Filter 

1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

There are certain things that God’s Word clearly encourages, and other things that are clearly condemned. Earlier in the chapter, Paul gave a list of actions that, if a person is practicing, they “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Among the forbidden acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, and extortion. Clearly, Paul is not saying that unlawful things are lawful for him. Instead, he is saying, he is free to practice all things that are not forbidden, but is careful to add that he will not be controlled by them. Paul is giving us a principle by which he lived his life, a principle we would all do well to follow. Hebrews 12:1 warns us to,

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…

“Easily ensnaring sins” are sins we are more prone to fall into. For some it is lust, others covetousness, jealousy or envy, while others may struggle with pride or discouragement. We all know what our “easily besetting sins” are. While we all have the same freedoms in Christ, we know if we practice these freedoms, we will fall into sin again.

In order to guard against personal failure, Paul set up a system for success. That system included looking at the grey areas, the things Scripture is silent about, and putting them through a filter. He would ask, “although this is lawful, is it helpful?” When I was a young Christian, I began a practice of asking myself a simple question, “Will doing this help me get to heaven?” I understand we do not earn our way to heaven, but I also understand, there are many things that can trip us up along the way. So, I would examine what I was doing in light of where I was going. Before indulging in the activities so common to our culture, ask yourself if it will help your walk with God, or hinder it.

Some things are so dirty, they must be filtered more than once; so Paul added a second question, “Will practicing this put me under its control?” Jesus died to set us free from the power of sin. One of the great experiences, when a person receives Christ, is the realization that their sin is forgiven, and they no longer have to live under its dominion. That being said, there are many things which will lead us right back under sin’s control.

I once knew a man who had a drug problem, prior to coming to Christ. After months of freedom, he fell again into sin. I asked him what happened, to which he explained, he chose to take a shortcut home that led him by an area where he used to purchase drugs. Before he knew it, he was using again. As a Christian, he was free to drive down whatever road he wanted, but because of his ensnaring sins, if he wanted to succeed, he had to forever avoid that part of town. We all have things which will draw us back into sin. We all must honestly evaluate our lives, if we want to ensure we are not brought back under sin’s power.

What things do you need to remove from your life in order to ensure victory in Christ? Is it time to set aside certain music, TV shows, computer time, or even relationships? Keep in mind, although they may be lawful, they might not be helpful.

Pastor Jim

 

Victory

Numbers 24:17
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”

Unknown-1.jpegThe final prophecy from Balaam, regarding Israel, declares God will defeat all their enemies. The nations that surrounded Israel, as well as those who lived within its borders, would be brought under the mighty hand of the Lord.

As believers we should take great comfort in this. We all face constant attacks from without and within. Not only do we struggle through the difficulties of life, but we are also faced with inward temptation and trial. It is good to know that the enemy will be defeated. As we continue to walk with Christ, we will find that He carries us through the trials of life, and gives us victory over the struggles of our flesh. Even if you are struggling to keep your head above water, you can look back at the faithfulness of God and rejoice in the things from which He has already delivered you. This should give you a deeper desire to allow Him to set you free from whatever struggle you might currently be enduring.

God is faithful and will always be victorious. Pauls declare we are more than conquerors because of the work of Christ (Romans 8:37).

Pastor Jim

 

New Song 

Exodus 15:1
“Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: . . .”

After experiencing the work of the Lord, Moses led Israel in a song of praise. This song is a beautiful example of worship. Moses begins by giving God praise for the thing He has done, moves on to worship, for who God is, and ends by looking at the road ahead, in light of what God has accomplished in the past. He begins,

“I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”

The victory wrought by the Lord seemed impossible. Israel was a band of construction workers traveling with their families, while the Egyptians were men of war. Their soldiers wore iron clad armor and rode in chariots in pursuit of Israel. Things looked bleak until God stepped in.

Exodus 15:4-5

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone”

The armor, worn by the soldiers, was designed to instill fear in Israel. This same armor was the reason they drowned in the sea. God turned an impossible situation into a great victory for His people; causing the heart of Moses to burst forth in praise.

