Raging Rapids

Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

When I was a child, my family lived in a house that was located at the bottom of one hill, and the top of another. Whenever one of the neighbors up the street would wash his car, a flowing river would form in the gutter outside the house. I can vividly remember using the debris to create obstacles, rapids and even dams. I would run up the street with small plastic boats filled with passengers and drop them into the river. As they traveled downstream, they would be tossed about by the currents heading towards the rudimentary dam designed to stop them. Often, the flow would become so strong the dam would burst, sending the toy boat and its occupants rushing toward a large drain that went deep underground to the sewers. Frantically, I would run after the small boat, hoping to rescue it from impending doom. Whenever I read Paul’s description of the world, found in Ephesians 2, I am reminded of those toys heading toward destruction, and my frantic attempts to rescue them. Paul describes every person, who has not yet received Jesus Christ, as being like a dead body floating downstream, and heading for eternal loss. He also describes God as the great Savior who reached down to rescue all who will cry out to Him.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). . . ” Ephesians 2:4-5

Every person, alienated from Christ, is dead in sin and is destined to live eternally separated from God. Although it is impossible for us to understand the true danger we are in, we can get a glimpse of our horrible condition by observing God’s actions to rescue us. Paul describes God’s great love producing rich mercy, and stirring Him to come to the aid of man by sending His only Son. The cross is nothing short of a rescue mission. God does not want anyone to suffer the horror of spending eternity apart from Him. He has done all, to make a way for each and every one of us to be saved. All that is required is that we believe and receive.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. . .” Ephesians 2:8

Unlike the plastic passengers in the gutter river, we have all been given free will, and the ability to choose for ourselves. Many, realizing their hopeless state apart from Christ, cry out to Him and are delivered from spiritual death and eternal loss. Others seem to be enjoying the thrill of the ride so much they are unwilling to cry out for deliverance. They may see the dam breaking, yet think they can ride it out just a little longer, failing to realize how short life is and how suddenly death appears. Still others refuse to believe they are in any danger. They make up their own reality, removing God, sin and judgment from their thinking, and carry on in life as though they will never answer for the sins they have committed. Acting like Jonah and going to sleep in the storm, does not remove the reality of where the boat is heading. It is high time we all wake up and cry out to our loving Savior to rescue us from wrath.

If you want your sins forgiven join me in prayer. “Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner and recognize that You are the Savior. I ask that you would forgive my sins, enter into my life, and help me to follow after You.”

If you prayed that prayer contact me at jg@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim

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What Makes Him So special?

Song of Songs 5:9
“What is your beloved
More than another beloved,
O fairest among women?
What is your beloved
More than another beloved,
That you so charge us?”

The Shulamite woman talked so much about her man, her friends finally got fed up. They couldn’t handle hearing one more word about how good looking he is or how much she loves him. They expressed their frustration in a question, “What makes your beloved different than any other?” Since this book pictures the love relationship Christ desires to have with us, this becomes a valuable question to ask concerning Jesus. What makes Jesus different? Why should we fall in love with Him?

Give some thought as to how you would respond if someone asked you this question about Jesus. Make a list of ways the love of Christ has been expressed to the world in general and to you in particular. This list may become a valuable tool as you seek to share Christ with others.

Pastor Jim

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Apostle’s Prayer

Ephesians 1:16 “I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers”

Prayer is the place where we express our greatest desires. It is at the Throne of Grace our hearts pour out their deepest cries to God. Paul spoke to the Romans about times when our hearts cry is so great that it is manifested with “groaning’s that cannot be uttered.” Here we find the Apostle crying out in prayer for the saints and we learn what his greatest desires are for the Christian. His prayer consists of four requests.

“May God give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”

Jesus defined eternal life as “knowing God”. It is when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that we begin a relationship with God. Paul’s plea is for us to know Him better. The knowledge that He is speaking of is not the knowledge of information, but of relationship. He wasn’t praying for us to simply know more facts about God, but that we would experience more of God. This is something that will happen as we daily spend time with God in the pages of His Word, and apply the things we read to our daily living.

“That you may know what is the hope of His calling”

Next Paul prayed that having begun to know God better, we would get to know what He has called us to. Discovering the will of God for our lives is a daily adventure, but can be guided by understanding some general principles about the call of God. According to Scripture, we have been called out of the world. That does not mean that as Christians we are to isolate ourselves from anyone who is not a believer, but we are to separate ourselves from the behaviors we practiced before coming to Christ. We have also been called to holiness. Holiness could be defined as living in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. As a Christian, our first goal with every decision we make, or activity we are involved in, should be to please God. We have also been called to service. As a Christian, we are part of the growing Kingdom of God and should be actively participating in seeking to win others to Christ.

