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

 

Answers

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Shortly after coming to Christ, I was driving down PCH in Southern California and found myself stuck at one of the many red lights, waiting for the arrow to turn green so I could continue to my destination. It was a summer day, and since my car did not have AC, my windows were rolled down. A car pulled up next to me and the driver called out to get my attention. I had never seen him before, and to my knowledge have never seen him since, but what he said to me has stuck with me for more than 25 years.

After getting my attention, he asked if I was a Christian, the “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker gave me away. I replied that I was, and he then asked how a person could be saved. I was caught off guard, and was not clear on how to articulate the Gospel, so I sat there stunned. As the signal turned green and he sped off, I hollered out “believe in Jesus!” At that point, I determined, I wanted to have an answer for others who were seeking to find the truth about Christ. It would be quite some time before I stumbled across Peter’s words recorded here,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Peter explains how we can be ready, when the opportunity arises, to help point someone to Christ. This readiness involves two things. First, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. Sanctify means to set apart. Christ must be set apart from all other things to which your heart is attached. It is not enough to simply have Jesus as one of the many things you are devoted to; He does not enter a life and take second place. Remember when He said “You cannot serve two masters”? (Matthew 6:24) Jesus demands and deserves first place in our hearts and lives. He calls for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to give Him first place in our lives. If we want to affect others for the kingdom of Heaven, it begins by giving Jesus first place in our own life. Perhaps other things have risen to the top, or crowded Jesus out of His rightful place. If that is the case, take a moment right now to recommit yourself to Him.

Second, Peter says, “be ready.” We do this by getting to know the Bible. Paul wrote that we should “Study to show yourself approved to God.” (2 Timothy 2:15) As believers, we are called to become students of Scripture. We do this by taking time daily to read our Bibles. Over the years, I have been amazed at how often the answer someone is seeking, comes right out of the passage I read that morning. Jesus promised us help in this area when He said, the Holy Spirit would remind us of the Words that Christ had spoken (John 14:26).

If someone were to ask you today how to become a Christian are you prepared to give them the Biblical answer?

Pastor Jim

 

Shhhh! It’s A Secret

Jeremiah 38:16
“So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah…”

As the book of Jeremiah moves forward, we find the prophet having repeated discourse with King Zedekiah. The king seems somewhat erratic in his behavior. One moment, he is treating Jeremiah favorably, while the next, he is having the prophet committed to the dungeon. By his own admission, he mistreats the prophet out of fear of how the people will react. He seems to conclude, the best approach is to become a secret believer. In public, he denies any relationship to the prophet, but in private, he seeks his counsel.

Zedekiah is not alone in his attempt to be a secret follower. In New Testament times, we read of Nicodemus and Joseph, who both believed Jesus was the Christ, but due to their social status, refused to be open about following Him. Today, many claim to follow Christ in private, but have yet to make their commitment to Him known to others. Sometimes, this is caused by fear of how we will be treated. Other times, it is motivated out of desire to continue participating in certain sinful activities. We realize, as long as we are quiet about our faith in Christ, we will not be questioned regarding how we act, talk or behave.

Zedekiah soon found he must make a decision to either follow the Lord or not. Life brought him to a crossroad where he could no longer live in two worlds. Either he would trust the Word of God and submit to Him, or he would follow the ways of the world in which he lived. Zedekiah made his choice and lived with the consequences. Now, it is time for us to make ours. Will you choose today to follow Christ, not as a secret disciple, but as one who will boldly and publicly confess Him as Savior and Lord?

Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

Pastor Jim

 

Let’s Make A Deal

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

If it were possible to travel back to the time of Isaiah, I think we would be surprised by how religious the people were. At the temple in Jerusalem, sacrifices were being offered and the priests were busy about the work of the Lord. The hilltops throughout the land were laden with altars, and homes were filled with religious images. Prayer was perhaps at an all time high, and religious music filled the air waves. To an outside observer, it might seem that all was right in Israel. The problem was, although the people were passionately religious, they were not in a relationship with God. Isaiah wrote to explain the problem was with sin, and that religious activity is not the cure.

Many years have passed since Isaiah walked the streets of Jerusalem. Fashions have come and gone, technology, travel, and commerce, have made great strides, causing the world to look a lot different today than it did then. Even though much has changed, some things remain the same; we are still a people laden with sin and religious activity will not solve the problem. The message Isaiah delivered to Israel is the same message God declares today.

