God Fights For Me 

Psalm 35:1
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me.

We cannot be sure the exact situation that stirred David to write this Psalm, but we do know that he seemed to be under continual attack. From the start, he had to deal with those who continually came against him. His father neglected him, his brothers tormented him, the Giants ridiculed him, the king hunted him, and the neighboring nations sent armies to attack him. As a result, it would be fair to say  David was an expert on warfare and he knew how to fight on many different fronts. In this Psalm, he reveals the secret behind his success. When under attack, David looked to God for defense.

Most of us are not reading this from a foxhole or from behind enemy lines. We probably are not distracted by the sound of mortar blasts or gunfire, but that does not mean that we are not under severe attack. Paul told the Corinthian church  that the warfare we are engaged in is not natural but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:2-3 and Ephesians 6:12). We are under constant attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are under constant pressure to give in to a little sin and to conform to the world. When we fail, we face a new battle, dealing with the guilt of sin and trying to free ourselves from its grip. Like David, it is time we learn to look to God to be our defense. The greater the intensity of the temptation, the more it is necessary to cling to the Lord and stand behind Him as our shield. If you are in the midst of a particularly trying season of life, it is essential that you learn to make the Lord your hiding place. His Word works as a shield and a sword. Find a promise that relates to your struggle, hide behind it, and use it against the enemy whenever he hurls temptation, fear, depression, guilt or any other weapon your way. God is our defense, He will fight our battles for us. We can find victory when we learn to trust in Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Thoughts

Proverbs 16:3
“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Paul referred to the believer as a soldier, and compared the Christian life to a battle ground. One of the reasons the Christian life is often difficult, is because we are fighting on two fronts. A large part of our battle is seeking to see others impacted for the Kingdom of God. We enter the arena to fight whenever we pray for the unsaved or the backslider. Scripture tells us our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty and able to pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). The weapons we have been given are prayer, the Word of God and our personal testimony. When those are used together, we will find that we become effective in impacting others for the kingdom of God.

The other front on which the Christian engages in battle is within. We are told the devil shoots fiery darts into the mind of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). The darts often take the form of fear, doubt, lust, envy, covetousness, pride or even self-loathing. If we are going to succeed in our walk with the Lord, we must win in the battlefield of the mind. Solomon’s insights here give us a tactical advantage.

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Jesus explained that our actions will be produced by what is in our hearts (Matthew 15:17-19). Solomon adds, our actions will produce what goes on in our minds. If everyday, you choose to drive by the new car lot and stare at the cars on the showroom floor, it is no wonder you will have a great longing for a new car. You will find yourself unsatisfied with your current mode of transportation and preoccupied with how to get that new car. Choosing a different route to work, where you do not see the new cars everyday, will lessen the temptation. Wanting a new car is not necessarily sinful, but it illustrates the principle Solomon is presenting. If we are going to win the battle against temptations of the flesh, we must win the battle in the mind. If we are going to win the battle of the mind, we must make some changes in our actions. If we are constantly filling the mind with images that produce the desires of the flesh, we will never win that battle.

Let’s make sure that today we,

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Pastor Jim

 

Fasting 

Daniel 10:2-3
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”

Daniel finds himself in a place where he desperately needs direction from the Lord. He has seen the spiritual condition of the nation and knows that the only hope for his people is a work of God. He determines to set himself to seeking the Lord. Along with daily prayer and digging into the Scriptures, Daniel chooses to set out upon a voluntary fast.

Fasting is a spiritual exercise that involves denying the body physical things in order to focus attention on spiritual things. Fasting is often associated with both prayer and personal repentance, and is designed to bring us into step with what God wants to do in and through our lives.

Technically, fasting is to restrict yourself from all food for a period of time, but actually,  a person can fast from just about anything. Here Daniel has chosen to restrict himself from “pleasant food.” Because of his age, it is likely he ate something each day, but limited it to absolute necessity. We can follow his example by setting aside something that tends to occupy a lot of our time, and give that to the Lord. Today, one of the most valuable fasts may be to give up social media for a week and use the time to pray and read the Bible.

Whatever we choose to fast from, we should understand that much of the value of fasting is to train the flesh to say no. The same drives that compel me to eat, also tempt me to do what is forbidden, or to react in an ungodly manner. If I can resist the flesh’s desire for a cupcake, I can learn to resist its desire to complain, lash out in anger, or to be right all the time.

Why not choose to fast this week? Perhaps you will set aside food for a few days, or maybe there is something else that you can lay down for a while and give that time to seeking the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Achilles’ Hill

Ezekiel 6:11

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, “Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”‘”

When I read of the fall of Judah I am reminded of Achilles, who was one of the more famous characters in Greek mythology. He was the central figure of Homer’s Iliad, and the hero of the Trojan wars. The legend tells the story of Achilles, who was held by the ankle and dipped in the river Styx, providing him with supernatural protection in battle. As a result, his only weakness was his ankle that was not covered by the magical waters. It was this weakness that ultimately cost him his life.

