Abundant Life

Numbers 33:52
“. . . then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; . . .”

God described the land He was giving Israel as a land that flowed with milk and honey. He was of course speaking figuratively of the blessed life that the children of Israel would experience within the land. This blessed life was conditional upon their obedience to Him, and their obedience included some driving out, and some demolition. They were instructed to tear down all of the images and the places where the false gods were worshipped. They were to leave nothing that would serve as a source of temptation. Moses went on to explain,

“. . . those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” 

Sadly, as the story unfolds, we will learn that Israel failed to drive out and demolish, and for centuries struggled with the temptation of the sins they allowed to remain in the land.

It is not difficult to draw a parallel between their experience and our lives. In order for us to experience the abundant life that Jesus offers, we also must do some driving out and some demolition. There are things that cannot remain in our lives if we are going to successfully walk with Christ. Those things include anyone or anything that will be an irritant, tempting us to sin and leading us away from the ways of God. Israe failed to obey this command partly due to the fact that they liked having some of those things around. They placed value on what God had banned and it was not long before they were caught in sin.

Stand back for a moment and examine the things in your life. Is there anything that needs to be removed? The way to do it is to go to the cross and lay it at the feet of Jesus, asking for His pardon, and strength to never pick it up again.

Pastor Jim

 

Cleansing 

Numbers 8:6
“Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them ceremonially.”

There are times in life when there is nothing so refreshing as a shower. Standing under the flow seems to refresh and invigorate, and at times, helps me even to forget whatever things are pressing in upon me. Sometimes the only reason I step away is the hot water has run cold. As refreshing as that might be, it cannot compare to how refreshing it is to stand under the flow where our sins are being cleansed. David wrote about how blessed the man is whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin has been covered (Psalm 32:1).

When we go to the cross and allow the cleansing blood of Jesus to wash over us, we will find that the weight of sin and the plague of guilt are washed from us and we are made clean. What an amazing time it must have been for the priest to stand before the people and be cleansed of all that made them unworthy to stand before the Lord. Instead of carrying the weight of sin and guilt, why not go through the cross to the throne of grace and allow the mercy of God to give you pardon and refresh your soul.

Pastor Jim

 

Leaven

Leviticus 2:11
“No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.”


Leaven is a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked. Because it is a small ingredient in the dough and has the tendency to spread through the whole lump, it is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Sin always starts small, but never stays that way. When a person falls into a “big sin,” it is because they started out making little compromises. As a result, it was a forbidden component in the grain offered to the Lord.

The New Testament declares that because of the work of Christ, we no longer are required to bring offerings to an altar and make sacrifices to God. Instead, we are to become a living sacrifice. Our whole life is to be devoted to the Lord. We should give our private life, family life, public life and church life as a sacrifice to God, and look for ways to honor and serve Him. If this living sacrifice is to be a sweet aroma to the Lord, we need to remove the leaven. In other words, we need to deal with sin as God reveals it. The New Testaments model for dealing with sin is that God reveals it through His word, we confess it in prayer, and He empowers us by His Spirit, to have victory over it in our lives.

If you are struggling in an area of sin, it is important that you address it before it spreads and becomes so large that it begins to destroy your relationship with God and others. The way to address it is to confess it to the Lord and to a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ. James spoke of the value of confessing our sin to one another, so we can pray for one another.

Don’t let sin reign in your life. Take it to the cross and be forgiven and set free.

Pastor Jim

 

Stained Garment 

Exodus 29:20-21
“Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”

The Lord went to great detail to explain the garments that the High Priest would wear. He referred to them as holy garments, designed for glory and for beauty. In other words, they were designed to both look beautiful and to reveal some aspect of the Lord’s glory. These garments included a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. The most highly skilled artisans in all Israel were commissioned to create them. Once the day of consecration arrived, Aaron and his sons were dressed in the most beautiful and highly technical attire the world had ever seen, but as they approached the altar, something quite striking took place. An innocent ram was killed, it’s flesh offered upon the altar, it’s blood mixed with anointing oil, and this mixture placed upon the Priest. Imagine how shocking to see the High Priest all dressed up, then have blood splattered upon his garments. No longer would our attention be drawn to his beautiful turban, breastplate or sash, now all we would notice was the stain.

