Unite My Heart

Psalms 86:11
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

Uncertainty makes life difficult. There are times in each of our lives when we have been crippled by indecision. We struggled so long to make a decision, that the decision was ultimately made for us. In those times, we might say our problem was double-mindedness. We could not make a decision because we either wanted to go both directions or neither direction. James referred to that as being a double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The Psalmist refers to a problem even deeper than being double minded, he refers to the person whose heart is split between opposing desires.

Anyone who has walked with Christ for any length of time knows to what the Psalmist is referring. There are times when our desire to please God is overshadowed by a desire for something we know is wrong, or perhaps just a desire for comfort, ease or complacency. If we are going to move  into deeper intimacy with Jesus, and more effective service for His kingdom, we must have our hearts united with a single desire to do that which pleases Christ. The Psalmist links learning the ways of God with having a singleness of heart. The implication is that through regular intake of God’s word, we will develop a desire to live for the things that please God.

Will you join me in praying for a heart united with a desire to fear the Lord and do what is pleasing in His eyes?

Pastor Jim

 

Following The Crowd 

Exodus 23:2
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil…”

The Law of God was given as a standard to show the people their need for a Savior, and as a pattern to ensure that the people lived righteous lives. Here we find a principle that would protect Israel from becoming like the surrounding pagan nations. God is declaring that popular opinion is not what determines right from wrong. Almost every child has heard his parents say, “Would you jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it?” We attempt to instill within our children the principle that just because the crowd is behaving a certain way, it does not make it right. Sociologist refer to “mob mentality.” They say it is possible for individuals to lose the ability to think for themselves, and begin to follow whatever the crowd is doing. Living in a democratic state can make this even more complicated. God declares to Israel that popular vote is not the standard of righteousness. If all the people vote to erect a golden calf to represent God, that does not make God a gold cow. His righteous standard will never be changed simply by getting a crowd to reject it.

We live in a time, perhaps like no other, where the Word of God is challenged. The very foundational principles of righteousness are being questioned, ridiculed, and legislated away. We need to keep in mind, righteousness is not a floating standard that can be voted upon. No matter what society tells us, God has a standard of right and wrong, and we must not follow a crowd to do evil.

Pastor Jim

Smoke 

Hosea 13:3
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud and like the early dew that passes away, like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.”

When we are young everything seems to take forever, but the older we get, the more we realize how brief life really is. It seems as though I finally get used to writing the calendar year, and suddenly it’s time to change the last a digit. There is nothing we can do to change the brevity of life, but there is much we can do to ensure that our life has a lasting impact on others.

The Bible declares the life of the wicked is like smoke from a chimney that rises and is gone. The righteous, on the other hand, leave a lasting impact on the world. We don’t have to invent the light bulb or discover a planet to leave an impact on the world. Instead, we must leave a righteous standard for others to follow.

A praying grandma, bible reading father, or faithful mom who serves alongside her children at their local church, will have a long lasting impact upon the generations to come. I cannot tell you how often I hear someone tell me their uncle, brother, grandpa or dad was a pastor, and it is usually in the context of them returning to the Lord, or desiring to serve Him more. I have a friend who spent years in the business world, only to one day decide to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. He now pastors a large church where many are being impacted for the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s live like our life matters, seeking to store up treasures in heaven and leaving a pattern for others to follow.

Pastor Jim

 

A Fork In The Road 

Proverbs 8:2
“She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet.”

Have you ever been following someone’s directions to a place you have never been, and encountered an unexpected fork in the road? When that happens, we are forced to stop, study the map again, ask for help, and make a decision as to which way to go. Solomon tells us, that in life, when we encounter the unexpected fork in the road, wisdom is there to meet us, and provide direction for our lives. While wisdom is always available to us, there are times when it may be more difficult to know the right path to take. Solomon gives a description of wisdom so we will be able to recognize it the next time we are in need.

Proverbs 8:7 “For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

God’s wisdom will always lead us away from wickedness and sin. Later, Solomon defines the fear of the Lord as hating evil (Proverbs 8:13). Any direction that leads you closer to sin, or away from fellowship with God, is not the way of wisdom. If you are trying to decide whether to go out with the guy from work, look at his life. Has he been showing evidence that he wants to walk with, serve and please God? If you are trying to decide about a move. Is there a healthy church nearby where you will be able to continue to grow in Christ and raise your family around the things of the Lord? The way of wisdom always leads us toward the Lord.

Proverbs 8:12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.

Wisdom does not travel alone, she has a partner named Prudence. Prudence is defined as the ability to govern oneself, especially as it related to being circumspect in times of peril. We are able to recognize the way of wisdom when we realize that God’s way will always lead us to denying the flesh, and to personal growth in Christ. We were all taught about adrenaline and the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to danger. It is natural for all of us to want to avoid danger or difficulty; to choose the easy road over the difficult one. There are times, however, when God wants us to take the more challenging road, because He desires to do a work within us. That work will always involve the cutting away of the flesh. While that may be difficult, the end of that road, is our becoming the persons God created us to be, in Christ.

Proverbs 8:20 “I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice”

Righteousness, like holiness, is a word we sometimes struggle to define. I recently saw a sign that referred to a location as a holy site, and stated “no smoking, bare feet or loud talking.” Apparently, their definition of holy was to be quiet, not smoke and have covered toes. Biblical righteousness is best defined as becoming more like Jesus, and the path of wisdom always leads us to Christ.

