What’s In Your Hand? 

Exodus 4:2
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’  He said, ‘A rod.’”

This passage has always encouraged me. We find Moses wanting some evidence that God had truly called him, and God chooses to take what was in Moses’ hand and use it in a miraculous way. He did the same thing with the twelve when all they had was five loaves and two fish. He did it with David, when he entered the valley with a sling and a rock. He will do it with us, when we will offer who we are and what we have, for His service.

There are some stories in Scripture that I relate to more than others. However, when Joshua runs toward the Angel of the Lord, or when Abraham rises early to offer his son, I am not sure I picture myself responding in quite the same way. I think I would fit right in with Moses in this account,though. Even after God promises to use what is in his hand, and goes so far as to demonstrate how He would use him, Moses still doubts. I think it is a matter of perspective. Moses looked at how weak he was, while God looked at how strong He is.

If we want God to take what is in our hands and use it for His glory, we must be willing to trust that His strength is always revealed in our weakness. Instead of focussing upon what we cannot do, it is time to focus on what He can do.

Take some time to pray about how God may want to use you, especially in your local church.

Pastor Jim

 

Shards Of Clay 

Jeremiah 19:1
​”Thus says the Lord: ‘Go and get a potter’s earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests.'”

Jeremiah 19:10-11  “Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts:’ “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet till there is no place to bury.””

Sometimes Jeremiah not only taught the Word, but he also illustrated it quite graphically. On this occasion, he was to take a flask in his hands as he spoke to the people. They would see themselves as the earthen vessel that had been created by the potter. At some point in his message, he cast the flask on he ground and the people watched as it shattered into pieces. These shards of pottery now spoke of the broken lives of those who continued to resist the Lord, and stubbornly followed the dictates of their own hearts. It does not take a genius to realize, it would be better to have a life like a beautiful piece of pottery, than a broken shard of clay.

Instead of resisting the Lord and fighting against His word, we should submit to His ways, no matter how counterintuitive they may seem. When we do, we are allowing ourselves to sit on the potter’s wheel and be shaped into His image. There is nothing greater than to be transformed into a vessel that is useful to the Potter.

2 Timothy 2:21 “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”

Pastor Jim

 

What Happened To Me? 

Philippians 1:12-14
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”


As Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi, he is chained to a soldier and sitting in a Roman prison. He was incarcerated, not for making foolish decisions, choosing the wrong path, or getting in with the wrong crowd. His imprisonment was due to a rising hostility in the Roman world towards the message of the cross. We might say, Paul was facing difficulties outside of his control. Life is like that. Even when we decide to live pleasing to the Lord, we still face hardship, difficulty and opposition. It interests me what Paul has to say about the results of his hardship.

“The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, . . .

In the midst of the storm he was facing, Paul realized that while it was creating hardship for him, it was also creating opportunity for others to come to Christ, or grow in Christ. He wrote of how the palace guard had come to know that his chains were in Christ. Rather than whining in prison about how unfair life was, Paul used his circumstances as a chance to tell others about the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus. While it is always easier to speak of Jesus when we are experiencing the blessings of life, the message has an added impact when it is shared through the backdrop of suffering. What a thrilling experience it must have been for those guards, to meet a man who was in prison and was actually innocent. Instead of hearing him complain, and play the blame game, they listened intently as he shared about the love of Christ, and the way of salvation. In Chapter 4, he mentions that the gospel message even reached into Caesar’s household, and many were won to Christ.

“. . .most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

In addition to the spreading of the Gospel, Paul’s attitude during difficulty, also had a great affect on believers. Those who were once timid and reserved, regarding their faith, found a new sense of boldness to share. A revival broke out in Philippi as one man mustered the courage to share with another about the unsearchable riches of Christ. The most effective evangelism is not through giant rallies, but through one person sharing the love of Christ with another. Evangelism has its greatest rewards when you and I will speak the Word, without fear, to our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. As we muster the courage to invite them to church, or strike up a conversation with them about the Cross, we demonstrate our genuine interest in them.

