River Of Life

Ezekiel 47:12 “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Jerusalem sits atop the mountain range known as mount Moriah. The city is surrounded by valleys, and is supplied with water through various springs, because there are no rivers that flow through the city or surrounding hillsides. Ezekiel is seeing into the future, to the time of the millennial reign of Christ. As Jesus sits upon the throne of David to rule the nations, the topography of Jerusalem is changed and a stream flows from the temple of God into the Kidron Valley. Then turning south, the stream continues past the Hinnom Valley, heading toward the Dead Sea. What Ezekiel sees is both literal and symbolic. The vision is a beautiful picture of God as the Source of life, for a world that thirsts for spiritual truth, including forgiveness and salvation.

One day, Christ will reign over the earth and a river will flow from the Temple, supplying abundant food and a source of healing for the nations. While we must wait for that day to ultimately come, much of what is promised, is available for those who are in a relationship with Christ.

John 4:14
“. . .but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

An open invitation is given to everyone of us to come to Christ and experience true life. Jesus compared a relationship with Himself to a flowing river. Later, Jesus would explain that the source of this life is the Holy Spirit. The more of the Spirit we have, the more of life we will experience.

Take time right now to ask God to fill you to overflowing with His Spirit. As you do, be prepared to lay things aside that might be keeping you from the abundant flow of life He promises.

Pastor Jim

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The Book Of Life

Revelation 17:8
“…And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

As the angel explains the images John sees, he makes reference to the Book of Life. This book is mentioned again, in Revelation 20:15, as the guest list of heaven. All whose names are written in this Book will have access to heaven; those who do not, will be cast out to eternal judgment. If there is one thing you want to be certain of in this life, it is that your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The question is, how do we get our names in that Book?

The Bible is very clear. Salvation is received free of charge, when we put our trust in Jesus Christ. It is something that cannot be acquired any other way. Jesus declared, He is the way, and no one could go to heaven apart from Him (John 14:6). Therefore, it is clear, our names are placed in the Book of Life when we put our trust in Christ for salvation. Since Jesus said He knows those who are His and no one can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:27-28), we conclude that our names are not written in pencil, ready to be erased at our first failure or doubt. They are written in permanent ink; we might even say, they are written in the blood of God. That being said, there is another interesting thought presented by the angel, as he refers to the Book of Life.

“…whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

The angel suggests our names were actually written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. Before we existed, before we sinned, before we cried out to Christ for salvation, our names were already written in the Book. This suggests that God has every intention and desire that you and I should go to heaven. Jesus said He was preparing a place for us (John 14:3), and all we need to do to ensure our arrival is put our trust in Christ. How tragic that some resist the grace of God, ignore the message of the Cross, deny the pleading of their loved ones, and end up with their names removed from the book; all because they were unwilling to bend their knee in surrender to Jesus. The only thing that can remove your name from the Book is a failure to accept the forgiveness that Christ provides.

Don’t let that be you.

Pastor Jim

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Government

Ezekiel 45:17
“Then it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel. He shall prepare the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.”

Recently, I was captivated by the different titles given to political leaders. In one news segment, I saw references to presidents, kings, prime ministers and even a supreme ruler. It is interesting the view men have of rulers. In some settings, they are seen as gods, while in other settings, servants of the people. Here, in Ezekiel, we get a glimpse into how God views those who rule over men. He sees them as representatives of Himself, and expects them to set an example for the people of what it means to be committed to Him. In God’s economy, a ruler of the people must first be a follower of YHWH. Israel’s greatest leader was described as a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). This evidenced itself in a desire to please God and properly represent Him to the people.

What the world needs today are men and women who will lead others by being committed to the Lord. This kind of leadership will transform a nation, a business, and especially, a home.

Pastor Jim

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Armageddon

Revelation 16:16
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”

Recently, I had the privilege of standing on Tel Megiddo, the ruins of the ancient city of Megiddo. It overlooks what is often referred to as the valley of Armageddon. The experience was almost surreal. As I stood there, contemplating the events described in Revelation 16, I could see smoke rising in the distance, from tires being burned in protest to the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel. The silence of the moment was suddenly interrupted as the entire valley was filled with the roar of an Israeli fighter jet flying past. It was not difficult to imagine what the scene will be like when men gather in one last effort to eradicate God. Hundreds of years before Revelation was written, the Bible prophesied of this event.

Psalms 2:1-3
“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

I have always looked at this as the epitome of folly. Men, in rebellious pride, gather to do battle with God, who loves them so much He gave His own Son to save them. Up to this point in Revelation, judgment has been poured out in measures. We read of a fraction of the population being judged, allowing for the remainder to respond to the mercy of God. Yet, we also read time and again, that the inhabitants of the earth refuse to repent. Instead of being drawn to God, many become hardened toward Him. That hardness ultimately reveals itself in mobilizing for battle in order to rid themselves of the influence of God, once and for all. In light of this, the second Psalm closes with some valuable advice.

Psalms 2:12
“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Instead of hardening our hearts to God, because of the things that we do not understand, or the raw deal we feel life has dealt us, we should accept His merciful plea and draw near to Him. Much of the difficulty we ascribe to God, is actually an extension of His loving kindness seeking to draw us into relationship with Him.

