Unite My Heart

Psalms 86:11
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

Uncertainty makes life difficult. There are times in each of our lives when we have been crippled by indecision. We struggled so long to make a decision, that the decision was ultimately made for us. In those times, we might say our problem was double-mindedness. We could not make a decision because we either wanted to go both directions or neither direction. James referred to that as being a double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The Psalmist refers to a problem even deeper than being double minded, he refers to the person whose heart is split between opposing desires.

Anyone who has walked with Christ for any length of time knows to what the Psalmist is referring. There are times when our desire to please God is overshadowed by a desire for something we know is wrong, or perhaps just a desire for comfort, ease or complacency. If we are going to move  into deeper intimacy with Jesus, and more effective service for His kingdom, we must have our hearts united with a single desire to do that which pleases Christ. The Psalmist links learning the ways of God with having a singleness of heart. The implication is that through regular intake of God’s word, we will develop a desire to live for the things that please God.

Will you join me in praying for a heart united with a desire to fear the Lord and do what is pleasing in His eyes?

Pastor Jim

 

Unattended Children 

Joel 1:3
“Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation.”

The days in which Joel lived were quite difficult. Israel was experiencing economically difficult times, brought about by locust swarms that had devastated the crops. Individual families were suffering greatly, finding it difficult to make ends meet, or even provide enough food for the table. For the most part, people would associate their problems with natural occurrences; today we might blame it on mother nature. Joel, on the other hand, declared the condition of the nation was actually brought about because of the spiritual condition of the people. He declared, things would only change when repentance occurred.

While it was important to declare this message in the chambers of the king and in the public gatherings of the people, Joel had another setting in mind where the message must be clearly taught. He wrote to parents, to make sure they instructed their children to look at life through the filter of the revelation of God. Rather than seeing life through the eyes of pop culture, we must instruct our children to see the world the way God views it.

The responsibility for passing truth to the next generation is left primarily in the hands of the parents. The church, its children’s ministry or youth group, play a role, but parents bear the primary responsibility before God, of instructing their children in the ways of the Lord. The most effective way to do this is for parents to lead by example. Our kids should learn a proper world view because we have instructed them in the ways of the Lord, and set an example with our lifestyle.

Take some time today to talk with your children about the way to effectively follow Christ. If there is any area of compromise in your life, set it aside for the sake of your children.

Pastor Jim

 

A Shepherd’s Heart 

Ezekiel 34:7
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord”

This chapter contains some of the most valuable and important instruction for anyone seeking to be involved in Christian ministry. In it, Ezekiel explains the role of the servant of God, by using the imagery of a shepherd. As a shepherd must care for the sheep of his pasture, so a person seeking to serve Christ must care for the people of God. Ezekiel explains how to go about doing this by contrasting the leaders of his day with the ministry of the coming Messiah. A careful look through this chapter will reveal many of the roles and responsibilities of anyone who wants to serve Christ.

First off, it is worth noting, the leaders were failing because they were feeding themselves instead of feeding the sheep. A person who looks at the people of God for what they can do for him and his ministry goals, instead of for what he can do for them and their growth in Christ, is behaving more like a butcher than a shepherd. It is the primary role of the shepherd to ensure that the sheep are well fed. Scant, weak, and frail sheep are evidence that the shepherd has failed to do his job, more than it is an indictment on the sheep themselves. If you want to be an effective minister, you need to get to know the word of God, and share it faithfully with others. Paul did this by declaring the whole counsel of God, and not picking and choosing select subjects that he enjoyed teaching.

Ezekiel also explains that the shepherds failed because they neglected to seek after hurt, broken, and scattered sheep. Jesus illustrated the role of the shepherd when He said He would leave the ninety-nine healthy sheep and seek after the one that is lost (Luke 15:4-6). A true shepherd will seek to minister to the needs of the sheep. Often, a hurting Christian will speak or act out of their pain. Instead of judging them harshly for their behaviors, we should seek to minister to the cause of their actions.

There is no shortage of hurting, wandering, damaged and scattered people in every community in the world. If we will look at others through the eyes of Christ we will find that we have wide open doors for ministry.

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

 

Giving It Your All 

Isaiah 20:2
“At the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.”

Sometimes, the Biblical message is so important it is presented along with an unforgettable illustration. This is one of those cases. Isaiah’s warning, regarding the coming destruction of world powers by Assyria, was so critical, that he undressed and walked the streets of Jerusalem to declare it. While I do not recommend that exact approach, and we recognize that the true power behind the Gospel is the Gospel itself, we might want to at least consider how we might better illustrate the truths of Scripture, as we seek to share them with others.

If you are involved in teaching the Bible, it is important to use illustrations that are age and culture appropriate. Things that interest adults might not catch the attention of children, and things that excite children might be a bit crass for the elderly. It is the message of Christ which is most important, but a little creativity in expressing it can prove to be extremely helpful. A basic approach to teaching the word of God is to read the text, explain the text, illustrate the text (this can be done with other Bible passages or personal experiences), and finally, applying the text.