Paul saw his circumstances as a backdrop, in which the message of the Cross would have an even greater impact upon those around him. How about you? What is your attitude in the midst of the things you are currently facing? Do you see them as the chains of Christ and use them as an opportunity to share the Gospel with others? There is a world in need of hearing the message of Christ, and we are His mouthpiece. Pray that Jesus would open new doors for you to share His love with others. Who knows what kind of revival might break out, as other believers are stirred to boldness, as a result of your step of faith.

Pastor Jim

 

Chosen

Esther 2:17
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

It could have been easy for a woman like Esther to feel forgotten. She had lost her parents at a young age, and was a believer living, in an area where she was surrounded by those who did not know the Lord. As the pages turn, it appears there must have been some level of persecution against the Jews, since Esther chose to hide her heritage from everyone in authority. This rising persecution will set the stage for much of what develops in her story. It seems as though, instead of allowing difficulty to tarnish her view of God, she allowed her situation to give God an opportunity to show His love in her life.

Apparently,  the removal of Vashti from her position as queen, and the king’s decision to select a new bride, must have spread through the kingdom. I can only imagine the wide gamete of emotions that must have run through young Esther when she was selected as a prospective queen and taken to the palace. As the next year unfolded, the Lord began to show His sovereignty and love, as Esther rose above the other candidates. When her turn came to present herself before he king, she was chosen above all others, as the next queen of Persia.

The remainder of this book will illustrate that when God changed her station, He did it to give her a larger platform, in order to be a part of the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This is an important principle to keep in mind. When God blesses us and raises our station in life, we need to ask Him why. Why has God blessed your resources? Is it so you can have a faster car or newer gadgets? Or is it so you can use your resources to further the kingdom. If God has increased your sphere of influence perhaps it is so you can have a larger platform to tell the world about Christ.

Esther teaches us that we are not forgotten, that God knows our current state, and that His plans for us include His desire to raise us up and use us for the furtherance of His kingdom.

Pastor Jim

Time Management 

Psalm 90:10
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years.”

When we are young we think we will live forever; death, even aging, is for other people. As we age, we still cannot imagine a world of which we are not a part. Yet, the Psalmist is making clear, we have been designed by God with a shelf life. In other words, one day we will expire. The bodies that we live in will no longer be able to sustain life, and we will move on to an eternal habitation. James put it like this, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away  (James 4:14). The word ‘vapor’ is defined as, “diffused matter floating in the air impairing its transparency.” In other words, a vapor is only slightly more than nothing. It speaks of the fact that life on earth is transitory, not permanent. This does not mean that life is meaningless.

God actually places the highest value upon human life. We know He formed us in the womb as the highest expression of His creation. We are told we are made in the image of God, and after the fall we were redeemed by the blood of God. That being said, it is possible to live a meaningless life. The Bible speaks, on more than one occasion, of “worthless men.” Calling them worthless does not mean that God did not value them highly, but rather, they were wasting life, instead of living it. When they timed out and their lives came to an end, they had nothing eternal to show for it. When James refers to life as a vapor, he is reminding us that life is temporary.

No matter what your diet or exercise program consists of, death is certain. It has been proven that the death rate among human beings is 100%. One hundred years from now none of us will be alive. Now I am not saying this to depress you, but to prepare you. You see, while life is temporary it is also preparatory. What we do now prepares us for where and how we will spend eternity. We might benefit from thinking of life as the preliminary round. When asked the meaning of life, Rick Warren put it like this, “In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever and God wants us to be in heaven with Him. We may spend 60-100 years here but we will spend trillions in heaven. This is the warm up act”

We are prepared for death when we have received Christ and are surrendered to, and serving Him. As a result, the Psalmist encourages us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).”  Since we have limited time, seventy or perhaps eighty years, we are encouraged to number them. We need to understand, there is a limited number and we must spend them wisely.

