Do The Wicked Prosper? 

Jeremiah 12:1-2
“​ Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”

Jeremiah’s question interests me because it seem to be the opposite of what God is accused of today. How many times have we heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The inference is that good, innocent even righteous people are being mistreated by a vengeful and unfair God. Jeremiah had a different perspective, he saw God as a righteous judge and realized that men were sinners. This led him to wonder why it was that wicked people were prospering.

In any situation in life, if we are going to effectively problem solve we have to accuratly diagnose the problem. If a doctor misdiagnosis a person he will also fail to prescribe the proper treatment. If a mechanic misdiagnosis the problem with the engine he will replace the wrong part and if we continue to place blame on God for the wicked actions of men we will never really find a cure. When we backslide and get involved in things God specifically tells us to avoid we cannot then turn and ask why God has allowed this to happen to us. We must take responsibility for wandering from the Lord and into harmful things. The way of escape will be found when we turn from our wanderings and begin again to follow closely after Christ.

Sometimes it is difficult to trust the Lord because we see others who have chosen not to follow Christ going through life without many of the difficulties we are struggling through. If you feel that way, you are not alone. The psalmist wrote that it was the carefree lifestyle of the wicked that caused him to question the value of trusting in the Lord. All that changed for him when he looked passed the immediate and considered their end. Jesus explained that there are only two roads in life. One leads to eternal life, the other to judgment. The question is not how difficult the roads might be, but where they are ultimately taking us. Instead of being discouraged by the hardships you are currently facing, look to the end of the road and the glory that awaits all who trust in Christ.

Jim

If…Then…

1 Kings 9:4
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments…” 

If you are a parent, you understand conditional promises. Almost daily you find yourself saying things like “If you keep your room clean, then…” Or “if you get good grades, then…” Basically you are declaring that if certain conditions are met, certain rewards will be given.

The Bible is filled with these same kind of promises. Here Solomon is told, if Israel walks in line with the commands of God, they will experience the blessings of God, but if they turn from God, they will be chastened by Him. This is not a difficult concept to understand. If we choose to walk with Christ and live obediently to His word, we will be blessed. If we turn from Him and pursue things that His word forbids, we will begin to experience the chastening of God. We will find that the sinful activities we pursued actually robbed us of the life they promised to provide.

The narrative of Scripture reveals that Israel ignored these warnings. They were attracted to the lifestyles of the nations around them and they forsook the ways of God, for the ways of the world. It did not take long for this to have negative affects on the nation. After Solomon died, the nation experienced a devastating civil conflict that split the kingdom in two. Weakened by the split and continual rebellion against God, the nations were later overrun by enemies and taken captive to distant lands. What had once been a beautiful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a testimony to the horrible consequences of sin.

No matter how great the temptation to turn from God and embrace the ways of the world, we must remember the example of Israel. If we meet the conditions we receive the promises. We will have a blessed life as we follow after, and live pleasing to, the Lord.

Pastor Jim

God Is Just

Numbers 31:1-2
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.’”

Webster defines vengeance as, “the act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you or someone else.” Some synonymous would include payback, reprisal or even revenge. We seem to be fascinated with the concept of vengeance. It is the premise behind famous works of literature like; The Iliad, Hamlet and The Count of Monty Christo. It seems that the idea of paying back those who have wronged us resonates within the heart of man. This is probably due to the fact that all of us have felt wronged one time or another and wished that we were able to do something to get back at the ones who hurt us. There seems to be an innate cry in the heart of all men for what we perceive as justice. We have all heard children complain that things are not fair, and we see adults, young and old, rallying behind politicians who have stirred in them the desire to get what is theirs.

When it comes to the concept of divine vengeance it is vital to realize some very important distinctions between the judgment of God and the judgment of men. First off, the very definition is different. Instead of being a form of payback for being hurt, divine vengeance would better be seen as, “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an offense.” God does not lash out in a fit of rage, nor does He seek to get back at those who have hurt Him. Instead, God metes out perfect justice upon those who have violated His laws. Throughout Scripture we find that the vengeance of God does not come without warning and long periods of forbearance  with the rebellious ways of mankind. The Canaanites were given over four hundreds years before judgment came, Egypt received numerous plagues before the angel of death arrived, the judgments recorded in the book of Revelation are distributed in waves.  God gives every individual numerous opportunities to turn to Him before ever pouring out His wrath.

While judgement is not our favorite subject to meditate upon, it is important for us to realize there is a time coming for every individual, and for the world as a whole, when we will give an account to God for the life we lived, and the decision we made regarding His Son. There is no way to avoid that day, but there is a way to avoid the judgment. The Bible teaches that, apart from Christ, we are all under the wrath of God, but when we receive Christ, wrath is replaced with mercy. Instead of facing judgment, we can receive the free gift of eternal life. One thing we can count on is that God will be fair. If we want to avoid punishment and receive reward, we must allow Christ to take the judgment we deserve.

Pastor  Jim

 

Exonerated 

Daniel 6:5
“Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.’”

Daniel is one of the greatest heroes in all of Scripture. His personal commitment and public ministry impacted the lives of his companions, co-workers, and even kings. We know he had opportunity to witness to the most powerful and influential men in the world, and it seems some of them were converted. One of the reasons for his success in ministry was his faithfulness. Daniel set himself apart to the Lord and sought to live a godly life. His commitment to the Lord affected every area of his life. Privately, we know he was a man of prayer and the Word. Publicly, we know he was a man of commitment, faithfulness and conviction. When his accusers sought to find some charge to bring against him, they realized that the only way they could find fault was if his religious convictions forbid him to obey an earthly law.

