Victory In Battles 

Deuteronomy 2:37
“Only you did not go near the land of the people of Ammon—anywhere along the River Jabbok, or to the cities of the mountains, or wherever the Lord our God had forbidden us.”

Israel’s journey through the wilderness serves as a vivid illustration of the believers walk with God. Here we find that God led them away from some battles and into others. This reminds me of the words of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13),

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” 

As we walk with the Lord, we find that He leads us away from many temptations. We will also find that more of our time is spent around the people of God and involved in the things of God. However, there are times when He will lead us directly into battle. We will be forced to face struggles head on and learn to rely upon the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, for victory.

Years ago, Newsweek magazine released a publication called “The Conquerers”, which gave a synopsis of the great military leaders throughout history. Each of these leaders had one thing in common, they introduced a new form of combat that their enemies had never seen. A careful observation of Israel’s victories will reveal the exact opposite. They did not defeat their enemies because they were stronger, smarter, or larger, but because they obeyed the Lord and relied upon His Spirit.

When we come face to face with temptation, obstacle, or difficulty, we need to understand that the same God who leads us away from temptation, will sometimes lead us into battle. When those times arise, we must always lean on the Word for direction and the Spirit for strength.

Pastor Jim

 

What Would You Do? 

Daniel 3:5
“At the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up”

Every believer faces the temptation to conform to the ways of the world. Sometimes these temptations are a force so strong it seems impossible to resist. Often, these temptations are magnified by the sheer fact that so many are caught up in them, and the Christian feels isolated when he chooses to stand firm in the Lord and resist. Perhaps no other story in the Bible illustrates this point more clearly than the temptation faced by Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.

In order to ensure all would accept the new worship practices of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar pulled out all the stops. He built a massive golden structure that would glisten in the bright desert sun. He invited the most influential people in the empire, and used music to win over the hearts of the people. All this was an attempt to draw them into idolatry, and for almost everyone in the empire, Nebuchadnezzar’s efforts worked. They were caught up in the moment and without hesitation bowed before the golden statue.

As the story unfolds, we find three men who were unwilling to be swayed by the crowds. Three men who stood tall, when all others bowed before the image. Their decision was very costly. It cost them the embarrassment of standing alone, it cost them a trip to see the king, and it ultimately cost them being thrown into the burning fiery furnace.

In their case, what was costly, also yielded high returns. Their willingness to stand for the Lord against temptation, resulted in seeing Jesus, experiencing supernatural deliverance, having an impact upon their generation; leaving an example for us to follow today.

We will all face temptations at varying levels. Sometimes they will seem so strong it will take all we have to cling to the ways of God and resist them. It would do us well to keep the example of these three young men fresh in our minds to encourage us to stand strong.

Pastor Jim

 

My Way Out

1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”


Years ago, Isuzu ran an ad where a man, sitting in the lotus position meditating, looked at the camera as if to speak wisdom and said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” I think that could be said of all of us. We often resolve to commit ourselves to the Lord, and make steps toward following Christ more closely, only to be derailed by falling again into one of those easily besetting sins. This is a very common experience.

Paul reminds us of three characteristics about temptation. First, temptation is common to all men. No matter who you are, or how long you have walked with the Lord, you will be tempted to do things that are not pleasing to the Lord, and are costly to your relationship with Him. This is not written to justify sin, but rather to encourage us to guard against failure. Leading up to this verse, Paul reminds us of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He states, while all passed through the Red Sea, ate the Manna, and drank from the Rock, only a few entered the Promised Land. We are all given the same resources to equip us for success. Only those who take advantage of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God, will overcome the temptations of the flesh.

Second, Paul reminds us that every temptation has a way of escape. There are a few rare cases when we are hit by a surprise attack, but most of the time, we see temptations coming, and are given multiple ways out. Many of the sins that we commit, we do so because we are alone. If someone else were nearby, we would not do them. I think, a very common way of escape, is to simply pick up the phone or go outside. In those rare cases when we are blindsided with temptation, we must follow the example of Joseph, who fled from temptation, even when it meant having his garment ripped off his back.

Finally, Paul reminds us that God is faithful. We would all admit that the reason we fail is that we are too weak. We attempted to resist, but found that our strength was insufficient, and we gave in. Fortunately, we are not left to fight the battle on our own. Our weakness will always be met with His strength. Often, we fail because we keep our attention fixed on the temptation and on our weakness. We will find victory, when we get our eyes back upon the Lord. When David faced Goliath, his eyes were on Jehovah; when he faced Bathsheba, his eyes on the temptation. Victory will be ours when we keep our attention on the Lord. Paul reminded the Ephesians to “Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might.”

