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

 

Speak Up

Psalms 64:2-3
“Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words”

David found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of carefully planned attacks. Like an army of well-trained soldiers who had rejected God, they came against the righteous. Their weapon of choice was not the sword, spear, bow or staff, but the tongue. Things have not changed much. The most effective weapon against the righteous today is the tongue. If a person takes a stand against the unrighteous trends that are being heralded as freedoms in our world today, they will receive an onslaught of verbal attacks. Should you decide to boldly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ, calling sinners to turn to God, you will need to be ready to hide beneath the shelter of the Almighty, because attacks will come. This is not a new phenomenon, the early church experienced the same things. As they declared the message of Christ, those with the loudest voice sought to silence their message.

Acts 4:17 “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

Instead of cowering under the threats, the church gathered together and sought the Lord to embolden them to share Christ, regardless of the consequences.

Acts 4:29 “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.”

The times we are living in are not times to be silent. The world is in a downward spiral because the devil wants to destroy the lives of all men. People are being led into destructive lifestyles that will have life long consequences, and we need to boldly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it alone has the power to save.

Perhaps more than ever, we need to remember the words of Jesus,

Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Pastor Jim

Guard My Tongue

Psalm 39:1-3
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me. I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue:'”

There are times in life when words seem like a raging fire building within us and we are almost forced to speak. This can be positive, like when Jeremiah wrote of being so discouraged he no longer wanted to share the words of God with anyone, until those words became like a fire within him and he could no longer  contain them. Or this can be negative, like when gossip burns within us, pleading to be passed on to others; or when in the midst of an argument, we lash out with hurtful words that shatter someone we love.

Perhaps we can learn something from the pen of David. He wrote,  at those times he restrained himself by putting a muzzle on his tongue. I doubt David is speaking literally of a mechanism that restrained his mouth from moving. I think, instead, he set guidelines for his life that restricted him from saying foolish or hurtful things. We can do the same. The bible gives us some valuable guidelines which will help us control what comes out of our mouths. We can use the following verses like a muzzle, to keep us from sinning with our mouths.

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

1 Peter 3:9 “. . . not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Proverbs 11:13  “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”

Proverbs 15:1  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Pastor Jim

 

Sound Of Silence 

Malachi 4:4
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.”

The book of Malachi brings the Old Testament to a close. For a period of 1,100 years God at various times and in diverse manners spoke to His people through the prophets. That time had now concluded and for the next 400 years heaven was silent. It was not until the angel appeared to Zechariah and Elizabeth, that this silence was broken. Knowing that this time was coming, God exhorted the people to think back upon His written Word.

Our walk with God is sometimes like that. We are confused regarding a decision we are trying to make. We pray, fast, and seek counsel from others, but we seem to be met with silence from above. When this silence lingers, it can often lead to discouragement and even to doubt. I think it is important to keep in mind, that God allows those times in our lives so we will learn to cling to His Word. Times of silence are designed to cause us to exalt His promises and rest upon them. God exalts His Word above His own name, and desires that we learn to do the same. The most powerful and most trustworthy things in all of life, are the promises found tucked away in the pages of your Bible. Sadly, many of those pages remain unturned, and we are left discouraged when we should be filled with hope, help, direction and strength. If you are facing a silent season in your life, be sure to follow the advice of Malachi, and reflect upon the promises of God.

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

 

Did You Hear That?

Titus 2:1
“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine”

The purpose of the teachings of God’s Word is not simply information. We should not expect a test when we arrive in heaven or a pop quiz along the way. Instead, we learn the Word so we might behave right. Sound doctrine must lead us to sound living. Elsewhere, we read of the doctrine that accords with godliness. When our understanding of God is correct, we will worship, live, act, react and speak in ways that are pleasing to God. Here, Paul exhorts Titus to speak properly. While proper speaking would include praise, evangelism, and encouraging others, it also avoids gossip, slander, backbiting and complaining. Paul is referring specifically to the things Titus would be teaching within the church. He divides the body into groups based upon age, gender and vocation; encouraging proper behavior from each of them.

It is clear from this chapter that Paul expected believers to minister to believers. Titus would be responsible for teaching the people, the people would be responsible to minister to one another, and to share Christ with others. A couple of key principles of ministry are woven through the text.

First, Paul exhorted the older believers to minister to younger ones. That is, those who have walked with the Lord and gone through the experiences of life, should be seeking to assist those who are new to the faith, or not as far along on the journey. What a blessing it is when those who have raised their families, now serve in Children’s Ministry, assisting the children of the young families. It is such a benefit when a more mature believer takes the time to disciple a younger Christian; investing time by taking them into the Word and prayer.

Second, Paul reminds us that the way we live will either impede or empower the things we share. He warns of the Word of God being blasphemed by wrong behavior. The gospel message cannot be communicated without words. Paul asked the Romans “how will they hear without a preacher?” We must courageously share Christ with our friends, family and co-workers, but words alone are not enough, we must live it. The world wants to see Christianity, not just hear about it. They should see it in the way we treat them, each other, and especially our families. Paul speaks of the relationship between the young husband and wife. When that relationship is godly, others will be attracted to the Lord.

Finally, Paul wrote, women should minister to women, and men to men. That is a pretty good rule of thumb for ministry. I think it is a good idea for men to get plugged into men’s groups, and women into the women’s study. While we can grow without personal relationships, it is my experience that our growth is enhanced when we take the time to establish relationships with others of the same gender, and dig into the Word together.

Pastor Jim

Answers

2 Thessalonians 1:1
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .”

The Thessalonian Christians were going through great difficulties. Paul speaks of the tribulations and persecutions they were forced to endure. He also refers to sufferings, and their ultimate rest from these things will not happen until they are in the presence of the Lord. They are not alone in the these difficulties. Paul wrote to Timothy, explaining, “All who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus explained, in this world we would face tribulation, but He was greater than the world (John 16:33). It is the lot of all Christians to experience difficulties that try the genuineness of our faith. What strikes me, is not that they were facing trials, but that they received answers from the Lord. This entire letter is God speaking to the Thessalonians regarding the difficulties they are forced to endure.

“To the church of the Thessalonians…”

We are often faced with trials that test our faith and cause us to cry out for answers. One of the most common questions we ask is simply, “Why?” Why am I experiencing this difficulty. Why, if God is loving and powerful, am I forced to endure such struggles? There are certain questions we will not find an adequate answer for until heaven. There are times when the only way to hear from God is to follow the example of Habakkuk, and get alone with Him and His word (Habakkuk 2:1). There are also times when the answer comes in corporate worship. Since their experience of persecution and hardship was common to all, the answer was found in a message to the entire church. Imagine what a blessing it must have been, when they met that Sunday to listen to this letter for the first time, and they heard a message from God directed toward their circumstances.

I have found corporate worship to be like that. It is not uncommon for me to experience God speaking directly to the concerns of my life, as I sit in church worshipping and studying of the Word. As a pastor, I am often accused of “spying” on the people (as they poke fun at me) after a message that so directly addressed the things they are experiencing, or even the conversations they have been having about following Jesus. The message the Thessalonians heard may not have been exactly what they wanted (I am sure they wished it left out words like tribulation), but it was exactly what they needed to hear, and was tailored in heaven, specifically to enable them to persevere on earth. I think this is one of the major purposes of the church, and why it is so dangerous to neglect regular fellowship and the study of the Word.

Allow me to encourage you to make a commitment to be in regular attendance at a healthy, Bible-teaching fellowship. Answers await, as you gather to feast at the table of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim