Abundant Life

Numbers 33:52
“. . . then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; . . .”

God described the land He was giving Israel as a land that flowed with milk and honey. He was of course speaking figuratively of the blessed life that the children of Israel would experience within the land. This blessed life was conditional upon their obedience to Him, and their obedience included some driving out, and some demolition. They were instructed to tear down all of the images and the places where the false gods were worshipped. They were to leave nothing that would serve as a source of temptation. Moses went on to explain,

“. . . those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” 

Sadly, as the story unfolds, we will learn that Israel failed to drive out and demolish, and for centuries struggled with the temptation of the sins they allowed to remain in the land.

It is not difficult to draw a parallel between their experience and our lives. In order for us to experience the abundant life that Jesus offers, we also must do some driving out and some demolition. There are things that cannot remain in our lives if we are going to successfully walk with Christ. Those things include anyone or anything that will be an irritant, tempting us to sin and leading us away from the ways of God. Israe failed to obey this command partly due to the fact that they liked having some of those things around. They placed value on what God had banned and it was not long before they were caught in sin.

Stand back for a moment and examine the things in your life. Is there anything that needs to be removed? The way to do it is to go to the cross and lay it at the feet of Jesus, asking for His pardon, and strength to never pick it up again.

Pastor Jim

 

Stained Garment 

Exodus 29:20-21
“Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”

The Lord went to great detail to explain the garments that the High Priest would wear. He referred to them as holy garments, designed for glory and for beauty. In other words, they were designed to both look beautiful and to reveal some aspect of the Lord’s glory. These garments included a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. The most highly skilled artisans in all Israel were commissioned to create them. Once the day of consecration arrived, Aaron and his sons were dressed in the most beautiful and highly technical attire the world had ever seen, but as they approached the altar, something quite striking took place. An innocent ram was killed, it’s flesh offered upon the altar, it’s blood mixed with anointing oil, and this mixture placed upon the Priest. Imagine how shocking to see the High Priest all dressed up, then have blood splattered upon his garments. No longer would our attention be drawn to his beautiful turban, breastplate or sash, now all we would notice was the stain.

God wanted the people, then and now, to understand that access to God is never based on what we try to do to earn it. All the skilled artisans on the planet could not create attire clean enough to grant access to God. Access to God is only granted when sin is covered by the blood of the innocent. This was symbolized by the blood stained garments of the Priests, and pointed to the time when Christ would make a way for all to have access to God.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The blood was also placed upon the ear, toe and thumb of the Priest. This was symbolic of a cleansing of all that he had done, and preparation for where he would go. How often have we laid our head on our pillows at night only to be consumed with guilt, for the things we have heard, seen or touched. We live in a fallen world, and sin is always around us. It is so comforting to know there is cleansing available to free us from sin and guilt.

Pastor Jim

Watch Your Step 

Hosea 8:11
“Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.”

Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was Sherlock Holmes. As most of us know, he was a detective from London who used his keen skill of observation to solve crimes. Often, when he would uncover a clue, he would declare, “It’s elementary my dear Watson.” Which was an underhanded way of stating that what he discovered was obvious to anyone who would take the time to look. Hosea makes a statement that Holmes would find elementary, he declares that if a person builds an altar for sin, he will find it leads him into sin.

As obvious as this principle seems, we sometimes lose sight of its simplicity. Often, when we fall spiritually, we look around puzzled as to how that could have happened. If however, we took the time to look back, we would find our fall was inevitable, because of the steps we were taking. We must always remember, if we make a way to sin, we will end up sinning.

The secret to success is to remove the things which make sinning easy. We need to do those things that make sinning more difficult, and doing what is right easier. That is what the building blocks of Christian living provide. The Word, prayer, fellowship, worship, and service are designed to help us grow in Christ, and make sinning more difficult. We only have so much time, if that time is spent building ourselves up in Christ, we will in turn have less time to be drawn after the things that lead to sin.

Perhaps it would help to ask yourself, what things you can take out of your daily life that will make it more difficult to sin?

Pastor Jim

 

Clean Me

Jeremiah 48:11
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.”

Jeremiah is describing the judgment that will fall upon Moab. He explains, in vivid fashion, that one of the chief causes of their wickedness was the fact that they were like a vessel which had never been cleaned. Their failure to allow the difficulties of life to purify their actions, ultimately lead to their judgment and destruction.

Trials are not the most pleasurable experiences in life. Whenever we face difficulty that is beyond our ability to endure, we wonder if there is a God, and if so, why He is allowing such hardship to come our way. One reason for the difficult seasons of life, is that they are designed to stir things up in our lives, in order to purify us.

Like taking a dirty cup, filling it with hot soapy water, and shaking it back and forth to release the dregs, hardship is designed as a means of getting things out of our lives that will ultimately bring the judgment of God. Instead of questioning the love of God, we should allow difficulty to serve its purpose, and examine whether or not we are living in a way that pleases God. Had Moab turned from their wicked ways, they would not have been facing heaven’s wrath.

