Come Back 

Hosea 6:1
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

The mercy of God is so great that He not only invites us to come to Him for salvation, but invites us to return to Him if we have wandered. After describing the spiritual condition of the nation, as though they had been involved in spiritual prostitution, God does not cast His people aside, but pleads with them to return and be restored. No matter how far you have wandered and what consequences you are facing, the Lord wants to restore your relationship with Him. He promises to heal what has been torn, and bind up whatever has been stricken.

With such a great promise, it would seem logical to read that the nation accepted the invitation, returned to the Lord, and was restored to its former glory. Sadly, that was not the case. Despite the mercy of God, and His continued pleas, the people continued to rebel against His word and ultimately suffered the consequences. While the mercy of God is new every morning, and we have an open door to return to Him, we must take advantage of it. We must get off the road that is leading us away from Christ, and put ourselves under the authority of His Word.

Will you return to Him today and allow Him to restore to you the joy of your salvation?

Pastor Jim

 

Sale Rack 

Hosea 3:2
“So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.”

At first glance, Hosea’s story seems to be a unique one. He was instructed to marry a woman who was involved in prostitution. We have three choices as to exactly what this means. Either she was currently a prostitute, had been one, or God knew she would become one. My personal opinion is, she had a promiscuous past, but had come to the Lord and been delivered, only to fall back into her previous lifestyle. At this point in the story, her life has been reduced to that of a common slave being sold on the bargain rack.

While most of us have not been delivered out of her particular sin, Gomer’s story is actually quite common. Over the years, I have seen many who, after an earth-shattering conversion, that impacted the lives of friends and family, found themselves falling back into the very sins, from which they had been freed.

Hebrews 11 warns of the dangers of easily besetting sins. The best way to guard against falling, is to be sure to remain abiding in Christ. The closer we walk in fellowship with the Lord, the farther we will remove ourselves from the sins that tend to easily trip us up.

Fortunately, the story does not end with Gomer in prostitution. We find her once again redeemed and restored to her husband. No matter how far you have fallen, remember, God wants you back. He loves you and wants to set you free from sin, and restore your relationship with Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Get Out Of Jail

Jeremiah 52:31

“Now it came to pass in the thirty- seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach, King of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, King of Judah and brought him out of prison.”

Jehoiachin, the last King of Judah, will forever be known as the one sitting on the throne when the nation fell. The collapse was not entirely his fault, although his wickedness did play a part. While very few details are preserved regarding his actual reign, we are told that after 37 years in prison, he was suddenly released and treated favorably. Jeremiah does not give an explanation of the details leading up to his release, but as Scripture unfolds, we can uncover the heavenly reasons behind it.

Thirty-three years after Jehoiachin was released, Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem to repatriate the land and rebuild the Temple. The remnant that returned was led by Zerubbabel, who would serve as their governor and liaison between Israel and Persia. Zerrubabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin. That means, although imprisoned for 37 years, God still had a plan for Jehoiachin’s life. Although he failed as a king, he seems to have succeeded as a grandfather, by raising a son, who in turn, would raise a son, who would serve the Lord.

Zerrubabel would become a great leader in Israel. His ministry would combine the gifts of Moses, who led Israel into the land, and Solomon who built the first temple. In the midst of great opposition, he would find great victory.

None of us should aspire to take the route of Jehoiachin; a wicked life that results in bondage should never be our aspiration. However, if we have traveled a road that has cost us our freedom, and perhaps even our family’s, it is not too late to get off that road and determine, from this point forward, we will live for the Christ and His kingdom. It may be, in the time you have left, the Lord may use you to influence those who will influence the nations.

Pastor Jim

 

Welcome Home

Jeremiah 16:14-15
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.”

Jeremiah’s message was a warning of coming judgment and a call to return to the Lord. He predicted the Babylonians would soon overthrow Israel and take the people captive. He promised that those who turned to the Lord would experience the mercy of God, and one day the nation would be allowed to return to the land. It is here that a wonderful promise is made to the backslider. He declares, God will be known to them, not only as the one who redeemed them from Egypt, but also as the one who brought them back from Babylon. God is the God of salvation, and the God who brings the wayward home.

Throughout Scripture, we find God not only redeeming the lost, but also reaching out for those who have wandered, fallen, or returned to the life from which they were once redeemed. Jesus spoke of His desire to go after lost sheep, hunt for lost coins, and celebrate the return of a prodigal son.

Falling away from Christ is not the end. Jesus will welcome you back no matter how far you have fallen. He loves you and wants to be known, not only as the God who saved you, but as the one who restores the fallen.

