Look Back

Job 8:8
“For inquire, please, of the former age, And consider the things discovered by their fathers”

Not everything Bibdad the Shuhite had to say is worth listening to, but he has unlocked a very valuable treasure with this statement. He encourages Job to look back upon the lessons the generations before us have learned as we seek to chart out our course forward. There are others who have said the same thing in a different way.

Italian philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” And it was Solomon who wrote “There is nothing new under the sun.” However we choose to say it the reality is that there are very important lessons that must be passed from one generation to the next.

While the world we live in is different than it has ever been the rules set in place to keep order have not changed. Regardless of how many people occupy the planet or how quickly information is acquired, gravity still causes things to plummet toward the surface of the earth and water still freezes at 32 degree Fahrenheit. Righteousness, like the rules of science do not change from generation to generation. If we want to learn to navigate our way through life it would do us well to become familiar with the timeless lessons of the Word of God that are both tried and tested.

Jim

 

What’s Your Story

Psalms 78:1-2
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old”

Asaph, Israel’s chief musician during the reign of David, took it upon himself to write a song depicting the history of the nation. His tale is one that magnifies the mercy of God, while revealing the continual unfaithfulness of Israel. Time, and time again, the people turned from the Lord out of fear or desire for things that He had forbidden. He spoke of their experiences in Egypt, when they feared the king more than the Lord, and of their time in the wilderness, when the trials they faced caused them to doubt the provision of God. He told of their time in the Promised Land, when comfort and ease drove them to complacency toward God, and into idolatry. Imagine how the first readers of this psalm might want to go back and make changes to their history, or at least make changes to their personal lives.

Asaph referred to his message as a parable. The idea, of course, is that the psalm has a meaning that sits underneath the surface. Instead of just being a message indicting Israel for their sin, it also serves as an illustration of the life of many believers. We, like Israel, have been redeemed from bondage into a relationship with God. In this relationship, we find ourselves in times of trial or battle, and in times of ease and comfort. If we read the psalm carefully, we can see ourselves in the story, as well as learn from Israel’s mistakes.

What would a psalm read like that told your story? What amazing ways would the mercy of God be reveled as your conversion was told? How would His faithfulness be seen in your daily walk? What changes would you want to make in how you walk with Him, in whatever time you may have left?

Take a few minutes to contemplate your testimony. Perhaps even write it out. Then consider what you will do to ensure that the remaining chapters of your story give glory to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Remember

Joshua 4:9
“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”

The purpose of setting up a rudimentary stone altar was to remind the generations to come of the faithfulness of the Lord. Whenever someone walked by the area and saw stones stacked upon one another, it would be clear that it was not caused by nature, but by design and with a purpose. When they asked about the stones, the older generation would recall the stories of what God did, as a means of teaching the works and the ways of God. As time went on, these stone altars were scattered in many places throughout the land. The one we read about here is unique, not because of the way the stones were stacked, but because these stone would never again be seen since they would be covered by the flowing waters of the Jordan river. Why build an altar of remembrance that no one would ever see?

Paul alluded to Israel’s passing through the waters as a picture of baptism. Baptism illustrates the work that was done for us when we believed in Christ. Our sins were washed away, never to be seen again. These stone, buried under the flowing waters of the Jordan, serve as a reminder of the work that is done when we believe. Israel could look at the water and remember the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. In the same way, you and I can look back at the waters of baptism and remember the faithfulness of God. Perhaps you were baptized in the past and have since wandered from the Lord, and grown distant in your relationship with Him. Look back on those waters, think back to the joy you had when you were following  Jesus, reflect upon what it is that led you away, and return to the Lord who loves you, died for you, and wants to work out His plans in your life.

Pastor Jim

 

The Good Old Days

Lamentations 1:7
“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old.”

Lamentations is a book of mourning that has been compared to a funeral durge. Jeremiah is not weeping over the death of a family member, but over the fall of a nation. We know that, although Judah fell, they would be restored. Seventy years after the captivity began, a remnant of believers would return to rebuild the Temple and the city. Within a century, Jerusalem would be bustling again; cured of idolatry and actively worshipping the Lord. In our text, we see the first step that led them back to the Lord.

“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things That she had in the days of old.”

The first step back was to remember; a word that implies the use of our minds. For them to return to Jehovah, they had to think about how much better life was when they were walking with Him. This was true of the prodigal son who “came to his senses” and remembered what life was like in his father’s house (Luke 15:11-31). It was also true of the church of Ephesus, who had left their first love and needed to remember from where they had fallen (Revelation 2:1-6). This is also true of us. Those who will take the time to consider how much better off they were when they were following Christ, will take the necessary steps to return to Him.

Sin has a way of blinding us. We get so caught up in what we are doing, we fail to simply lift our heads, look around, and see if we truly want to be living like this. Most backsliders are not happy. They are guilt ridden because of their failures. The things that allured them away from the Lord no longer provide the pleasures they once did. It is time to take the Psalmist’s advice and look up. Get your eyes off of what you are doing, look around, and determine if you are better off since you wandered from the Lord.

Just as remembering is a thinking word, so is repentance. It means to change your mind. To repent, we simply decide we are no longer going to live in the things that keep us from walking with Christ. We then set those down and begin to follow Him once again.

“In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old.”

Pastor Jim

 

Looking Back

Isaiah 63:7
I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord And the praises of the Lord, According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses.”