Pastor Jim

 

Leanness Of Soul 

Psalm 106:13-15
“They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”

As Israel followed God out of Egypt and through the wilderness, they faced many obstacles. Some of the more memorable ones were the Egyptian army, the Red Sea, and the wilderness without food or water. These obstacles became opportunities for them to see God accomplish great things. He parted the Red Sea, exterminated the Egyptian army, provided water from a rock, and sent food from heaven to feed His people. As time went on, the people grew tired of the provision of God, and began to yearn for something else. This passage refers to an event recorded in Numbers 11, where the people complained to Moses about the Manna. In response, the Lord sent an enormous flock of quail. The people went nuts beating the quail out of the sky and devouring the flesh. It seems from the text, they were so out of control in devouring the quail, that they did not cook it properly and became sick from it. The Psalmist writes; “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.”

The text in Numbers 11 tells us the contributing factors which led to giving into their lust. First, it had much to do with the people with whom they surrounded themselves. Two groups of people are listed with the children of Israel. One was the mixed multitude; which refers to people who came out of Egypt with Israel, who were not committed to the Lord. Sometimes the most dangerous relationships are those who claim to be followers of the Lord, but are not committed to Him. We tend to let our guard down around them because we view them as believers. Sadly, that often leads to compromise in our walk with the Lord. Another group mentioned were those who dwelt on the outskirts of the camp. Prior to this, God had mapped out where the people were to camp. Each tribe had a spot with the Tabernacle in the center. No one was told to live on the outskirts. Those who did, were breaking fellowship with the rest of the congregation.

This is all too common of an occurrence. Christians break fellowship for many reasons; all of which seem to be a good idea at the time, but since God designed us to need the encouragement, rebuke and example of one another, this broken fellowship will always weaken us, and lead to failure. Finally, we are told they “yielded to intense craving.” As we walk with the Lord, we are constantly facing temptation, but there are times when those temptations create a greater draw than others. It is at those times we need to fight harder against the flesh, cling tighter to the Lord, and surround ourselves even more with the people of God. Instead of clinging to the Lord, they gave in to their desire, and the end result was their flesh got what it wanted, but their souls got leaner. In other words, this had a detrimental effect upon them spiritually.

One thing is certain, each of us will face temptation today. That temptation will promise to make us happy, only to rob us of the life God has promised. Rather than giving into those desires, let’s be sure to cling more tightly to the Lord. Perhaps it would be a good thing to call a Christian friend and confide in them the struggle you are facing,that they may hold your hands up in prayer.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 106

  1. Sometimes we can look at scripture to give us a model of how to live or pray. In this psalm we start with praise, repentance and remembering all that God has done. Take time now to praise God for who He is.
  2. This chapter refers to Exodus 13 and on. Sometimes we are so focused on “the now” that we miss the bigger picture of God’s plan and purpose in our lives. How does the psalmist respond to the remembrance of Israel’s failures?
  3. Even through our disobedience, we see God’s love and mercy for us. Our mindset to satisfy our flesh instead of trusting God is always before us. What are you trying to satisfy in your life today? Have you given it over to God? Have you searched the scripture for His instruction for your life?
  4. Finally the cry in verse 47, “Save us O Lord” is made and all praise is given to God. May your day begin with praise, repentance, acceptance of the Lord in your circumstance and allowing Him to have your life, even in the little things? Thank you Jesus!

 

Window To The Soul

Psalm 101:3
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.”

One of the saddest experiences in life is to see a close friend fall away from the Lord. From the outside, the process often looks the same. A person, who once walked closely with the Lord and was involved in Christian service, begins to drift ever so slightly. First, their conversation changes. Instead of talking about the Lord, sharing from their times of Bible reading or service, they begin to talk only of the waves and the weather. Next, we begin to see them a little less frequently around the church. In some cases, only the responsibility of a service commitment keeps them coming; until finally they step down from their responsibility, and seem to vanish. Sometimes, it will take weeks or even months before we realize what has happened, and by that time, they have cut ties from most of their Christian friends, and are back involved in the things of the world.

This experience is not limited to modern times. The Psalmist saw it happen in his day, and as a result declares, “I hate the work of those who fall away.” He also gives a little insight into what those works are when he states, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.”

It has been said, the eye is the window into the soul. That phrase has always seemed a bit eerie to me, perhaps because I have misunderstood the truth about the eyes of man. It is not as though a person can look into your eyes and see the inner man, but information enters our mind through the eye gate, which in turn, feeds the soul. Paul spoke about the flesh and the spirit being in a daily battle with one another (Galatians 5:17). We all know there are times when we have lost the battle to the flesh, and times when we have been victorious and remained faithful to the Lord, in the midst of temptation.

