Walking Together 

Amos 3:3
“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”

If you and I were to go on a walk, we would not have to agree about everything, but we would have to agree about where we were going. Once we disagreed about direction, we could no longer walk together. Amos is suggesting that Israel failed to walk with God because they were not in agreement with the direction God was taking them. This passage is written long after God had walked Israel through the wilderness and into the promised land, but I am reminded of what God told the people during their wilderness journey.

Exodus 19:4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”

God made it clear, the destination which He was leading Israel, was not the land of Israel, but was to relationship with God. We are all on that same journey. Once we have received Christ, we begin a process called sanctification, where we are becoming like Christ. Every trial and blessing becomes a tool in God’s hand to accomplish this work in our lives. He wants to cut away the things that are ungodly from our lives and replace them with things that bring Him glory. However, the only way we will be successful is if we agree with God that we want to become like Him. Once that happens, we will allow Him to remove unnecessary things.

Are you willing? Have you sat before the Lord and truly asked Him to do whatever it takes to make you the person He wants you to be? If not, do that now. Take some time to confess what you are doing wrong and ask God to help you do what is right.

Pastor Jim

 

Overflowing Life 

Proverbs 9:11
“For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.”

Jesus promised, those who believe in Him would be the recipients of eternal life. He also promised we would have abundant life while we live.

John wrote in 1 John 1:5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 

We will never experience the abundant life God intends for us until we first receive Christ and begin to walk with Him. Scripture promises the love of God will flood our hearts, the peace of God will guard our minds, and the life of God will well up within us like a fountain, flowing out upon others around us. Once we receive Christ, we begin to experience the abundant grace of God flowing into our lives. Paul knew this kind of life, and it enabled him to celebrate the Lord, even in the most difficult situations.

There are, however, many Christians who are failing to experience abundant life. They seem to be constantly downtrodden and defeated. In some cases, it may be a result of failing to choose the path of wisdom. Solomon explains that true wisdom has, as its goal, a desire to live pleasing to the Lord. When we walk that road (when all decisions are filtered through a desire to do what is right in the eyes of God), we will find “our days are multiplied and years of life are added.” Things are simply better when we follow the Lord and do it His way. So often, our will fights against the will of God. When we resist Him, we fail to see that His desires are best for us. The height of life is always reached when we surrender all to Christ, and live in obedience to His Word.

Let’s commit together to begin each day by offering ourselves to the Lord, and looking at our circumstances in the light of Scripture. Begin each day this week by dedicating yourself to Him, praying for the things you are facing, and reading His Word. End each day by examining your actions in light of the Lord and His Word. Let’s see how far He can take us down the road of abundant life.

Pastor Jim

 

Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”

We have arrived at one of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible. It has been aptly entitled, “The Hall of Faith.” It records incidents from the lives of many Old Testament saints who, in the midst of extreme difficulty, chose to put confidence in the Lord. Whenever we are faced with trying times, we have the choice between trusting in circumstances, emotions, or the eternal Word of God. Another way of looking at it, we can trust in what we see, or in what He says. These men and women chose to put confidence in the Words of God, and by doing so, have obtained a great testimony. We are told, although they have long since died, their lives still speak to us today. They are saying, no matter what you are facing, you can trust the promises of God. Let’s take a moment to admire a few of the influences confidence in God’s promises, brought about in the lives of those who trust in His Word.

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Over and over again we will read of the fruit of faith. The phrase “by faith…” is repeated 19 times in this chapter. Verse 3 is its first occurrence where we are told, understanding of things we could never grasp on our own, is found by putting confidence in the promises of God. One of the great dilemmas in life is confusion; not knowing how to handle a situation because we have never faced it before. The devil seems to have a field day when we are faced with confusion. He uses it to fill us with fear, anxiety, and even depression. What a joy to know that by faith we can understand the ways of God. The solution in our trying times is to go to the Word of God, locate the promises of God, and cling to Him.

Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

We read, by faith Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah prepared, Abraham obeyed, Sarah was strengthened, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused, Israel entered, and Jericho collapsed. All of the great accomplishments of these men and women were brought about not because they had strong gifts, perfect circumstances, helpful friends, or super human strength. They accomplished great things because they chose to trust in the promises of God, and those promises never fail. I wonder how our lives will be recorded? If we are to honestly evaluate how we are living, how would we finish the sentence “by faith he/she …”

Whatever you are facing, there is a promise for that, and that promise along with the Spirit of God will enable you to live a life that will prove to be a good testimony to those who follow. Put your trust in the promises of God today.

Pastor Jim

 

Love Walks 

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.”