Exodus 15:11

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

After seeing the work of God, Moses reflected on all he had seen, and realized no one could be compared to the Lord. His actions toward man confirmed that He stood above all the false gods, who are merely the creations of man’s imagination. God chose, redeemed, and delivered Israel from the armies of Egypt, all because of His greatness. Israel must realize that while they are fickle and will sway with their emotions, God is the unchanging One, who will always keep His covenant.

Exodus 15:16

“Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.”

As Moses looked at the road ahead, he was confident that no matter what obstacle they faced, they would overcome, because God was with them. He saw the enemies, encountered as their journey continued, filled with fear, at the God who parts seas. He saw the inheritance promised to Israel realized, all because of the power of God.

We spend too much time looking at our problems, and too little time looking up at our God. If He truly is the sea-parting God Moses knew Him to be, what obstacle in our lives is too great for Him to overcome? Let’s spend more time looking back at His faithfulness, and up at His person, as we move into what our future holds.

Pastor Jim

Armageddon 

Revelation 16:16
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”

Recently, I had the privilege of standing on Tel Megiddo, the ruins of the ancient city of Megiddo. It overlooks, what is often referred to as, the valley of Armageddon. The experience was almost surreal. As I stood there, contemplating the events described in Revelation 16, I could see smoke rising in the distance, from tires being burned in protest to the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel. The silence of the moment was suddenly interrupted as the entire valley was filled with the roar of an Israeli fighter jet flying past. It was not difficult to imagine what the scene will be like when men gather in one last effort to eradicate God. Hundreds of years before Revelation was written, the Bible prophesied of this event.

Psalm 2:1-3
“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

I have always looked at this as the epitome of folly. Men, in rebellious pride, gather to do battle with God, who loves them so much He gave His own Son to save them. Up to this point in Revelation, judgment has been poured out in measures. We read of a fraction of the population being judged, allowing for the remainder to respond to the mercy of God. Yet, we also read time and again, that the inhabitants of the earth refuse to repent. Instead of being drawn to God, many become hardened toward Him. That hardness ultimately reveals itself in mobilizing for battle, to rid themselves of the influence of God, once and for all. In light of this, the second Psalm closes with some valuable advice.

Psalm 2:12
“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Instead of hardening our hearts to God, because of the things that we do not understand, or the raw deal we feel life has dealt us, we should accept His merciful plea and draw near to Him. Much of the difficulty we ascribe to God, is actually an extension of His loving kindness, seeking to draw us into relationship with Him.

Will you draw near to Him today?

Pastor Jim

 

Under Attack

Ezekiel 38:1-2
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, . . .'”

Ezekiel takes us on a fast and furious ride into the future. He describes a time when a coalition of nations will come against Israel in a final attempt to wipe them off the face of the planet. The players in this coalition will come from the far north, perhaps modern Russia, and will include Iran and North Africa. Ezekiel explains that although Israel is greatly outnumbered and ill prepared for such an onslaught, God will intervene, protect them, and bring about a devastating defeat on their enemies. This prophecy is remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, it portrays a time before the return of Christ when the nation of Israel will exist, and be under the threat of annihilation by some of their neighbors. For 1900 years it would seem almost ridiculous to think that this prophecy could be taken literally, since the Jewish people had no land of their own. Regardless of your eschatology, or your view of Israel, we must at least concede that the picture painted by Ezekiel, is not only plausible, but even likely, when we consider the events currently being played out on our world stage. Ezekiel goes on to say, the scene will continue to develop until Israel finds itself under attack by armies from the North, perhaps led by Russia,  and is miraculously delivered by the Lord.

Second, this is a vivid picture of the ability of God to protect those who belong to Him. We, as believers, are constantly under attack from our own flesh, and from the circumstances that surround us. We often feel as though there is little or no chance that we will make it. We wonder if a year from today we will still be standing and following Christ. What an encouragement to know, when God is for us, it does not matter what coalition of armies are against us. This reminds me of the words of Isaiah who wrote:

Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,”

There is a strength given to the child of God, greater than anything we are forced to face. Joseph learned it in the pit, David in the caves, Daniel in the exile, Paul in the prison cells, and we can learn it no matter what obstacles we might be facing today.