The secret to success in the battle against the flesh is training. As in any fight, the one who is stronger and more prepared, is the one who will be victorious. If we want to live well-pleasing to the Lord, we must use our eyes to look away from the things that will lead us to stumble, and onto the things that will help us to grow. Jesus put it like this, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

My wife and I were walking the streets of Paris when I saw a chocolate croissant in the window of a bakery. It looked amazing! However, we were on our way to dinner, so stopping was out of the question, but I could not get it out of my head. You know, first thing the next morning, I was in a bakery ordering a croissant. If you are struggling with a particular sin, the solution may be as simple as removing the things that you are looking at, that are feeding that sinful desire. Magazines, movies, internet searches, should all be removed, as you seek the Lord for victory in your life. Let’s take the example of the Psalmist to heart, who decreed, “It shall not cling to me.”

Pastor Jim

 

Team Work

Judges 1:3

“So Judah said to Simeon his brother, ‘Come up with me to my allotted territory, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I will likewise go with you to your allotted territory.’ And Simeon went with him.”

 

When the land was distributed among the tribes,  Simeon was given a portion within the land allotted to Judah. The reason being,  Judah’s lot was too big for any one tribe. Since Judah and Simeon were going to share the land, they would have to learn to stand together in battle, to defeat their enemies. 

 

As the events recorded in Judges unfold, we find that each of the tribes, while facing different enemies, have a common struggle; some things are persistent and difficult to remove. This is the same struggle the believer faces today. Immediately upon receiving Christ, there are a number of things that seem to flee from our lives,  and that we may never struggle with again. There are however, other things which will require constant and continual battle. Like Potiphar’s wife who daily tempted Joseph, there are certain sins that require daily battle. 

 

We might learn a lesson from Judah and Simeon who engaged in the battle together. There are, no doubt,  some struggles we must endure alone. However, much of our Christian life would be easier if we joined with others in the journey. The Bible speaks of temptations that are common to all men.  Since we are facing the same struggles, it would be wise to have a few trusted comrades we can lean on when things become difficult. 

 

Over the years I have found through serving Christ, I have been able to team up with godly believers who have been a tremendous help to my walk with Christ. 

 

Pastor Jim 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Roller Coaster 

Judges 2:16
“Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them..

The book of Judges records a reoccurring cycle in the life of the young Israeli nation. Over and over, as the story unfolds, we will read of sin, suffering, supplications and salvation. The people will disobey the Lord, becoming involved in sinful and worldly practices. These practices will lead to suffering, and their suffering will cause them to cry out to God for help. Again and again, the mercy of God is revealed as God raises up judges or deliverers to rescue the people from the bondage their sin has caused.

This pattern is one which has sadly been repeated many times over in the life of believers down through the ages. We, like Israel, make compromises with sins that should be removed from our lives forever. As time goes on, we find these compromises have led us into practices we are ashamed of, and have a difficult time overcoming. Praise God, His mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and we can once again cry out for His forgiveness and strength.

If you are riding the roller coaster of compromise, it is time to learn the lesson of Judges. Remove forever those things that lead you away from the Lord. Victory ultimately came to Israel when David took the throne and made the Lord the center of national life. Put God first! Give Him your early morning, and the end of your day. Keep Him at the forefront of your thoughts, as you walk through life. Consider His ways when you are facing dilemmas or decisions.

Pastor Jim

 

It seemed Good

Acts 15:28-29 
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

A great controversy arose in the early church as a result of the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Some of the church leaders in Jerusalem were suggesting that after coming to Christ, these new converts must be circumcised and keep the ceremonial laws. I think their motives were probably sincere. They wanted to see these new believers behaving correctly, and determined the best way for them to do so, was to make rules. We see the same thing happening in the church today. A young woman may come to Christ, and still dress the way she did before she believed, so the church is pressured to have a dress code. Or a young man comes to Christ and still listens to the music he did before coming to Christ; the church wants to establish a ban on secular music. Now it is true, there are people who dress inappropriately, and listen and watch things that they shouldn’t, but the question is, what is the best way to help them grow? The legalists, from Jerusalem, thought it was through the establishing of a system of rules to keep them in check. The apostles came up with a different plan, they wrote a letter exhorting the Gentiles to abstain from three things.

Abstaining from things offered to idols was important because they had been saved out of idolatry. In a sense, they are being encouraged to stay away from things that would lead them back into sin. Too often, a new believer will hook up with the friends they ran with before coming to Christ. That road leads them back into the activities from which Christ had set them free. If we want to succeed in following Christ, we need to stay away from the things that lead us to sin.