One more thought, If you are involved in street witnessing, one of the most effective tools in witnessing to others is to ask them questions about themselves. If we take a few minutes to get to know someone, we will find we are more effective in addressing the issues they are facing, and it will cause us to truly care about them and their situation.

Pastor Jim

 

Memorial Stone 

Psalm 145:4
“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

When God divided the Jordan River, enabling Israel to cross into the Promised Land, He instructed Joshua to memorialize the event by building a simple altar. Twelve men, one from each tribe, carried a large stone out of the dry riverbed and placed it in the area of Gilgal. One by one, as these stones were piled atop one another, a rudimentary altar was formed. This altar was not a place to sacrifice, but a place to remember. Joshua instructed the people that these stones would serve two purposes. First, they were to be a reminder of the mighty works of God, and second they were a teaching tool that one generation should praise His works to another. Joshua declared,

“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’… that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty…” Joshua 4:21-24

Other altars were built throughout the land, in places like Hebron, Bethel, Beersheba, Shechem and Ophrah. Each one, serving the purpose of remembering the works of God, and instructing the next generation in the ways of God. It seems to me, there has been a resurgence in our culture of parental involvement in the lives of their children. The “old school” approach, of mom doing the parenting, and dad serving as provider, seems to have been replaced by an increased effort by both parents being more involved in raising the kids. Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, soccer leagues, club volleyball, cheer-leading camps, all serve as a way for parents to be more involved in passing things on to their children. It is great to see a dad in the yard teaching his son to throw a ball or properly run the mower, but it is critical that we don’t stop there. As parents, the primary responsibility of passing the things of God on to the next generation, rests with us. While there is value in teaching our kids to fish, hunt, surf, read, study, and work, it is also critical that we teach our children how to walk with Jesus. Our kids are going to learn what relationship with God looks like by watching ours. If we take the time to daily abide in Christ, to trust Him when things get confusing, and to serve Him with our time, talents and treasures, our children will learn to do the same. Keep in mind, your life serves as an example, whether you like it or not. Let’s be sure we are a good example to those who we love the most.

Pastor Jim

 

Parenting

Proverbs 29:15
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Proverbs 29:17
“Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1265.jpgBefore becoming the Pastor of Calvary Chapel Vero Beach, I spent eight years teaching in the classroom. The first five years I taught in middle school and the final three in high school. Those years proved to be both a wonderful experience and an excellent training ground for raising my own children. My first year was interesting to say the least. I was 23 years old and newly married. I had little experience dealing with preteens, except for the fact that I had been one. My approach in the classroom could have been called the “whose your buddy” method. I attempted to be the cool teacher, who never gave out detentions, office referrals, or parent contacts. The result was chaos. After a few months, I spoke with an aunt who had been in education for years. When I asked for her secret to order in the classroom, she explained that she did not have disciplinary problems, because she had a standard the students understood and she stuck to. Soon after, I observed another teacher who clearly stated the classroom standards and kept to them. When a student misbehaved, she did not become emotional, losing her cool and raising her voice, she simply pointed out that he was breaking the rules, and disciplined accordingly. Those experiences transformed my ability to instruct the children. Instead of spending all my time, energy, and prayer life, dealing with discipline, I was able to teach.

Solomon points out, this same principle should be applied to the home. We have all seen children misbehaving and parents doing nothing more than warning them to stop. As the child continues, the parent raises the level of his voice, until the parent has completely lost his cool. Soon, he begins to scream at the child, perhaps even grabbing the child forcefully by the arm, to snatch him up and leave without further embarrassment. If we are honest, we have not only seen that parent, but we have been that parent. The secret to successful discipline is having a clear biblical standard for our children. The result will be spending less time agitated and upset, and more time instructing and loving our kids.

Allow me to give a few guidelines. First, our standard is based upon how our Heavenly Father treats us. He is ever merciful and forgiving, and understands we are prone to failure. Never does God condone sin, but He is always ready to lovingly restore us, when we fail. One common failure among parents is, putting standards on children that they themselves could not keep. Second, when we must exercise discipline, this should become a teaching time. Instead of allowing our emotions to take over and reacting in anger or frustration, we want to clearly point out how our child has misbehaved. We must explain what the Bible says about proper behavior, consequences, and forgiveness. This is a critical time to hug and pray with our children. Finally, we must be sure the punishment fits the crime. Are we upset at our child because his behavior was wrong or because it embarrassed us in front of our peers? I have seen parents horrified at their child because they bit another child in Sunday school. While it is wrong to bite other kids, in some cases, the parents were more embarrassed by how that made them look, than at the infraction of their toddler. I have even known parents to stop coming to church because of the embarrassment. Keep in mind, your child’s behavior is not always a representation of your parenting. After all, God’s kids ate the forbidden fruit. Don’t discipline out of embarrassment, but discipline with kindness and affection, for the infraction that has been committed.

Pastor Jim