Fasting 

Isaiah 58:6
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”

In one of His longest recorded sermons, Jesus spoke of 3 spiritual exercises that every believer should be practicing. He spoke of giving, praying and fasting. Fasting is the practice of giving up food for a period of time in order to learn to deny ourselves and to devote more attention to the things of God. Sadly, instead of viewing fasting as a way to draw near to God the people in Isaiah’s day were treating it as a religious responsibility. It was almost as though it was part of their checklist. They felt that fasting itself made them spiritual and they saw little need for their lives to be affected by their professed relationship with God. Isaiah declares that a real fast will will give evidence of a transformed life.

William Booth was the man behind the Salvation Army. About one hundred years ago he was asked what he thought were the greatest dangers the church was facing in the years ahead. His response is quite intriguing. He said:

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”

In other words he spoke of a form of Christianity that has little impact upon the way a person lives their life. He foresaw churches filled with people who raise their hands in worship, drop checks in the offering box and perhaps even sign up for ministry opportunities yet they fail to allow the Spirit of God and the Word of God to transform their lives.

Instead of emphasizing religious duties we should be seeking to become like Jesus in every possible way. A real commitment to Christ will show itself in a life that is changed.

Jim

 

Complaint Department 

Psalms 142:2
“I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble.”

Complaining is often the result of looking at the one thing that is going wrong instead of the many things that are going well. We might have a day off work, be gathering with our family at a park or at the beach, and instead of enjoying the day we begin to complain that it is too windy, too hot or there are too many others who chose to spend the day at the same location. Instead of looking at all that is right we becoming fixated with what we perceive to be wrong. Another common problem associated with complaining is that we often bring our complaints to the wrong place. When we are upset about our job we complain to our spouse, when we have a problem associated with the kids school or their sports team we complain to our friends. Instead of bringing our complaint to the source who can resolve it, we simply like to complain.

Here David teaches us something important about complaining. If we have a problem we should take it to the Lord. Often it is in the presence of the Lord that we will see our difficulty in light of the work He desires to accomplish in us and we will discover that the very thing we were so upset about was actually a tool He was using to make us more like Christ.

Instead of bringing a barrage of complaints against your spouse as soon as they walk in the door, how about taking your issues to the Lord and allowing Him to work in your life. After all He promised that all things work together for the good of conforming us into the image of Jesus.

Jim

 

Is There A God In Israel? 

2 Kings 1:3
“But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?'”

Sometimes it is difficult to uncover the meaning behind a biblical text or to make proper application for our lives. Other times, there is no difficulty at all. Three times in this text we read the same phrase,


“Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

Ahaziah, King of Israel, had an accident and was severely injured. No doubt, after consulting the medical professionals of his day, he began to question whether or not he would recover. Since no earthly source could answer his inquiry, he sought out a prophet of Baal for guidance and advice. Heaven’s reaction to this was to question why a man of Israel would neglect to seek counsel from the God of Israel.

In all my years of following Jesus, I have never met a Christian who consulted Baal for advice or direction. However, I have met several who refuse to look to the Lord to meet their needs, and are quick to run to just about every other source. When difficulty, tragedy, or need arises, instead of increasing prayer time, fasting, or Bible reading, they start looking to others to solve the problem. With the advent of social media, this phenomenon has increases exponentially. Facebook and other mediums, seem to be filled with requests from Christians to assist them in their trying times. It is as though we have forgotten that Jesus promised if we seek Him and His righteousness, He will provide for our needs.

I am not saying believers should not help believers, or that it is wrong to ask others to pray for us. There are even cases in Scripture where men like Nehemiah ask the king for provision, to accomplish what God had called him to do. That being said, it does seem, at least in some cases, we have forgotten the message that Elijah heard, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

In contrast to this, I am reminded of the story of Ezra the scribe. When he left Persia for Jerusalem, he had witnessed to the king regarding the great power of the God of Israel. Later, as he ventured out on the perilous journey, he determined not to ask the king for protection. He thought doing so would embarrass him, because of all the wonderful things he had told the king about Jehovah. So, instead of seeking aid from the king, he spent his time pleading with God for protection.

Ezra 8:22-23 “For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”

Whatever you may be currently facing, and whoever you may enlist to pray for you through the trial,don’t neglect to get alone with God, pour your difficulty out before Him and seek His help. Remember, He often allows the difficulties in order to bring us closer to Himself.
Pastor Jim

 

Ask God

Psalm 72:1
A Psalm of Solomon.
“Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.”