Pastor Jim

 

What’s In It For Me? 

Ezekiel 36:25-27
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

Often, when someone is attempting to convince us to do something we are not sure we want to do, a little voice softly speaks in the back of our mind asking simply, “What’s in it for me?” We want to know if we make a commitment, what we will get in return. If you are struggling to make a decision to commit to Christ, perhaps it would help if you took a few minutes to consider what you will get out of the deal. Ezekiel promises three benefits that will not be found anywhere else.

First, he promises we will be made clean. Sin is uncleanness, and when we practice it, we know we are guilty. That guilt haunts us and we exert great effort trying to remove it. Some try to convince themselves that sin is not bad, others drown themselves deeper in vices, while many use drugs, alcohol, or counseling to try to make the guilt go away. What we are forgetting when we try to remove guilt this way, is that sin carries not only an emotional guilt, but a judicial guilt as well. When we sin, we violate the law of God, which carries a penalty. It is possible to remove the feelings of guilt with these and other measures, but there is only one way to remove the judicial penalty associated with our sins, that is, through the shed blood of Christ. Ezekiel promises, converting to Christ will make us clean.

Second, we are promised a new heart. This is necessary because our hearts are sinful. It is possible to fall in love with things that will destroy us. Many have given themselves over to the longings of their heart, only to be destroyed by them. Our hearts often beat for things that are destructive. We are promised that coming to Christ will result in a new heart, which will long for those things which are pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to us.

Finally, we are promised the Spirit of God. The work of the Spirit is to enable us to live out the Christian life. Being washed deters from going back into uncleanness, a new heart makes us want to please the Lord, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to leave sin and live for the Lord. Ezekiel states, the Spirit will cause us to walk in His statues and keep His commands. The New Testament reveals that the believer needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and this filling is a reoccurring act. If you have come to Christ, but you find you are constantly falling into the temptations of the flesh, it is time you make it a daily prayer to be filled with the Spirit. Take the time right now to drop to your knees and ask for a fresh work of the Spirit of God in your life.

Pastor Jim

 

Armed And Dangerous

Jeremiah 46:3-4
“Order the buckler and shield,
And draw near to battle!
Harness the horses,
And mount up, you horsemen!
Stand forth with your helmets,
Polish the spears,
Put on the armor!”

As the forces of Egypt prepared to go to battle with Babylon, Jeremiah describes the battle scene. He paints a picture of soldiers with weapons in hand and clad with armor. His battle scene has been repeated countless times over in human history, as one force prepares to defend itself against another. I cannot help but notice a few similarities to the battle we face as believers.

First, it is critical that we choose the right side. All the flashy armor, swords, spears, bows and impressive speeches, were no match for the forces of Babylon. Those who chose to side with Egypt, chose poorly and lost dearly. In the same way, it is important that we choose to side with Christ as we enter into the warfare of life. Too many are fighting vainly in life trying to get ahead, while neglecting to realize that the first step to real life is found in complete surrender to Jesus.

Second, we need to see that certain apparel is required for battle. While the people may have been more comfortable, and looked better in pictures, had they dressed in their finest suits, armor is required in battle. If we want to succeed in following Christ, we too must put on the armor of God. Paul described this as, a helmet of salvation , a breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth and the shoes of the gospel. The basic idea is that, we receive Christ, seek to live pleasing to Him, and be guided by His word.

Finally, in addition to armor, we are in need of weapons. A spoon might be the appropriate tool for the kitchen, but it has little value in hand-to-hand combat. The soldier needed a shield and a sword. The shield would protect him from whatever the enemy threw at him, and the sword was the offensive weapon, by which he would put down his enemy. Paul explained that our shield is faith or confident assurance in the promises of God. When we are attacked, we need to cling to the promises of God, and let His word, like water, wash away the fear, guilt and discouragement that keeps us from pressing on. At the same time, we need to cast down the enemy with the word of God. Paul said there would be times when thoughts would enter our minds that would not come from God, but would exalt themselves above His Word. We need to cut those thoughts down, as a soldier would his enemy. We need to be a people who are governed and guided by the Word of God.

Pastor Jim