Unlike the story of Achilles, Israel truly had supernatural protection. The great armies of Egypt, Canaan, and Assyria were no match for a nation who received its protection from the Lord. Their safety was never in their vast armies, high walls, or military ingenuity. It was the Lord, who was a mighty fortress protecting His people against their foes.

Tragically, Israel had an Achilles’ heel; an area of weakness that would ultimately destroy the nation. That weakness was their wandering heart. Like Samson of old, their strength lie in their commitment to the Lord. Each time they set aside the Word of God and picked up another practice of the surrounding nations, they came one step closer to their fall. Over the years they had come to the brink of disaster, only to call upon God, receive his mercy, and in essence, a stay of execution. This mercy caused them to misunderstand God and sin, thinking of themselves as indestructible. Even with the Babylonian army encamped about the city, they still foolishly thought deliverance would come. What they failed to realize was, sin will weaken an individual and a nation.

As a child of God, you are protected against the wiles of the devil. All of his attacks are shielded by the grace of God. There is no weapon formed against us that can prevail (Isaiah 54:17). That, however, does not mean we are indestructible. That does not give us license to sin or compromise, thinking we cannot be defeated. Like Achilles and Israel, we all have a weakness and that weakness is sin. The solution is to remove it from our lives and cling tighter to the promises of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Testing Testing 123

Jeremiah 27:14
“Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you”

Not everyone who speaks is telling the truth. A salesman may tell you what he thinks you want to hear, rather that what is factual. A friend may tell you what they think is kind, so as not to hurt your feelings or damage the relationship. This principle is important to grasp, especially as it relates to those who claim to have the answer to spiritual questions. Just because a person showed up in Judah wearing a white robe, carrying a staff and speaking loudly, did not mean he was a prophet. In the same way, just because a person has an opinion about eternal life, godliness or spirituality, does not mean their opinion is valid. The litmus test used in Scripture to determine if a person was truly a prophet was the Word of God. Paul wrote,

1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

During my years as a high school teacher I wrote, administered, and graded a lot of tests. One common form of testing was to use a “scan-tron.” Before grading the test I would make an answer key, all other tests would be compared to this one. It was the standard by which all answers were compared. When it comes to determining the validity of someone’s claims about Christ, life, death, eternity, godliness, sin tolerance, righteousness, etc. we need to use the Word of God as the answer key. It is not what I think that is the highest standard, but rather what God has revealed in the pages of His Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Mr. Fix It 

2 Chronicles 29:9
“For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity.”

When Hezekiah assumed the throne, the nation of Judah was experiencing difficult times. The Assyrian forces had defeated most of the nations surrounding them, and the threat of Judah being overthrown was a daily reality. All eyes were fixed upon the king. What would he do to protect his people? Hezekiah realized the natural problems needed a spiritual solution. He knew the best defense for the nation would be found in turning back to the Lord, so he called the people to “sanctify themselves.” Sanctify means to set apart. The cure to what ailed the nation was to set themselves apart to the Lord.

I can almost hear those who would complain saying, “Hezekiah we need real world solutions, what are you going to do to protect us against the enemies?” As the story continues to unfold, we will see that Hezekiah did what no other nation was able to do. He led his people to victory over the Assyrians. So striking was this defeat, that Babylon sent delegates to learn Judah’s foreign policy.

I think Hezekiah was on to something. He realized what we often fail to see; almost all natural problems have a spiritual solution. No matter what we might be facing, we will have a better chance of victory when we choose to draw near to the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Independence 

2 Chronicles 10:4
“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Solomon’s expansive building projects did not come cheaply, and had a devastating effect upon the nation of Israel. The people sat under a heavy yoke of taxation. After Solomon’s death, the people had enough. They sought relief from the tax burden the government had imposed on the nation. Young King Rehoboam, in his arrogance, believed the government knew better than the people, and rather than relief, he promised an increase in the tax burden, and workload of the people. His words drove the citizens to rebel against his leadership, and resulted in ten of the twelve “states”  separating from the union. The northern tribes formed a new nation, and this became their independence day. Having experienced a heavy yoke, they broke away in order to have freedom. Sadly, the northern tribes never experienced true freedom. Soon after the nation was formed, they set up a system of idolatry, leading the people into a bondage that was much worse than the taxation they had experienced. Their example speaks volumes to us about bondage and true freedom.

The Bible explains, man is in bondage to sin and can only be set free by trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. His sinless sacrifice is the means to setting us free from the bondage of sin, death, and hell. True freedom is found, not when we consider ourselves to be free to behave however we want, but rather, when we are set free from the power of sin, and able to live lives that bring honor and glory to God.

“He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Pastor Jim