Giving Up To Gain

Mark 8:35
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

A paradox is a statement that seems contradictory or opposed to common sense, but is true. The statement Jesus reveals is one of life’s greatest paradoxes. Man was created to know God. Jesus said that He came to “give us life and that more abundantly” (John 10:10). When our lives are lived in complete obedience to the Lord, we experience the height of living. When we hold back, unwilling to give ourselves, our time, or some sinful activity, we think we are gaining, we think we are better off. However, that very thing we are holding onto, is the very thing keeping us from the abundant life Jesus created for us.

Knowing this, Jesus asks two questions; first, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

If true life is found in surrender to Christ, then what would be the benefit of holding onto all the world offers? Imagine if your phone was to ring this morning, and on the other end of the call were all the world leaders. They had decided the best thing for mankind was to make you king of the world. You get the title, the robe, the crown, the chair, and all the world’s goods are now yours. You possess all the wealth and all the power of the whole world. There is nothing you cannot have. The catch… you must deny Jesus. You can have this life but not eternal life. That my friends is a losing proposition. The right response is to hang up the phone.

Knowing that will not happen; knowing that no man has ever gained the whole world, Jesus asks a second question,

“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

You cannot have everything, so is there anything you are holding onto that is robbing you from the life Jesus has for you?Perhaps a relationship you thought would satisfy you, so you began to compromise your walk with the Lord; only to find that it is robbing you of the life found in Christ. Whatever it may be, anything you are holding onto, lay it all down and follow Christ.

Pastor Jim

What’s In Your Hand? 

Exodus 4:2
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’  He said, ‘A rod.’”

This passage has always encouraged me. We find Moses wanting some evidence that God had truly called him, and God chooses to take what was in Moses’ hand and use it in a miraculous way. He did the same thing with the twelve when all they had was five loaves and two fish. He did it with David, when he entered the valley with a sling and a rock. He will do it with us, when we will offer who we are and what we have, for His service.

There are some stories in Scripture that I relate to more than others. However, when Joshua runs toward the Angel of the Lord, or when Abraham rises early to offer his son, I am not sure I picture myself responding in quite the same way. I think I would fit right in with Moses in this account,though. Even after God promises to use what is in his hand, and goes so far as to demonstrate how He would use him, Moses still doubts. I think it is a matter of perspective. Moses looked at how weak he was, while God looked at how strong He is.

If we want God to take what is in our hands and use it for His glory, we must be willing to trust that His strength is always revealed in our weakness. Instead of focussing upon what we cannot do, it is time to focus on what He can do.

Take some time to pray about how God may want to use you, especially in your local church.

Pastor Jim

 

Game Over 

Jeremiah 41:15
“But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the Ammonites.”

After conquering Judah and Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah governor over the people. He allowed many of the Jews to remain in the land, and gave them certain freedoms regarding their worship. Soon, those who had fled from Jerusalem, when the Babylonians forces first arrived, began to make their way back to the city. Many of them were faithful to a man named Ishmael, who secretly wanted to overthrow Gedaliah and Babylon.  He soon took action by going on a killing spree, putting to death all those he saw as faithful to the governor. His actions not only caused the death of many innocent men, but also turned Babylon against Jerusalem, and finally forced Ishmael to flee from Israel to the Ammonites.

This passage reminds me of the question Jesus asked His disciples. Recognizing that no man will ever gain the whole world, He inquired “What will a man give in exchange for His soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ) Ishmael was willing to murder to pursue his drive for power. He valued a position as more important than obedience to God. When his murderous tirade finally came to an end, he reigned for only a few short days, before he fled as a fugitive to a foreign land where he died in obscurity never to be heard from again.

The height of folly is to give up what will last forever in pursuit of what is only temporary. Like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup, Ishmael gave up eternity for a few days upon the throne. The missionary Jim Elliot once wrote “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

Pastor Jim

 

Way Of Life

Jeremiah 21:8
“Now you shall say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”‘”

The inhabitants of Judah had a choice to make. On the one hand, they had God’s way that carried a promise of life. On the other hand, they had their own way which could only lead to death.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

To make matters more difficult, the way that promised life included surrender to the Babylonians. Jeremiah declared that if they fought against the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, or if they fled from them, in an attempt to find safety somewhere else, they would die. The only hope for Judah was to surrender. Once surrendered, they would be captured, and once captured, they would ultimately become free. The paradox of surrender leading to freedom, was one the people could not grasp, so they fought against it to their own demise.

