Unnecessary Assistance 

Hosea 12:3-4
“He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us”

The story of Jacob is a very common one. Although few of us shared the womb with our brothers, and fewer still came out holding onto someone else’s foot, many of us struggle with trusting our lives into the hands of God. That was Jacob’s problem. His life was marked with great and precious promises, but he failed to see how these promises could ever be fulfilled, so he sought to assist God in bringing them to completion. This led to a life filled with stress, deceit and unnecessary difficulty. It was not long before this man, who had been promised so much,  lost almost everything. It was not until Jacob finally surrendered himself to God and His ways, that he began to experience the fulfillment of the promises that had been given to Him.

Part of Jacob’s problem was that he was surrounded by others who did not know how to trust the Lord either. His parents knew the promises that had been given to their son, yet Isaac resisted them, and Rebekah pushed Jacob toward working them out in the arm of the flesh, instead of waiting on the timing of God. Sometimes, walking with Christ, and enjoying the blessed life He intends for us, is as simple as surrounding ourselves with the right people. If we develop friendships with those who also love God and want to please Him, we will be nudged in the right direction when our own faith begins to falter. Had Jacob’s mom not encouraged him to dress up in sheep skin he may not have needed to flee from his brother and could have been saved from years of hardship and anguish.

God has a plan for each of us. This plan is wrapped up in our trusting His word and walking with Christ. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to stop trying to get the promise, and instead, just sit at the feet of the Promiser and enjoy the blessing of being in a relationship with God.

Pastor Jim

 

What Love 

Isaiah 62:5
As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.”

Life can cause us to misunderstand God. In the midst of difficulty, it is common to respond like the disciples who cried out, “Lord don’t you care that we are perishing” (Mark 4:38)? It is during those times, we need to cling all the more to the promises of God. Circumstances are often misleading. If we want to know how God truly feels about us, we need to look into the pages of His Word. Isaiah declares that God rejoices over us. I have had the privilege of performing quite a few weddings. My favorite part of the ceremony is to look at the face of the groom as his bride appears. The sheer joy on his face is electric. God declares his love for us is like that of a groom with his bride. Whatever difficulty you are in the midst of, take some time to sit with the Lord and look at His precious promises. Allow His Word to do the work of washing, reviving, and empowering you to keep pressing on. There is nothing more powerful in all the world than the voice of God. With it, He spoke the world into existence, and with it, He will speak strength and comfort into you.

Pastor Jim

 

Waiting Room 

Isaiah 40:31
“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”

The Psalmist declared we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The implication is that we were designed by God and everything about us is purposeful. We are the way we are, not by accident, but by design. God created us with weaknesses so we would have to rely upon His strength. One of those weaknesses is the fact that our bodies, like a motor, run out of gas and need to be recharged. No matter how strong we think we are, we get tired. Obviously, there are natural things we can do to “recharge our batteries.” At the end of each day, or perhaps even for a short period in the midst of it, we sleep. During that time the body has a way of strengthening itself. What looked impossible when we were tired, seems to be a whole lot easier with a fresh set of eyes. What we often forget is, in addition to rest, God has designed us with a need to wait on Him. He promises if we do, we will receive new strength which enables us to accomplish what He designed us to do.

Waiting on the Lord is more than being patient for God to act. It involves spending time with Him, as well as being involved in the work of God. Think of it this way, to wait on the Lord, is to set aside time to pray and read the Bible. Prayer gives us an opportunity to take our needs to the Lord. I am able to examine my life, see the things that are difficult and lay them out before God. Jesus taught us to pray without ceasing until we receive an answer. Bible reading allows me to hear the voice of God. It is too common among Christians to pray, without taking the time to look into the Word for answers to our prayers. His Word is like a lamp designed to light the path we are supposed to walk. Sitting before the Lord, laying out my struggles, and looking into His Word for answers, will provide strength to the weakest of Christians.

There is perhaps another concept involved in waiting on the Lord. Think of the last time you went to a restaurant. You were seated, a waiter approached you and began to serve. He probably took orders from you, and sought to fulfill those orders in a timely and efficient manner. Drinks, bread, appetizers, and the main course, were delivered to you. When you were done, he even cleaned up the mess. Waiting on the Lord does not mean we do nothing else. Sometimes the best way to be strengthened in the work is to get involved in the work. Jesus was so weary he could not continue the journey with the Twelve into the city to purchase lunch. Instead, He sat by a well and rested. It was there, Jesus met a woman and shared the Gospel with her. Upon their return, the disciples found Jesus was fully rested. When they encouraged Him to eat, He explained that serving the Father was like food, strengthening Him from within (John 4:6-34).

If you are weary, don’t neglect waiting upon the Lord as your number one source of strength.

Pastor Jim

 

Don’t Wake That Up

Song of Songs 2:7
“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”

Song of Solomon is a poetic love story between Solomon and a young Shulamite woman. Throughout the story, we read of their passionate expressions of love for one another. There is much for every married couple to learn, but there is another message tucked away within the story. It is a warning repeated three times throughout the book. The warning is simple, yet profound, “Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.” All those who hear the words of this poem, are to also hear the exhortation; the expressions of love declared in these pages have an appropriate place. That place is within the covenant of marriage.

It seems the lessons of Song of Solomon are ignored in two predominate ways. First, those who are not married, seek to express their love for each other in a way restricted to the marriage covenant. It has become all too common, even in Christian circles, for unwed couples to become sexually active. Instead of looking to the Scriptures as our model, we allow the morals of the world around us to determine what is acceptable or forbidden. If you are not married and involved in a relationship, keep in mind, sexual activity has been reserved by God as part of the marriage covenant. Once you become intimate with your boyfriend, girlfriend or fiancé, you become attached emotionally. Your emotional bond no longer allows you to properly evaluate the relationship, to see if you are in fact, good for one another. The unmarried MUST heed the warning and not awaken love until it pleases.

The second way Solomon’s message is ignored, is by those who are married. God’s Word illustrates and preserves, for our edification, an expression of what married love should look like. We find within it, the man doing all he can to ensure his bride knows the depth of his love for her. His love is seen as a banner covering her and providing comfort, security and encouragement. Through his love, she begins to heal from past hurts she experienced by her family’s mistreatment. Her love for him is expressed in giving herself to him in a way that demonstrates he means everything to her. Too often, we allow love to grow cold by not taking the time to invest love in one another. If you are married, take time this week to make investments of love into your spouse.

Pastor Jim

 

Request

Esther 5:2-3
“So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

Esther was given access to the king. She was allowed to make a single request that seemed to be limitless. With all the wealth of the Persian kingdom at her disposal, her request was for the salvation of her people. Imagine if you had access to a wealthy and powerful king, who allowed you to ask for anything up to half of all he possessed. What would your request be? Now stop imagining. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Bible promises you have access to the King of Kings. You can make constant requests before God. You have continual access to God and are exhorted to come regularly to His throne.

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Whatever our needs are, we are invited to come to the throne of grace and receive. The Apostle James declared, one reason we find ourselves in want, is because we simply fail to come to the throne and ask. Jesus explained, we should ask consistently and persistently, until our requests are answered. If your need is physical, spiritual, emotional, if it has to do with provision, strength, guidance, comfort or anything else, the answer will be found at the Throne of Grace.

When Esther approached the throne, her request was for something bigger than any personal problem she was facing. Her request was for the salvation of her people. While it is necessary to spend time at the Throne of Grace praying for our personal needs, it is also important that we spend time praying on behalf of those who have not yet received Christ. Make a list of people that you know personally; people from your family, work, neighborhood, and places of recreation. Pray daily for their salvation. Pray for their hearts to soften to Christ, and pray for opportunities to share Christ with them, and invite them to church.