“What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”

The word inheritance speaks of something that is received. When a person dies they often leave a will which distributes their goods as they wish. Because of the death of Jesus, all who trust in Him for salvation receive eternal life as an inheritance. It is a free gift given in response to simple faith. That being said, notice that Paul is not praying regarding our inheritance but His. What is the inheritance that Jesus received as a result of going to the cross? Simply put, His inheritance is you. Hebrews twelve tells us it was the joy of receiving you as an inheritance that motivated Him to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. Think about that. Jesus considers us to be a rich and glorious inheritance, worthy of all the suffering He was forced to endure at Calvary. One of the most important things we must settle, if we are going to follow Jesus, is that He loves us and wants to do great things in and through us.

“What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe”

Finally Paul prays regarding the exceeding, great power of God. This power is more than sufficient for any obstacle in its way. That is not true of my power. There are many things that I cannot lift, push, climb over, under or around, but the power of God is more than able. Perhaps the most encouraging thing Paul says about the power of God is that it is “toward us.” In other words, when we decide to follow Jesus, the exceeding, great power of God is now on our side enabling us to walk with Him and serve Him. There are so many obstacles that seem to impede our walk with God. We face the difficulties of our own flesh, as well as the fears connected with any task He leads us into. We can be encouraged by the fact that whatever He calls us to, He has the power to accomplish. As always, we cannot focus on our weaknesses, but must fix our eyes upon His strength.

Let’s pray these same things for ourselves and for one another.

Pastor Jim

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My Love

Song of Songs 4:7
“You are all fair, my love, and there is no spot in you.”

In addition to being a love story, Song of Solomon also illustrates the love God has for us. Perhaps, nowhere is that more evident than in this verse. It has been stated, love is blind; because when two people are truly in love they do not focus on what is wrong with one another. It is not that God’s love is blind and He does not notice sin in His children, but through the cross, He has washed our sins away. When God looks upon those who have been born again, He sees us as holy and blameless. Two different applications cry out to us from this one verse.

First, since we are holy, we should seek to live holy. It is important that our lifestyle lines up with the fact that we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Too often, Christians develop the attitude that since we are forgiven we can compromise and commit sin. While I am not suggesting Christians are perfect, I am saying we should seek to live in a way which reflects the fact we have been born again.

Second, if you are married, your spouse should be lavished in the kind of love that says, “There is no spot in you.” You should have eyes for your spouse alone, and she should know it. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, requiring a love that looks beyond faults, as we seek to grow old together. Take some time this week to think about a way to lavish your spouse with love.

Pastor Jim

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Avoiding Opposition

Galatians 6:12 “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.”

Galatia was located northwest of Syria. It was a region consisting of such places as Tarsus, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. It was the location of Paul’s first missionary journey. As Paul and Barnabas traveled throughout Galatia preaching the Gospel, many trusted in Christ and churches were birthed. While nothing matches the thrill of seeing someone come to Christ, the preaching in Galatia came at a very high price. It was there, Paul was beaten and left for dead. Some suggest, the vision problems that plagued him, were a result of the severe beating he endured at the hands of those who rejected Christ. This persecution was initiated by the Jewish people who refused to accept that Jesus was the Christ. After Paul and Barnabas departed, these young Galatian converts were left to endure this hostility. They would be ridiculed, bullied, harassed, threatened and more, all because they were living in a way that was not deemed culturally acceptable.

Not long after Paul departed from Galatia, a group of men arrived from Jerusalem and gathered the churches together. Exploiting the fact they were from the church in Jerusalem, and claiming this as their authority, they instructed these new believers that they must observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. These laws included diet, days of worship and circumcision for all male believers. This message, while unbiblical, was widely accepted because it would cause the Christians to better fit into the culture.

We see much of the same things happening today. As Christians, we are constantly ridiculed by the media and seen as a group of backwards thinking, intolerant, Bible-thumping simpletons who must be silenced. I heard a man say the reason he did not accept the Bible’s viewpoint on marriage is because he is not from the past. This constant attack can become very tiring. When we are continually looked down upon and classified as intolerant extremists, we can grow weary, cower and even be tempted to alter the Word of God in order to fit in. Just as Paul warned the Galatians against accepting the aberrant teaching of their day in order to avoid persecution, we must remain faithful to the teaching of the Word of God, even as we see hostility against it on the rise. Keep in mind,” the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for any who believe” (Romans 1:16). We are still seeing people’s lives transformed as they make decisions to follow Jesus.

Stay the course, keep the Word, follow Jesus, and let’s see Him transform our world one person at a time.

Pastor Jim

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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

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Taking A Stand

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.

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.”

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, Christians must realize that we are under attack, and 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 some time now to evaluate your life. Are you running forward, or being held back by some sin? Then take some 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

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