The same offer is made to every man. We have the choice of God’s way with the promise of life, or our own way that leads to death. Just as we face the same decision, we also face the same paradox. If we surrender to the Lord, we will find true life and freedom, if we refuse to surrender, we will continue to battle against the same struggles in life, over and over again. Jesus put it this way,

Mark 8:35 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

The choice is yours. Will you surrender to Christ and experience true life, or will you continue to fight against Him? The amazing thing is, all you are hoping to achieve by refusing Christ, is found in surrender to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Full Price

1 Chronicles 21:24
“Then King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.'”

When it comes to worship, we can learn much from King David. The longest book in the Bible is a book of praise songs, and David was its largest contributor. In addition to being a king and a prophet, he was also called the Sweet Psalmist of Israel. In our text, we find David bringing an offering to the Lord. Because of his position as king, Ornan offered him the field and the animals free of charge. Instead of accepting the gift, David made a statement that should become a foundational principle in our worship, “I will not offer that which cost me nothing.”

Worship is one of the highest expressions of our love for the Lord, and should be a costly exercise. We should not be giving the Lord only our excess or our leftovers. We should be offering our best, no matter what the cost. That does not mean we should go into debt to offer to the Lord, but it does mean, we should rethink our spending if we do not have enough to give to God. Worship is expressed when we deny ourself some earthly pleasure, in order to have something to offer the Lord.

David even took time to store up for future offering. In the next chapter we read,

1 Chronicles 22:14
“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the Lord one hundred thousand talents of gold and one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant…”

It would be worthwhile to take some time today to examine your checkbook and see what you have given to the Lord, and what has been spent on frivolous things. We live under grace and are free to enjoy the provision God has given us, but we should keep in mind, that Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Coming Soon! 

1 Chronicles 11:1-3
“Then all Israel came together to David at Hebron, saying, ‘Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. Also, in time past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the Lord your God said to you, “You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over My people Israel. “‘ Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord by Samuel.”

My father-in-law uses the phrase,“So soon,” to chide anyone who is late. I personally have heard the term more times than I care to admit. The basic idea behind it is “I am glad you are finally ready, but what took you so long.” I cannot help but think of that phrase as I read of David finally sitting upon the throne as king of all Israel.

It had been seven years since Saul and Jonathan tragically died in battle. A fraction of Israel rallied behind David, recognizing him as king, while the remainder of the nation clung to the family of Saul, and placed Ishbosheth on the throne. Those loyal to the family of Saul, fought desperately to keep Ishbosheth on the throne. After seven years of civil war “All Israel came to David at Hebron…,” finally recognizing him as Israel’s rightful king. By their own admission, they knew David was God’s chosen king. When they finally allowed God’s king to sit on their throne, the nation began to experience the fulfillment of the promises of God.

I wonder how many of us are currently fighting against God. We know He is our rightful King, but we stubbornly fight to sit on the throne of our lives. With each day, we refuse to surrender to Him, we are only doing harm to ourselves. Wouldn’t it be so much better to allow Him to have the reins of your life, rather than continuing to trot along on the path you have chosen. The fulfillment of the wonderful promises of God are all linked to allowing Christ to take His rightful place.

Pastor Jim

 

Part Way 

2 Kings 10:31
“But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.”

When Jehu became king of Israel, he went on a rampage against those who had been loyal to Ahab, and his ungodly ways. At first glance, he seemed to be purging the nation to get the people ready to follow and serve the Lord. However, as time went on, it became clear that Jehu was only willing to go part way with the Lord. He removed some things, but failed to replace them with good. Today, it is not difficult to find people who approach their relationship with God just like Jehu did. They are those who are willing to go part way with the Lord, making a few changes, but are not willing to surrender all.

Jesus spoke of those whose life is like seed planted in a field filled with weeds. The seed germinates, the plant grows, and fruit even begins to appear, but because of the weeds, the plant is ultimately choked out, and the fruit dies (Matthew 13:22). The simple application is, when we allow things to remain in our life that should be removed, those things will choke out our ability to grow in Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The Psalmist wrote, the Bible is like a light and a lamp. When we open it and begin to read, it will shine a light on our life and reveal things that need to be removed, and changes that need to be made. The question we want to ask ourselves is, “What is the light revealing in my life?” If we are willing to let it shine, and make the proper applications, we will find ourselves growing in Christ, and bearing the kind of fruit that leads to pleasing God, and living a blessed life.

Pastor Jim