Broken 

Job 17:1
“My spirit is broken, My days are extinguished, The grave is ready for me.”

It is often difficult to watch someone whose spirit is broken. They had once been so full of life but now seem to be a shell of their former self. They lack enthusiasm, vision,  and the will to press forward. As difficult as it may have been to watch Job in this condition, as a reader we can certainly understand why he felt this way. His circumstances had crushed his spirit and brought him to a place where life seemed hopeless.

We live in a throw away world. Once something breaks the tendency is to toss it aside and search for a new and improved model. God on the other hand views things differently. He does not see something that is broken as disposable but as redeemable. In fact, when God is searching for someone to use, He looks first in the broken pile. The psalmist wrote;

Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Psalms 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”

When we stand back and view Job from a distance, we realize God allowed great difficulties into His life; partly for the purpose of breaking Job, so He could later accomplish even greater works through his life. While none of us relish the idea of hardship or pain, it is valuable to realize that God wants to meet us in, and transform us through our brokenness. Whatever struggle you might be currently facing, whether it is physical, emotional, or relational, understand that God is using this to work in you. He wants to allow the brokenness to get your eyes on Him so He can meet you in your struggle and transform your character.

Pastor Jim

 

Sorrow 

Romans 9:2-3
“That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”

We have all had experiences that have saddened us. Sometimes the word ‘sad’ is too shallow to describe what we are feeling, we might say we are sorrowful or even consumed with grief. When a relationship comes to an end or someone we love dies, the sadness is often so deep it becomes difficult to manage.

I find it challenging as I read what saddened Paul so deeply. He does not describe himself as sorrowful when he writes of the great difficulties he faced while following Jesus. It was not shipwrecks, beatings, prison or hunger that broke his heart. Instead, it was the spiritual condition of his family and friends. When he writes of his countrymen, he is referring to the Jewish people. They were the ones he grew up with, went to school with, worked with and hung around, before coming to Christ. As he looks at the accomplishments of his years of serving Christ, he is still saddened by the fact that many, so close to him, have yet to come to Christ. The sadness is so deep, he states that were it possible (which of course it is not), he would trade places with them, taking the punishment of separation from God that they might be saved.

As he continues to pour out his heart for his friends, he gives us insight into the reason for their condition. He speaks of how years before they were born, God had planned for their salvation, yet they refused to believe in Christ and receive the pardon for sin.

Their unbelief was caused by a number of things. First, the message of the cross was a stumbling block to them, because Jesus was not the Messiah they were expecting. Their expectation had them looking for a powerful military leader who would overthrow the Roman oppression and restore the nation to the glory days. Instead, a humble Messiah arrived on a donkey and died on a cross. It is very common today for some to respond to Christ only to reject Him later, because their expectations are not being met. They assumed, following Jesus would mean their troubles would be behind them, their marriages fixed, or their financial burdens removed. When that did not happen, they turned from Christ, returning to the old life. Second, many rejected Christ because of popular opinion.

In the grand scheme of things, only a few of the Jewish people were responding to Christ. Most rejected Him, causing others to reject Him as well. This is still happening today. In a world where Jesus is looked down upon, and belief in the Bible is ridiculed, many refuse Christ because they want to be accepted by others. Third, another reason for refusing to believe in Christ was pride. Pride will always keep a person from Christ. We must humble ourselves and freely receive the gift of Christ to be saved.

Let’s pray we develop a heart like Paul’s, that would break at the thought of people rejecting Christ, and would compel us to share the love of Christ with a dying world.

Pastor Jim

 

This Is Not The End

Ruth 1:5
“Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.

To say that Naomi had been through some difficult times is a colossal understatement. Because of a severe famine throughout Israel, she and Elimelech made the difficult decision to leave their homeland, family and friends, in search of a better life. The road that promised a better life actually led to heartache. Naomi watched as her husband died, and shortly thereafter, each of her two sons died. Widowed, heartbroken and left with nothing, she decided to make her way back to Israel. After such grievous trials, it would be easy to concede, this was the end for her.

As the story unfolds, we begin to realize God had not deserted Naomi. In fact, He had a wonderful future in mind for her. A future that involved the restoration of a family and the redemption of mankind.

As Naomi made her way back to Israel, Ruth, her daughter-in-law, insisted on returning with her. Naomi’s influence led Ruth to make a decision to follow the Lord. This decision would change the course of human history. As the story continues, Ruth will meet Boaz, fall in love, marry, have children, then grandchildren, and David will be introduced to the world.

When all seemed lost, God had a future for Naomi that included the salvation of souls. Whatever you may be facing, remember, this is not the end. The Psalmist declared,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.” 
Psalm 42:5

Pastor Jim

 

Good Mourning

Deuteronomy 14:1
“You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.”

Among many of the pagan cultures, it was a common practice to cut yourself as a sign of mourning for the loss of a loved one. This practice served to show others the deep sorrow you were experiencing, as a result of your loss. Moses makes it clear, the children of God are NOT to follow this custom. The reason behind this command was that the child of God is not to mourn like the heathen mourn. Years later, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Greece, who were dealing with the difficulty of death. He said,

” But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The hope Paul speaks of is twofold. First, it refers to the fact that those who have died in Christ are in glory, experiencing the wonders of heaven, and intimate fellowship with Christ. This hope of heaven includes the promise that we will one day be with them again. Second, this hope refers to the comfort, peace, healing, restoration and strength Christ will give to us in our time of sorrow. One of the great benefits of being in a relationship with Jesus is, He promises to give us peace that will outlast the storms of life. He said,

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Mourning is a natural part of loosing someone we love, but it is possible to loose sight of the hope we have in Christ, and mourn in an unhealthy way. In the book of Genesis, when Jacob died, the people mourned for him. He was the Patriarch of the family, and all Israel was deeply grieved. It was the practice of Egypt to mourn for seventy days, but Joseph decided the people of Israel would mourn for seven days. The Egyptians mourned because they would never see their loved ones again, Israel mourned because they would miss them until they met again in glory.

