Thoughts

Proverbs 16:3
“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Paul referred to the believer as a soldier, and compared the Christian life to a battle ground. One of the reasons the Christian life is often difficult, is because we are fighting on two fronts. A large part of our battle is seeking to see others impacted for the Kingdom of God. We enter the arena to fight whenever we pray for the unsaved or the backslider. Scripture tells us our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty and able to pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). The weapons we have been given are prayer, the Word of God and our personal testimony. When those are used together, we will find that we become effective in impacting others for the kingdom of God.

The other front on which the Christian engages in battle is within. We are told the devil shoots fiery darts into the mind of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). The darts often take the form of fear, doubt, lust, envy, covetousness, pride or even self-loathing. If we are going to succeed in our walk with the Lord, we must win in the battlefield of the mind. Solomon’s insights here give us a tactical advantage.

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Jesus explained that our actions will be produced by what is in our hearts (Matthew 15:17-19). Solomon adds, our actions will produce what goes on in our minds. If everyday, you choose to drive by the new car lot and stare at the cars on the showroom floor, it is no wonder you will have a great longing for a new car. You will find yourself unsatisfied with your current mode of transportation and preoccupied with how to get that new car. Choosing a different route to work, where you do not see the new cars everyday, will lessen the temptation. Wanting a new car is not necessarily sinful, but it illustrates the principle Solomon is presenting. If we are going to win the battle against temptations of the flesh, we must win the battle in the mind. If we are going to win the battle of the mind, we must make some changes in our actions. If we are constantly filling the mind with images that produce the desires of the flesh, we will never win that battle.

Let’s make sure that today we,

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Pastor Jim

 

The Shining 

Daniel 12:3
“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.“

As the book of Daniel comes to a close, he receives details regarding the days leading up to the return of Christ and His future reign. Knowing the time is short, he speaks of those who will turn others to the Lord. As time ticks away and the return of Christ becomes closer, it is the duty, and should be the passion, of every believer to win others to Christ.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine was praying regarding the missions work his church was contemplating. As he prayed, and looked over a map of the region of the world they were considering, he sensed the Lord was telling him to do as much as he could, as fast as he could. That message became the driving force behind multiple missions trips, out reaches, church plants and humanitarian endeavors. I think each of us would do well to apply that same principle to our Christian lives. We should seek to do as much as we can, as fast as we can. Paul put it like this,

Romans 13:11 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

As we approach the Christmas season, we will more than likely have contact with people we do not get to encounter on a daily basis. For some that will include family members, as well as chance encounters with strangers in shopping malls and the like. Let’s pray we will be given the opportunity to invite them to church, or to be able to share with them the love of Christ.

Let’s be those who shine like the brightness of the firmament.

Pastor Jim

 

Your Land 

Ezekiel 48:29
“‘This is the land which you shall divide by lot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions,’ says the Lord God.”

As the prophecies of Ezekiel come to a close, he describes the allotments of land that will be given to each of the tribes of Israel. It is striking to me that seven times in the chapter theses districts are called “holy.” The inheritance the Lord gives to His people is always holy, and the life we live should be lived in holiness.

Holiness is often misunderstood. For many, it is reduced to outward actions. We define it as the clothes we wear, the music we don’t listen to, or the things we no longer practice. While it is true, holiness will affect the way we dress and behave, holiness is much more than that. Perhaps a better definition would be, a life that reflects the life of Christ. That is what God has called each of us to, as we grow in the Lord we become more like Jesus. We become more loving, gracious, merciful, kind, and willing to reach out to and share with others. Jesus lived a righteous life without sin, yet He did not live a life of isolation. Instead He sought to bring life to others.

Whatever “lot” has been assigned to you. Whether you are a student or a working mom, married or a single believer, you have been given a holy district, where you have been called to let the light of Christ shine into the life of others. Let your light shine today. Who knows how God may use you in the life of another.

Pastor Jim

 

Answers

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Shortly after coming to Christ, I was driving down PCH in Southern California and found myself stuck at one of the many red lights, waiting for the arrow to turn green so I could continue to my destination. It was a summer day, and since my car did not have AC, my windows were rolled down. A car pulled up next to me and the driver called out to get my attention. I had never seen him before, and to my knowledge have never seen him since, but what he said to me has stuck with me for more than 25 years.

After getting my attention, he asked if I was a Christian, the “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker gave me away. I replied that I was, and he then asked how a person could be saved. I was caught off guard, and was not clear on how to articulate the Gospel, so I sat there stunned. As the signal turned green and he sped off, I hollered out “believe in Jesus!” At that point, I determined, I wanted to have an answer for others who were seeking to find the truth about Christ. It would be quite some time before I stumbled across Peter’s words recorded here,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Peter explains how we can be ready, when the opportunity arises, to help point someone to Christ. This readiness involves two things. First, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. Sanctify means to set apart. Christ must be set apart from all other things to which your heart is attached. It is not enough to simply have Jesus as one of the many things you are devoted to; He does not enter a life and take second place. Remember when He said “You cannot serve two masters”? (Matthew 6:24) Jesus demands and deserves first place in our hearts and lives. He calls for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to give Him first place in our lives. If we want to affect others for the kingdom of Heaven, it begins by giving Jesus first place in our own life. Perhaps other things have risen to the top, or crowded Jesus out of His rightful place. If that is the case, take a moment right now to recommit yourself to Him.

Second, Peter says, “be ready.” We do this by getting to know the Bible. Paul wrote that we should “Study to show yourself approved to God.” (2 Timothy 2:15) As believers, we are called to become students of Scripture. We do this by taking time daily to read our Bibles. Over the years, I have been amazed at how often the answer someone is seeking, comes right out of the passage I read that morning. Jesus promised us help in this area when He said, the Holy Spirit would remind us of the Words that Christ had spoken (John 14:26).

