Slaying Dragons 

Isaiah 27:1
“In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.”

The Bible often uses figurative language to enhance our understanding of spiritual things. Jesus is referred to as a Lion so we would reflect upon His power and a Lamb so we would understand His humility and willingness to be sacrificed for our sin. The devil is also represented with figurative language. He is referred to as an angel of light who goes about to deceive and a roaring lion who seeks to devour his prey. Here in this text it seems likely that Isaiah is referring to Satan as a twisted serpent who will ultimately be destroyed by the sword of the Lord. Satan is referred to as a serpent in other texts. In fact the first mention of him is in the garden where he appears as a serpent to deceive Eve and lead her into rebellion against God. Later, the book of Revelation takes us into the future where we see the dragon defeated, chained and cast into the bottomless pit.

I find it interesting that in the midst of the spiritual, social and economic chaos that Israel was facing during the time of Isaiah the he would draw the attention of the people to a time when the devil will ultimately be judged. I also find the weapon of choice quite interesting; He uses the “great and strong sword of the Lord.” The weapon that will ultimately defeat the devil is the same weapon that is needed to deal with his attacks on a daily basis. Paul referred to the Bible as “the sword of the Spirit” and Jesus used the scriptures to forge a counterattack against the temptations He faced in the wilderness. It is through the word of God that Satan will ultimately be defeated and it is with the Word of God that we will have victory over him on a daily basis.

The Bible teaches that Satan casts fiery darts into the mind of the believer. These darts come in the form of thoughts that are ungodly in nature. We are made aware of a situation and are immediately filled with thoughts of fear, worry, unforgiveness or even rage. It is at that point when we must wield the sword of the Spirit and counterattack our thoughts with what the Bible teaches. Instead of continuing down a train of thought that leads us to ungodly action we must choose to let the sword defeat the dragon. Because of the importance of the God’s word it is no wonder that the first spiritual attack recorded in Scripture was a frontal assault against the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible. The serpent said, “has God really said…”

What comfort there is in knowing that a day is coming when the dragon will be defeated and we will be free of all the trouble he has created.

Jim

 

Living Differently

Esther 3:8
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.”

Haman’s problem with Mordecai and the Jewish people as a whole was not that they were lawless, insubordinate, unruly or even rebellious. His problem was that they lived by a higher law and as a result were not easily swayed by the changing tides of cultural. As a result he determined to rid the landscape of all those who named the name of YHWH. As a follower of Christ we should seek not to be lawless but to live by a higher law. When the apostles were being threatened they responded “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

A careful examination of the commands of Christ teach us that believers are to love God with all their heart, love others with a self sacrificing love, take the low place and serve one another, turn the other cheek when mistreated, give without any expectation of return, pray for those who mistreat us, seek to win people over with words of grace and truth, behave with patience, speak words that are edifying, forgive when wronged, and the list goes on and on. What is it about those behaviors that is so unpalatable to the world we live in? I think the answer to that question is that the person living under the law of Christ is not swayed by the changing tides of culture.

If we live for Jesus we cannot avoid opposition from a world that is floating in another direction, but we can be sure that the opposition is not because we are failing to rightly represent Christ.

Jim

 

Count On The Promises Of God

Psalm 108:12
“Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.”


David knew what it was like to receive help from others. One of the greatest stories in the Bible speaks of a time when he was so deeply discouraged that he felt as though there was no hope. It was into that scene that his friend Jonathan appeared and “strengthened David’s hands in the Lord.” In another place, David famously wrote

Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Clearly the king knew the value of fellowship and had often experienced the help of man. It might seem almost contradictory then for him to speak of man’s assistance being useless. However I think we have all known times in our life where we appreciate the kindness of others but have found their words to be too weak to actually provide us with the help we need. There are situations in life that create a hurt so deep that only the Words of God Himself can bring us the comfort and hope we need. I am so glad that the promises of God were designed for seasons in life like that. When all else fails it is good to know that the promises of God are always yes and amen and that there is no force in heaven or earth that is strong enough to break them. Jesus said that a day will come when heaven and earth will pass away, yet not even the smallest marking within His promises will fail.

Whatever circumstances you are facing you can count on the promises of God.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 108

  1. In verse 1 David says that his heart is unmovable, and that he WILL give his very best to God.  Have you settled this in your own heart?  Do you allow difficulty to easily move you?  Look at Acts 20:22-24.  Was Paul easily moved?
  2. Look at verse 2.  When does David get started each day in giving worship to God? The bible does not say that we must wake up early to have a good relationship with God, but it is a good principal that early in our day we sit with Him.  When are your regular times of sitting with God?  Do you spend your best and first times with Him to be nourished and directed by Him?
  3. Look at verses 4 and 5.  How high does the mercy of God reach?  What kind of praise does this mercy deserve?
  4. As David meditates on the successes and failures of the nation of Israel (verses 10-13), what conclusion does he arrive at concerning how victory is won?  What aid did the help of man provide?