It is completely understandable if you are suffering from the loss of someone you love, but it can become unhealthy if you refuse the comfort God supplies, and continue in a state of mourning indefinitely. If you are struggling with this, it is time to cling to Christ and allow him to turn your mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).

It is not disrespectful to the dead, if you move on from mourning, but to remain there is unhealthy for you.

Pastor Jim

 

Dealing With Remorse

Matthew 27:5
“Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Man at the CrossWhile I do not want to tackle the subject of the eternal destiny of Judas, I do see in him an illustration of how the Christian often deals with personal failure or sin. After the initial pleasure received from sin, we are filled with remorse or guilt. That guilt can become overwhelming and lead to discouragement, depression, and even despair. Too often, we follow the example of Judas, attempting to remove our guilt.

First, like him, we attempt to undo our failure. Since this cannot be done, we spend time wishing we could go back, wishing we had that moment in time again so we could do things differently.

Second, we often attempt to deal with the remorse by going to others. Would Judas have been any better off spiritually if the chief priests had accepted the money? Of course not! While the kind and forgiving words of others are helpful, that is not how sin is removed from the life of the child of God.

Finally, like Judas, we often attempt to get the incident as far from us as possible. If I do not think about it, or I let time work its magic, I know I will feel better. This was Judas’ approach. He cast the money on the floor and departed. Perhaps he thought, if it were no longer in his possession he would not be haunted by it. While dwelling on your failure is not the way God would have you deal with sin, simply ignoring it is not His solution either. God has established a way for the child of God to deal with personal failure and sin.

John wrote,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

God’s method of dealing with sin and remorse is confession. The first step to confession is going to God. It is at the foot of the cross where we will find the release from the haunting guilt of personal sin. While the forgiveness is immediate and we do not have to do anything to receive it (Jesus did it all for us), there are times when we must camp out at the cross. There, alone with only the presence of God and the promises of Scripture, we let Him communicate His lovingkindness to us. We must remain until we can clearly see that He has borne our grief and carried our sorrow.

Perhaps this morning, you need some time alone with Jesus, focusing upon the forgiveness He has provided at the cross. A forgiveness that is unearned, complete, and frees us from the penalty, power, and guilt of sin

“When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”

“Before The Throne Of God Above”, Shane and Shane

Pastor Jim

 

He Heard My Cry

Exodus 3:7
“And the Lord said, ‘ I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.’”

IMG_1385Since the incarnation, this is all the more true. He has seen oppression with the eyes of man. He watched the brutal way in which men oppressed men. He saw tax collectors steal from men, to support their sinful lifestyles, soldiers abuse their authority, instilling fear in the people, and religious leaders manipulate the people, to gain power over their lives and attain positions of prominence.

With His ears, He has heard the cries of men. He heard the cry of the widow, whose son had died, the leper who pleaded for a healing touch, and the publican, who cried out for mercy. He also heard the cries as the mob, who exalted Him as Lord one day, only to demand His death a few days later.

He also knows our sorrows . He sat with friends who lost their brother, and wept alongside them. More than knowing our sorrows as a comforter, He knows them as a victim. He learned first hand, the pain of betrayal, rejection, and hatred. His back felt the searing pain of the Roman whip, His brow the thorns, His hands and feet the nails. He knew the disgust of being spat upon, ridiculed and falsely accused. Yet he remained silent before His accusers, as he endured the cross and despised its shame.
As we face the pain, sorrow, and difficulty of life, and are tempted to raise accusations against God that he does not care or understand, remember, He not only sees with a watchful eye of heaven, but He, Himself, bore our sorrows and is acquainted with our grief.

Pastor Jim

 

A Happy Heart

Proverbs 17:22
“A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones”

IMG_1226.JPGSolomon is contrasting the physical effects of joy and sorrow. He explains that joy is like a medicine to the body, actually providing a healing element, while deep sorrow can negatively effect our health. Solomon is making this observation, not as a medical professional, but from watching others, as well as from his own personal experience. He came to realize that a joyful heart is much healthier and more productive than a broken one. I think we would all agree. If we had to choose, we would rather be merry than broken. The question is, “How do we avoid a broken spirit and gain a merry heart?”

Paul declared, the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy (Galatians 5:22). A merry heart is the bi-product of a life connected to Christ. Jesus said, when we abide in Him, we would bear fruit in our lives that remains (John 15:16). If we want a heart that is filled with joy and merriment, the first step is to receive Christ, and the next is to walk step by step with Him. The more we invest in our relationship with Christ, the more this joy will fill our lives, replacing sorrow and becoming in us, a well spring of life.

In one sense a broken spirit is important, even necessary for the believer.

Psalms 34:18
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Here, the broken spirit refers to one who has realized his sins, and is coming to God for pardon. That is critical. Without being broken, we can never be saved. Solomon is speaking of another kind of brokenness, though. Not the brokenness caused by realizing we have sinned, but the brokenness caused by being in sin. Sin causes sorrow because it breaks fellowship with God. Jesus said He came to give us abundant life. The devil, on the other hand, came to rob us of that life. Whenever we choose to be involved in the things the Bible forbids, we are actually robbing ourselves of joy, and taking steps toward a broken spirit and dried up bones.

The closer we walk with Jesus, the more our hearts will be filled with the healing medicine of merriment.

Pastor Jim