Incredible

Acts 26:8 “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”

It has been said that if we can believe the first four words of the Bible we should have no problem with the rest of its claims. “In the beginning God…” The Bible is filled with stories of the mighty workings of God. We read of Him speaking the worlds into existence, delivering a nation from the threat of death, parting the seas, providing food in a desert, knocking down the walls of Jericho, raising a shepherd boy to the palace, healing the sick, and delivering those who were possessed by devils. Page after page, we read of God being God and providing victory over the affairs of life. It seems that for many of us, we have no problem believing in the mighty workings of God. We trust the validity of our Bibles, we celebrate His mighty work in the life of others, and even sing together of His miraculous power. But when it comes to our own lives we sometimes act like Agrippa. We question the ability of God; we wonder if His power is really strong enough to help us in our time of need.

I love Paul’s question; “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”

What is it about God that you do not understand that makes it difficult for you to believe that He raises the dead? I mean, if He is in fact God, we should expect that He would be able to do what is impossible. It would be foolish to think otherwise. The problem is we often reduce God to someone we can understand, and since we have taken away so much of His majesty, we also doubt His ability. Sometimes, in our efforts to relate to God, we have a tendency to reduce Him to someone we can understand. We cannot fathom His holiness, so we ignore it and focus only on His love and mercy. Since we cannot understand His majesty, we limit Him to His humanity. The result is we lose sight of the power of God.

In “The Chronicles of Narnia” CS Lewis refers to Aslan stating, “He is not a tame lion.” I have always loved that reference. I think He is referring to the fact that God is bigger than we will ever be able to comprehend. We cannot reduce Him to someone who we understand, or else we have reduced Him to someone He is not.

If you are having trouble believing that God is able to work in your life, or give victory to your situation, it is time to cast off the limited God that you have created. It is time to introduce you to the God of Scripture. A God so great that the Heavens cannot contain Him.

Pastor Jim

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The Wrong Fight

Judges 20:14
“Instead, the children of Benjamin gathered together from their cities to Gibeah, to go to battle against the children of Israel.”

The book of Judges ends on a tragic note. Personal immorality, social chaos, and civil war mark the close of the book. This was certainly one of the darkest times in the history of the people of God. The rape and murder of a young woman led to a heated battle between the tribes of Israel. Instead of facing their true enemies, Israel was caught up in civil infighting that cost the lives of some of their most gifted men. When all is recorded, we find they were simply fighting all the wrong battles.

Instead of devoting herself to the Lord, the young woman who lost her life, spent her days in adulterous affairs. The Levite who reported the crime, was himself guilty of immorality. He was in a relationship with a woman he was not married to. She was his concubine, a practice acquired, not from the Word, but from the world. The night of the crime against his concubine, he was partying within the house. His drunkenness no doubt influenced his decision making. We read he is the one who sent her out to the mob of men, who eventually raped and murdered her. It is interesting to note, when he reports the crime, there is no mention of his own misdeeds, no repentance for his action, no mourning, no sackcloth, and no confession of sin.

As the story continues, the nation of Israel gathers for war, to avenge the crimes against this man and his concubine. The tribe of Benjamin, instead of realizing the immorality that was rampant within their tribe, stood up for the actions of these men, who raped and murdered the woman. Perhaps a spirit of freedom prevailed, and those who committed these deeds were only expressing their natural sexual inclinations. Whatever the case, Benjamin, instead of addressing a prevailing national sin, turned their anger against their brethren, and war broke out.

The lesson is clear. It is possible to spend a great deal of effort fighting the wrong battles. Instead of fighting to justify our own sins, or defending the sinful actions of others, we should be fighting for personal holiness and national righteousness. Because the people wandered from God, the nation lost sight of the holiness of God and immorality spread like cancer throughout the land.

Pastor Jim

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Blameless

Acts 25:8 “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”

Jesus instructed His followers that their lives are to be lived as a testimony to the world. He taught “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” In other words, the way we live should testify of a living God.

Paul lived that way. He not only believed that Christ was alive, he spoke about it, and lived it. His life was a living testimony of a risen Savior. While the religious leaders were in an uproar because of his preaching, they had nothing to hold against him regarding the law or customs.

We all ought to live that way. Writing to the Church in Philippi, Paul stated,

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” Philippians 2:14-15

That word “blameless” really stands out to me. It speaks of having nothing of which to grab hold. I remember, years ago, watching a group of young people attempting to catch a greased pig. It was quite comical seeing them run around attempting to grab hold, only to have the pig wiggle away from them. There was nothing to grab hold of, and the pig remained uncatchable. We ought to be a bit like that. How we live at home, work, and around the community testifies loudly of the reality of Christ. When we seek to be a witness of Christ, it will affect the way we live. The way we work, the way we talk, the things we look at, will all be affected when we see them as a way to win others to Christ.

Let’s determine today, that we want to be those, who not only declare Christ as a Facebook status, but those who live like Jesus is actually alive from the dead.

Pastor Jim

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Pocket Size

Judges 18:24
“So he said, ‘You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. Now what more do I have? How can you say to me, ‘What ails you?’ ’”

Israel had forsaken the Word of God and fallen into a place of spiritual confusion. We read of “homemade religions” with their own gods, priests and theology. As the story unfolds, we will see this spiritual confusion leads to social chaos and immorality.

