Puffed Up 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

“. . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Paul warns of the danger of pride. He refers to it as being puffed up; a term that has withstood the test of time, and is still used today. When we see someone who is filled with pride, we might say they are filled with self, puffed up, or even that they have a big head. Paul reminds us of the folly of elevating ourselves above one another, by exhorting us that what we have, we received from the Lord.

This passage reminds me of the story of Absalom, the son of King David, whose life was marked with pride and whose death was fitting. We are told, in the heat of battle, while fleeing from Joab, he rode under a low hanging tree branch and his head was stuck. Moments later, Joab arrived and slew Absalom. He literally died because his head was too big. Absalom was a man born into privilege. He was the son of the king, raised in the palace, given the best education and upbringing available at the time. His palace life would afford him connections with the most prominent people of the day, and provide him with a life of influence. In addition, the Bible describes him as an extremely good-looking man. He was praised throughout the nation for his looks. No doubt women were wooed by him, and men envious of him. But rather than looking at these as gifts from the Lord, and opportunities to be useful for the kingdom of heaven, Absalom was filled with pride. We are told, he was so in love with himself, that at the end of every year he would get a haircut, weigh his hair and publish the results. Of all the things we take pride in, that has to be one of the most ridiculous.

What have you done to determine the amount of hair that you have? The answer is nothing, it is hereditary. If you are bald or if you have a flowing mane, it is not because of something you accomplished, it is like being proud that you are tall. Paul reminds us, “what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Everything we have is an evidence of the grace of God. Rather than thinking of ourselves as better than another, we should use the gifts, privileges and opportunities we have been given, to serve one another, and to further the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim

Platforms

Esther 4:14

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

It is not easy to figure out why one person is given certain gifts and opportunities, that are not afforded to another. We see two people with relatively the same skill level, yet, one is chosen for a task and the other is not. Instead of allowing this to discourage us, we should keep in mind, whatever station we find ourselves, it will give us a platform to tell others about the hope of eternal life found in Christ.

Esther found herself exalted to the highest position a woman of her day could attain. She was the Queen of Persia. Her uncle Mordecai encouraged her to remember she would have an opportunity to be used by the Lord that few others would ever have. Years later, the Apostle Paul found himself on the opposite end of the spectrum; he was incarcerated in a Roman prison. Rather than complaining about how unfair things were, he used his situation as a platform to share Christ, and found he was given an opportunity to share with family members of the king.

Whether it is a promotion or a demotion, a seeming success or failure, whatever we find ourselves facing, we should realize, we are in the midst of it for such a time as this. Esther’s actions resulted in saving the lives of many. It would do us good to realize our actions and the ideas we share can also result in saving lives.

Look for an opportunity to use the platform you have been given to share the love of Christ and the way to heaven with someone today.

Pastor Jim

Chosen

Esther 2:17

“The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

It could have been easy for a woman like Esther to feel forgotten. She had lost her parents at a young age, and was a believer living, in an area where she was surrounded by those who did not know the Lord. As the pages turn, it appears there must have been some level of persecution against the Jews, since Esther chose to hide her heritage from everyone in authority. This rising persecution will set the stage for much of what develops in her story. It seems as though, instead of allowing difficulty to tarnish her view of God, she allowed her situation to give God an opportunity to show His love in her life.

Apparently,  the removal of Vashti from her position as queen, and the king’s decision to select a new bride, must have spread through the kingdom. I can only imagine the wide gamete of emotions that must have run through young Esther when she was selected as a prospective queen and taken to the palace. As the next year unfolded, the Lord began to show His sovereignty and love, as Esther rose above the other candidates. When her turn came to present herself before he king, she was chosen above all others, as the next queen of Persia.

The remainder of this book will illustrate that when God changed her station, He did it to give her a larger platform, in order to be a part of the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This is an important principle to keep in mind. When God blesses us and raises our station in life, we need to ask Him why. Why has God blessed your resources? Is it so you can have a faster car or newer gadgets? Or is it so you can use your resources to further the kingdom. If God has increased your sphere of influence perhaps it is so you can have a larger platform to tell the world about Christ.

Esther teaches us that we are not forgotten, that God knows our current state, and that His plans for us include His desire to raise us up and use us for the furtherance of His kingdom.

Pastor Jim   

Love And Respect 

Esther 1:20

“When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”

The opening scene of Esther sheds a bright light on the needs of men. Ahasuerus, king of Persia, had invited all the nobles of his kingdom to a great celebration. It is likely, he was trying to persuade them to get behind his program of sending a massive army to overthrow Greece. During this celebration, he called for his wife to come and parade herself before him and his friends. No doubt, this would be an embarrassing act for any woman, so she refused. Ahasuerus took her refusal as a personal attack against him. He felt as though his wife was not behind him, supporting and honoring him as king. This sent a chilling message to all the men, if the queen did not honor her husband, what chance did they have of being honored by their wives.

Those who study human behavior suggest the greatest need a man has in a relationship is to be honored or respected. When a man senses his wife supports and believes in him, he is able to face just about anything. While I am not suggesting Ahasuerus’ behavior is noble, I do see a picture of how important it is for a wife to support her husband. One of the greatest women of Scripture is Sarah, who was honored by God for the honor she gave to her husband. Paul declared, the number one responsibility of a wife is to respect her husband.

I have found, in many marriages, wives are failing to honor their husbands because they don’t sense they are being loved. This turns into a vain battle where the wife is not honoring, because she is not being loved, and the husband is not loving, because he is not being honored. If that describes your marriage – STOP IT. Instead of waiting for your spouse to do the right thing, offer yourself to the Lord and determine you will live pleasing to Him. Whatever the current state of your marriage, take comfort in knowing God is able to do great things in the lives of all who are willing to do things His way.