Let’s do it. * 70 x 365 = 25,550 * , now multiply your age x 365 *, subtract that number from 25, 550 * I have 8,760 days left * I am 65% done. Another way of looking at it is, if my life were a book, I am two-thirds done. The plot has been set, the main characters developed, and the final act is being set up. The question we must ask ourselves is, “What are we writing on today’s page? What, from today, will last for eternity?” If we have prepared for eternity by receiving Christ, we further prepare by living each day in light of eternity.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1

Pastor Jim

 

Empty Jars 

2 Kings 4:6
“Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased.”

Living conditions in Israel had become very difficult; the nation was constantly at war with its enemies, years of drought had created wide spread famine, and morality was in decline. These things affected the living condition of everyone, regardless of their social status. In the story before us, we are introduced to a poor widow who is facing starvation. Without giving details, we learn that her husband, a godly man, had died and she and her sons were on their last leg. All her resources were gone and the creditors were at the door. In her distress, she sought counsel from Elisha who asked a simple question, “what do you have?” To which she replied, the only thing left in the house was a jar of oil. Elisha went on to instruct her to borrow vessels from her neighbors and fill them with oil from the jar. When she did, they found that the oil poured as long as their was an empty vessel to put it in. I think there are at least two valuable applications from this passage.

The first is obvious. This is a story which illustrates how God provides for His people. Long before this, Abraham referred to God as YHWH-Jirah, the Lord our Provider. This unnamed woman found God to be the one who could meet her needs when all seemed lost. We can take comfort in knowing, no matter what our need, we have a God who cares for us and has the resources to provide. I am always blessed when I hear of a child of God who chooses to trust in the promises of God, for they are the ones who see the miraculous hand of God providing for them.

The second may not seem as obvious, but is equally as striking. We read the oil flowed as long as an empty vessel was provided. Oil is often used symbolically in Scripture to represent the work of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, it was oil that was used to anoint prophets, priest, and kings, and in the New Testament oil is used to anoint the sick. In this story, what was required to have the oil flow was an empty vessel. It did not matter what the vessel had previously been used for, it did not matter what size, shape, or color the vessel was, the only thing that mattered was that it was empty and available. When it comes to Christian service, we are all dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Nothing in the kingdom of God can be accomplished in the energies of the flesh. That being said, if we want to be used by God, we need to be empty and available. Some of the things we must be empty of are private sins, pride, excuses, prejudice, and unwillingness to do the lowest of tasks.

This woman and her sons saw a remarkable work of God, and when it came to an end, I suggest that their only regret was that they did not gather more jars.

Pastor Jim

 

Unsung Heroes 

Acts 8:5

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.”

 

Philip was one of the men selected to serve tables at the church in Jerusalem. Now we find him heading out to Samaria as a missionary and winning many souls to the Kingdom. His ministry became so effective, it drew the attention of the apostles, who came to aid him in discipling those who had been saved. As quickly as he arrived in Samaria, Philip leaves.  God calls him away from the masses, to reach an individual with the message of salvation through faith in Christ. After a muddy baptism in the desert, he headed out once again, this time making his way to Caesarea, where he settled down and raised a family of followers of Jesus. 

 

Philip’s story is a fascinating one, filled with application for our daily lives. One of the most important lessons he teaches us is, in God’s economy, all service is the same. When Philip was serving tables, raising children, or leading revivals, he was simply doing what God had called him to do. Sometimes, I think we lose sight of how God wants to use us today, by being overly consumed with what the future holds. Spending all my time thinking about how God wants to use me tomorrow, will cause me to miss the opportunities He has placed in front of me today. 

 

Keep your eyes open! Perhaps, today, God may lead you right into an opportunity to share Christ with someone like the Ethiopian, a man who God had prepared in every way for Philip’s arrival.

 

Pastor Jim