The Christian life is like a journey. It begins when we put our trust in Christ for salvation, and ends as we cross the finish line entering into glory. In an age of high-speed travel, we often endure the journey for the sake of the destination. I have sat next to people on airplanes who were “white knuckling” the arm rests. I could tell they hate the idea of flying, but it was a necessity in order to reach their destination. The Christian life is not like that. The journey is as important as the destination. Walking, because it is such a slow means of travel, allowed for fellowship, life lessons, and teaching times to take place between Jesus and His disciples. He desires the same for us. As we go through life, we should see each day as a walk with the Lord. A walk in which we can commune with Him and learn from Him. Here in Ephesians Paul exhorts us on how to walk and what paths to take as we journey with Jesus toward glory.

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us…”

Whenever the weather allowed it, my parents would take an evening stroll together. I would watch as they walked out the door and down the drive. They were not walking to get anywhere in particular, they were never in a hurry and to my knowledge, they never came back with anything more than what they left with. These walks were simply a time to hang out together and talk about the things which concerned them. Sometimes the discussions would be deep and important, other times light and casual. Though they never used this term, we might call these “love walks.” Paul is reminding us, our walk with Jesus is a walk of love. He reminds us of the love Christ has for us, demonstrated by giving Himself for us as a sacrifice for sin. He then exhorts us to return that love by treating others the way Christ has treated us. If the golden rule is to ‘do to others what we want them to do to us’; this rule is platinum. Love like you have been loved by God. That love involves setting a godly example for others by removing sin from your own life.

“Walk as children of light…”

Light and darkness are often used metaphorically in Scripture. The life we lived before meeting Jesus was a life of darkness. We behaved the way we did because we did not know any better. However, when we met Christ, the light was turned on, and we saw life in a brand new light. Paul is reminding us that in our walk with Jesus, there are paths which we must avoid. Paths leading to the behaviors we were involved in before Christ are off-limits to us. Instead, we should be taking steps toward finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. As you go about your day, facing its opportunities and challenges, what steps do you take to search out what is acceptable to God? Are your decisions based upon what you think, feel, or have heard from others, or do you take time to consider the Word of God, to find the ways of God? Remember, the Psalmist told us, His Word is like “a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise”

Circumspectly means carefully. By using this word, Paul is reminding us that while we are on a love walk with Jesus, the path we are on has some pretty serious pitfalls. There are times when we face great danger as we walk with the Lord, and the key to success is to be careful. He tells us, this walk is no place for folly. A word that could simply mean not to goof off. We might scold our children to stop fooling around, because the situation is dangerous and they need to be sober-minded. While there certainly is a need to take our relationship with the Lord seriously, the Psalmist used the word ‘fool’ in a different context. He stated, “the fool has said in his heart that there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). The greatest folly we need to avoid as we journey with Jesus, is living as though there is no God. Making decisions without seeking Him, neglecting to spend time in His Word, in prayer, in service, and attempting to do things our own way, or in our own strength, is folly.

Paul reminds us, while we may be walking pretty slowly, time is running out. Soon, each of us will reach the end of our journey, and find ourselves face to face with Jesus. It is important that we take time, today, to consider how we are walking.

Pastor Jim

 

Taking A Stand 

Galatians 5:1
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

There is an interesting progression of commands found in Galatians 5. We are exhorted to stand, run and walk. Each of these terms, reveals something important about how to follow Jesus.

Sin is like a shackle that holds us in bondage. When we receive Christ, those chains are broken and we are set free; sin no longer has dominion over us. However, it is possible to let sin back into our lives, and we become enslaved to it once again. In order to ensure our freedom from sin, Paul exhorts us to “stand fast.” This term is used to speak of not being easily moved. It is a term that would describe an offensive lineman in football. He knows that at the snap of the ball, there will be a full-fledged attack on the quarterback. The realization of what is coming causes him to prepare to stand. In the same way, as Christians, we must realize we are under attack.  The attack is an attempt to get us bound in the sins from which we were set free, when we came to Christ. Your freedom in Christ is way too valuable for you to be toying around with sin.

Galatians 5:7 “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Notice the word “ran” is in the past tense. Simply put, these Christians were at one time “charging forward” in their relationship with Christ; but that time is over. Something happened that caused them to stop running. Perhaps they slowed down to a walk, a stroll, or even stopped moving forward altogether. Paul exhorts them to examine their walk with the Lord to see what happened. What person or event has led you to stop running toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? That is a very important exhortation and one we must take seriously. How would you describe your current relationship with the Lord? Are you running, walking, standing still or falling backwards? If you are not running, take inventory and figure out what is holding you back. For some, it is the addition of things to your life that act like an anchor, keeping you from moving ahead. For others, it is the lack of church attendance, Bible reading, and Christian service, that keep you from moving ahead.