If someone were to ask you today how to become a Christian are you prepared to give them the Biblical answer?

Pastor Jim

 

Giving It Your All 

Isaiah 20:2
“At the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.”

Sometimes, the Biblical message is so important it is presented along with an unforgettable illustration. This is one of those cases. Isaiah’s warning, regarding the coming destruction of world powers by Assyria, was so critical, that he undressed and walked the streets of Jerusalem to declare it. While I do not recommend that exact approach, and we recognize that the true power behind the Gospel is the Gospel itself, we might want to at least consider how we might better illustrate the truths of Scripture, as we seek to share them with others.

If you are involved in teaching the Bible, it is important to use illustrations that are age and culture appropriate. Things that interest adults might not catch the attention of children, and things that excite children might be a bit crass for the elderly. It is the message of Christ which is most important, but a little creativity in expressing it can prove to be extremely helpful. A basic approach to teaching the word of God is to read the text, explain the text, illustrate the text (this can be done with other Bible passages or personal experiences), and finally, applying the text.

One more thought, If you are involved in street witnessing, one of the most effective tools in witnessing to others is to ask them questions about themselves. If we take a few minutes to get to know someone, we will find we are more effective in addressing the issues they are facing, and it will cause us to truly care about them and their situation.

Pastor Jim

 

Qualified

2 Corinthians 11:23
Are they ministers of Christ? —I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”

Part of the reason for writing this letter, was Paul’s authority as an apostle was being challenged. When he came to Corinth, Paul chose not to receive a salary from the Corinthian church, instead he worked with his hands, and received support from the churches in Macedonia. He also chose not to use his great intellect or skills as an orator to persuade the people, but resolved to emphasize the simplicity of Christ, and relied upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, after his departure, many ridiculed him and his teaching, calling his authority into question. Rather than responding to the criticism by referring to the seminary degree, the books he had written, or churches he started, Paul reminds them of the difficulties he faced in order to bring the Gospel to a lost world. This passage was admittedly difficult for the Apostle to write. He was not one who derived pleasure from boasting of his own accomplishments. As difficult as it may have been, I am glad he wrote it. For it reveals the hardships he was willing to endure for others to come to Christ.

“. . . In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”

Notice the short list of Paul’s experiences: labors, stripes, prisons and death. In addition, he speaks in great length of perils and shipwrecks. To sum up, Paul was willing to endure great opposition in order to see others come to saving faith in Christ. Not every time Paul shared Christ was he met with beating, prison or threats of death. Albeit, even during those times, he was willing to invest the Gospel in the ears of others. He speaks of the difficulty of travel. The Jewish people were not known for being seafaring. In fact, it could be said of many, that they hated ocean travel. Paul was willing to set aside his fear of travel to bring Christ to others. He traveled to difficult places. He speaks of “peril”. This peril was due to the fact that not every road he took, or destination at which he arrived, was safe. Yet, he pressed on to bring Christ to a dying world.

Whether he faced threats, beatings or prison, Paul was willing to open His mouth to invite others to Christ. What are you willing to endure to see others come to Christ? Rather than living in the realm of theory, take a few moments to look back over the last few months and ask “What have I endured to invite others to Christ?” Perhaps today is the day to step out and take some risks for the Kingdom.

Pastor Jim

 

Come In 

1 Corinthians 16:9
“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

As Paul comes to the conclusion of this letter, he writes to his friends in Corinth about his future plans. Notice, his plans all centered around serving the Lord and bringing the Gospel to others. He mentions a number of places that he will be traveling, including Ephesus, where he has “an open door.” This is a common phrase, both in our vernacular, and in the New Testament writings. We understand it to mean a way in, and use it with a wide variety of applications. We may refer to an open door for a new job, new house, or even a new relationship. When the term is used in the New Testament, it is restricted to speaking of opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul explained this clearly when writing to the Colossians,

“. . . meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

The term “open” is used throughout the New Testament to refer to things that were closed until the Lord opened them. We read of eyes, ears, and graves being opened. We also read of the heavens being opened, and even the sealed scroll in Revelation was opened by the Lord. When Paul speaks of an open door in Ephesus, he is referring to an opportunity to minister where there was none before. Ministry is like that. There are people in your life who you have attempted to reach out to, and been rejected, but as you continue to walk with Jesus and pray for them, the Lord will open up a future opportunity to reach out to them.

One of the difficulties we face, is how to recognize when we have an open door. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas began their missionary campaigns. As we read the accounts, it was clear they had a wide open door to bring the Gospel to their world. Thousands of people were won to Christ, and dozens of churches were planted throughout Asia Minor and Europe.

But, how did they know it was the Lord who was sending them out? Two key elements in determining the will of God are revealed in their story. First, we are told, while they prayed and fasted, the Lord spoke to them. If we want to see doors open to minister to others, we need to seek the Lord. Jesus told us to ask, seek and knock. Perhaps now would be a good time to revisit your prayer list and add praying for an open door to share Christ with family and friends.

Second, Luke records, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went” (Acts 13:4). Once they heard from the Lord, once they recognized they might have an open door, they began to walk through it. The only way to be sure we have an open door into someone’s life to bring them to Jesus, is to take steps in that direction. Make a call, text, email, tweet, IM or meet them face-to-face and simply invite them to come with you to church. Or meet for coffee and share the great things that the Lord has done for you.

Keep in mind that with an open door comes adversity, but the difficulties are more than worth the treasure of seeing our friends come to Christ.

Pastor Jim