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

Notice, God declares we are sinners. Earlier, Isaiah referred to us as being “laden with sin,” meaning we are overloaded by our sins. Perhaps that provokes images of a person strung out on drugs, or caught up in one vice or another. Keep in mind, Isaiah is writing to people who are listening to praise music and offering sacrifices. The reality we all must face is that we have sinned and no action of ours can remove our sin. That truth makes the reality of God’s invitation to us all the more amazing. He declares sinners can come to Him and have their sins washed away. All the guilt and penalty of sin can be removed by the simple act of coming to Him. Paul explains how this is possible.

Colossians 2:14
“Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

What an amazing offer! All your sins can be washed away through the simple act of receiving Christ. No longer do you have to live with the guilt and shame of sin, nor do you need to keep striving with one attempt after another to find peace in religious actions. You can come to Christ and be forgiven.

It is my hope and prayer that you will take Him up on His offer.

Pastor Jim

 

The Temple 

1 Kings 6:11-13
“Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: ‘Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.’”

Four hundred and eighty years after entering the promised land the Tabernacle was replaced with the Temple. The Temple was an elaborate structure, sitting above the city of David, on what had been the threshing floor of Ornan. This forty five foot tall building was the prize of Israel, and could be seen from miles away. The inside of the Temple was even more glorious than its exterior. The floor, walls, and ceiling, were made of intricately carved cedar and overlaid in gold. The rooms were decorated with tapestries and furnishings designed by God, and built by he finest craftsmen of the time. It is no wonder the whole nation gathered to celebrate when the Temple was finally completed.

As magnificent as his building must have been, it was important that Solomon remember its real purpose. Sometime in the midst of the building project, he heard the voice of God reminding him that the building is just a building if the people don’t walk with the Lord.

“. . . walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments..”

By way of application, the same is true of us today. Church attendance, Bible reading, and Christian service, are only activities if we wander from the Lord. At the heart of Christianity is the need to simply read the Bible and do what it says. The driving force behind that should be a desire to please God by doing what He says.

As time went on, the Temple continued to stand as a landmark for the nation, long after the king and people had wandered from God. They would eventually come to a time where the Word of God was completely forgotten, while the priests still diligently practiced their rituals.

Religious exercise has its place, but should never replace getting alone with God and His Word and simply doing what it says.

Pastor Jim

 

Homemade Religion 

Judges 17:5
“The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.”

The story of Micah is all too familiar. In a time when the Word of God was being neglected, Micah created his own “homemade religion.” He used terminology familiar to true religion, he had a priest and an ephod. However, his god, his worship, and his lifestyle, was really nothing more than a product of his own imagination. As time went on, his religion became even more organized. He established a priesthood consisting first of his own son, then of a wayward Levite, who pretended to be an expert on the things of God. Only in vocabulary, did this religion bear any similarity to a real relationship with the true and living God.

Sadly, though the Word of God is more accessible today than at any other time in history, we still find people creating their own god, and their own way of worship. It is common for these “homemade religions” to use terminology found in the pages of Scripture. They all include a god, some form of prayer and worship, and usually, a procedure to deal with misdeeds. The problem is, like Micah’s religion, they are nothing more than the product of someone’s imagination. While it is honorable to have a boat, a bookshelf, or even a home, that is the work of your own hands, it is not wise to build your own god.

The Bible declares, Jesus is the Faithful Witness. Everything we can know, and need to know, about God, is found in Christ. If you want to observe what God is like, and how to know Him, read the pages of the Bible. The best place to start is in the Gospel of John, where you will meet Jesus face to face.

Pastor Jim

 

What Did You See?

Deuteronomy 11:7
“. . . but your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord which He did.”

There is no question, the children of Israel made mistakes. Their years in the wilderness were marked by complaining, doubt, fear and outright disobedience. Yet, things could have been worse. They could have remained in Egypt, never experiencing any of the great acts of the Lord. Moses reminds the people of what they saw because they were willing to follow the Lord. He recalls the parting of the Red Sea, their provision in the wilderness, and the judgment of those who rebelled.

I wonder, what does your list include? When you look back over your Christian experience, where has your willingness to follow the Lord led you? Can you remember times when you stepped out in faith to serve or follow the Lord, and found that He was faithful to His promises? Can you think of a time, when your heart was beating through your chest, you were being prompted by the Lord to share the Gospel with someone, and when you did, they received Christ. Can you remember setting aside your vacation time to go on a mission trip, and bring Christ to those in another land? What does your past say about your experience of Christ?

Whatever your past might say, it is important we do not live in the past. The great works God did in the wilderness were not the end of His works. In Israel’s future, was the parting of the Jordan, the walls of Jericho, defeating giants, and becoming a great and mighty nation. Whatever your past might say, your future remains filled with opportunity to serve and follow Christ. Be sure, today, to walk in the ways of God.

Pastor Jim