Abstaining from blood or things strangled was important because once they put faith in Christ, they became part of a family. The Jewish Christians were their brothers and sisters. To the Jew, eating something that had not been killed properly, or eating blood, was an abomination. If the Gentile Christians ate like they used to, they would offend their brothers in Christ. Essentially, this letter is encouraging them to follow the law of love, which requires us to do nothing that would cause someone else to stumble. We have great liberties in Christ. Some Christians may be able to partake in activities with no temptation, but if that activity causes someone else to sin, we must refrain. We need to be more important to one another, than our liberties are to us (1 Corinthians 8:4-13).

Finally, abstaining from sexual immorality was important because it is clearly forbidden in the Word of God. The legalist were adding rules not found in Scripture. These rules would suck the life out of Christianity, and distract believers from obeying the clear commands of Scripture. The Pharisees had that problem. Remember when Jesus rebuked them for tithing their spices and neglecting the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23)? We can put rules on each other that distract us from doing the things that are well pleasing to the Lord. Also, sexual immorality was rampant in the Roman world, as it is today. It is a sin that carries with it grave consequences. Whenever two people are involved sexually, it clouds their ability to look at their relationship properly. They become connected in a way that is difficult to break. They end up emotionally attached to someone who is perhaps not best for them. God’s ways are better than man’s. If we choose to live well pleasing to Him, we will find that life is better.

Let’s be sure we are staying away from sin, things that lead to sin, and things that cause others to sin.

Pastor Jim

 

Overcoming Obstacles

Genesis 39:9
“…how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

2015/01/img_1354.jpgJoseph faced a temptation that many would have succumbed to, yet he resisted, even when it cost him his job, reputation and freedom. There were many factors that could have influenced him to fail. His difficulties could have caused him to blame God for losing his family and his freedom; making him bitter toward God. The constant pressure from Mrs. Potifer, could have caused him to justify their relationship. After all, she must not have been treated properly by her husband, or she would not have been looking to the “help.” The customs of Egypt were, no doubt, much freer than those of Scripture. He could have thought “everybody else is involved in these kinds of behaviors.” While there were many things that could have led Joseph to sin, there was one factor compelling him to withstand the temptation. Joseph realized that a relationship with Potifer’s wife was a sin against God.

God has given us His Word, so we will understand His ways. Instead of blindly walking through life using our own experience, or intellect as our compass, we have been given the Word of God. The psalmist spoke of it as a light that illuminates our paths (Psalm 119:105). Peter referred to it as a light that shines in the darkness until the dawn appears and the morning star arises (2 Peter 1:19). Instead of blindly walking through life, we can have the Word illuminate the way. Tragically, many neglect the Word and use their own desire as a guide. Thinking of themselves as a “good person”, they do whatever seems best to them at the time. The end result is violating the ways of God, and suffering the consequences that come with it.

Joseph’s story was not over when the guards arrested him and threw him into prison. God still had plans for him, and would richly bless his life. Doing things God’s way, did not derail the life of Joseph, but if he had slipped, the story would have taken a turn for the worse. The key to the blessed life is not doing things our own way, but doing them His way. A decision to obey the Word, is a decision that will be blessed by the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Fight

Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1294.jpgPeople seem to be fascinated with fighting. I can remember being in Jr. High School and hearing the word “FIGHT” resonate across the playground. All activities stopped and the whole student body ran in an attempt to get a front row seat to view the scene. Things have not changed; people gather to watch boxing matches, UFC events and even hockey games, all for the thrill of the fight.

Here in Matthew 4 we have a fight for the ages. It is the greatest of fights because it is between the greatest of opponents; the devil and Jesus. It reflects the fight we all face. I notice in this epic battle a few key elements that will help us as we seek to overcome the temptations the devil throws our way.

First, notice how the devil works. Jesus is hungry and weary, and tempted with food. The devil will always attack where we are weakest. We simply need to understand that. When we do, we can build defenses like accountability, to help withstand those attacks.

Second, notice how Jesus responds to the temptation. He quotes the WORD. Daily Bible reading will give you fresh ammunition to counter-attack the devil’s temptations. I am still amazed how, what might seem like an obscure passage while I am reading it, has tremendous impact on my life throughout the day. Keep in the WORD and you will always be prepared for battle.

Third, Jesus understood we cannot put ourselves in a compromising position and expect to come out victorious. It seems to me, when we fail in our walk with the Lord, it is because we were in a place we should not have been. Get off the pinnacle of the Temple! Do not tempt the Lord by putting yourself in a place where all you can expect is failure.

Let’s keep ourselves in the WORD, and our eyes on Jesus, as we press toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Jim