God wanted the people, then and now, to understand that access to God is never based on what we try to do to earn it. All the skilled artisans on the planet could not create attire clean enough to grant access to God. Access to God is only granted when sin is covered by the blood of the innocent. This was symbolized by the blood stained garments of the Priests, and pointed to the time when Christ would make a way for all to have access to God.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The blood was also placed upon the ear, toe and thumb of the Priest. This was symbolic of a cleansing of all that he had done, and preparation for where he would go. How often have we laid our head on our pillows at night only to be consumed with guilt, for the things we have heard, seen or touched. We live in a fallen world, and sin is always around us. It is so comforting to know there is cleansing available to free us from sin and guilt.

Pastor Jim

Turntables 

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion for the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had been turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts  pointing people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim

Shipwrecked 

Exodus 8:9-10
“And Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.’
So he said, ‘Tomorrow.’” 

Sin is a insidious beast. It allures us with promises of pleasure, while actually driving its nails deep into our flesh, until we are hooked like a bear in trap. Even when we are tired of its guilt, pain and dire consequences, sin still seems to hold on to us, with a grip stronger than we can break. We find ourselves, like Pharaoh, surrounded by frogs yet crying out for just one more night.

I am reminded of an ancient legend where sailors were allured toward an island by the beautiful music sung by enchanted women. The music was so seductive that the sailors would turn the ships toward the land and crash into the jagged shores. One captain, wanting to avoid destruction, put wax in the sailors ears so they could not hear the music, another chose to play a flute with a melody more beautiful than the singing of the women. His men were no longer tempted, because his music was far better.

In our struggle against sin, one of the most effective ways to ensure victory is to listen to the promises of God, above the deceptive promises of sin. When once we taste the sweetness of His joy and peace, the empty lure of sin will weaken its grip upon us, and we will find ourselves not longing for one more night with the frogs

Pastor Jim

 

Offering

Genesis 4:2-5
“Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

As the drama of Genesis unfolds we are introduced to two sons of Adam and given a glimpse into their lives and occupations. Abel the younger was a shepherd while his older brother Cain was a farmer. It was not their occupations but their character that determined their destinies. We read that Abel brought an offering of the flocks while Cain brought the fruit of the ground and that God respected Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. The question we must answer is why? What was wrong with Cain’s offering?

Two things stand out to me from the story. First off, back in the garden God had already shown that He rejected fig leaves as an acceptable covering for sin. Instead He established a system of substitutionary sacrifice. This system will be further developed throughout Scripture but will never change. We will see it in the levitical system established at Sinai and it will have its ultimate fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Never will the work of our own hands be a sufficient covering for sin.

The second aspect of this story that stands out is the reason a substitute is necessary. Cain brought the fruit of the ground because he did not understand the far reaching effects of sin. He looked at his crops that represented hours of care and labor and thought they were an acceptable offering. This was because he failed to see that they were grown in fallen dirt. As good as those vegetables may have been, at their core they bore marks of the fall. The same is true with all works. My very best efforts are always tainted with sin.

From the beginning God established a way for sinful man to have relationship with Him and from the beginning men have been trying to come their own way. The way to God is paved for us by the cross, entrance is a simple as trusting that Jesus died in our place. Isn’t it time to trust in Christ instead of clinging to your own goodness as a means to access God.

It has been and always will be about His amazing grace

Jim

  

Jim Gallagher

Genesis 4:2-5
“Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

As the drama of Genesis unfolds, we are introduced to two of the sons of Adam and given a glimpse into their lives and occupations. Abel, the younger, was a shepherd, while his older brother Cain was a farmer. It was not their occupations, but their character that determined their destinies. We read, Abel brought an offering of the flocks, while Cain brought the fruit of the ground; God respected Abel’s…

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Stain Removal

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems like salespeople will make the most preposterous claims, just to make a sale. We hear of miracle products that have the ability to get stains out of anything. The problem is, when we use the product, it rarely meets their claims or our expectations. No matter how hard we work, the kool-aid stain remains imbedded in the carpet, and the grease is still on the collar of your favorite shirt.
While a lot of different things will leave a mark, there is nothing that stains as deeply as sin. It mars our conscious, our inter-personal relationships, our families, our witness, and even our ability to hear from the Lord. Isaiah wrote, it is not that God’s arms are too short to reach, but that our sins have separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). We learn from the account of Adam and Eve, one sin is so powerful it can forever alter our lives and our destinies. For the stain of sin to be removed we need a cleansing agent that is more powerful than sin itself. Zechariah promises, there is a fountain where all sin can be cleansed and man can be restored to fellowship with God.

