My Fault

2 Chronicles 28:19
“For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord.”

It seems to me that men are addicted to titles. We give nicknames to our friends and relatives, the moment a catastrophe happens people are racing to give it a catchy name and every era is classified by some behavior associated with it. We have been introduced to the hippies, the yuppies, genX and the Millennials. I think if we were to honestly evaluate the age we live in today we might call it the “blame someone elsers.”

The moment something bad happens we begin to look for someone to blame. Just recently my son was rear-ended by another driver. Within seconds of the accident the person claimed he backed into them. They were on a flat surface, waiting at a stop light and the woman was looking down at her phone, yet the accident was clearly someone else’s fault. This problem has become an epidemic and has spread throughout our land. If we don’t want this to continue and destroy us, it is time we start looking for a cure.

If we will look into the Bible and allow it to look into us we will find that we are taught to take responsibility for our own actions and that personal sin will result in being brought low. When something bad happens, instead of hunting for someone else to blame we should immediately look within to see what we have done wrong and look up to God seeking His forgiveness and remedy to the problem.

Jim

 

You Have Forsaken Me

2 Chronicles 12:5
“Thus says the Lord:‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak. ’”

A few years ago I was traveling to West Africa to speak at a conference for pastors and church workers. Most of the preparation for the event took place on the ground in Africa leaving me to only be responsible for my own travel needs. Three documents are necessary for entrance into Ghana. First like all countries a passport is necessary, second Ghana requires a visa and finally an immunization card showing that I have received an inoculation against Yellow Fever. Having been to Ghana before I knew of the requirements, planned my trip and headed toward the airport. About fifteen miles into my drive I had an urge to check my documents. I pulled over and dug through my bag to find that I had a passport and visa but had left my immunization card behind. I was forced at that point to turn around and go get it.

Judah under Reheboam had forgotten the Lord. Their prosperity had made them comfortable and in their comfort they had neglected God. It wasn’t until things began to go bad that they realized they had left behind the most important aspect of traveling through this life. They had neglected the Lord. The solution was the same for them as it is for us. They must turn around. Stop going in a direction that led them away from the Lord and start moving in direction toward Him.

Perhaps you have been neglecting the Lord, perhaps you have been busy but have not been busy doing the things that will bring about eternal reward. Stop moving in a direction away from God, turn around and get busy following Jesus.

Jim

 

Weeping

Psalms 137:1
“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”

The story of Israel is a familiar one. They were saved by the marvelous grace and mighty hand of God who provided for their needs and gave them victory over their enemies. Soon they began to compromise with sin and struggle to follow the commands of God. As time went on, those whom they had victory over, once again began to rule their lives until finally, they were taken captive and lost almost all God had provided for them. In a sense they are the story of the prodigal who wandered from his father’s grace only to find out how miserable life is apart from God. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Israel to scoop water from the Euphrates only to begin weeping for all they had lost through rebellion and disobedience to God. But that in itself is another testimony of the incredible mercy of God. Instead of forsaking them for their continual sin, He promised to restore them into the land and give them a marvelous future and hope.

Perhaps the best place to be in is when we find ourselves weeping at the rivers of Babylon. When we look around and realize all that we lost when we chose to wander from the Lord. History is laden with men and women whose lives suffered greatly when they turned from the Lord, but when they came to their senses, weeped over their condition and cried out to God they were restored by His mercy and once again enjoyed sweet communion with God.

There are worse things than to be broken by our failures. For it is in that brokenness that we will be restored.

Jim

 

Why Have You Cast Us Off? 

Psalm 74:1
“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?”

Asaph describes Jerusalem being ransacked by Israel’s enemies. The sanctuary is being defiled and the city is destroyed. While this is happening, Asaph remembers the ancient victories wrought by God. He speaks of how God has;

 

Divided the seas

Broken heads of Leviathan in pieces.

Broke open the fountain and the flood.

You dried up mighty rivers.

Prepared the light and the sun.

Made summer and winter.

This causes him to ask why God had cast off His people. The answer is,  God cast them off because they had turned from Him to serve other gods, and pursue their own ways. For years Israel ignored the warnings of the Word and the prophets, in order to continue in lifestyles that were abhorrent to God, and destructive to themselves. After years and years of extending His mercy, the time came when God allowed the enemies to defeat His people, as a form of judgment for their sins.

The same is true today. When we continually cast off the word of God to live however we want, we will find ourselves living in defeat rather than victory. We will one day look up and wonder how such a mighty God could allow such hardship in our lives. In some cases, the answer is that we have brought this upon ourselves, by ignoring God and His ways. It is always shocking to hear someone, who gives little regard to the ways of God, suddenly blame God or become angry with Him, when their life is suddenly met with upheaval. It may be that the difficulties you are facing are the consequences of ignoring God and are designed to awaken you so you will return to Him. It was after his world collapsed, that the prodigal son ran home to his father.

While God cast off Israel, He did not do so forever. Paul wrote,

Romans 11:1 “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”

God has a future plan for Israel and He has one for you. No matter what your past has been, or how difficult your present might be, God has a plan for your future. It is possible for you to turn your life over to Him, be forgiven, and allow Him to redeem your life and use you for His glory.

Pastor Jim

 

Confession

Leviticus 3:2
“And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.”

The opening chapters of Leviticus speak of 5 different sacrifices that were presented to the Lord. These sacrifices met different requirements for the people’s worship of the Lord, but had many things in common. One such commonality was the laying on of hands before making the sacrifice. This was done to show culpability on behalf of the one making the sacrifice. Instead of bringing an excuse list as to why they had sinned or blaming their past, present, or surroundings, the offerer was to take responsibility for his or her actions, confess they had sinned and were in need of pardon.

This is a very important part of a successful walk with God. When we let our circumstances justify our actions we miss out on the work God is trying to accomplish in our lives. Our focus becomes our surroundings instead of the Lord, and we  spend all our energies trying to change our situation, rather than allowing God to use them as tools to make us more like Christ.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A man who is good at excuses is rarely good at anything else.”

Instead of excusing sin because of all the ways you have been mistreated in life, try taking responsibility for your actions and asking God to use your circumstances to conform you into the image of His Son.

Pastor Jim

 

Leaven

Leviticus 2:11
“No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.”


Leaven is a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked. Because it is a small ingredient in the dough and has the tendency to spread through the whole lump, it is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Sin always starts small, but never stays that way. When a person falls into a “big sin,” it is because they started out making little compromises. As a result, it was a forbidden component in the grain offered to the Lord.

The New Testament declares that because of the work of Christ, we no longer are required to bring offerings to an altar and make sacrifices to God. Instead, we are to become a living sacrifice. Our whole life is to be devoted to the Lord. We should give our private life, family life, public life and church life as a sacrifice to God, and look for ways to honor and serve Him. If this living sacrifice is to be a sweet aroma to the Lord, we need to remove the leaven. In other words, we need to deal with sin as God reveals it. The New Testaments model for dealing with sin is that God reveals it through His word, we confess it in prayer, and He empowers us by His Spirit, to have victory over it in our lives.

If you are struggling in an area of sin, it is important that you address it before it spreads and becomes so large that it begins to destroy your relationship with God and others. The way to address it is to confess it to the Lord and to a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ. James spoke of the value of confessing our sin to one another, so we can pray for one another.

Don’t let sin reign in your life. Take it to the cross and be forgiven and set free.

Pastor Jim

 

Turntables 

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion for the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had been turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts  pointing people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim