Tested 

Psalms 105:19
“…The word of the Lord tested him.”

This psalm recounts the faithfulness of God during the days of the patriarchs. After mentioning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Psalmist reminds us of the struggles Joseph faced after being sold into slavery by his own brothers. We know he experienced betrayal, beating, false accusations and imprisonment. Each trial he faced was a means by which the Word of God put him to the test.

We face similar experiences that put us to the test. When we face heartache, confusion, difficulty or disappointment, we are essentially being put to the test by the promises of God. We are left to decide if we will trust in the scattered array of emotions we face, or in the ever changing experiences of life, or in the unchanging promises of God. Down through the ages, saints have faced extremely difficult experiences. Some have allowed these to undo their faith and even sideline them from their Master’s service. Others have chosen to cling to the promises of God, allowing them to provide comfort and direction, as they continue following Christ. There is little question that we will face trials in life. It is important that we realize,  the promises of God can stand the test of trials. God will be faithful to His word, and His promises will carry you through till the end.

Pastor Jim

 

Fallen In 

Psalms 7:15
“He made a pit and dug it out, 
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.”

If we were writing a comedic screenplay, we might want to include a character who designs an elaborate trap, only to unwittingly catch himself. While it might be quite humorous on the big screen, it is tragic in the real world. The psalmist reminds us,  one of the consequences of wicked living is, in the long run, we are actually setting a trap for ourselves. The day is coming when the cage will swing shut, and we will find ourselves enslaved by the very thing we were toying with. This happened to Samson who fooled around with Delilah, telling her to braid his hair or tie him up with new ropes. As time went on, he found himself enslaved to the Philistines. It happened to David, who fooled around with Bathsheba, first watching her bath then flirting with her. He soon found himself enslaved by his lust and caught in an ungodly relationship that had devastating effects upon his family. And it will happen to us, if we toy around with sin. Each time we dabble in unrighteous behavior, it is like putting the shovel in the ground. Day after day, the hole gets bigger until one day we find ourselves caught in a trap we dug for ourselves.

Fortunately, this does not have to be our end. If we have not yet been enslaved, there is still time to turn from our sin, and allow the Lord to restore us to Himself. While it may have taken a long time to drift from the Lord, we can be restored in a moment of time. We simply need to confess our sin, turn from it, and to Him. When we do, He will begin to fill the hole so we don’t become ensnared in it. But what if you are in the trap? Understand, there is still hope for you. No matter how far you have fallen, the arms of God are long enough to reach you. Cry out to Him to forgiveness and to deliverance . David wrote about how God brought him out of a pit, set his feet upon a rock, and even put a new song of praise in his mouth.
Pastor Jim

 

Watch Your Step 

Hosea 8:11
“Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.”

Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was Sherlock Holmes. As most of us know, he was a detective from London who used his keen skill of observation to solve crimes. Often, when he would uncover a clue, he would declare, “It’s elementary my dear Watson.” Which was an underhanded way of stating that what he discovered was obvious to anyone who would take the time to look. Hosea makes a statement that Holmes would find elementary, he declares that if a person builds an altar for sin, he will find it leads him into sin.

As obvious as this principle seems, we sometimes lose sight of its simplicity. Often, when we fall spiritually, we look around puzzled as to how that could have happened. If however, we took the time to look back, we would find our fall was inevitable, because of the steps we were taking. We must always remember, if we make a way to sin, we will end up sinning.

The secret to success is to remove the things which make sinning easy. We need to do those things that make sinning more difficult, and doing what is right easier. That is what the building blocks of Christian living provide. The Word, prayer, fellowship, worship, and service are designed to help us grow in Christ, and make sinning more difficult. We only have so much time, if that time is spent building ourselves up in Christ, we will in turn have less time to be drawn after the things that lead to sin.

Perhaps it would help to ask yourself, what things you can take out of your daily life that will make it more difficult to sin?

Pastor Jim

 

Healthy Fears 

Ezekiel 32:10
“Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.”

A few years ago, I heard the tragic news that another, once powerful Christian leader, had fallen into sin. I was immediately reminded of a statement David made when he heard the news of King Saul’s death. He declared,

2 Samuel 1:19 “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” 

I began to ask myself, “How is it that the mighty fall?” As I pondeed the question, I realized that the mighty fall the same way that the rest of us fall. Once we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will begin to sink, just like Peter did after taking only a few steps on the waters of the Galilee. The key to staying upright is to keep our eyes fixed on Christ.

Since Jesus no longer physically walks the earth, one of the key ways to keep our eyes on Him, is to read our Bibles and to do what it says. This was the downfall of King Saul. He had clearly heard from the Word of God what he was supposed to do, but time and time again, he refused. He refused to obey the command of God regarding the Amalekites, the sacrifices, and regarding David. It was not long before his heart had grown so hard he was no longer able to clearly identify the voice of the Lord. It was his willful disobedience that led to his downfall.

What we need to realize is, the same thing is true of every one of us. If Saul, later David, and many modern saints, who once battled successfully for the kingdom of heaven, have fallen in the battle, we should be terrified by the truth that this could happen to us as well. This terror should stir us to cling to Christ in daily obedience to His word.

Pastor Jim

 

Mr. Fix It

Job 34:16
“If you have understanding, hear this; listen to the sound of my words.”

Elihu was a young man considering the discussion between Job and his three friends. He listened meticulously to the arguments, and seemed to accurately sum up the problem. Job, while not the man his friends were painting him to be, was guilty of charging God with iniquity. Elihu points out, God is not guilty of unrighteousness for the way He treats man. God’s goal is to awaken men to their need of a Savior. If a temporal affliction will awaken us to our eternal needs, God is certainly justified in His actions. Much of what Elihu shares is both Biblical and true, the problem is, it lacks any semblance of compassion.

Ephesians 4:15 “. . .but, speaking the truth in love. . . ”

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

It is common to be judgmental over another’s failures, then to elevate ourselves above them. When this happens, we tend to lose compassion. This is particularly true when someone struggles with a sin that doesn’t trouble us, or which we have had victory over. Looking down on others causes us to be unsympathetic. The first words a wounded soldier hears should not be an accounting of what he did wrong, but rather, you are there to help him up. Once his wounds are attended to, we can instruct him on the way to avoid getting shot again. Paul gives us direction on how to minister to those who are struggling,

Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Step one: be spiritual. If we are going to offer any aid to others, we must be sure we are abiding in Christ. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the best thing Christian did for his family was to go hard after the Lord.

Step two: we need to recognize the need in others. This requires that we keep our eyes open, come along side the wounded Christian, and help get him back on track.

Step three: we need to be compassionate. Paul uses the word gentle. We need to be gentle with things that are fragile. When Christians have stumbled, they are delicate. It is possible they may return to effectively walking with the Lord. We want to do all we can to help them get up, and keep on going.

Step four: consider yourself. There are some areas of sin to which we are personally prone. We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn down that path. If going after another will put you in a situation which guarantees personal failure, you need to protect yourself. Perhaps a good solution is to follow the pattern of Jesus, who sent His disciples out in pairs. Before going after the fallen, grab a Christian friend, pray, and head out in gentleness.

Pastor Jim

 

For The Gospel’s Sake 

1 Corinthians 9:23
Now this I do for the gospel’s sake…”

When writing to the Romans, Paul explained, the message of the Gospel has the power to save the sinner. It is when a person humbles himself and accepts that Jesus Christ died to do away with his sin, that he is saved. In order for a person to come to saving faith, he must hear the message and see the reality of it worked out in the life of the believer. Paul, understanding the importance of the Gospel, explains to the Corinthians the things he was willing to forgo, so others would hear about Christ and believe in Him.

First, he speaks of personal freedoms he was willing to lay aside. In his case, he chose to support himself rather than being supported by the church. Others had misrepresented the Lord by making Christian service look like a means of making a buck. To combat this, Paul made certain, while he was in Corinth, money was not the focus of the ministry.

Second, he speaks of becoming “all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” Paul is in no way suggesting that he is compromising the message of the Gospel, or his Christian witness. Instead, he is speaking of being relevant to those whom he is seeking to reach. One way Paul did this was by speaking to be understood. His goal, as a pastor, was not to use such eloquence as to show the world how brilliant he was, but to speak with such simplicity as to be sure the message was clearly understood. He was also careful not to do things that would turn others unnecessarily away from Christ. He saw the big picture. He understood that many of the views, and lifestyle choices people were involved in, were as a result of not knowing Jesus. Instead of making it his aim to change the behavior of the unbeliever, he sought to introduce them to Christ, who would transform their thinking and their living.

Third, Paul spoke of disciplining himself. He realized, one way to undo all his efforts in Corinth, was to personally get involved in sin, thus “blowing his witness.” To guard against this, he treated his Christian life the way an Olympian treats his body. Knowing that success only comes with training, diet and discipline, Paul was sure to have a healthy diet of time with Jesus, study of the Word, and Christian fellowship, while at the same time keeping unnecessary temptation out of his life.

Finally, Paul writes, “When I have preached to others…” The Gospel is seen when we live like Christ. However, it is primarily, hearing and not seeing the gospel, that leads others to faith in Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” ( Romans 10:17) To ensure that others came to Christ, Paul opened his mouth and declared the simple message of salvation by grace through faith.

Paul wrote, all this was done for the sake of the Gospel. It would do us all good to ask, “What am I doing for the sake of the Gospel?”

Pastor Jim

 

Liberty

1 Corinthians 8:13
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

One of the controversies the Church in Corinth faced had to do with diet. Animals were offered to pagan gods, then the meat was sold at the local butcher shops. This created a real problem for many Christians. For some, their conscience bothered them knowing that the animal was offered to false gods, while for others the issue was much more tangible. Since the butcher shops were often located close to the temples, and the temples were places of sinful activity, some knew that visiting that area would lead them right back into sin. For others, the idol issue was something of their past, and they had no problem eating the meat with thanksgiving. To them, it mattered very little what the farmer did with the animal, since they received it with thanksgiving as from the Lord.

Paul points out that the issue was much bigger than what a person has for lunch, or where they choose to go to dinner. The bigger picture was the conflict between Christian liberties and the law of love. Webster defines liberty as, “the power to do as one pleases.” As Christians, we are free to practice anything that is not forbidden by the Word of God. While there are some movies whose content certainly puts them in the category of forbidden, Christians do have the liberty to attend movies. The same could be said of television, music, and the Internet. However, there are some who, because of their past experience, or recent decision for the Lord, would stumble if they practiced the same liberties. It is here that Paul introduces a principle bigger than liberty, the principle of love.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

As much as Paul might have enjoyed a juicy steak, or French dip sandwich, he was willing to lay those aside for the sake of others. Rather than touting about his rights, or how ridiculous it was for them to make an issue over food, Paul saw everything as a means to minister to others. Every Christian has been called to invest in the lives of others, in order to make disciples. For that to happen, we have to be willing to set our freedoms aside for the sake of their growth. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Within the spiritual realm, we might better choose death over liberties for the sake of the Gospel. My freedom to do what I want with my time, could be laid aside, and I could choose to meet with a struggling believer for coffee and the study of the Word. My freedom to sit alone in service and reflect upon the message, could be set aside to sit with a visitor, or someone I know might be struggling or lonely. My freedom to watch the service online from the comfort of my couch, might be set aside to show up early and help get the church ready for others, or to teach a child’s class.

When we set the law of love above the law of liberty, we will see others impacted for the kingdom of God.

Time is short, eternity is forever…

Pastor Jim