Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Family Unit

Gen 5:2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

We have a very interesting grammatical structure in this verse.

First, we see that Adam and Eve were created in the same day. We have two possibilities here.

1. It was a long day. God brought all the animals to Adam, and he named each species. How long would that take? I suppose a very long time. Anyway, having met each animal, animal husbandry wasn't going to cut it for Adam's loneliness, so God performed the first surgery on him. Anesthetic was administered, perhaps warm milk from what Adam had named 'kine'. He must have been very tired from naming all those animals. Then God's scalpel opened up his side, He performed a ribectomy, super-glued his side together, and while Adam was in the recovery room, Eve was built from that rib. Imagine as God looked at the DNA helix and thought, "it'll take them 6000 years before they begin to understand this baby!" God then placed some smelling salts under Adam's nose, woke him up and said, "lookie here what I have for you!" Adam's jaw dropped and he said, "Whoa, man!" And you know the rest of the story.

2. Eve was built days later, but on the 6th day, when God sculpted Adam, Eve was intrinsic, that is, she was included in that package, she just had to be taken from him at a later date. I think this is the case.

Second, God called their name Adam. In God's eyes, this couple was one unit. They were static and cling. In Gen 2:24 we read, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

Now, let's tie these two thoughts together. In creation and in marriage, God intends for the married parties to be one party. And a wonderful par-TAY it should be.

How about your marriage, are you two ships drifting on the sea, sometimes close, sometimes at a distance? Or are you both in the same vessel, going the same direction, living, laughing, longing, loving together, no matter what? Is your marriage a regular party?

God wants you to be one, the closer you both get to Him, the closer you will be to one another. Sort of like the Trinity, separate, yet one.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad Son - Good Son (Raising Cain)

Rambling thoughts on Gen 4

(note: name meanings in parentheses)

1. Cain - (His name means fastened spear). In jealousy over the Lord's regard to Abel's offering, he killed his brother, probably with a farm implement, since Cain was a tiller of the ground and the two of them were out in the field when the murder occurred. Cain may then have buried Abel in a shallow grave, since the Lord said his blood cries out to him from the ground.

The fourth dweller upon the earth becomes a fugitive and a vagabond (deplorable wanderer). He links up with a woman, either at home, east of Eden, or on the road, who becomes his wife. The question begs itself, where did Cain get his wife? Either she was a sister whose birth is not mentioned or she came to be by an act of special creation of the Lord. No doubt, He could do this. But probably the former explanation will do, it is less of a reach. She is more or less inconsequential to the Scripture narrative. If she were created, that creative act would probably have earned the honor of special mention.

Cain's line included:
-Enoch (initiated) who built a city which bore his name, and his son's name (the same), vs 17
-Irad (fugitive), 18 Now, there's a name to hang on your boy! He was the son of -Enoch Jr.
-Mehujael (smitten of God)
-Methusael (man who is of God)
-Lamech (just sounded nice to his mom, apparently, because it has no meaning)
Lamech was the first polygamist, marrying both *Adah (ornament - must have been his trophy wife)
*Zillah (Shade - must have been a big gal)
From the union of Lamech and Trophy wife:
-Jabal (stream) whose offspring live in tents
-Jubal (leader) His offspring were musicians. They invented and played musical instruments. Some were into country music (since they handled the harp, which means 'twang') and others were good on the woodwinds (organ).
Zillah and Lamech produced:
-Tubalcain (offspring of fastened spear) He was the father of metallurgy. He had a sister named Naamah (pleasantness). She is the first daughter to get ink in the Bible.

Back to Lamech, this nut didn't fall far from the tree. He announces to his wives that he had murdered a young man and was in hot water with the Lord. He figured God would punish him 11 times as much as his great, great, great, great granddad. Violent crime was on the rise, 2 reported murders in the space of several hundred years! The world was going to heck in a hand-basket on Cain's side!

But then, there was the godly seed.
-Seth! (substituted). He had a son named
-Enos (son of the substitute) and this is when men began to call upon the name of the Lord. This is significant because Paul tells us, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

In Adam, all die (I Cor 15:22) But thanks to a Substitute, we can be made alive!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Enter the Villain.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Gen 3:1

Until the third chapter of Genesis, the Bible is a symphony of awe and wonder. Perfection and grandeur ooze from each verse. With the exception of God's warning to Adam concerning the forbidden fruit, all is positive and wonderful. Yes, the earth was without form and void, but that was no problem, just the process. Yes, Adam was alone and needed an help meet, again, no negative there, only part of the progression of creation. The first two chapters of Genesis could easily cause the reader to break into a chorus of "How Great Thou Art!"