Galatians 5:16 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Finally, Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit. This is the secret to both standing and running. Walking in the Spirit is a bi-product of determining we want to live lives pleasing to God, and is accomplished by abiding in Jesus. When we will sit before the Word of God, and let it write on the tablet of our hearts, we will know what things are pleasing to the Lord, and what things are not. It is when we lay out our lives before the Lord, we will be strengthened to withstand the temptations of the flesh and be able to move forward in our walk with Christ.

Take time, now, to evaluate your life. Are you running forward, or being held back by some sin? Then take time to lay your life open before the Lord and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit, that you might live well pleasing to Him today.

Pastor Jim

 

Exams 

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

This verse carries two vital commands. First, we are told to examine ourselves, then we are told to test ourselves. Both carry the idea of looking at our lives in the light of the Word of God, to determine whether or not we are truly saved. Not all exams are of equal importance, but this is a test we must not avoid, or fail. What is at stake is not a low-grade in class, or the possibility of summer school, but where we will spend eternity.

“Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

The first question on the test is whether or not you have received Christ. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, . . .” (John 1 :12). He went on to explain that we receive Him when we believe. It is vital to ask yourself: have you recognized you are a sinner, that your sins have eternally separated you from God, and there is no effort that can be made on your part to remove those sins? Then we must realize, Jesus Christ went to the cross in order to provide a way for sin to be forgiven and removed. If you will look to the cross, confess your sin, and believe Jesus died for you, then Christ is in you.

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” James 2:19

Paul wrote to people who believed they were saved. Perhaps many of them went forward, responding to an altar call, or prayed with a prayer-team member after hearing a message of salvation. Some of those who prayed may have gone out the doors and right back into the sin-filled lifestyles in which they had been living. They may have placed their confidence for eternity in a raised hand or a walk forward. James reminds us, there is a faith that saves and a faith that does not save. Paul put it like this,

“ . . .that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Believing with the heart is more than making a one time confession; it involves the surrender of a life to Jesus. Heart believing is ‘trust in and reliance upon’. The person who has truly believed on Jesus, is the person who is walking after Him, and being changed by Him. “By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1John 2:5b-6

Another important part of this exam is to look at your life before and after you made a decision to follow Jesus. How has it changed? John spoke of two very important changes that will take place in a person who is truly saved. First, he spoke of us “walking in the light.” Darkness and light are often used in the Bible to speak of sin and holiness. We are told to cast off the works of darkness or to have no fellowship with the fruits of darkness, while at the same time, being told to walk in the light. Since receiving Christ, what sins have you cast off? Are you still looking at the same things, going to the same places, drinking the same stuff? Or have you begun to exam your life in light of the cross? The best way to cast off the works of darkness is to look at the life of Christ, and to live for the things that are pleasing to Him.

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 2:3

John mentions another vital question on our exam. He writes, the way to discern we know Him, is that we are doing what His Word says. As you read your Bible (which you should do daily) it is important, not only that you mark it, but that it marks you. You should allow the Bible to write on your life. How has your private life, family life, public life, and church life been changed by the daily reading of the Bible? Are you loving your spouse, raising your children in the things of the Lord, seeking to influence your neighbors, co-workers, and friends to follow Christ? Are you attending and serving at your local church? Simply put, are you letting God’s Word redirect your living? These are not things to take lightly. This is not an exam that you can afford to fail. It is critical that you honestly evaluate your life, not in light of what you think, but in light of what the Bible says, and ask yourself “Am I ready to face eternity?”

Pastor Jim

 

A Trap

Job 18:8-9
“For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks into a snare. The net takes him by the heel, and a snare lays hold of him.”

Although the counsel of Bildad was misdirected when applied to Job’s situation, he still gives some valuable insight. He addresses one of the dangers we face as we walk with the Lord. He warns of a snare set to entangle the righteous. Psalm 91 refers to this as “the snare of the fowler”, or a trap set by the enemy to trip us up. It is important to keep in mind, walking with the Lord is serious business. We must be aware of the pitfalls along the way. Ephesians 5 is an important part of the road map to a successful Christian walk.

Ephesians 5:15-16 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The word circumspect means to be aware of what is going on around us. Looking around, we realize people have fallen from the Lord for a variety of reasons. The enemy uses sin, pride, hurt feelings, disappointment, fear, false teaching, embarrassment, and a variety of other things to trip up the believer. If we are going to succeed, we need to be aware of his tactics, and walk carefully with the Lord. We need to be in His word, be in fellowship, be spending time in prayer, and be forgiving. These things strengthen our inner man and keep us closer to the Lord.

Pastor Jim