Proverbs 8:23 “I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”

Solomon takes us back to the very beginning, when all things were created, and reminds us that wisdom was there. We learn true godly wisdom does not change when culture does. The things that will lead us toward or away from God, do not change like the tide. Cultural mores may be different now than they were back in the “good old days”, but the wisdom of God has not changed. Regardless of what Hollywood says, or what new laws are passed in Washington, the wisdom of God will never change. Sin will always be sin, and righteousness will always be righteousness. Wisdom and prudence lead us to knowledge and discretion.

Let’s be sure, as we face a fork in the road, that we are looking for signs that point to heaven’s wisdom.

Pastor Jim

 

Sow What? 

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” – Hosea 10:12

Hosea wrote of the spiritual condition of Israel, which at the time, was quite dark. Sin had led them away from the Lord and from the blessed life He had determined for them. Instead of experiencing the bounty God intended, they were on the brink of total ruin. Hosea writes to make clear their present state, as well as to provide the antidote. No matter how bad things may have become, Hosea provides the way back to the Lord.

“Sow for yourself righteousness and reap in mercy. . .”

Sowing is a farming term which refers to the planting of seeds. There are a few basic and unchanging principles that determine the law of sowing and reaping.

First, we will always reap what we sow. If you continue to sow sin or compromise in search of self-fulfilling pleasures, you will only reap heartache, and distance from the Lord. If however, you begin to sow righteousness, by applying the ways of God to your life, you will reap mercy. One translation reads “you will reap in love.”

Second, we reap after we sow. Farming is not a job for the impatient. A farmer knows great effort must be applied to the task, if they are ever going to receive a return on their labors. Too often, people will respond to exhortations like those Hosea gives, by claiming they already tried that. “I tried loving my wife, I tried reading my bible, I tried going to church, I tried… And it did not work”. I wonder, how long have you tried? Did you give as much time to sowing seeds of righteousness as you did to sowing to the desires of your flesh? If you will sow in righteousness, you will reap in mercy, but it will take time.

Finally, we reap much more than we sow. A small bag of seeds will produce bushels of produce. While sowing in righteousness may seem like a lot of work, the benefits far out weigh the cost. Taking the time to invest in your relationship with Christ will return both earthly and eternal rewards. When Peter spoke of all he had given up to follow Christ, Jesus replied,

Mark 10:29-30 “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Pastor Jim

 

Getting Dressed 

Ezekiel 42:14
“When the priests enter them, they shall not go out of the holy chamber into the outer court; but there they shall leave their garments in which they minister, for they are holy. They shall put on other garments; then they may approach that which is for the people.”

For the priest to be involved in ministery, there must be a change of apparel. What was appropriate for some things, was not appropriate for others. This imagery is continued throughout Scripture.

Jesus told a parable where a man had a lavish feast and all who attended were given garments specifically designed for the feast. One man was found in the banquet room who was not appropriately dressed and he was removed (Matthew 22:11-13). The story illustrates that none of us will access heaven through our own accomplishments, but must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Zechariah painted the same picture when he described Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord in filthy garments only to have the Angel of the Lord remove those garments and clothe him in new ones Zachariah 3:3-4).

Paul also spoke of proper garments. When he wrote to the Ephesian church, which was made up of those who had received Christ and been clothed in His righteousness, he stated that certain behaviors needed to be set aside like a worn out garment if we are going to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 4:22-24). This is illustrated in the Lazarus miracle. As soon as Lazarus came back to life and out of the tomb, Jesus commanded that they take off his burial clothes (John 11:44). The clothes appropriate for a dead man are not appropriate for the living. As believers, many of our behaviors need to be laid down because they no longer fit.

Finally, after His resurrection, Jesus told the twelve to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were clothed with the power of God (Acts 1:4). This power was designed to transform them and to equip them for ministry. This power is illustrated in Peter who had denied Christ in the courtyard, only to boldly stand for Him in the temple courts. Certainly all of us need a fresh filling of the Spirit of God as we walk out our doors this morning.

Pastor Jim

 

Stand In The Gap

Ezekiel 22:30“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

Israel, in Ezekiel’s day, was a mess. The people had long ago left the Word of God and chose to follow the ways of the world around them. This led them into gross immorality, putting them at odds with God. As a result, the Babylonians were fast approaching the city and the people would be destroyed. Prophet after prophet had filled the airwaves with warnings of coming judgment and the way of escape. Sadly however, instead of turning to the Lord, the people remained entrenched in their immoral ways, hoping against reality, that life would continue unchanged, regardless of their backslidden state. All the while, God was looking for men and women who would respond to him in repentance and obedience, but none were found. In many ways times have not changed, God is still looking for those who will build a wall and stand in the gap.

Building a wall might illustrate taking a personal stand against the sinful practices so common among us. Regretfully, the same sins that are rampant in the world, are also running amuck in the church. It is time we took a personal stand to be men and women who are committed to the Lord. It is time for men to be the husbands, fathers and citizens God has called us to be. Standing in the gap, is a picture of a person who will stand between men and God, seeking to make a difference. We stand in the gap in two ways. First, in prayer. Instead of only complaining about the way things are and wishing for days gone by, we should be praying for those around us. If you are struck by a particular person’s behavior, put them on your prayer list. Pray they would come to Christ and be transformed. Second, to stand in the gap is to share the message of the Gospel. More than anything else, the World needs to hear the saving message of the Gospel. It is the Word of God, through the Spirit of God, that will transform the lives of those who believe.

Let’s commit to be those who will stand the gap.

Pastor Jim