However, the narrative moves us on to the third chapter where it all goes south. Enter the Villain!

*He Appears as a serpent "Now the serpent"
Serpent - naw-khawsh' (called so because of the 'hiss', it means to whisper a magic spell) Fallen Lucifer chose as his first form in which he would appear to mankind, a serpent. Not as hideous and despised as we behold serpents, but beautiful in appearance to the innocent and unsuspecting Eve.

Beware, we don't know in which form slew-foot, dragon-breath will appear to us. We can know that it won't be as we expect. He is transformed into an angel of light, according to Paul in II Cor 11:14. The gender, look, appeal and context will be a total surprise to most. Therefore, we are warned to not be ignorant of his devices. Peter advises us to be sober and vigilant, always on guard for the enemy of our souls.

*He Applies Subtlety "was more subtil" (the definition implies cunning and craft). Don't be fooled, the arch-enemy of God is a sharp cookie. He has a ton of tricks and is well practiced with each of them. He knows our weaknesses better than we do. He knows how best to pull the wool over the eyes of the sheep. It's hard to fool the fooler, to trick the tricker.

*He Approaches the Woman"...he said unto the woman..."
Woman - 'ishshâh nâshı̂ym - the feminine mortal

Why the woman? Why not Adam?
1. She is the fixer, as women usually are. With their capacity to care and share, they feel the need to righten perceived wrongs. If she was convinced all was not right, all was not fair, she would want to fix it.
2. She is the weaker vessel (IPe 3:7) Literally, "strengthless equipment." This has nothing to do with anything other than her build.
Question: Who did God give the commandment and the warning to? The man, before Eve was made. If the serpent would have approached the man with this insanity, what might have happened to the serpent? He might have crushed it! Lucifer didn't want to take the chance of getting his neck broke!
3. To get to the man, you go:
-through a woman
-through his stomach (fruit)
-through his ego (be as gods)
*He Appeals to the 3 desires (I Jn 2:16)
the lust of the flesh (food for a physical need)
the lust of the eyes (we covet what we behold; beauty, grandeur, etc)
the pride of life (life and death) "ye shall not surely die" in this life you can have it all, like God, to know good and evil"

This same 3 pronged attack was used against our Lord in His wilderness temptation.
the appeal to the flesh - turn these stones to bread
the appeal to the eyes - here are the kingdoms of the world
the appeal to the pride of life - cast yourself down, the angels will save you.

Eve bought into it, hook, line and sinker vs 6
-Hook (baited with fruit) - "good for food"
-Line - "pleasant to the eyes"
-Sinker - "desired to make one wise" It sunk her, and us!

6,000 years later, little has changed. There are a few differences. Adam and Eve fell while housed in a pristine environment. We have to do battle with the old serpent in much less suitable environs. We have hindsight Adam and Eve were not blessed with. Beelzebub has 6 millennia of practice under his belt. But in both cases, it all comes down to human nature and the basics of temptation; appeal to our lust for food, power and our pride and we are weak!

Thank God for strength and grace to withstand temptation and for mercy and forgiveness when we fail. Beware throughout your day of the wiles of the old lion. Be filled with and depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. May He lead each of us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Scarcely Saved

1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1Pe 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

"Everybody says they're goin' to heaven ain't necessarily goin' there." These are the words of an old black gospel song. It is good theology also.

"Just say the prayer and you are saved." This is the mantra of the hyper soul-winners who think every time they can get someone to say the "sinner's prayer" they are sure for heaven. This is a sad and misleading belief. The Bible says that with the heart a person believes and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Honestly, we have no idea what some believe in their heart, even though they can repeat "the prayer."

I have lived and ministered too long to believe that everyone who says a prayer is truly saved. If they haven't really believed, that is if they were made to say a prayer, manipulated by an over-zealous soul-winner, pressed to think this is their fire escape from hell, etc., then they probably were not born again into the family of God.

I will go even further and say that probably most of the people who have prayed "the prayer" are not converted. Some of the greatest soul-winning pastors are qouted as saying that as many as 50% of our fundmental churches are unregenerated! They may have been too young to comprehend their sinfulness or understand why they are even praying or to Whom they are praying. Perhaps they were sloshed and a prayer seemed the thing to do at the time. Maybe they were an emotional wreck and were grasping at straws and figured if a prayer could help, why not try it? There are dozens of circumstances in which people may pray the sinner's prayer, yet it is prayed insincerely.