Zechariah 13:1
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

It seems that after Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, a fountain will be erected in Jerusalem, symbolizing the cleansing work of Christ. While we have to wait until then to see the fountain, there is no need to wait to have our sins washed away. Jesus, Himself, through His death, provided a fountain that flows continuously; always providing cleansing for even the most heinous of sins. It is at this fountain that the thief, the murderer, the cheat, the deceiver, the liar, the home wrecker, and everyone else can come, be washed, forgiven, and restored into relationship with God. Hymn writer William Cowper wrote,

“There is a fountain filled with blood 
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; 
And sinners plunged beneath that flood 
Lose all their guilty stains.”

Will you plunge into the fountain of forgiveness that is provided for us at the cross? Will you allow all your stains to be removed, in the precious atoning blood of Christ? Forgiveness is ours for the asking.

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

Pastor Jim

 

Curses

Zechariah 5:2-3
“And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I answered, ‘I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth…'”

hqdefault-1.jpgOver the years, Hollywood has gone to elaborate ends to depict the results of a curse. The storyline of the hit movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is built upon the fact that a group of pirates stole enchanted treasure and were forced to live forever under its curse. The curse forced them to live forever, without taste or feeling.

The Bible teaches we are actually under the curse of sin. Paul explained, it was Adam’s disobedience which brought sin into the world, and each of us have followed in Adam’s footsteps by living a life of sin. Our nature causes us to sin, and our sinful actions condemn us to a life divorced from God. If this condition is not repaired we will end up eternally separated from God.

The message of the Bible is a message of redemption. From the very beginning, it tells the story of God providing a means for sin to be pardoned, and the strength of the curse broken. After fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, written over a period of fifteen centuries, Jesus paid the ultimate price to free us from sin’s curse.

Paul put it this way,

Galatians 3:10
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'”

Galatians 3:13
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written,’Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)”

Any of us, who have broken the least of God’s commands, are condemned under the curse of sin. If you have ever lied, taken something that does not belong to you, coveted someone else’s stuff, become angry without cause or looked at a woman with lustful eyes, then you are sitting under sin’s curse. The only force strong enough to break the curse of sin, is the power of God; that was demonstrated on the cross. It was there, on that tree, that Christ bore the curse for us,so we could bear the righteousness of God, and be free.

The only means of escaping the curse of sin,is to receive the forgiveness of Christ. Have you accepted His generous offer? Will you ask Christ to pardon you and give you eternal life?It is free for the asking.

Pastor Jim

 

 

The Exception 

Nahum 3:8
Are you better than No Amon that was situated by the River, that had the waters around her, whose rampart was the sea, whose wall was the sea?”

It is remarkable how we all think we are the exception to the rule. We believe wrong should be made right, injustice should be corrected, and sin should be punished, but we also believe that our wrongs are not that bad and should be overlooked. This is not a modern problem this is a human problem. Almost three thousand years ago, the inhabitants of Nineveh thought they could go on behaving however they wanted and would not face the judgment of God. They believed, others deserved it, but they themselves, were not as bad as their neighbors.

I few years ago, a man came into the church office bearing the marks of the abuse of alcohol and other substances. He was upset at how others were mistreating him. He went on a tirade against our town, at how unfair others were, and demanded that we give him some money. Without any regard for his own wrongs, he was quick to bring charges against us. When I began to address the issues in his life, he stormed out of the office, freely sharing how he now felt about me.

While this is perhaps an extreme example, it reminds us how easy it is to focus on the faults of others, while neglecting what is wrong with us. This is the type of behavior that keeps us from becoming the people God desires us to be, and destroys relationships. Jesus told us, that instead of focusing on the wrong in others, we should take the plank out of our own eye (Matthew 7:1-5). In other words, we need to deal with what is wrong with us first and foremost. It is right to be upset by the immorality that is rampantly displayed on TV and the big screen, but we cannot do so while neglecting to address the issues in our own lives.

Pastor Jim