 

Guard My Tongue

Psalm 39:1-3
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me. I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue:'”

There are times in life when words seem like a raging fire building within us and we are almost forced to speak. This can be positive, like when Jeremiah wrote of being so discouraged he no longer wanted to share the words of God with anyone, until those words became like a fire within him and he could no longer  contain them. Or this can be negative, like when gossip burns within us, pleading to be passed on to others; or when in the midst of an argument, we lash out with hurtful words that shatter someone we love.

Perhaps we can learn something from the pen of David. He wrote,  at those times he restrained himself by putting a muzzle on his tongue. I doubt David is speaking literally of a mechanism that restrained his mouth from moving. I think, instead, he set guidelines for his life that restricted him from saying foolish or hurtful things. We can do the same. The bible gives us some valuable guidelines which will help us control what comes out of our mouths. We can use the following verses like a muzzle, to keep us from sinning with our mouths.

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

1 Peter 3:9 “. . . not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Proverbs 11:13  “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”

Proverbs 15:1  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Pastor Jim

 

“To Be Honest…”

Numbers 30:2
“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

A vow is a form of a promise. The person taking the vow is promising certain actions will follow. This whole chapter is emphasizing the need to be faithful to the promises made to the Lord and to others. The basic idea is that God wants His people to be honest.

Honesty is a foundational principle for healthy relationships. If a person lies they cannot be trusted, and it becomes impossible to build or even maintain relationship with them. As parents, it is critical that we instruct our children on the value of honesty. This is done by both setting an example and establishing certain guidelines. We lie because we think the truth will get us into trouble. We need to encourage truth from our children and help them see that lying is, in many ways, only delaying the inevitable and making things worse.

Honesty is also a critical part of our walk with the Lord. We are easily deceived, and in many cases, not honest with ourselves. When we sin, we are very good about blaming circumstances or other people. We need to take an honest evaluation of ourselves and make the proper changes so we don’t end up falling into the same sin over and over again.

Let’s be sure to allow the Lord to examine us, be willing to confess our faults to Him, and receive His grace to move beyond them.

Pastor Jim

 

Truth Bearer

Proverbs 25:9
“Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another;”

The Bible clearly teaches that we are not to lie. Truthfulness is a very important trait, and is the foundation for healthy relationships. We cannot have a relationship with someone we cannot trust and we cannot trust someone who does not tell us the truth. That being said, it is also important to remember, we are not required to divulge all the information to every one who asks. If you are walking casually through the local department store and make eye contact with a passerby who asks the common question, “how are you,” a simple, “fine,” would suffice. It is not necessary, for the sake of honesty, to give an elaborate backstory, or to share your deepest feelings. In the same way, some truths, have their best applications when they are concealed. There are matters that are best left to you and your spouse to discuss, and are not the business of others. Sadly, we have all had the experience of trusting delicate information to another, who does not treat it with the same care. Soon their lose tongue has shared the matter with others, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Being the first to know something, or share it with others, does nothing to improve your character, but sharing matters that are not yours to share, reveals a weakness in your character, and hurts those you are supposed to love.

If you have had a problem with releasing information that is not yours to share, perhaps the following reminders may help.

Proverbs 20:19
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,  Therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

Psalm 34:13
“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 11:13
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, 
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Psalm 141:3
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Pastor Jim

 

Misguided Theology 

Habakkuk 1:13
“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”

Habakkuk struggled to understand what was happening in his life, because his theology did not allow for the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer. His definition of holiness meant that those he considered to be wicked, could never prosper above the righteous. The prophet is not alone in the struggle to reconcile life experiences with what we think to be true of God.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a young lady who had developed the idea that it is the desire of God to heal everyone, and if a person is not healed, it must be because they either have sin in their life or they do not have enough faith. Her theology of healing was not developed from Scripture, but from her understanding of love. When I confronted her with passages where godly people like Paul and Timothy both encountered illness without healing, she ignored them and expressed that, if she as a parent had he ability to heal her child she would, and that God loves His children more than we do ours. It was her misguided theology of healing that made it difficult to reconcile the love of God with personal suffering. The fact is, God does allow His children to endure hardships that will draw us nearer to Him, perfect holiness within us, and develop a longing in our hearts for heaven.

If you are facing difficulties that are unsettling to your faith, it may be that it is time to look into the Scriptures and make sure your faith is resting on the sure foundation of the promises of God, rather than a doctrine that has been developed out of personal experience or desire.

Pastor Jim

 

Standing Out 

Micah 5:2
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Several years ago I went to Orlando International Airport to pick up a young man whom I had never met. We had talked numerous times on the phone, but had not yet met in person. Before making the hundred mile drive to an airport that has almost thirty five million customers every year, I wanted to be sure I’d be able to pick my friend out of the hundred thousand people milling about. I asked him how I would recognize him. He responded by telling me, he had blond hair and was six feet, six inches tall. A few hours later, I walked into the airport and found him among the masses. Two characteristics were enough to distinguish him from the crowd.

Ever since the fall of man, God began promising to send a savior into the world, to restore mankind back to God. In order to distinguish the promised one from all others, certain details were given regarding his birth, life, character, and death. All of these details were designed so He would be easily recognizable among the masses. Here, Micah gives one such detail. He declares that the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This promise alone vastly decreases the possibilities as to who the Messiah is, since Bethlehem was a relatively small city, and even today does not produce a large percentage of the world’s births. This, coupled with prophecies that tell of the timing of His coming, the genealogy of the Messiah, the role He will play in humanity, and the descriptions given of his death and resurrection, makes it easy to pick Jesus out among the many who claim to know the way to God.

Clearly God wants us to know Him. The question we want to ask ourselves is whether or not you have believed in Christ as Savior, and had your sins forgiven. If not, take time right now to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin, come into your life, and help you live for Him.

Pastor Jim

 

On The Edge 

Proverbs 5:14
“I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

“The assembly of the congregation”, or in our case, the church, was designed by God as a means to help the individual believer grow in Christ. The Word of God, corporate worship, and fellowship, were all designed by God to help each of us grow in Christ. When we come to church with a soft heart, eager to hear from God, His Word has a way of speaking directly into the things we are facing; equipping us in advance against trials and temptation. When we enter worship, with a desire to give back to God for all He has given to us, we find we draw near to Him, and surrender more of ourselves to Him. When we develop honest fellowship with other believers, we are willing to ask for prayer and counsel. When we remain open to share our struggles, we find that iron sharpens iron, and we are able to overcome sin and temptation.

That being said, it is dangerous when we enter the assembly of the congregation, put on a mask, and begin to play the Christian game. By wearing a smile and speaking our best Christianese, we convince others that all is well, when in reality we have begun to wander from the Lord. Instead of allowing the Word to do its work in our lives, by convicting, instructing, and changing, or taking advantage of the fellowship of the saints, we use our church time to pretend all is well.

Solomon warns of the danger of living like that. He declares, it is possible to be on the verge of total ruin, while standing in the midst of the assembly. Backsliding begins long before we stop gong to church. It starts when we begin to pretend all is well; when truly we have begun to drift. Instead of putting on your best mask, come to the fellowship with a hunger for the Word, a desire to worship, and an eagernes to glean all you can from other believers.

Pastor Jim

 

Prophecy 

Ezekiel 26:3
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up.'”

Predictive prophecy is one of the greatest evidences of the inspiration of Scripture. Peter explained, it was like a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). Scripture is filled with two types of predictive prophecy. The first have already been fulfilled. They were future in the life of the prophet, but are in our past.

The second group is unfulfilled prophecies; the fulfillment of these prophesies lie somewhere in our future. The proof that future prophecy will come true is embedded in the prophecies that have been clearly worked out in the past. This prophesy in Ezekiel is one of the most amazing prophecies in Scripture. Ezekiel speaks of the city of Tyre, a coastal city located north of Israel on the Mediterranean Sea. Ezekiel revealed that many nations would come against the city in attempts to destroy it. He spoke specifically of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who would build a seize mound against the city and level it to the ground. He also speaks of the walls being broken down, cast into the sea, and the dust being scraped from the rocks. Ultimately, he declares that the site of this city would become a place where fishermen would dry their nets.

History records how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came against Tyre in an attempt to overthrow the city. He camped his soldiers outside the city, and for a period of time he besieged the city. Since the city was surrounded by a great wall, the inhabitants were safe and used this time to move the population to an island that sat a half mile off the coast. When Babylon’s forces finally broke through, the people had evacuated to the island, and without a navy, Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take the island fortress. In rage, he leveled the ancient city and looted what remained of their wealth. Over 200 years later, Alexander the Great marched through the area conquering the lands that had once been under Persian occupation. When he came to Tyre, the people refused to surrender, feeling safe in their island city. Alexander, not willing to let an ocean stand in his way, took the rubble from the old city and built a bridge out to Tyre. They used the dirt to level the road, built enormous towers with wheels, taller than the city walls, and rolled them out on the bridge to attack and eventually conquer the city. Today, what was once a thriving city, is a place where fishermen dry their nets. God’s word is true. He is faithful to do all that He has said.

Pastor Jim