This is not to discount the countless millions who have trusted Christ by calling on His name and were thus birthed into a relationship with God. These do include young children, drunken sots and grieving souls. But it is best to let the recording angel keep the books, rather than a soul-winning aficionado looking to pad his numbers and fluff his feathers. I know how this validation game works in their ranks.

We all ought to be all about soul-winning, making the most of our opportunities, winning souls where and when we can, but the proof is in the fruit produced in the new believer by the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost.

Hey, James said it, the righteous are scarcely saved. That means hardly, with difficulty. So don't tell me that the self-righteous, religious man, the drunkard, the whore monger, the adulterer or the little brat who have not changed one iota since repeating "the prayer" are necessarily among the righteous. When they have won their first soul, when they evidence love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control, then let's talk about a soul won to Christ.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I am wishing each reader a very blessed Christmas and a tremendously godly and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I never Saw That One Coming

1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1Pe 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
1Pe 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
1Pe 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Getting smacked upside the head by the devil and his imps should never take us by surprise, and yet, it usually does.

1) The "Who" of our trials can seem strange. Sometimes it is the personel the enemy uses to cause us trials. If it were people we know can't stand us, it would be no big deal, no surprise at all. But when people we know and are close to cause us grief and heartache, it hurts deeply. We think of the propehcy concerning Jesus and His betrayer. Psalm 41:9 declares, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."

2) The "Where" of our trials can seem very odd. Other times, it is the context in which the sufferings come. We expect opposition from the world, but when it happens at home or in our church, we are generally caught off guard and the hurt is much deeper. Again, a prophecy concerning Jesus' betrayal, Zec 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

We expect safety in and around home and church and yet this is where the knife cuts deeper than anywhere. The last words of Julius Ceasar are said to have been, "Et tu, Brute!" "Even you, Brutus?"

Again, we are warned not to be surprised about the who and where of our trials and suffering.

3) The "When" of our troubles. The timing of our problems can sure take us unawares. Doesn't the problem always seem to come at the most inopportune time? I suppose there is never a good time for hurt and harm.

Often, we are riding a great wave of accomplishment. relationships are going well, work is productive, finances are fine and the boom is lowered and our world grinds to a horrific halt.

But there are those times when we are so far down we'd have to reach up to scrath a snake's belly, when it seems we have seen the worst that additional waves threaten to sink our ship.

4) The "What" of our woes. We use the word "strange" as a description of the things that happen to us. Peter says don't think it strange.

We have to admit that when one strange thing piles on top of another, eventually, nothing surprises us. The fiery trials that we never would have guessed cause us to say, "nothing surprises me anymore." Been there? If not, you will.

5) The "Why" of our sufferings. Finally, we can deal with trials from God's perspective. We may never, in this life, be able to give an answer as to why terrible things come upon us. But we do know this, when His glory is revealed, we will be glad with exceeding joy. There is a great day coming by and by, where all believers will be richly repaid for the sufferings (not of their own doing) they have endured.

Who has unjustly suffered more than our Savior? And yet, His suffering bought our salvation.

Know that your suffering is not in vain. That which God allows to come against us serves to draw us closer to Him, to depend upon His grace, to be an inspiration and help to others and to gain us a greater glory in heaven.

Perhaps today you are in the midst of tremendous difficulty. You have troubles you never bargained for. Think it not strange, you have a very real enemy out there who is "hell-bent" on your misery. But you also have a great God who is able to give great grace and eventually, deliverence.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't be Digging up the Past.

1Pe 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
1Pe 4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
1Pe 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
1Pe 4:4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
1Pe 4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Peter knew what the dual nature was all about. No disciple wrestled with the old man as he did. It seems by this passage that he was very familiar of what the old man's works looked like.

Personally, he had to have the old man beat out of him chunk by chunk. A Jew himself, he considered his pre-salvation forays to the dark side akin to acting like the Gentiles.

Here is the list he gave us:
"we walked in..."

1. Lasciviousness. "aselgeia" Incontinent, licentious, filthy, wanton, immodest, unbridled conduct. Basically, unable to control oneself, letting go and letting the flesh do whatever it wants.

2. Lusts - "epithumia" forbidden longings and desires.

3. Excess of Wine - "oinophlugia" At first glance, one might think this means “wine is fine, just sometime.” "After all," some say, 'Jesus drank wine.' I always ask them when that happened. "When he turned the water into wine and at the last supper." Really, is that so? These statements come from willful ignorance.