Will you draw near to Him today?

Pastor Jim

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Service

Ezekiel 44:21
“No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.”

Ezekiel is given instruction concerning those who will serve the Lord in His Holy Temple. Three of the rules seemed to jump off the page as I read through them this morning.

First, the priests were required to wear linen as they served the Lord. The more common material for garments in Ezekiel’s day was wool, which was much heavier and would cause a person to perspire when working hard. The ministry is something that should never become burdensome. Jesus explained, His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30). When serving the Lord seems like a heavy task, we may be doing something wrong.

Second, they were not to drink wine in the service of God. Paul later wrote, we should not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). To effectively serve Christ, we need to be empowered by the Spirit and given gifts beyond what we naturally possess. Alcohol makes a person think they are more brave, intelligent, outgoing or creative; while the Spirit of God will actually gift us and equip us to do what God has called us to.

Finally, those serving the Lord were to treat marriage differently. Even as far back as Ezekiel’s day, marriages were being tossed aside as disposable. Divorce was common even among believers. Those who wanted to serve the Lord were being called to a higher standard. Paul explained, if a person cannot keep his own home in order, how can he expect to keep order in the house of the Lord (1 Timothy 3:5). We must first take time to invest in our families if we want to have an impact for the kingdom.

Pastor Jim

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Praise

Revelation 15:3-4
“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

While the tribulation continues on earth, John’s attention is drawn once again to the scene in heaven. The contrast alone should be enough to persuade us to surrender to Christ. Earth is experiencing the wrath of God, while heaven is being filled with sweet and continuous praise. Those who have been rescued from the tyrannical reign of the Antichrist stand before the throne and worship.

One of the evidences that a person has met Christ and been set free from sin is a desire for worship. While it is not required to fall on our knees, lift our hands, or even sing loudly, it is hard to imagine a person who has been impacted by the love and mercy of God who will not offer the loudest praise. Just the other night in our worship service, I noticed one young lady who humbly turned, faced her chair and knelt in worship. She has been growing so much in her relationship with Jesus of late that she could not resist the desire to bow in worship. I think we can learn a lot from the praise song of the redeemed found here in a Revelation 15.

““Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!”

Their praise stemmed from focusing upon the works of God. As they stood before the Lord, they recalled the way in which they had been redeemed. Since these are tribulation saints, we know they had neglected the things of God for most of their lives and ignored the gospel. Still, the persistent love of God hunted them down and won them over. They, like we, could look back to the cross, where the love of God was poured out to redeem them from sin and give eternal life. Reflecting upon the work God has done is vital to a life of praise.

“Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy.”

As important as it is to look back upon the works of God, it is also vital that we look up to the person of God. He is worthy of the highest praise for what He has done, and also for who He is. Their praise stems from remembering three things about the nature of God. First, He is just; second, He is the king; and third, He is holy. All of the judgments of God are just. We often accuse Him of being unfair, however when His judgment is finally meted out upon a Christ-rejecting world, we will see how mercy and truth have met one another, and how righteousness and peace have kissed.

For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Finally, their worship includes an understanding of the promises of God. The judgments that the Word of God has warned about are finally coming to pass. Peter speaks of those who mock God because He waits so long execute judgment; failing to recognize it is His mercy which holds back His judgment. One of the best ways to increase a heart of praise is to focus upon the promises of God. Too often, in dire circumstances, we look only to our surroundings, instead of looking into the promises of God. The saint who trusts the promise over the circumstances he faces, or the emotions they stir up, is the saint whose life will be filled with the loudest praise.

Pastor Jim

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A Safe Place

A Safe Place
Revelation 14:1 “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty- four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

The tribulation years will be the most difficult time period the earth has ever known. Any hardship we have ever experienced, will pale by compariso to the least of the trials during those few years. It is prudent that we each do everything we can to avoid being left here when the these events begin to transpire. The way out is to trust in, and surrender to, Christ as Lord and Savior. If you have not yet made the decision to receive Christ, stop reading and pray. Invite Him to forgive your sins and be your Lord.

That being said, Chapter 14 gives a glimpse into the life of 144,000 believers,  living and serving God through these dark times. It is particularly striking to me, that these individuals have the seal of God on their lives which, among other things, is certainly a seal of protection. With all the opposition to Christ and His followers, these believers remain untouchable as long as they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rrevelation 14:4) Their lives serve as a great example that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

I am reminded of David as he walked into the valley to face Goliath. Unarmed and untrained for battle, there was no safer place for Him to be than face to face with the giant. I think also of Gideon, with only 300 men at his side, and facing an army too large to number, he was both protected and victorious in battle. Conversely, I also think of Jonah. He was a man who knew the danger an Israelite would be in if he walked into the city of Nineveh. Unwilling to yield to the way of the Lord, he found himself in even graver danger.

While we are not to live foolishly, seeking adventure for adventure sake, we must not let the fear of the unknown or the threat of the “what if” keep us out of the center of God’s will for our lives. Just as these men were marked by God, and protected until it was time to call them home, so is the child of God who is walking in the will of God. We need never fear as long as we are following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Pastor Jim

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