What’s Your Story

Psalms 78:1-2
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old”

Asaph, Israel’s chief musician during the reign of David, took it upon himself to write a song depicting the history of the nation. His tale is one that magnifies the mercy of God, while revealing the continual unfaithfulness of Israel. Time, and time again, the people turned from the Lord out of fear or desire for things that He had forbidden. He spoke of their experiences in Egypt, when they feared the king more than the Lord, and of their time in the wilderness, when the trials they faced caused them to doubt the provision of God. He told of their time in the Promised Land, when comfort and ease drove them to complacency toward God, and into idolatry. Imagine how the first readers of this psalm might want to go back and make changes to their history, or at least make changes to their personal lives.

Asaph referred to his message as a parable. The idea, of course, is that the psalm has a meaning that sits underneath the surface. Instead of just being a message indicting Israel for their sin, it also serves as an illustration of the life of many believers. We, like Israel, have been redeemed from bondage into a relationship with God. In this relationship, we find ourselves in times of trial or battle, and in times of ease and comfort. If we read the psalm carefully, we can see ourselves in the story, as well as learn from Israel’s mistakes.

What would a psalm read like that told your story? What amazing ways would the mercy of God be reveled as your conversion was told? How would His faithfulness be seen in your daily walk? What changes would you want to make in how you walk with Him, in whatever time you may have left?

Take a few minutes to contemplate your testimony. Perhaps even write it out. Then consider what you will do to ensure that the remaining chapters of your story give glory to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Visual Learner 

Ezekiel 4:1
“You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem.”

Some people are visual learners. They seem to have a difficult time processing information audibly, but the moment they can see it, things become perfectly clear. Most of the pre-exilic prophets relayed the same message to Judah. They warned of coming destruction by the Babylonians and exhorted the people to turn to the Lord. Ezekiel will share that same message, but will do so with some very powerful imagery. This chapter alone gives three such illustrations.

First, Ezekiel is told to make a model of the city of Jerusalem. When he first began this project, I am sure those who stood back and watched were wondering what he was building. As each day passed, the image became more clear, until it was obvious to all that it was Jerusalem. It must have been quite a shock when he began to fill the surrounding hillsides with foreign troops, and build siege walls outside the city. Even the most casual observer, would have no problem understanding the message.

Once completed, Ezekiel used another approach to get the same message across. Each day he would enter the public square, lay out a bed mat, and lie down on his left side. He remained there throughout the day, and repeated this for 339 consecutive days. One the 340th day, he turned over and laid on his right side for another 40 days. This was done to illustrate the coming judgment on Judah for their iniquities.

Finally, Ezekiel was instructed to bake the bread of affliction. God wanted the people to understand that serving false gods meant becoming slaves. Jesus taught the same truth when He said if we serve sin, we become a slave of sin (John 8:34). Slavery brought affliction and affliction, personal suffering. To deepen the impact of this illustration, Ezekiel was told to cook the bread using human waste as fuel. This proved too much for the prophet, who pleaded with God, and was instructed to use cow dung, instead.

I find it interesting the great lengths God will go, in order to insure that the message gets to everyone. He is still in the business of doing that today. I have heard testimony after testimony of a person who seemed to suddenly be surrounded by believers. They were invited to church, witnessed to at work, and came to realize that an old friend or family member had turned their life over to Christ. It is clear, God desires each of us, and will go to great lengths to reveal His love for us, and our need for Him.

Pastor Jim

 

We’re Watching 

Isaiah 8:18
“Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion.”

Isaiah understood something about his life, which is often forgotten today. He realized his life was to be lived as an example. He was a model for others to learn how to follow and serve the Lord. Everything he did, including the way he raised his family, was designed to be a sign to the world in which he lived; teaching them something about the Lord.

Isaiah is not alone in this. Paul declared to his friends they should follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Essentially, Paul was stating, they could learn how to walk with the Lord by looking at the way he lived. Paul went on to say, every believer is an epistle or letter from God, written to the world to teach them how to live for Christ (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). In another place, Paul wrote of how each of us is on display. The whole world is watching and will determine the validity of the Gospel’s claims, based upon the way we live.

God is not expecting perfection from us, but He does require that we see ourselves as witnesses to the world. As much witnessing is done with our actions, as with our words. As we head out the door today, we should realize we are on display; the world is watching. Our lives, and lifestyles are a huge part of a person’s decision to follow Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Armed And Dangerous 

2 Kings 11:12
“And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, ‘Long live the king'”

There are times in life when we are required to do things that seem almost impossible. The odds are stacked against us and it looks as though we will never be able to do what is required. That is certainly the case when Joash was crowned as king of Judah. His grandmother killed all other heirs to the throne, and his life was spared only because a priest hid him away in the temple for six years. Now, at the ripe old age of seven, the crown was placed on his head and his reign began. The nation of Judah was in complete disarray: the throne had been stolen by an evil woman who surrounded herself with ungodly men, the people were given over to the worship of Baal, the enemies of Judah were threatening to attack, and the Temple was in need of repair. How in the world could a seven year old king and a handful of priests make a difference with so much stacked against them?

“And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony…”

On the day of his coronation, Joash was not armed with sword, spear or javelin, but with the testimonies of God. Long before this, Moses had written that the kings of Israel were to be given a copy of the Word of God, and read it every day. A grasp on the Scriptures is more valuable to a leader than natural resources or highly trained armed forces. The Word of God was designed to give guidance to rulers, so they can effectively lead the nation in righteousness. Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 14:34
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Joash’s success as a leader did not result from his own wisdom, strength, or ingenuity. He did not succeed because he had brilliant plans to bring about change in the nation. Joash was a good leader because he looked to the Word of God for guidance. His successes came from his obedience to God, and his failures were directly related to the times when he ignored the Scriptures.

We are living in challenging times in our nation. Isaiah’s statement that people would call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)  is an apt description of our world today. It seems as though our moral compass is broken and people are going insane. We are in need of leaders armed with the Scriptures, and willing to stand for what is right in the eyes of God. While we should be praying for those in authority over us, we also want to keep in mind that God might want to use someone who has not yet come on the scene. Time will only tell how the Lord might use us if we give ourselves totally to Him, and devote ourselves to His Word.

Pastor Jim