The Economy

1 Peter 1:18-19 “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

One day, Jesus was sitting with His disciples watching events transpire at the Temple. As they looked on, He drew their attention to a woman who approached the tithe box, she inserted two small copper coins worth almost nothing. Her actions prompted a comment from Jesus, who informed the disciples that she had given more than all others, because she gave from her poverty, while they gave from their wealth. In doing so, Jesus revealed a very important principle within the economy of God; the value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver.

This basic economic principle helps to shed light on the comments Peter makes regarding our redemption. To be redeemed is to be purchased. It was a word that would be used to speak of a person being purchased out of slavery. Peter is using it to describe our salvation. We who were once slaves of sin, have been redeemed from the curse, and brought into a right standing with God. Peter explains that the blood of Christ is the only currency with that kind of purchasing power.

He tells us silver and gold did not redeem us. If God would have used a billion dollar, block of gold to redeem us, we would each be able to put a dollar value upon ourselves. We could say, “I am worth 1 billion dollars to God.” At first that might seem like a lot, until we realized that it costs nothing for God to create more gold. If His supply ran short, He could speak galaxies of gold into existence. No, we were purchased with something of much greater value than precious metals; we have been redeemed with the blood of Christ. Anything else given to provide for our atonement, could have been replaced. God gave up the one thing, of the highest value, in order to save: He gave His only begotten Son.

The next time you are feeling like you don’t matter too much, don’t look around at how others view you, or even within, at how you feel about yourself. Instead, look back at the cross, and see how valuable you are to God, that He would purchase you with the blood of His Son. Then look up to the Throne and offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice.

Pastor Jim

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Shh It’s A Secret

Jeremiah 38:16
“So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah…”

As the book of Jeremiah moves forward, we find the prophet having repeated discourse with King Zedekiah. The king seems somewhat erratic in his behavior. One moment, he is treating Jeremiah favorably, while the next, he is having the prophet committed to the dungeon. By his own admission, he mistreats the prophet out of fear of how the people will react. He seems to conclude, the best approach is to become a secret believer. In public, he denies any relationship to the prophet, but in private, he seeks his counsel.

Zedekiah is not alone in his attempt to be a secret follower. In New Testament times we read of Nicodemus and Joseph, who both believed Jesus was the Christ, but due to their social status, refused to be open about following Him. Today, many claim to follow Christ in private, but have yet to make their commitment to Him known to others. Sometimes, this is caused by fear of how we will be treated. Other times, it is motivated out of desire to continue participating in certain sinful activities. We realize, as long as we are quiet about our faith in Christ, we will not be questioned regarding how we act, talk or behave.

Zedekiah soon found he must make a decision to either follow the Lord or not. Life brought him to a crossroad where he could no longer live in two worlds. Either he would trust the Word of God and submit to Him, or he would follow the ways of the world in which he lived. Zedekiah made his choice and lived with the consequences. Now, it is time for us to make ours. Will you choose today to follow Christ, not as a secret disciple, but as one who will boldly and publicly confess Him as Savior and Lord?

Matthew 10:32
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

Pastor Jim

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Pray About It

James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”

As this letter comes to a close, James addresses as many scenarios as he can think of that the believers might be facing. Some are suffering, others are cheerful, sick, or struggling with sin. In each case, the solution is the same. James says PRAY. The simplest definition of prayer is to talk to God. James is encouraging believers to live in open communication with the Lord. Whatever life may throw at you, learn to take those things to the Lord.
Jesus put it like this,

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have an open invitation to come to the Lord, no matter what struggles we have; and He promises to provide heavenly assistance. The Psalmist declared He will even give His angels charge over us, lest we dash our feet against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). What are you facing today? Is it an illness, fear, or easily besetting sin? Whatever you are going through, the secret to your success is to cast all your cares upon Him in prayer.

James is known as that practical Apostle. As he writes about prayer, he gives some simple guidelines to ensure our prayers are the most effective. First, he suggests we get others involved in praying for us. Too often, we use the excuse of privacy to keep us from invoking others to pray with us, for the struggles we are facing. James exhorts the sick and the sinning to get others to pray with them, and for them. Second, he exhorts us to pray in faith, believing God wants to heal and forgive. This is not something James made up based on wishful thinking, but rather something he understood by reading the Bible. Effective prayer is always based on what the Bible teaches. Whatever we are facing, we should look into the Word, learn what the Bile has to say on the subject, and then pray for God to do what He promises.

Finally, James speaks of fervent prayer. He is not suggesting that we need to become emotional in our prayers, or to scream and shout. Instead, he is speaking about the intensity with which we bring things to the Lord. Often, when faced with a trying experience, we begin to complain; we may even invite others to complain with us. Our complaining will at times help to take the edge off our struggles. We call it venting, which means to delegate pressure. The problem is, when the pressure is released, we often neglect to take our struggle before the Lord. Instead of complaining about our difficulties, we should be entering the presence of the Lord, and seeking His assistance.

