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

It’s Science 

Ecclesiastes 12:13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

The book of Ecclesiastes is a bit like an experiment. Solomon looked at life the way a scientist does an experiment. He sought to discover the meaning of life by asking questions, doing research, creating an hypothesis, and drawing a conclusion. It is here, at the end, that he makes his discovery known to his readers. His conclusion, after years of experimentation, is that the purpose of life will be found in fearing God and keeping His Word.

Fearing God is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. It is first mentioned in the story of Abraham being asked to offer his only son to God. This was a test to determine if Abraham loved God more than anything else in life. The conclusion we draw is that fearing God means loving Him above all else and seeking to please Him, no matter the cost. Practically speaking, to fear God means we should do what His Word says, rather than what our emotions, others or circumstances tell us to do. When a person refuses to succumb to the pressure to compromise, expresses the kindness of Christ when mistreated, or reaches out to share the Gospel, they are acting in the fear of God.

Solomon linked fearing God with keeping His commandments. These things cannot be separated. In fact, Solomon is not suggesting two different roads, but rather that fearing God involves obeying His Word. The way to check whether or not we fear God, is to simply examine if we are obeying our Bibles. If there are things you are involved in that are forbidden, or if you are neglecting what is clearly written, then you are failing to properly fear the Lord.

Some experiments do not need to be repeated. They have already been proven, and the best thing for us to do is trust the research of those who have gone before us. Instead of blindly walking through life without meaning or purpose, take a lesson from Solomon and commit yourself to reading the Bible, and doing what it says.

Pastor Jim

Whatever You Want

Ecclesiastes 11:9
“…Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.”

It is not uncommon for a person to go from church to church, and pastor to pastor, until they receive the counsel they want to hear; instead of the counsel they need to hear. I have known people to leave the church they have been attending simply because they received advice or admonishment they did not like. It is in those times, Solomon’s words seem to be most fitting. He declares, we are free to do whatever our heart desires, but we must understand, a day is coming when we will give account for those decisions, and the actions that followed.

A married couple, who has failed to apply the Biblical principles to their marriage, may grow farther and farther apart, until they choose to end their marriage. They may even use phrases like, “we fell out of love” or “it is better for the children, for us to part than to fight” or “we never really loved each other anyway.” The end result is, they are choosing to do what they want, regardless of what God says. It is important to realize, a day is coming when we will answer for the life we lived. Difficulties are not reasons to end a marriage, but to work on the marriage.

A dating couple may feel the pressure to become sexually active. They may begin to justify their actions because they are in love. They too have a choice, either to obey God or follow their heart. It is important to keep in mind, we will stand before God for our decisions.

Whatever scenario we can imagine, we find ourselves face to face with the decision to either obey the Word of God, or to follow the desires of our own hearts. I recall sitting with an individual who began to tell me all the reasons for the decision he was making. He told me of the difficulties he was facing and his desire to be happy. After listening to him for quite some time, I replied, “Where is God in the equation?” His answer stunned me, he declared he did not care, he just wanted to be happy.

Whatever you are facing, remember, we will one day stand face to face with Christ. It is His desire to richly reward us with eternal life and treasures in heaven. Whatever momentary happiness we think we will derive from disobedience, will soon be forgotten in the light of eternity’s rewards.

Pastor Jim

Moving Forward 

Galatians 4:8-9

But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

Paul is reminding the Galatians that many of the behaviors and activities they were involved in, before coming to Christ, are no longer fitting. Before accepting Christ, much of our existence is spent trying to find the meaning of life, or at least some semblance of meaning. We realize something is missing, and continually search for it. We may party for while, thinking that will make us happy, or get involved in a relationship or multiple relationships, all in pursuit of filling a void or adding something to life. Some are able to realize the inability of these cravings to satisfy, and move on to something else. However, many become addicted and find themselves in bondage to the very pursuits that falsely promised freedom. Whatever your story is, you will not find life’s missing puzzle piece until you come to Christ. It is in Christ that we are made complete. “. . .and you are complete in Him, . . .” Colossians 2 :10

Paul wrote, when we come to Christ we are redeemed with the blood of God, adopted as sons of God, filled with the Spirit of God and we become the heirs of God. Those are amazing benefits, especially when we consider all we did to receive them was believe Jesus Christ is the Savior, and invite Him to rule our lives. The moment you received Christ, those things became true of you. If you felt like a different person it was because you were. We might say, you are now a complete person.

Now that you have been so dramatically changed by Christ, the things you once sought in life are no longer necessary. Returning to those trappings, would be like an idol worshipper meeting the true and living God, then returning to bow before his little clay image. We would say to that man, “You don’t need those things any more.” In the same way, you don’t need to go partying, live in an ungodly relationship, or use sin as a stimulus in life any longer. YOU KNOW GOD and you can experience the life that is found in Jesus.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12

Pastor Jim

Price Cut 

Ecclesiastes 10:7

“I have seen servants on horses, While princes walk on the ground like servants.”

