What’s Your Story

Psalms 78:1-2
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old”

Asaph, Israel’s chief musician during the reign of David, took it upon himself to write a song depicting the history of the nation. His tale is one that magnifies the mercy of God, while revealing the continual unfaithfulness of Israel. Time, and time again, the people turned from the Lord out of fear or desire for things that He had forbidden. He spoke of their experiences in Egypt, when they feared the king more than the Lord, and of their time in the wilderness, when the trials they faced caused them to doubt the provision of God. He told of their time in the Promised Land, when comfort and ease drove them to complacency toward God, and into idolatry. Imagine how the first readers of this psalm might want to go back and make changes to their history, or at least make changes to their personal lives.

Asaph referred to his message as a parable. The idea, of course, is that the psalm has a meaning that sits underneath the surface. Instead of just being a message indicting Israel for their sin, it also serves as an illustration of the life of many believers. We, like Israel, have been redeemed from bondage into a relationship with God. In this relationship, we find ourselves in times of trial or battle, and in times of ease and comfort. If we read the psalm carefully, we can see ourselves in the story, as well as learn from Israel’s mistakes.

What would a psalm read like that told your story? What amazing ways would the mercy of God be reveled as your conversion was told? How would His faithfulness be seen in your daily walk? What changes would you want to make in how you walk with Him, in whatever time you may have left?

Take a few minutes to contemplate your testimony. Perhaps even write it out. Then consider what you will do to ensure that the remaining chapters of your story give glory to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Return 

Zechariah 1:3
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,”’ says the Lord of hosts.”

After seventy years of captivity Israel was allowed to return to the land and begin to rebuild their broken down Temple. Millions had been taken captive and only a fraction returned to get the task started. Even those who returned had become discouraged and had forsaken the work. It is in this setting that Zechariah declares,
“Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,”
For some, returning to the Lord actually involved a change of their current location. If they were going to be obedient, they would need to pack up their stuff and make the long journey to Jerusalem. For others, returning meant getting back to the work in which they were once involved. Life had taken precedence over serving the Lord, and it was time to get things back in their proper order.

What about you? If God’s word is going to have its proper place in our lives, we need to examine how we should respond to its exhortations. In this case, we are exhorted to return to God. For some, that means we need to get back to the work in which we were once involved. I have noticed, over the years, that many families start out serving the Lord together, but as the kids grow and life gets busy, they begin to wane. Soon they are not only neglecting service, but even begin to neglect fellowship all together. Don’t wait until tragedy strikes, before you will reevaluate your spiritual leadership in the family. Take the necessary steps today to return to the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s A Promise 

Ezekiel 39:29
“And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.”

This is one of the greatest and most anticipated prophecies in all Scripture. Going back to the time of Moses, Joshua heard a report that two men had the Spirit fall upon them and they began to prophecy, although they had not come to the Tabernacle to do so. In concern for the people, Joshua exhorted Moses to forbid them. Moses responded,

Numbers 11:29 “Then Moses said to him, ‘Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!’”

By the time of Ezekiel, Israel had been anticipating the promise of the Holy Spirit for a thousand years. Now the prayer of Moses is turned into the promise of God. He declares a time is coming when the Spirit will be poured out on them. This is not the only promise regarding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. About a hundred years before Ezekiel, the prophet Joel made an even more amazing promise. He declared the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, making no distinction between man or woman, young or old, or slave and free. This is the promise that Peter quoted to explain the events that transpired at Pentecost and are recorded in Acts, Chapter 2. One hundred and twenty believers were huddled in a room in Jerusalem,when suddenly this promise was fulfilled. These men, who lived in fear of the world around them, were suddenly transformed, emboldened and empowered with the ability to declare the Gospel in a way that led to thousands coming to faith in Christ.

What we need, and by we, I mean each of us as individual believers in Christ, as well as our local congregations, is to be filled with the Spirit of God and allow Him to transform, equip, and emboldened us to share Christ with a needy world.

Pastor Jim

 

Sweet And Sour 

Revelation 10:10
“Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”

The Bible is the most popular book of all time. It has been translated into almost three thousand languages, and has been distributed on every continent. In America, almost every household contains a Bible, and in many cases, they own more than one. Some Christians seem to be collectors of Bibles. Their bookshelves contain multiple translations of the Bible, and with the advent of smart devices, we can have a cornucopia of translations at our fingertips. All that being said, there seems to be a common problem around the world; people do not read the Bible. John’s encounter with this angelic being gives some beautiful insights into what we should do with our Bibles, and what our Bibles will do to us.

The angel gives John the book and instructs him to eat it. This serves as an illustration of the need for us to consume the Word of God. The message contained in Scripture has the power to produce faith that leads to salvation, to comfort us in difficultly, to direct us during times of confusion, to empower us for service, to convict us when we are going astray, to give insight into the ways of God, to challenge us to higher living, and to equip us to assist others who are hurting. However, this book, with all of its benefits, will have no effect on your life if it sits on the bookshelf. To benefit from the Bible, we must consume it. Taking time each day to read your Bible, memorize its promises, and put into practice it’s commands, will transform your life.

Notice also, John’s reaction to consuming the Word; it was sweet in his mouth like honey. Because the Word of God is living, it is timely; you will find His promises show up at all the right times. A sense of peace, comfort, and inner strengthening, comes with each promise. How blessedly sweet are the promises of God to the mouth of the child of God.

However, notice there is a deeper impact upon John than just a sweet taste. The Word becomes bitter in his stomach. When we have eaten something that has given us a bitter stomach, the body reacts by needing to “get it out.” The Word of God is like that. We read it and are deeply impacted by it. As its truths touch us, we become compelled to share them with others. It is difficult to read a promise, know a loved one who is struggling, and not want to pass it on. When we read of the promises of heaven for those who trust Christ, and the sorrows awaiting those who reject them, we cannot help but share the promises of eternal life.

