You’re Doing It Wrong

1 Thessalonians 2:13 

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A few days ago I was working at my computer using a program that had been updated with new features. While I had used the program before, these new features added elements with which I was unfamiliar. I was having trouble with what should have been a pretty simple task. Each time I tried to make it do what I wanted, the program would override my action, doing something else to the document. In frustration, I called out for help from one of the other pastors, who is quite computer savvy. When he came to my aid I said, “This stupid thing is not working.” To which he replied. “That’s because you are doing it wrong.” After a moment of being offended, I realized he was right and I humbled myself allowing him to show me the correct way to work the program. I was delighted to find it was not the program that was being stupid, and the upgrades were actually quite helpful. But what does that have to do with our text?

“The word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

I have heard people say something to the effect of, “I tried reading the Bible, but it did not work for me.” Others, might even goes so far as to say, “I tried Jesus, it did not work.” To which I think the proper response would be, “you are doing it wrong.” Notice that Paul speaks of the effectiveness of the Word of God to work in the life of the believer. He actually lists three necessities if we want the Word of God to work effectively in us.

You received the word of God which you heard from us”

First, they took the time to hear the Word of God. We read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The first step to being transformed by God’s Word is to receive the Word. We must put ourselves in a place where we are ingesting the Word of God on a regular basis. This includes the need for daily Bible reading, as well as church attendance, where we are being taught through the Word of God. Sadly, not all churches teach the Word. Find one that emphasizes the Bible and teaches through it.

“. . .you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, . . .”

Second, as they read through the Word, or heard Paul teach, they recognized these were not the opinions of man to be argued with, updated or discarded. Instead, they realized the Bible is in fact, the Word of God given to man. Writing to Timothy, Paul declared the Word of God is inspired and profitable. We all like that word profit, it means we gain from it. When we understand the Bible is of great value, take the time to listen to it, not to argue with God, or try to conform its teaching to fit our lifestyles, we will find that it effectively works in us.

“. . . the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Finally, Paul declares when they heard the Word, it was coupled with faith. They believed God wanted to do exactly what He said and they expected to see those things worked out in their lives. I recently read a tweet that said, “If you are not praying for a miracle you probably won’t get one.” The same idea is true when reading the Word. If you do not believe what God is saying, you are not going to be willing to put it into practice, and you will find yourselves accusing the Word of God of being impotent, instead of effectual.

Allow me to encourage you to approach your Bible as the Word of God, receiving it daily, trusting in its warnings and promises, so you, like the Thessalonians, may find that it has effectively worked in you.

Pastor Jim


  

Why Do Bad Things Happen? 

Job 30:17
“My bones are pierced in me at night, And my gnawing pains take no rest.”

One of the great quandaries we face in life is how to reconcile the problem of evil with what we understand about the nature of God. The Bible teaches us the God is love and that He cares about each of His children and desires what is best for us. At the same time life seems to teach that evil runs rampant and bad things happen to good people. When we see an evil person suffer we might be able to chalk it up to justice but when we see those we perceive to be innocent impacted by great difficulty we often scratch our heads in bewilderment, struggling to understand how a loving God could allow such things to happen. No doubt the experiences of Job fit into this category. If we are going to understand the problem of evil there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

First most of the things we regard as evil stem not from nature or an act of God but from the selfish desires of sinful men. We read of massacres taking place around the world which are driven by man’s drive for power or possessions. War, famine, starvation and the like are not a result of the hand of God but of men who refuse to submit their selfish will to the authority of God. Just the other day I was approached by a man whose friend was in a car accident where she almost lost her leg. The accident was caused by another driver who was texting. He asked me how God could allow this to happen. I find it interesting that an accident caused by a person who put self above the law and concern for others could be blamed on God. If we fail to see the real problem we will never find an adequate solution.

The story of Job presents us with an entirely different issue. The struggles he faced were not caused by men but allowed by God. As he stood in anguish because God allowed him to suffer even though he was by all standards a righteous man. In this case we want to ask how God could allow bad things to happen to a good man? It is important that we not only ask the question but that we are also willing to receive the answer. One thing we see in scripture is that what we perceive to be a bad thing is not always bad. The story of Joseph serves as a good illustration of this. We would all say that it is a bad thing if our brothers go on a jealous rampage, throw us into a pit and sell us off as a slave. We would all agree that it is a bad thing to be accused falsely of rape, sent to prison and forgotten in the dungeon. But that is partly because we cannot always see the big picture. God wanted to rescue Israel from famine so he strategically placed Joseph in a place where he could be selected as counselor to the king. It was the prison that prepared Joseph for the palace.

We are certain to face difficulties in this life. We do after all live in a fallen world with fallen people. But if we are willing to embrace the struggles we are facing we may find that what we thought to be a bad thing actually turned out to be a great benefit for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

Jim

 

Storms Of Life

2 Chronicles 13:18
“Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers.”

I spent much of my life in California before moving to Florida. The people I first met in Florida would often tell me they could never live in California because of the earthquakes, when I visited California people would say they could never live in Florida because of the Hurricanes. If you live in the Midwest it is the tornado that people fear and if your in the north east it is the cold. The reality is everywhere in the world has its challenges and things that make life difficult.

Walking with the Lord is like that. Every season of life comes with its trials and challenges. The struggles we face today might not be the same ones we were facing in our youth and may not be the same ones we will face in the years to come. As the seasons of life change so too the trials we face often change. That being said the solution is always the same. 2,800 years ago Abijah and his troops found that they prevailed in the trials of life when they chose to rely upon the Lord.

We may not be surrounded by angry and hostile enemy armed with sword and bow, but even if we are the solution is to put our confidence in the Lord, cling to His precious promises, cry out to Him and keep marching forward.

Jim

 

The Word Of God Is Greater

1 Chronicles 22:13
“Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the Lord charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

As the time of David’s departure drew near he took the time to commission his son to follow and serve the Lord. Solomon would be surrounded by things that would make his task easier but it would ultimately be his own responsibility to choose to live according to the precepts laid down in the word of God. Solomon had the gifts he received from God, the pattern and the resources his father had left behind and he was surrounded by the men who had assisted David in his walk with the Lord. Sadly, the one thing that was missing was a personal desire in Solomon to live a life that pleased the Lord. Instead his life was marked by constant and continual compromise.

There are many pitfalls that make it difficult to follow Christ. We are all constantly bombarded with temptations designed to lead us down roads that take us farther and farther from the paths of God. What we often forget is that we have also been given a roadmap in the scriptures that is designed to guide us through these difficult seasons. When we choose to take the counsel laid forth by David and give care to keep the statutes found in the pages of our Bibles we will find great success.

At the end of the day Solomon had no excuse for his constant compromise. For while the temptations may be great the word of God is greater.

Jim

 

Idols

Leviticus 26:1
“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”

Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.

One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.

I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew  we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt  to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.

If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.

Pastor Jim

 

Curiosity 

Exodus 16:20
“Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.”

Exodus 16:27 “Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none.”

Have you ever heard the proverb, “curiosity killed the cat?” It speaks to that part of our nature that wants to look into things that we shouldn’t. Not all curiosity is bad, in fact, it can often lead to some pretty amazing opportunities. However, when our curiosity leads us to disobey the clear commands of God, that will always lead to danger.

In Exodus 16, God unveils his plan to supply Israel’s provisions while they journey through the wilderness. He explains that each morning when they arise, the ground will be filled with a bread like substance they would later call “Manna.” This pastry “was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” He explained, there was no need to save any because it would be provided every day, except the sabbath; Friday’s supply would last for two days. Incredibly, we read some of the people tried to save some, only to find it smelly and molding the next morning. Others arose early on the sabbath, only to discover there was no manna. Later, Moses commanded that a jar of manna be saved. It was to be a reminder to the people of God’s provision, and perhaps a reminder to us that we should resist the temptation to look into things that God has forbidden.

Exodus 16:32 “Then Moses said, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: “Fill an omer with it, to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.”’ ”

I think Christians should be the most curious people in the world. We should seek to discover everything we can about God and His creation. As far as we have come, we have only scratched the surface of God’s amazing universe. But we need to avoid the temptation to look into things that have been forbidden.

Pastor Jim

Don’t Worry

Proverbs 12:25
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Anxiety can be defined as an abnormal and overwhelming concern over the reality of a threat, and our inability to cope with it. Similar words would be care, concern, fear, nervousness or worry. Anxiety is usually accompanied by an inability to focus on other tasks, difficulty sleeping, and either no appetite or one that seems to rage out of control. Solomon observed that unchecked anxiety can lead to a much worse condition, that of all out depression. No doubt, life is filled with challenges greater than we can handle, which bring us to the brink of anxiety. Many of us may feel as though we have already slipped off that cliff. Fortunately, the Bible addresses the subject of anxiety and gives us some clear cures for our common worries.

Jesus told us not to worry, but to observe how our Heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields (Matthew 6:26). He went on to explain that we are of much greater value to God than any other part of His creation, and He promises to meet our needs. The first step in curing common worries is to place your trust in the loving arms of God. Those who handle life’s challenges best, are those who have come to trust in the loving care of God. When all else fails, they remain calm because they know their lives are wrapped up in the arms of God.

Paul declared, instead of worrying about the challenges we are facing, we should pray. Worry does not have the ability to fix anything. In fact, it has been proven, worry can actually create physical problems. Jesus asked, “which of you by worrying can add a cubit to your stature?” (Luke 12:26) Worry does not help matters, but makes them worse. The clear alternatives to worry is to take my concerns to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps.

Solomon adds an interesting step in curing worry. He reminds us of the value of a word carefully spoken. There are certain people who seem to have a gift for stirring up unwarranted concern, while others seem to be a calming voice of reason. We have all experienced times when a person opens their mouths and makes matters worse. The words that carry the ability to put gladness in the heart of the worrier, are the promises of God. In those times, when we are overwhelmed, we need to learn to cling to the promises of God.

Perhaps now would be a good time to set your worries aside and replace them with trust, by casting your cares upon the Lord, and filling your mind with His great and precious promises.

Pastor Jim