Years ago, I heard a story, whether it is factual, I do not know, but it told of a group of men who broke into a large department store in a metropolitan area. These cunning thieves did not actually steal anything. Instead they changed the price tags on everything. Items that were of little value were given high prices, while things of great worth, were sold for pennies. The next morning, when the store reopened, it did not take long to realize that things were a mess. The management determined, the only solution was to close for the day and reprice everything.

We live in a world that is not unlike that department store. Things that don’t matter much are pursued as though life could not exist with out them, while the things in life that matter most, are often ignored or neglected. This is clearly not a new phenomenon, for Solomon saw it happening in his day. People were living by the wrong value system, and as a result, were pursuing all the wrong things.

This reminds me of a poem written by C.T. Studd

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

Pastor Jim

You Are Not alone 

Ecclesiastes 9:2

“All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.”

Solomon spent his life as a student of human behavior. He appeared to be on a quest to find meaning and purpose to life. His observations led him to the conclusion that trials, or difficulties, are the lot of all men; both the righteous and the wicked experience times of sorrow, pain and suffering. When a tornado strikes a town, it makes no distinction between the believer or the unbeliever. Cancer strikes the godly, as well as the ungodly. Christians and non-Christians have both lost their jobs due to tough economic times. If there is no difference between the ailments that we suffer, what is the benefit of living a life committed to Christ?

First, there are great promises given to the child of God, in the midst of the difficulties he or she is enduring. We are promised the peace of God will sustain us, and the strength of God will carry us through. One of the most attractive aspects of a relationship with Christ is the peace He provides, in the midst of the storms of life. I have known believers who are facing intense trials, yet they are guarded within by the perfect peace, which flows from God.

In addition to peace, the child of God understands, there is purpose behind the suffering. Difficulties are not meaningless, but rather become tools in the hand of God to build character, to provide opportunities, and to give to others the light of the Gospel of Christ. Paul found himself in prison, where he celebrated the goodness of God, and by doing so, won others to faith in Christ. We cannot always understand why we are suffering, but we can look for ways by which God will be glorified in our trying times.

The believer also realizes trials are temporary. While they may seem to last forever, they are in fact transient and will be over soon. Some run their course in this life. We may even have a difficult time remembering some of the things we suffered a year ago. Other trials may follow us throughout the course of this life, but will not follow us into eternity. Whatever difficulties we have now, the Christian can be sure they will not plague us in eternity.

Whatever you might be facing, allow me to encourage you to trust Christ and cling to His promises. There is no reason you should have to walk this journey alone. There is a Savior who wants to comfort and strengthen you, if you will trust your life into His care.

Pastor Jim

Tutor

Galatians 3:24

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

The law Paul refers to is what is commonly known as the Ten Commandments. This law is distinct from all other laws in its source and in its purpose. We are surrounded by laws written by men and designed to be kept. The Law of God was written by the hand of God; its purpose, to reveal that we are incapable of living up to His standard of righteousness. When confronted with the Gospel, many will claim they are good people, trying to honor God by keeping the commandments. Anyone who makes that statement, completely misunderstands the commands of God. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how we measure up.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

God demands first place in our lives. If anything ranks higher in your life than God, and seeking to please Him, you are guilty of breaking the first commandment. Jesus elaborated on this commandment saying, we must love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). That is a tall order, isn’t it? It requires that we ask ourselves, “Is there anyone or anything more important to us than living to please God?” If we are involved in an ungodly relationship, or ungodly practices within a relationship, we are guilty of breaking the very first commandment. That should be enough to prove to any honest person, they are not keeping the commandments of God. However, for the sake of argument, let’s look at one more.

Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.”

Stealing is defined as taking something that does not belong to you, without the permission of the owner. Stealing is not determined by the value of the item taken, but rather to whom the item belongs. The first recorded act of stealing is found in Genesis chapter three, when Eve took a bite of a piece of fruit that did not belong to her. God took that action very seriously. He did not wink at it, suggesting it was only a little sin that did not matter much. Her act of taking what did not belong to her, and her husband following suit, resulted in their banishment from the garden and sin entering the world.

Clearly, none of us are living up to the commandments of God. If that is true, why then, did God write them? Most laws are written to be observed. When I was a school teacher, I had a list of standards written on the wall of my classroom. Every student could look and understand clearly what was expected of them while in my room. God gave His list of standards to show us we are not capable of meeting them, and each of us is in need of a savior. Like a tutor who sits beside a student to help them understand a concept, the law speaks to each of us, explaining that we cannot save ourselves. No work we have ever done can erase the sins we have committed. We must cry out to the One who saves. Paul wrote, “the Law was a tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” It is when we recognize we are sinners and Christ is the Savior, that we will cry out to Him to rescue us. Paul went on to say,

Galatians 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

When we put our trust in the Savior, all of our sins are forgiven and we become the children of God. Instead of pretending we are good enough, it is time to honestly evaluate ourselves in light of the standard of God. Then we must cry out for Him to forgive us of our sins and and make us His children.

Pastor Jim