Pastor Jim

Growth

1 Corinthians 3:1

“I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

Paul mentions four types of people in the opening verses of this chapter. He refers to mere men (some versions read natural man), babes in Christ, carnal men, and finally spiritual men. These terms represent a natural development in the spiritual life of an individual. Natural man refers to a person before they place their faith in Christ. The natural man is living, breathing, walking, talking, perhaps even loving, giving, sharing and caring, but the natural man is separated from God, and living in sin. It is when the natural man hears the message of the cross, recognizes his need for a savior, and places his faith in Christ, that his sin is forgiven and he is born again into the family of God. At that point, he becomes a babe in Christ. Like all babies, the new Christian must be cared for. He needs constant companionship, encouragement, example, and a diet of the simple teachings of the Word of God.

Hebrews 6 gives a list of the foundational truths every young Christian must understand: “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the young Christian ingests a healthy diet of the Word of God, he will begin to grow. Thoughts, words, and actions change, and many of the practices from the old life, are replaced with practices that are pleasing to God. Soon, the young believer is growing in Christ, and impacting others for the kingdom of God. They are no longer controlled by emotions, or by the influences of the world around them, but are now controlled by the Spirit of God. They begin to live a life that sets an example on earth, and stores up treasures in heaven. Paul refers to that individual as spiritual. Sadly however, this is not the route for every Christian. Some, after placing faith in Christ for salvation, never seem to grow out of infancy. Even years after coming to Christ, they are still struggling with the same doubts, fears and sins. Their Christian life is more like a swinging pendulum, than a walk with God. They “feel” close to Him at moments, and far away other times, they let the influences of the world influence them, and are constantly falling into sin. Sometimes, because of the guilt of constant failure, they seclude themselves from other Christians, and may even accuse the church of wrong doing. It is not uncommon to hear them use phrases like, “Christians are judgmental” to help justify the sins they have not outgrown.

Paul minces no words, he refers to that person as carnal, a word meaning worldly. While it is expected, and even cute, to see a baby act like a baby, it is sad to see someone still acting childish as a an adult. Now would be a good time to evaluate your walk with God. Are you growing? If you have been a Christian for only weeks, you should be seeking to surround yourself with godly influences and get to know the Word of God. If you have been a Christian for many years, you should see a dramatic and constant change in your life, because of the daily investment of the Word of God. The Christian life is a life of growth; like a tree, we only stop growing when we are dead.

Pastor Jim

Take A Stand 

Nehemiah 13:8

“And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.”

Jesus, speaking figuratively, said if our hand causes us to sin we should cut it off, and If our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out (Matthew 18:8-9). Essentially, He was saying we should take radical action against personal sin. As the book of Nehemiah comes to a close, we see Nehemiah doing just that. He has seen the devastating effects sin has on an individual and a nation, and decides it is time to take a radical stance against sin.

The people had begun to compromise their relationship with the Lord by getting involved with the “mixed multitudes.” These were people who pretended to be committed to the Lord, but lived after the standards of the world. They would show up at the feasts and Sabbath days, but during the rest of the week they behaved like the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. Some of their actions included violating the Sabbath, living for the values of this world, and committing sexual sins. Those who associated with them, soon became like them.

Knowing the dangers of compromise, Nehemiah took some pretty serious actions. We read, he threw Tobiah out of the Temple mount, he contended with the rulers, shut the gates of the city on the Sabbath, and even pulled the hair out the beards and heads of those who withstood him.

I am not suggesting that we go on a rampage ripping the hair out of those who refuse to walk with the Lord. However, I do think it is a good idea to examine our relationship with Christ, discover the factors which keep us from following and serving Him, and remove them. As each day passes, our salvation draws nearer and nearer. It is time we took our Christianity seriously by taking a radical stance against sin.

Pastor Jim

Hide And Seek 

1 Corinthians 2:9

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The things God has planned for each of us are better than anything we could ever imagine. Rather than leaving us to our imagination, Paul declares these things are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. It is the desire of God that we know Him, and we understand the things He has planned for each of us.

When my oldest son was a toddler, I introduced him to one of my favorite childhood games, hide and seek. While he loved to play, he did not quite grasp the concept. I would hide in an obvious spot, where he could easily find me. When he did, I would act surprised, then he would turn excitedly and say, “I am going to hide under my bed and you try to find me.” For him the exciting thing about the game was not hiding, but rather being found. The same is true of God, He wants us to know who He is, and to understand the things He has planned for our lives. Paul declares that the hidden mysteries of God are revealed to us by the Spirit. In other words, we can know God because the Spirit of God makes Him known. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

At times we hide things from others, not because we do not want them to know, but because we do not know how to express them. This is especially true in relationships. Experts say, one of the most common factors that lead to marriage problems is failed communication. Thankfully, God is not limited in His ability to communicate to us. Paul explains that the Spirit reveals God through both the person of Christ, and His written Word.

One of the terms used in Scripture for Jesus is, “The Word”. This term is used because Jesus is the perfect expression of God. If we want to know what God is like, and what He desires from us, we must look carefully at Christ. Every encounter He had with others reveals something about the way God feels about us, and the things He desires out of us. The more familiar we become with Jesus, the better we will understand who God is, and what He desires from us. In addition to the person of Christ, God has also given us His written Word. Page, after page, reveals the unknowable. The hidden things of God are made known in His Word. Had God left creation alone to reveal His nature, we would have a skewed and limited understanding of Him. We would understand His power, but be very limited in knowing about His love. Since it is the desire of God for us to know Him, He reveals Himself in the Word. It is as if God said, “I am going to hide in My Word and you try to find me.”

Will you take Him up on the challenge? Or will the mysteries of God remain a hidden enigma to you, as you wander about, attempting to discover God with imagination and personal experience.

Pastor Jim