I recently attended a communion service where we were encouraged to think back upon who we were and where we we going. My mind immediately took me back to being a carefree young man, who gave no regard to the things of God. I allowed myself to imagine what my life would be like had I continued on that course. I could see myself walking down a road in pursuit of pleasure, only to find that road leading to vanity. We were then encouraged to think about all Christ accomplished for us, and to reflect upon the things He has done in our lives. My mind immediately filled with images that would never have been there had I not said yes to Jesus. I reflected upon my marriage, family, and ministry. Soon my heart began to burst forth in praise, I could hardly contain the thanks I felt for my redemption and the sweet but painful experience of sanctification. Like Isaiah, I wanted to mention the loving-kindness, goodness and mercies of the Lord.

Take some time this morning to reflect upon all God has done for you. Think upon the cross, and upon the fact that while you going through life, He was drawing you to Himself, by the work of His Spirit. Look back at all the ways He has shown Himself good to you, and begin to express praise. Perhaps it would be of value to write out a list of some of the ways God has shown His unfailing love to you over the years.

Pastor Jim

 

Communion 

1 Corinthians 11:22
“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

Paul is addressing one of the most important practices of the church and the individual. He will instruct them regarding partaking in communion. Rather than seeing this ordinance as a necessary, and even holy part of their church life, the Corinthian Christians had turned it into a way to honor the wealthy, thus neglecting the poor. It was a common practice in the early church to feast together before communion. In Corinth, they invited the wealthy to eat first and only after they had their fill did the poor get in line. In some cases, the food was gone and the rich were drunk. Suffice it to say, this was not an acceptable practice. Paul is writing to correct their behavior and to instill within them a proper understanding of communion.

“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

First, Paul points out that coming to the communion table is different from coming to the dinner table. We must come looking for and expecting something different from when we gather to eat. The expectation is we are meeting with Jesus. Communion was not designed as a religious ritual, but as a means of experiencing fellowship with Christ. The last supper, when this ordinance was established, was a very intimate time. The disciples gathered around the table with Jesus as He spoke with them, and it was at that time, John laid his head in Jesus’ lap. Communion is primarily a time to draw near to Christ. It is through the cross we have access to the Throne of Grace, where we meet with God.

“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Second, communion is a time of reflection. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” The word remember carries the idea of bringing thoughts together or recollecting. Throughout the day we have scattered thoughts about Jesus. Our time with Him is interrupted by responsibility or distraction, but at the communion table we bring our thoughts into the captivity of Christ, and we focus upon what he has done for us. There are five points that we are encouraged to focus upon. First, we should look in. Paul encourages us to examine ourselves. There, with the cross in view, we look at our life to see if our practices are acceptable to God. It is important that this be done in the shadow of the cross, so we do not leave condemned, but forgiven. Are there practices in your life that need to be set aside in light of Christ? Second, we should look back. Communion affords us the opportunity to examine the cross and reflect upon Christ’s great sacrifice. When we see the brutality of the cross, we can then begin to understand the depths of His love. Each time the whip strikes His back, or the nails are driven, it is a reflection of Heaven’s love. Third, we must look up. The cross is not the end, but rather the doorway to heaven’s throne. It is through the cross, we have access to God. We are encouraged to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, where, in daily fellowship, we can receive pardon for sin, and grace to continue on in Christ. We have not only been saved from sin, we are also saved to Christ. We should be experiencing His life flowing into ours. This happens as we access the Throne of Grace. Fourth, we must look forward. Paul spoke of us “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.” The great hope of the believer is that Jesus rose from the dead and will return one day for His church. He calls us His bride, and the marriage supper of the Lamb awaits the child of God. Communion should ever remind us, and prepare us, for the return of Jesus. Finally, we should look out. Again, Paul wrote that with communion we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Communion is the Gospel. Jesus bled and died to save sinners, any and all who receive Him will be forgiven. While communion is a practice for the Christian, it is done in a way to illustrate our need for a savior and to draw men to Christ. The broken bread reminds us of what our sin did to Christ, the cup reminds us of what His blood does for us.

Whenever your church partakes of communion, you should make it a habit to be there, and to bring your unsaved friends.

Pastor Jim

 

Memorial Stone 

Psalm 145:4
“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

When God divided the Jordan River, enabling Israel to cross into the Promised Land, He instructed Joshua to memorialize the event by building a simple altar. Twelve men, one from each tribe, carried a large stone out of the dry riverbed and placed it in the area of Gilgal. One by one, as these stones were piled atop one another, a rudimentary altar was formed. This altar was not a place to sacrifice, but a place to remember. Joshua instructed the people that these stones would serve two purposes. First, they were to be a reminder of the mighty works of God, and second they were a teaching tool that one generation should praise His works to another. Joshua declared,

“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’… that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty…” Joshua 4:21-24

Other altars were built throughout the land, in places like Hebron, Bethel, Beersheba, Shechem and Ophrah. Each one, serving the purpose of remembering the works of God, and instructing the next generation in the ways of God. It seems to me, there has been a resurgence in our culture of parental involvement in the lives of their children. The “old school” approach, of mom doing the parenting, and dad serving as provider, seems to have been replaced by an increased effort by both parents being more involved in raising the kids. Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, soccer leagues, club volleyball, cheer-leading camps, all serve as a way for parents to be more involved in passing things on to their children. It is great to see a dad in the yard teaching his son to throw a ball or properly run the mower, but it is critical that we don’t stop there. As parents, the primary responsibility of passing the things of God on to the next generation, rests with us. While there is value in teaching our kids to fish, hunt, surf, read, study, and work, it is also critical that we teach our children how to walk with Jesus. Our kids are going to learn what relationship with God looks like by watching ours. If we take the time to daily abide in Christ, to trust Him when things get confusing, and to serve Him with our time, talents and treasures, our children will learn to do the same. Keep in mind, your life serves as an example, whether you like it or not. Let’s be sure we are a good example to those who we love the most.

Pastor Jim