Pastor Jim

 

Sowing In Tears 

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Genesis, Chapter 1, describes the creation of the universe. We read the earth was without form and void until God spoke, and all things were brought into being. There is a clear contrast between the chaotic state of things before God spoke, and the orderly universe that He designed. Ever since that day, man has been discovering laws that govern the physical world. These laws were designed by God to keep order, and we have learned to trust in them . I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton who was attributed with the quote, “What goes up must come down” in response to his findings about gravity.

Here, the Psalmist speaks of another basic law of nature, the law of sowing and reaping. Scientific laws are formulated by observation and experimentation. The law of sowing and reaping is a principle that is discovered, not in the lab with test tubes, but on the field by farmers. For centuries men have cleared the ground, tilled the soil, planted seeds and awaited the harvest. For centuries men have not been surprised by what they gathered in. If the farmer planted corn seed, he harvested corn, if he planted millet, he harvested millet.

Over and over again, this basic law has been proven throughout the history of mankind. It is the Word of God that brings this same principle out of the natural world and into the spiritual one. When writing to the Galatian believers, Paul declared, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). What is true in the natural world, is also true in the spiritual one. Whatever seed we put in, is the fruit that will come out. If we sow into our lives things that will tantalize the desires of the flesh, we will find that the battle against the flesh will be too great for us to withstand. If we sow into our lives, the building blocks of a healthy relationship with Christ, i.e. daily reading of the Word, prayer, Christian fellowship and service, we will find we are reaping a strong, and vibrant relationship with Christ.

Paul added one more element to the law of sowing and reaping when he declared in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” It is this basic idea that the Psalmist is referring to here. We live in a world where things come to us instantly.

When we are hungry, we take pre-cooked meals, microwave them, and within minutes we are eating. When we want to find the answer to a question, we grab our smart phone, Google it, and within seconds have more answers than we could ever read. In fact, if our device takes more than a few seconds to load, we complain about how slow the connection is, and begin to covet a newer, faster model. We must realize, there are some things that take time. Some things are governed by the law of sowing and reaping. They may take consistent sowing, over a long period of time, before we ever see the desired results.

Personal righteousness, victory over easily besetting sin, and winning loved ones to Christ, are things that often require long periods of faithful sowing. Instead of losing heart, we ought to rejoice in the promise given here,

“Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Pastor Jim

 

Trust Him

1 Chronicles 5:20
“And they were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them, for they cried out to God in the battle. He heeded their prayer, because they put their trust in Him.”

This passage reminds us that, in ministry, it is not our natural ability, but the enabling of God that is required for service in the kingdom. In the verses leading up to this, we find the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Mannasseh combined to form an army of nearly forty-five thousand men, but it was not their size that gave them success. These men are described as valiant and capable, but it was not their bravery, ingenuity, creativity or vision that led to their victory. Instead, we find they were victorious because they cried out to God in battle,and they trusted in Him.

I think it was their trust in the Lord that allowed them to enter the battle in the first place. Many times in scripture, history, and in the church today, we find believers hiding, or even running from the battle. How refreshing it is when we see, hear, or read of someone who is willing to step out in faith and go where the Lord is calling them. I recently spoke with a man who led a team of musicians into a war torn part of the Middle East. They were not soldiers, they had little military training, but they went out armed with nothing more than the Spirit, and the Word of God. Not only did they have an impact upon those they sought to reach, but their story has been inspiring other missionaries to take steps of faith into the call of God.

I think it is also worth noting, that they cried out to God in the battle. Sometimes, spiritual warfare can come upon us unexpectedly. We might suddenly be faced with fear, anger, agitation or some great level of temptation. We learn from this passage that victory can be attained when we will cry out in the middle of the battle. Remember Samson? It was while being mocked by the Philistines and with blinded eyes he cried out to God and had a great victory. Even when the arrows are flying, it is not too late to cry out to God.

Pastor Jim