What about you? Are you practicing things that are unacceptable to God? I am not talking about wanting to live for God and slipping along the way, instead, I am referring to a person who is looking at the Word of God and saying, “I don’t care what it says, I am going to do what I want.” Be careful, that kind of living will lead you face-to-face with the judgment of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Leaven 

1 Corinthians 5:1
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”

God designed sexual intimacy as part of the marriage relationship. It is the most intimate of all acts and plays an important role in the love relationship between man and wife. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4)

However, like so much of what God designed, men have distorted sex into sin. Today, a person that waits until marriage to be sexually active is ridiculed, women are treated as something to be conquered, and men revel in their vast number of sexual partners. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and with the advances in technology, is available at the touch of a button.

While we should expect the world to distort the ways of God, Paul is shocked to hear that the same sexual sins are happening within the church. We find the same problem today, the sexual misconduct that is rampant in the world is also running rampant within the church. Dating couples are involved sexually, married men are developing relationships with other women, rather than investing in their wives, a high percentage of people registered in singles dating sites are actually married, and pornographic sites are one of the most common searches on smart phones and other hand-held devices. Again, we should expect this behavior out of those who don’t know Christ, but tragically, it is almost as common among professing Christians as it is among the unbeliever. What has happened to us? Paul explains, a little leaven has leavened the whole lump.

Leaven is a form of yeast used to cause bread to rise. A small piece of old dough was set aside and used on the next loaf, this rotting dough, when mixed with the new, would corrupt the whole lump causing it to rise. Sin is like that. When we let a little into our lives, it will not remain dormant, it will grow, until it affects every area of our lives. While this is true of all sin, it is particularly true of sexual sin. Once the line is crossed, sin seems to almost have a power of its own, which drives us. If you have started investing in a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, or begun looking at things that you shouldn’t, or become physical with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé; it is time to STOP! Paul gave a radical remedy to the sin problem that the Corinthians were having, he told them to remove this man from fellowship until he repents. Radical sin must lead to radical repentance. It is time to confess what you are doing, both to God, and to someone who will hold you accountable. It is also time to put walls around your life, making it difficult to fail. Your life, marriage, and Christian witness are at stake.

One of the most encouraging things to me is that Paul writes again to the Corinthians regarding this man, who was involved in such grievous sin. After confronting him and removing him from the fellowship, he realized the folly of his ways and turned his life back to the Lord. No matter how strong a grip sin may have on your life, if you will confess, and take steps towards repentance, God will give you victory. Don’t run this race alone, and don’t wait another minute to alter the path that has led you to failure.

Pastor Jim

 

Take A Stand 

Nehemiah 13:8
“And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.”

Jesus, speaking figuratively, said if our hand causes us to sin we should cut it off, and If our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out (Matthew 18:8-9). Essentially, He was saying we should take radical action against personal sin. As the book of Nehemiah comes to a close, we see Nehemiah doing just that. He has seen the devastating effects sin has on an individual and a nation, and decides it is time to take a radical stance against sin.

The people had begun to compromise their relationship with the Lord by getting involved with the “mixed multitudes.” These were people who pretended to be committed to the Lord, but lived after the standards of the world. They would show up at the feasts and Sabbath days, but during the rest of the week they behaved like the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. Some of their actions included violating the Sabbath, living for the values of this world, and committing sexual sins. Those who associated with them, soon became like them.

Knowing the dangers of compromise, Nehemiah took some pretty serious actions. We read, he threw Tobiah out of the Temple mount, he contended with the rulers, shut the gates of the city on the Sabbath, and even pulled the hair out the beards and heads of those who withstood him.

I am not suggesting that we go on a rampage ripping the hair out of those who refuse to walk with the Lord. However, I do think it is a good idea to examine our relationship with Christ, discover the factors which keep us from following and serving Him, and remove them. As each day passes, our salvation draws nearer and nearer. It is time we took our Christianity seriously by taking a radical stance against sin.

Pastor Jim

 

Searchlight 

Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

In this portion of the Psalm, David prays three things: search me, try me and lead me. These are very interesting requests in light of what he has previously declared concerning God.

Lord, You have searched me and known me.” Psalm 139:1

In beautiful, poetic fashion, David declared there is nothing hidden from the all-seeing eye of God. He knows when we rise up and when we lie down. He knows our thoughts before we think them, and every word that leaves our lips. He knows the paths we choose to walk and where those roads will lead us. Our loving God thinks about us constantly, and no matter where we go, we cannot escape His peering gaze. The question that requires our attention is, if David knew that God has already searched him and known him, why pray “Search me…” ?

It seems to me, since David knew that God could see through all his disguises, he was actually removing the masks and allowing God to reveal what he was really like. He is asking God to reveal to him the things God knows are wrong with him, and to provide the divine help necessary to change. To use a modern phrase, our lives need to be an open book. Not only open, allowing the Lord to examine our hearts (after all, He sees all whether we try to hide it or not), but an open book, allowing the Lord to write upon the tablets of our hearts.

Have you laid open your whole life to the Lord and asked Him to examine you, and bring about the change that He desires? Take for example your private life, those moments when no one else is around; allow God to orchestrate what they should look like, and what needs to be removed. Or perhaps, your family life. All too often, we parent the way we were parented, rather than looking into the Word, at the example of our Heavenly Father, and seeking to have Him as our model. We must come to the place where, like David, we lay open our lives before the Lord, and allow Him to examine us with His loving gaze. When we do, we will find that His Word has much to say regarding our private life, family life, social life, and even our church life. Charles Spurgeon put it like this, “Like a Pharos, this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.”

A true believer is willing to be tried by God.

Pastor Jim