Pastor Jim

 

Bridging The Gap

Isaiah 59:1-2
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

Sin is missing the mark. Just as an archer aims at a target, lets his arrow fly, and misses; so we attempt to do our best, only to fall short of the perfect standard of God. The problem is, sin has grave consequences. Sin not only effects our emotions by making us feel guilty, it also effects our ability to have a relationship with God. Isaiah reveals, the real impact of sin is separation from God.

If we were hiking and came to a gorge where a bridge used to be, we would be forced to either fashion a new one or find another way across. When it comes to sin, the gorge is too wide. Our efforts can never bridge the gap between man and God. We must look for another way across. Fortunately, there is a way. Jesus went to the cross to make a way for sinners to be reconciled to God. We are told, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead youwill be saved.” (Romans 10:9).

Imagine the utter joy of sin being forgiven, and knowing God personally! This message so impacted the first generation of believers, they sacrificed all to travel the world, telling anyone and everyone that reconciliation with God was possible.

Thank God that while sin separates, Jesus restores.

Pastor Jim

It’s Not Broken 

Isaiah 42:3
“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.”

The Bible teaches that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Our bodies, designed by God, are amazing machines. One of the more important functions of the body is the Central Nervous System. This elaborate system is responsible for communication between the brain and the members of the body. Information is passed to the brain through ventricles and the spinal cord. Although we may not understand the intricacies, we have all experienced the process. If I twist my ankle and the ligaments stretched beyond capacity, the injury is reported to the brain. The brain responds by telling the nearby muscles to be on high alert and treat the injured member with care. Simply put, God designed the human body to take care of the weak and injured members by treating them gently, and seeking to restore them to proper health. Isaiah reminds us that God feels the same way about the struggling believer.

“A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench…”

When we stumble, struggle, or even fall, the heart of God is not to remove us from the body, but to restore us to proper health. I am glad for the comparisons between myself and a bruised reed. I recently began walking down a particular beach path surrounded by high grass and reeds. One of the reeds grew into the pathway and was constantly in my way. Finally, after days of running into it, I bent it down in the middle. I noticed, although it was not dead, it never recovered from the injury. What Isaiah is promising is a miracle. God looks at the wounded Christian, even those who seem to have fatal wounds, and promises restoration. It would do us good, as the church of Christ, to treat the wounded the same way Jesus does, with gentleness; seeking to restore, rather than remove. Keep in mind, even church discipline has at its core the purpose of restoration.

Pastor Jim

 

Mr. Fix It

Job 34:16
“If you have understanding, hear this; listen to the sound of my words.”

Elihu was a young man considering the discussion between Job and his three friends. He listened meticulously to the arguments, and seemed to accurately sum up the problem. Job, while not the man his friends were painting him to be, was guilty of charging God with iniquity. Elihu points out, God is not guilty of unrighteousness for the way He treats man. God’s goal is to awaken men to their need of a Savior. If a temporal affliction will awaken us to our eternal needs, God is certainly justified in His actions. Much of what Elihu shares is both Biblical and true, the problem is, it lacks any semblance of compassion.

Ephesians 4:15 “. . .but, speaking the truth in love. . . ”

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

It is common to be judgmental over another’s failures, then to elevate ourselves above them. When this happens, we tend to lose compassion. This is particularly true when someone struggles with a sin that doesn’t trouble us, or which we have had victory over. Looking down on others causes us to be unsympathetic. The first words a wounded soldier hears should not be an accounting of what he did wrong, but rather, you are there to help him up. Once his wounds are attended to, we can instruct him on the way to avoid getting shot again. Paul gives us direction on how to minister to those who are struggling,

Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Step one: be spiritual. If we are going to offer any aid to others, we must be sure we are abiding in Christ. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the best thing Christian did for his family was to go hard after the Lord.

Step two: we need to recognize the need in others. This requires that we keep our eyes open, come along side the wounded Christian, and help get him back on track.

Step three: we need to be compassionate. Paul uses the word gentle. We need to be gentle with things that are fragile. When Christians have stumbled, they are delicate. It is possible they may return to effectively walking with the Lord. We want to do all we can to help them get up, and keep on going.

Step four: consider yourself. There are some areas of sin to which we are personally prone. We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn down that path. If going after another will put you in a situation which guarantees personal failure, you need to protect yourself. Perhaps a good solution is to follow the pattern of Jesus, who sent His disciples out in pairs. Before going after the fallen, grab a Christian friend, pray, and head out in gentleness.

Pastor Jim