Today, right now, read the Word. Let it minister it’s sweetness to you, but don’t stop there, let it become bitter in your belly, and share its promises with others.

Pastor Jim

 

Visual Learner 

Ezekiel 4:1
“You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem.”

Some people are visual learners. They seem to have a difficult time processing information audibly, but the moment they can see it, things become perfectly clear. Most of the pre-exilic prophets relayed the same message to Judah. They warned of coming destruction by the Babylonians and exhorted the people to turn to the Lord. Ezekiel will share that same message, but will do so with some very powerful imagery. This chapter alone gives three such illustrations.

First, Ezekiel is told to make a model of the city of Jerusalem. When he first began this project, I am sure those who stood back and watched were wondering what he was building. As each day passed, the image became more clear, until it was obvious to all that it was Jerusalem. It must have been quite a shock when he began to fill the surrounding hillsides with foreign troops, and build siege walls outside the city. Even the most casual observer, would have no problem understanding the message.

Once completed, Ezekiel used another approach to get the same message across. Each day he would enter the public square, lay out a bed mat, and lie down on his left side. He remained there throughout the day, and repeated this for 339 consecutive days. One the 340th day, he turned over and laid on his right side for another 40 days. This was done to illustrate the coming judgment on Judah for their iniquities.

Finally, Ezekiel was instructed to bake the bread of affliction. God wanted the people to understand that serving false gods meant becoming slaves. Jesus taught the same truth when He said if we serve sin, we become a slave of sin (John 8:34). Slavery brought affliction and affliction, personal suffering. To deepen the impact of this illustration, Ezekiel was told to cook the bread using human waste as fuel. This proved too much for the prophet, who pleaded with God, and was instructed to use cow dung, instead.

I find it interesting the great lengths God will go, in order to insure that the message gets to everyone. He is still in the business of doing that today. I have heard testimony after testimony of a person who seemed to suddenly be surrounded by believers. They were invited to church, witnessed to at work, and came to realize that an old friend or family member had turned their life over to Christ. It is clear, God desires each of us, and will go to great lengths to reveal His love for us, and our need for Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Answers

1 Peter 3:15

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Shortly after coming to Christ, I was driving down PCH in Southern California and found myself stuck at one of the many red lights, waiting for the arrow to turn green so I could continue to my destination. It was a summer day, and since my car did not have AC, my windows were rolled down. A car pulled up next to me and the driver called out to get my attention. I had never seen him before, and to my knowledge have never seen him since, but what he said to me has stuck with me for more than 25 years.

After getting my attention, he asked if I was a Christian, the “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker gave me away. I replied that I was, and he then asked how a person could be saved. I was caught off guard, and was not clear on how to articulate the Gospel, so I sat there stunned. As the signal turned green and he sped off, I hollered out “believe in Jesus!” At that point, I determined, I wanted to have an answer for others who were seeking to find the truth about Christ. It would be quite some time before I stumbled across Peter’s words recorded here,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Peter explains how we can be ready, when the opportunity arises, to help point someone to Christ. This readiness involves two things. First, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. Sanctify means to set apart. Christ must be set apart from all other things to which your heart is attached. It is not enough to simply have Jesus as one of the many things you are devoted to; He does not enter a life and take second place. Remember when He said “You cannot serve two masters”? (Matthew 6:24) Jesus demands and deserves first place in our hearts and lives. He calls for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to give Him first place in our lives. If we want to affect others for the kingdom of Heaven, it begins by giving Jesus first place in our own life. Perhaps other things have risen to the top, or crowded Jesus out of His rightful place. If that is the case, take a moment right now to recommit yourself to Him.

Second, Peter says, “be ready.” We do this by getting to know the Bible. Paul wrote that we should “Study to show yourself approved to God.” (2 Timothy 2:15) As believers, we are called to become students of Scripture. We do this by taking time daily to read our Bibles. Over the years, I have been amazed at how often the answer someone is seeking, comes right out of the passage I read that morning. Jesus promised us help in this area when He said, the Holy Spirit would remind us of the Words that Christ had spoken (John 14:26).

If someone were to ask you today how to become a Christian are you prepared to give them the Biblical answer?

Pastor Jim

 

Get The Word Out

Jeremiah 20:9
“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.”

Due to his experiences, Jeremiah no longer wanted to publicly declare the Word of God. His message had been ignored and rejected, and now his listeners were becoming hostile. He was mocked, ridiculed, then arrested. It is not difficult to understand why he reached a point where he thought this is simply not worth it. Scarred, scared, and perhaps somewhat embarrassed by the lack of positive response to the message, Jeremiah declares emphatically, he is done. He will leave preaching to others and find something else to do.

I have to admit, I had my share of times when I felt as Jeremiah did. In the early years of ministry, when things were growing so slowly as not to be detectable, it was easy to become discouraged. As time moved on, there were seasons when it seemed as though people were not listening. Those who have been believers for quite some time, begin to drift from the Lord, and make foolish decisions. This can be so discouraging, it leads to a desire to pack things up and call it quits.

Fortunately, God had placed His Word within Jeremiah and His Word is volatile. As it sat within the prophet, it began to burn like a flame, until he was forced to proclaim it once again. The Word of God will always work like that. When we take the time to read, study, and memorize the Word, we will find it begins to burn within us. This burning will lead to a changed life, as well as opportunities to tell others about salvation found in Christ. The more time we take to get the Word in, the more effective we will become in getting the Word out.

Pastor Jim