In the current chapter, we find one of the many follies of creating your own god based upon your experiences and imagination. Micah paid good money to have a silver image built, and his own priest on salary. When a large group from the tribe of Dan, passed through town and saw his priest and god, they decided to confiscate them for their own use. Because they outnumbered Micah, he had no choice but to comply with their demands. As he watched them parting, he unwittingly declared the folly of false religion,

“You have taken away my gods which I made…

Any god that can fit in the saddlebag of the enemy, is not the true and living God. Jehovah God demanded no images be made of Him. The reason for this is that no likeness could do Him justice, and He is infinite. To reduce Him to a silver statue that fits in your purse, is to lose sight of His very nature. Solomon described God as the One who “. . . the heavens cannot contain. . .” (2 Chronicles 6:18).

Sometimes, we reduce God to a manageable size so we can understand Him. I think it is much better to realize there are things about the nature of God which are too big for me to get my head around, than to reduce Him to fit into my limited knowledge. After broaching the subject of the sovereignty of God, Paul dropped to his knees and declared,

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” Romans 11:33

Pastor Jim

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Homemade Religion

Judges 17:5
“The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.”

The story of Micah is all too familiar. In a time when the Word of God was being neglected, Micah created his own “homemade religion.” He used terminology familiar to true religion, he had a priest and an ephod. However his god, his worship, and his lifestyle, was really nothing more than a product of his own imagination. As time went on, his religion became even more organized. He established a priesthood consisting first of his own son, then of a wayward Levite, who pretended to be an expert on the things of God. Only in vocabulary, did this religion bear any similarity to a real relationship with the true and living God.

Sadly, though the Word of God is more accessible today than at any other time in history, we still find people creating their own god, and their own way of worship. It is common for these “homemade religions” to use terminology found in the pages of Scripture. They all include a god, some form of prayer and worship, and usually, a procedure to deal with misdeeds. The problem is, like Micah’s religion, they are nothing more than the product of someone’s imagination. While it is honorable to have a boat, a bookshelf, or even a home, that is the work of your own hands, it is not wise to build your own god.

The Bible declares, Jesus is the Faithful Witness. Everything we can know, and need to know, about God, is found in Christ. If you want to observe what God is like, and how to know Him, read the pages of the Bible. The best place to start is in the Gospel of John, where you will meet Jesus face to face.

Pastor Jim

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Cheer Up

Acts 23:11 “Be of good cheer”

Webster defines a trial as, “A test of faith through subjection to suffering or temptation.” Paul’s current situation may be the text book case of a trial. He came to Jerusalem with the goal of sharing Christ with his friends and countrymen, spent his time preparing to share with them, but before he ever spoke a word to them he found himself under attack. After his unjust arrest he had two opportunities to share the Gospel. Both times he was cut short as the people become enraged against him. To make matters worse, his Christian friends had warned him not to go to Jerusalem in the first place. They said he would be, beaten, arrested and perhaps killed. Paul believed the trip was the Lord and ignored their warnings. Now incarcerated and facing the threat of death it would be natural to feel as though he had failed the Lord and that his situation was hopeless.

I love the fact that while facing this great trial the Lord spoke to Him.

Voices surrounding him telling he was a blasphemer and he was going to die and perhaps a voice within saying he had failed. But one voice cried out louder than all the rest. It was the voice of Jesus providing Paul with a promise that would carry him through all the trials of the next few years. Prison in Rome, the threat of death, a late night escape, forgotten in Caesarea, ship wrecked on an island and being bitten by a poisonous viper could not shatter the strength that was given from these few simple words uttered by Christ. No matter how bad things became He was promised safe passage and opportunity in Rome.

The Word of God is like that, a timely promise from God is able to sustain us though whatever difficulties we are facing. I have had times that seemed hopeless and all I had to sustain me was a simple truth from the Word of God. As time continued I found that no force on earth could shake the foundation given by the promise of God. No matter what you are facing, get in the Word and allow Jesus to whisper His great and precious promises and strengthen you from within.

Mark 13:31
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Jim

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Convenient Time

Acts 24:25 “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

Time is an interesting thing. We are always spending it and it cannot be saved. Failing to do something today, does not guarantee we will have the time for it tomorrow. Felix’s encounter with the Gospel message teaches us something important about how we use this moment for eternal things.

Paul had been promised early on in his walk with the Lord that he would have opportunity to share Christ with kings, or political rulers. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he finds himself standing before the Roman Ruler of Judea with an open door to share Christ. In true Pauline fashion, he “swings for the fences”, and declares how Christ has risen from the dead and offers eternal life. He warns of the coming resurrection; that all men will one day stand before God to give account for this life. Those who have received Christ will enter into eternity and those who have rejected Him will face eternal judgment.

After hearing the truth of Christ so clearly explained, Felix’s response is striking. He sends Paul away, anticipating that in his future he will have “a convenient time” to decide for Christ. Sadly, as the story unfolds, Felix never finds that time. He is given many more opportunities to receive Christ, only to find further reasons to put it off.

Tragically, Felix is not alone in this. Many, upon hearing the Gospel, recognize it to be true; the Spirit of God is speaking to them, and stirring within them to respond, yet, like Felix they put it off. Perhaps, they to think that tomorrow will be a more favorable day. Those who put off Christ, do so for many reasons. Some are concerned how their response to Christ will impact them socially. They are concerned about what others will think of them, how their friends will react to the news, or how their co-workers will treat them. Others are hoping for one more experience with sin. Perhaps another night of partying, or a final chance of sleeping with their girlfriend; only to find that they are never able to satisfy the craving for one more.

The truth is, there will NEVER BE a more convenient time to get things right with the Lord than this moment. If need be, take time to surrender all to Jesus, and begin a fresh new walk with Him

Pastor Jim

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