of the Veil was the Holiest place. This room contained the Ark , and was the place where God would meet with man. The Holiest place could only be entered one time a year, by the High Priest. No one else was allowed in, under any circumstances. Under the Old Covenant, fellowship with God was possible, but limited.

When Jesus breathed His last breath on Calvary’s cross, we read, this Veil of separation was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). No longer is access to God limited to the High Priest. Now, any, and all, who come through Christ, can have intimate and personal fellowship with God.

Don’t live life apart from God. Take advantage of the access He has provided, by receiving Christ as Savior, and walking daily with Him. No matter what your sin has been, Christ paid its penalty so you could know God, and spend eternity with Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Far Hearts

Mark 7:3
“For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.”

IMG_1423Man was created with a need to know God. In fact, we only experience the fullness of life when we are in right relationship with God. Man, apart from God, is like an expensive luxury car, purchased only to sit in the driveway under a cover. That is not what it was designed to do. Nor were we designed to live apart from God. That is why there is a longing in our hearts to know God. This longing shows itself in worship; every man worships something. God’s answer to this was to send His Son, so we could know Him. Man’s answer is to become incurably religious. Like an old miner who hits a vein of fool’s gold; so many have satisfied their soul’s longing for God with religious practices.

The Pharisees picture for us the religious man. They had established an entire system of actions that they believed would make God happy. In reality, all this did was dilute the craving their souls had for truly experiencing God. Like all man-made religions, all the Pharisees could do was focus on the externals. Their focus was on things like dress, food, and behavior in public.

Things are no different today. God has put eternity in our hearts. He wants us to know Him, and live in relationship with Him. Like the Pharisees, we often settle for religious practices. Rather than wanting to meet with God, we will treat devotions like a check list. Instead of worship, we treat the songs at church as the preamble till the Bible study begins. Rather than listening to the Word, and letting it transform our lives, we critique the message, and compare it with the one from last week; or with one from our favorite teacher. We begin to measure our spirituality by the things we are not doing, instead of by how we are becoming more like Jesus, as a result of spending time with Him daily. Perhaps the words of Isaiah could be applied to us,

“This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.” Mark 7:6

While it is important that the outside line up with the inside (our actions prove that we have been born again), outward change will never make us right with God.

Perhaps this morning would be a good time to evaluate your relationship with God. Have you allowed Him to come in and reign in your heart? Or are you simply going through the motions, trying to live a better life, satisfied with a pocket full of fool’s gold?

Pastor Jim

 

Babel

Genesis 10:10
“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel…”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1297.jpgGenesis is the book of beginnings. In it, we are introduced to many things which play a prominent role as the rest of Scripture unfolds. Here, in Chapter 10, we are introduced to the city of Babylon, which becomes a major player in the Biblical narrative.  It is mentioned 257 times in the Bible. We learn Babylon was built by a man named Nimrod (whose name means rebellion); he built Babylon in defiance of God. His purpose in building the city is recorded in Genesis 11:4

Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Babylon is important because of its symbolic representation of man’s false religious systems. The focus of the city of Babylon was a tower to the heavens. It was not an attempt to build a stairway to heaven, but a tower that depicts man making his own way to God.

Today, the word Babel means nonsense, and the ancient Hebrew word, Babel, means confusion. However, the word Nimrod chose  means gateway of God. What Nimrod called the way to God, Scripture calls confusion. They were confused because they based their system on works, thinking they were good enough, and if they tried hard enough, they would get to God. – God calls that confusion.

Fortunately, there is a gateway to God. It has been build, not on the achievements of men, but on the sacrificial work of Christ. Jesus said, I am the way (John 14:6) and I am the door (John 10:9), and on the cross He became for us the true gateway to  God. Instead of trying to earn our way to heaven, we can simply receive it by placing faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim