How Much Longer 

Jonah 2:1
“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.”

Although very few people have ever been swallowed by a great fish, the story of Jonah is still a pretty common one. It tells of a man who refused to do what God called him to until the chastening of the Lord got his attention. It is remarkable how long Jonah endured this chastening before he called on God and amended his ways. I have often wondered at what point along the way I would have obeyed. He had his first opportunity when he heard the word of God, his second, when the storm hit, and his third when the sailors awoke him, cast lots, and determined the storm was his fault. His fourth opportunity came when the sailors, who had been idol worshippers, turned their lives over the the Lord. His fifth chance came when he was cast into the sea, and his sixth, when a great fish opened its mouth and swallowed him whole. This is where the stubbornness of Jonah really stands out. He tells us, with his body wrapped in seaweed and stuck in what seemed like his eternal grave, that it took three days before he cried out to God and repented of his disobedience.

As wild as this story is, Jonah is not alone in it. The stubbornness of the human heart is almost beyond comprehension. I have watched families be dismantled over the sins of a father, who will not let go of an ungodly act or relationship. With his wife and children pleading with him to come back to them, he continues in his rebellion until everything he has worked years to erect, comes tumbling down around him.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, “At what point will you repent?” How much farther do you need to walk away from the Lord before you will turn to Him and cry out for His help? Don’t wait until the seaweed is around your head or the stomach juices have bleached your skin. Turn to Jesus now, and let His mercy wash over you, and let His power restore what you have broken.

Pastor Jim


Turn To Me

Joel 2:12-13
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”

Sadly, the people of God had once again wandered from their God. The allure of idolatry, with its lack of morality, had seduced the people. They were now distant from God and beginning to suffer the consequences of a life lived apart from Him. Once again, the mercy of God is revealed as Joel encourages the people to turn back to YHWH and be restored. He explains the way back and the results.

The way back to a right relationship with God involves a 180 degree turn. They were involved in a lifestyle that was unacceptable to God, and it was necessary for them to leave that behind, if they were ever going to experience restoration and true spiritual blessing. Joel makes it clear that there must be both inward and outward change. They were to weep over sin and set up a fast, to show they were truly interested in getting their lives right with God; but these external changes were not enough. They must also rend their hearts. True repentance is more than cleaning up the exterior of our lives. If we want to be right with God, we need a heart change, and that is something He alone can do. We turn from sin and to God, and He will begin to transform us from the inside out.

Joel goes on to give two amazing promises to the people who will make the “U-Turn” and get their lives right with God.

Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”

The land of Israel had suffered greatly from a locust invasion. Crops had been destroyed and the economy shattered. Instead of chalking this up to nature or high carbon emissions, Joel realized the natural phenomenon was a consequence of sin, and could only be remedied by the people turning back to their God. Individually, we will find the same thing to be true today. Our lives are marred by our rebellion against God. We have left a trail of consequences behind us that can only be remedied by turning back to Christ and following Him. The great promise is,  He can and will restore shattered relationships and broken lives. Even those who have lived a lifetime apart from God, can be useful for the kingdom in their latter years.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…

The greatest promise in the prophecies of Joel is regarding the Holy Spirit. Joel foretold of a time when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh, and those who received the Spirit would be given spiritual gifts for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This promise was fulfilled, initially, in Acts 2 when the church was born, but continues to be fulfilled each time a believer turns to the Lord and asks to be filled with the Spirit. When we turn from the things that are not pleasing to God, we are restored to right relationship with Him and given the Spirit of God, in order to serve. A life surrendered to Christ, is a life empowered by the Spirit.

Turn toward the Lord and see all that He will do in you and through you.

Pastor Jim


Should I Pray? 

Jeremiah 7:16

“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.”

The Bible is filled with commands from God, which place requirements upon man. Bible scholars tell us there are over 600 distinct commands in the Old Testament alone. On one occasion, Jesus was approached by a man who was seeking to list these commands in order of importance. He asked “which is the greatest commandment?” To which Jesus replied, “love God…” (Matthew 22:26—37)

Of all the commands, this one in Jeremiah has to rank among the strangest. The prophet was instructed NOT to pray for the people. It is easy to understand commands such as: have no other gods, no graven images, or do not steal. But what could be the reason God commanded his prophet not to pray?

Keep in mind, Jeremiah had been calling upon the people to turn from their wicked lifestyles and return to the Lord. He exhorted them time and time again to “amend their ways”; which means to make things right. Sadly, the people ignored the Word of God and the pleas of the prophet. Despite the fact that they were living in sin, they expected to receive the blessing and favor of God. Jeremiah was instructed not to pray for blessing on their lives. Living outside the will of God, takes us outside the favor of God; we cannot expect His promises to apply to us.

The Bible is filled with conditional promises. These promises are reserved for those who have received Christ and walked away from their former lifestyles. If we refuse to give up our sin, we cannot expect to be filled with the fullness of God.

Pastor Jim


One Nation Under God

Isaiah 22:12-13
“And in that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”

Isaiah lived during interesting times. The northern nation of Israel was about to fall prey to Assyrian forces, while the southern nation of Judah was facing the threat of annihilation. Instead of turning from immorality and seeking God, the people were determined to continue in their wickedness. A great campaign was underway to fortify the cities to withstand enemy forces. They built reservoirs to hold water, stored up grain supplies, and made pacts with other nations in order to withstand the onslaught of the enemy. In all their efforts to prepare for battle, they forgot the most important step, they failed to turn to the Lord.

It seems whenever our leaders speak, they refer to the difficult times we are facing as a people, and a nation. Most of us experience first hand the financial crisis; we also hear of the constant threat of terrorist attacks, and how an inappropriate response may insight a global conflict. Immorality seems to be at an all time high, creating moral confusion, which has led to increased social chaos. It seems to me, great efforts are being taken to protect us against these things. Anyone who has traveled in the last 14 years, has experienced the heightened security in airports. We have seen metal detectors installed in schools, and increased security in almost every public gathering place. Committees have been formed, laws written, and policies implemented, all in an attempt to ward off the dangers of modern society. With all that is being done, we are failing to take the most important step, that is, turning back to the Lord.

It is time to realize, the answer to our present condition is spiritual. Hezekiah, King of Judah, led the nation on a campaign to turn to the Lord. The result was, while every nation around them fell to Assyria, Judah was spared.

Our present condition calls for “weeping, mourning, and sackcloth.”  These are figurative ways to show repentance.

Pastor Jim


So Sad 

2 Corinthians 7:10
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Unfortunately, sadness is a common feeling. We have experienced it in all its varying levels and intervals. We have had little things happen that caused us to frown and go quiet, and we have had deeper experiences that gripped us with sorrow and caused us to weep or even wail. Paul is speaking here, not of the sorrow that comes from your favorite team losing a game, or even losing someone you love, he is speaking of the sorrow that comes upon a person when they realize they have sinned against God. The Psalmist wrote of a time when he was overcome with that kind of sadness;

Psalms 6:6 “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.”

Often, when a person’s sin is exposed publicly or privately, they will show signs of great sorrow. It is not uncommon for people to come to the altar with tears streaming down their faces and confess they have fallen once again into an easily besetting sin. Like the Psalmist, they are certainly remorseful for what they have done, and are looking for a way of escape. Paul warns that although sin will often produce sorrow, not all sorrow will produce a change in behavior.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation…”

The true evidence that a person is remorseful for the sin they have committed, is not the tears that are produced, but the change of behavior that follows. Paul uses the word “repentance;” a word that carries the idea of turning, and involves a turning from sin to God. Too often, we are satisfied with tears, thinking that is enough to show that we are truly sorry for the wrong we have committed.

“What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” 2 Corinthians 7:11

Paul is describing what godly sorrow will produce. “Clearing of yourself” refers to the removal of the guilt and shame, that comes with sin and failure. It is not the byproduct of a good cry, but of a change of actions, that will clean our conscience. He speaks of the need to apply diligence to your walk with the Lord. This is often seen in building walls that will keep you from going back into sin again. “Indignation” is a word that speaks of intense anger. The person who is sorrowful over sin, is a person who is angry at sin. It has been my experience, we avoid people at whom we are angry; the same will be true of sin. “Fear” is often looked at as a negative feeling, and certainly there are things we are afraid of that are irrational and silly; however, sin is not one of them. The person who wants to succeed in walking with Jesus, must have a healthy fear of sin and it’s effects upon our lives. As long as you think you are immune to sin’s tempting hooks, you will not avoid it, and you’ll find you continue to fall.

Finally, Paul speaks of “zeal” and “vindication”. True turning from sin will create in us a new intensity to follow Jesus. Sadly, I often see people come forward weeping over their sins, only to see them for the last time. Instead of determining they will press on in their walk with God, they go out the doors of the church, right back into the lifestyle that led to failure. If we want the vindication, the victory, the freedom to overcome our constant failures, we must determine to increase the intensity we pour into our relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Jim


Turn Around 

2 Chronicles 33:12
“Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,”

Hands down, Manasseh was the worse king to ever reign in Judah. In a few short years, he undid all the reforms his father had effected, and seduced the people into sins they had never dreamed of committing. The spiritual climate in the nation was at an all time low, and the morality of the people followed suit. It is not surprising to read the Assyrians defeated Judah, and carried the king off captive to Babylon. What is surprising to read is, during his affliction, he not only cried out to God for help, but he truly committed his life to the Lord. This turn around forever changed life and eternity for Manasseh. Through his downfall, he came to realize the Lord was God, and he began to make great reforms within his life and the nation. Altars, which had previously led him into sin, were removed. Repairs were made to the Temple of God; making worship and sacrifice easier and more appealing.

I wonder, have you failed in the past? Is the road you have travelled, marked with times of failure, and days where you have walked away from the Lord? If so, be encouraged by the story of Manasseh. No matter how badly you have fallen, you can turn around and be restored. The problem is, while most come to realize their failure, too many never make the turn. It is common to hear of someone who faces affliction, because of the path they have chosen to walk. Sadly, it is uncommon to hear of people making real and lasting decisions to turn from their sinful ways, and be committed to following the Lord. It is not that God cannot clean up, transform and change a life, it is that we are unwilling to let go of certain behaviors.

Don’t be like the rich, young Ruler, who, unwilling to change his ways, missed out on all the Lord had for him (Luke 18:18-23). Instead, be like Manasseh, make a complete turn around, giving all to the Lord.

Pastor Jim


Faking It

1 Kings 14:26-27
“And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the gold shields which Solomon had made. Then King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who guarded the doorway of the king’s house.”

Rehoboam is known for being the king that split the nation of Israel. His greed drove him to make decisions that ultimately divided the kingdom. Sadly however, this was not the worst policy he implemented. During his seventeen year reign, he continued to ignore the Word of God and to introduce idolatry to the nation. As a result, this once powerful nation fell prey to their enemies. Like a shark smelling blood in the water, Egypt saw the weakness of Israel and sent troops to Jerusalem. Their armies easily overcame any and all resistance and began to loot the city. Just a few short decades after the Temple was completed, it was ransacked by foreigners and its prize articles were stolen. Among the items Shishak took, were the golden shields that hung as a symbol of Israel’s strength. Rather than turning to God, Rehoboam decided to hang bronze shields in their place. After all, from a distance, who would really be able to tell the difference. What a different story this would have been if Rehoboam would have fallen on his knees and turned back to the Lord.

Often, when a person begins to backslide, their response is much like Rehoboam’s. Instead of addressing the real issue and focussing upon returning to the Lord, they begin to pretend that everything is fine. Church attendance continues, they may even keep talking the Christian lingo, but they have stopped abiding in Christ and begun to drift from Him. If that describes you, don’t hang bronze shields on your wall, pretending that everything is OK. Call a friend, confess whatever sin you are struggling with, and get back to walking with the Lord. Remember, His mercies are new every morning

Pastor Jim