The trials you are facing today have been designed by God to draw you closer to Him. Take some time right now to invoke His assistance, as you seek to live for His pleasure.

What a Friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and grief’s to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit

O what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Pastor Jim

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Evil Speaking

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”

James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spend a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judges.”

Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy.”

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet ,when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because it was said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.

Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning that we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do”  (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.

His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure that we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.

Pastor Jim

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On Second Thought

Jeremiah 34:10-11 “Now when all the princes and all the people, who had entered into the covenant, heard that everyone should set free his male and female slaves, that no one should keep them in bondage anymore, they obeyed and let them go. But afterward they changed their minds and made the male and female slaves return, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection as male and female slaves.”

As proof of true commitment to the Lord, the people were called upon to obey the Word of God by setting slaves free. Because of the intensity of the situation they were facing, the people quickly obeyed and emancipation began. Sadly, this obedience did not last. We read, after the slaves were freed, the people changed their minds. Perhaps setting the slaves free had intruded upon their lifestyle and they did not like it. Having to make their own beds, cook their own meals, and clean up after themselves, was too great an inconvenience. It caused them to choose instead, to disobey God and turn back to their former lifestyles. It is common for Christians to come to the altar, confess their sin and leave it behind. Unfortunately, it is also common for Christians to turn back and get involved in the sins they had once left behind. As time takes us farther away from our initial conversion, we can forget how empty life apart from Christ really was. We can have a romanticized view of life before Christ. The devil is a master at making disobedience look like something that brings pleasure, satisfaction and purpose to life. The reality is, life is really found in obedience to the Lord and His Word. Don’t turn back. Pastor Jim

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What Did You Say?

James 3:5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”

The largest mammal on the planet is a blue whale, whose tongue can weigh upwards of 2.5 tons. This is approximately the size of an adult elephant. In contrast, the human tongue, on average, is about 4 inches long and weighs less than 4 ounces. The tongue is certainly not one of the strongest muscles in the human body, yet it is perhaps the one capable of the most destruction. Many of us grew up with hearing “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me,” only to find that some of the deepest hurts we have ever felt, were caused by the unkind words of another. James explains that one of the great problems we all have is with the same tongue, we bless God and curse men.

The Bible points out the sinful uses of the tongue, of which we are all guilty:

COMPLAINING – Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing”

BACKBITING Proverbs 25:23 “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.

GOSSIP Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”     Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

TEASING Proverbs 26:18-19 “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “I was only joking!”

PROFANITY Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

BLASPHEME James 2:7 “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”

We are all aware of the sins of the tongue, are guilty of committing them, and have been hurt by them. The question is, how can we avoid them? Jesus tells us the sins of the tongue are a matter of the heart.

Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

The solution then, to overcoming the sins of the tongue, is to focus on what is coming into our lives, and finding residence within our hearts. A number of years ago, a friend of mine was counseling a man who was struggling with outbursts of wrath (anger issues). He could not control his tongue and would lash out at his family. As they finished their conversation and walked to the car, he saw that the passenger seat was filled with hard-core secular music; the kind that makes you want to bang your head against a wall. He had uncovered part of the cause of the problem. Constantly filling his head with screaming, made it a lot easier to scream at others. In the same way, if you have a problem with profanity, take inventory. What are you putting into your head? If you struggle with gossip, stop listening to it and you will stop spreading it. Garbage in garbage out! The more you fill your mind with the things of God, the more you will find that your tongue is used to bless God and be a blessing to others. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Pastor Jim

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Locked Up

Jeremiah 32:2
“For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.”

Judah was on the brink of disaster. The armies of Babylon were camped outside the city walls. Food, water and morale, were at risk of running out, and the only hope for the nation was locked away in a prison cell. The people were neglecting the one thing that could ensure victory over the enemy they were facing. That victory would be found in obeying the Word of God, spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.

Times have changed and circumstances differ, but we do the same thing today. When faced with a problem, trial, temptation or personal struggle, we often look everywhere else before we resort to the promises of God. We think money, medicine, counsel, or some other natural thing, will provide us with deliverance. We neglect to go to the pages of God’s Word where we meet the Lord face to face.

Part of the reason Judah ignored the Jeremiah’s message was they did not like, nor want to hear, what he declared. His message was one that involved surrender, and God dealing with personal and national sin. He told them the secret to victory was in surrender to Babylon. Rather than accepting the ways of God, they chose to silence the Word of God.

Again, this is common today. Many who refuse to seek counsel from the Word, do so because they already know what God will say. His message will include a solution to the problem, but the solution will involve dealing with the sin that caused the problem.

If you are facing difficulty, don’t run away from the Word of God, instead run toward it. Open the pages of your Bible and allow God to speak into your life. Some of what He declares may be hard to handle, but in the end, He will always lead us in triumph through Christ.

Pastor Jim

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