We should seek to follow the example Daniel set. The secret to being found above reproach, when examined by others, is to first carefully examine yourself in light of the Word of God. If we will daily let the light of the Word shine into the dark places of our lives, and make the appropriate changes, we will find ourselves absolved of all charges when examined by others.

Take a few moments to allow God to examine you. If you find you are practicing something He forbids, or holding on to something you need to let go of, then respond appropriately. Lay those things at the cross, where you can be forgiven and they can be removed.

Pastor Jim

The Meeting Place 

Ezekiel 41:4
“…And he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.”

IMG_6823.jpgThe deepest chamber within the temple housed the Ark of God and the the Mercy Seat. It was here, the high priest would enter only once a year to bring the blood of the sacrifice, and intercede on behalf of the Nation. It was here,  God had originally explained to Moses, they could meet with the Lord and talk to Him about anything.

Exodus 25:22 “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.”

I think it is worth noting,  this chamber is called the Holiest Place. It is only in holiness that we can meet with God. That is particularly concerning when we realize we are not holy. The prophet made it abundantly clear, even our best attempts ar doing good, lack true holiness in the sight of God.
Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind! Have taken us away.”

If God is holy, the meeting place between God and man is holy. We, at our best, are not holy;  we are in need of help. That is where the cross comes in. Under the old covenant, this was solved through sacrifice on the altar. The priest would confess his sins and that of the people, and would enter the holiest place. Now under the new covenant, this is solved by Christ. His sacrifice provides atonement for all our sins. We, like the priest, must accept the sacrifice, by accepting Christ and confessing our sin. When we do, we are forgiven, made holy, and have access to God.

If you have received Christ, there is nothing keeping you from the holy meeting place. You may attend there regularly, bringing yourself, your life and your needs before the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

You Are Not alone 

Ecclesiastes 9:2
“All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.”

Solomon spent his life as a student of human behavior. He appeared to be on a quest to find meaning and purpose to life. His observations led him to the conclusion that trials, or difficulties, are the lot of all men; both the righteous and the wicked experience times of sorrow, pain and suffering. When a tornado strikes a town, it makes no distinction between the believer or the unbeliever. Cancer strikes the godly, as well as the ungodly. Christians and non-Christians have both lost their jobs due to tough economic times. If there is no difference between the ailments that we suffer, what is the benefit of living a life committed to Christ?

First, there are great promises given to the child of God, in the midst of the difficulties he or she is enduring. We are promised the peace of God will sustain us, and the strength of God will carry us through. One of the most attractive aspects of a relationship with Christ is the peace He provides, in the midst of the storms of life. I have known believers who are facing intense trials, yet they are guarded within by the perfect peace, which flows from God.

In addition to peace, the child of God understands, there is purpose behind the suffering. Difficulties are not meaningless, but rather become tools in the hand of God to build character, to provide opportunities, and to give to others the light of the Gospel of Christ. Paul found himself in prison, where he celebrated the goodness of God, and by doing so, won others to faith in Christ. We cannot always understand why we are suffering, but we can look for ways by which God will be glorified in our trying times.

The believer also realizes trials are temporary. While they may seem to last forever, they are in fact transient and will be over soon. Some run their course in this life. We may even have a difficult time remembering some of the things we suffered a year ago. Other trials may follow us throughout the course of this life, but will not follow us into eternity. Whatever difficulties we have now, the Christian can be sure they will not plague us in eternity.

Whatever you might be facing, allow me to encourage you to trust Christ and cling to His promises. There is no reason you should have to walk this journey alone. There is a Savior who wants to comfort and strengthen you, if you will trust your life into His care.

Pastor Jim

 

Mercy And Truth 

Psalm 85:10
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.”

One of my favorite movie lines of all times is at the end of “The Princess Bride.” As the narrator comments upon the kiss of Wesley and Buttercup, he states, “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” That statement, while nothing more than a poetic expression in the film, would certainly be true of the statement the Psalmist makes here.

When the righteousness and mercy of God met together, it was an expression of both the passion and the purity of the love of God. Righteousness speaks of the nature of God that is without sin, and perfectly holy, as well as His demand for justice. Scripture makes clear, because of the majesty of His holiness, sin cannot survive in His presence. Like tissue being consumed in a raging flame, so the sinner can have no place in the audience of a holy God. The purity of His eyes cannot behold evil, and the angelic host ever live to circle His throne, and herald his righteousness.

Coupled with his righteousness, is His desire to pardon. The love of God for humanity produces within Him a burning desire to pardon sin, giving us access into His heavenly domain. How can these two seemingly contradictory characteristics ever be satisfied? The Psalmist declares that it happened when righteousness and mercy kissed. This beautiful statement found its complete fulfillment in the cross. The holiness of God was satisfied when the blood of Christ was shed. Isaiah wrote, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,  for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).

The righteousness of Christ satisfies the holiness and justice of God. Because He bore our iniquities, God is able to pardon our sins, satisfying His passion for mercy. Paul declared, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Corinthians 5:21). The passionate love of God for you stirred Him to send His own Son, to make a way for you to live forever. Without trying to sound too strange, allow me to ask, “Have you experienced the kiss of heaven?” Have you allowed mercy and righteousness to meet together, by receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior. Today is that day!

Pastor Jim