When Solomon first stepped onto the throne of his father, David, he was overwhelmed by the task before him. He realized he was weak and inexperienced, and the responsibility of ruling the nation was too much for him to handle. He knew that the Lord was his only hope, and cried out to God for wisdom. This psalm is a poetic expression of an event recorded in 1Kings 3. There, we find Solomon encountering God in his dreams. Faced with the overwhelming task of leadership, God allows Solomon to request anything he wants. Solomon’s reply is essentially the same as is recorded here. He asks for wisdom to know how to lead the nation.

Few of us are kings or even politicians, but all of us have responsibilities that are too much for us to handle, and all of us face seasons in life when we do not know what to do. James explains what we should do when we face those trying times,

James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Whatever you might be facing, it is comforting to know that we can seek wisdom from God and He will supply it. Solomon found that God gave him much more than he could have ever imagined. Sadly, as time went on, the king became self-reliant and drifted from the Lord, who had been so gracious to him.

Pastor Jim

Flee To The Mountain

Psalms 11:1
“How can you say to my soul,’Flee as a bird to your mountain’”?

Life hurls a vast array of difficulties at the child of God. We are struck with the common problems of every man, as well as those that are peculiar to attempting to follow Jesus, in the midst of ever increasing ungodliness. The question we are faced with is, where will we flee for safety, guidance and solace when struck by the trials of life? David thought it utterly preposterous to think of fleeing to the mountains for aid. To him, it was the Lord, and the Lord alone, who would be his defense.

There is something in the nature of all men that causes us to look to others when things get tough. When finances are short, we begin to think of who might be willing and able to assist us, and when illness strikes we seek out the best physician. While it is certainly not wrong to seek the aid of others, and we have scriptural basis for medicines and financial aid, it still remains critical that we learn to look first to the Lord for help. I wonder, how many amazing or even miraculous stories are never written because when times get tough we flee to the mountains?

Next time things are difficult financially, relationally or personally, run first to the Lord before seeking others. See what great ways God may want to minister to you, in the midst of the darkness engulfing you.

Pastor Jim

 

Consider God

Psalms 10:4
“The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.”

The Psalmist points out at least four characteristics of the wicked. First, he declares that they do not think about God. One of the surest ways to live a life that pleases the Lord is to consider Him before you act. If you take the time to ask yourself, “What does God think about this?” you will find that you begin to make better and wiser decisions.

Psalms 10:5 “His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight…”

The Bible was designed to be a light for our path. It’s purpose is to be a guide instructing us to live a life that will be rewarded by God. One of the keys to successful living is to familiarize ourselves with its contents. The better you know the Word, the easier it becomes to make decisions that please the Lord. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that the Spirit of God empowers the word of God. In other words, we are not left to our own strength to do what the Bible says. As we read it, we are transformed by it and find ourselves living according to it.

Psalms 10:11 “He has said in his heart, ‘God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.’”

It is amazing what we will do if we don’t think anyone is watching us. It is not uncommon to catch a person singing along to a favorite song in the car. They have lost sight of the fact that others can see them. When they realize that another car has pulled up next to them, they are filled with embarrassment. When we realize God watches everything we do, we will be much more careful not to misbehave when we are alone.

Psalms 10:13 “Why do the wicked renounce God?  He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.’”

The end of every road is the throne of God. One day we will all stand before Him, to give an account for the life we lived. If we keep this fact in the forefront of our minds, it will effect every area of our lives.
Let us remember the Lord and live our life according to His ways.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Mind Of The Lord

Leviticus 24:12
“Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.”

This chapter contains one of only two narrative passages in the book of Leviticus and tells the story of two men who were fighting. One man, the son of Shelomith allowed his anger to lead to sin and he blasphemed the name of the Lord. Under the old covenant this was a crime punishable by death. Because of the seriousness of his actions, he was placed in custody while the leaders took the necessary time to seek the mind of the Lord. Two important principles stand out to me.

First, before making a big decision, Moses and his leadership team took the necessary time to seek the Lord. They realized that God was interested in their lives and had a plan for their current situation. Years later Paul wrote that God has for-ordained good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). That means that He has a wonderful plan for our lives and if we seek Him, He will provide direction that will allow us to make good decisions and remain upon the narrow path that leads to abundant life.

Second, it is important to notice where they went to hear from the Lord. They did not look to past experience, or to the culture around them. They did not gather the people together for a popular vote or allow their emotions to guide them by “following their heart.” Instead they got alone with the Lord and looked into His written word. Their situation was a difficult one and the answer they received from the Word was hard, but they followed it nonetheless.

When we are seeking to make decisions, it would be a good idea to follow the pattern set here. We need to realize that God has a plan for us, but we also need to realize the details for that plan are found in Scripture. The life guided by the light of the Word of God is the life which will be led into the way everlasting.

Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Pastor Jim