First of all, as the water was turned into wine for the wedding reception in Cana, we must ask what exactly was that wine? Having drank that creation of Jesus, the governor and the people were a bit perplexed. Why had they been drinking the old grape juice and now brand new wine, that is, fresh juice? They assumed the usual practice would be in place. Serve the good stuff first, then as the party winds down, use the old stuff that has begun to ferment. “Oinos” means simply “wine.” It could have been anything from fresh pressed grape juice, some places called "new wine," to fermented wine. Each context in which it is used must be explored in light of the hundreds of verses in which fermented beverages are spoken against in the Word. The wine transformed from water in Cana was fresh grape juice.

Next, there is the idea that fermented wine was passed in a chalice from apostle to apostle at the Last Supper. What wording does Jesus use in this context? He calls it, "the fruit of the vine." Again, would it stand to reason that unleavened bread was required and then leavened juice would be employed? How simple it is to figure this one out!

Therefore, we find that our First Peter passage is referencing the excess (extra-curriculars) that takes place when fermented wine is consumed. This goes hand in glove with what Paul told Timothy, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess." That is, in alcoholic drinks, excess is sure to ensue.

4. Revellings - "Komos" letting loose, anything goes behavior. Like what happens with the excess resulting from wine.

5. Banquetings - "Potos" Oh no! The pot lucks must go? Get this now, this means a drinking bout! Literally, the carousal of drinking. Kind of like a drinking binge. We say that so and so has fallen off the wagon, they have been on a 3 day drunk. That is what this is referring to.

Whew! I am glad that I can now go back to the trough at the Golden Corral and not feel guilty (as long as I don't commit gluttony!)

6. Abominable Idolatry - "Athemitos eidololatreia" Simply meaning unlawful (according to God's law) image worship.

There you have it, friends, Peter's take on what the life of the old man looks like. Now it gets interesting. In the next verse (4) we are told that the crowd we used to hang out with thinks we are strange, weird and peculiar because we no longer run with them. Read it, that's just what it says. And they want us to run with them to all the aforementioned things. But we now have our heads screwed on straight and our hearts are in the right place, so what do they do? They speak evil of us. Now who is judging?

Finally, we are told Who it is that we are trying to please, He that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. He is the One to Whom we will give an account, not the deadheads we used to run with.

So, walk in newness of life. Keep the old man dead and buried. Exhumations smell pretty nasty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE Work of God

Jas 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
Jas 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

This is the noble and high, dual work of soul winning of the lost and reconciliation of the erring saint. When we are all about bringing the wanderer home, we are never doing God's will in a greater way. The smiles of Heaven shine upon these efforts and crown the worker with several great honors.

1. That sinner's life is saved. "...shall save a soul from death." James tells us elsewhere that sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. No matter how the enemy advertises sin, no matter which make-up he applies to it, in the end, sin separates the sinner from life. Conversion, however, saves his life.

2. In the case of soul winning, that sinner's eternity is redirected from perdition to Paradise. Death is two-fold. Rather than merely being a cessation of physical function, death is an eternal separation from the life of God. This, of course means hell. Conversion puts him on an unalterable path to heaven.

3. The sinner’s misdeeds, once he has been converted, are cast into the sea of God's forgetfulness. They are hidden, blotted out, washed away, powerless as evidence against the redeemed sinner.

And so, the soul winner and reclaimer of souls is found doing the most needful and important work of God. We have this ministry of reconciliation (II Cor 5:18). A wonderful crown of rejoicing awaits those so engaged in God's work. (II Thess 2:19)
Many about you today are found in this dreadful state of enmity against God and are in need of the conversion you can offer them in Christ Jesus. Be faithful to plough the field, plant the seed, water it with the Word, cultivate the weeds and hope for the harvest. Great is your reward for doing so.

I leave you with the words of commentator Barnes from the late 19th century:

"That he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way" - Any sinner; anyone who has done wrong. This is a general principle, applicable to this case and to all others of the same kind. It is a universal truth that he who turns a sinner from a wicked path does a work which is acceptable to God, and which will in some way receive tokens of his approbation. Compare Deu_12:3. No work which man can perform is more acceptable to God; none will be followed with higher rewards. In the language which is used here by the apostle, it is evidently intended not to deny that success in converting a sinner, or in reclaiming one from the error of his ways, is to be traced to the grace of God; but the apostle here refers only to the divine feeling towards the individual who shall attempt it, and the rewards which he may hope to receive. The reward bestowed, the good intended and done, would be the same as if the individual were able to do the work himself. God approves and loves his aims and efforts, though the success is ultimately to be traced to himself.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Power of Prayer

Jas 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
Jas 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Jas 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
Jas 5:18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

We are good at giving lip service to prayer, perhaps it is time, in your walk, to put God and His promises to the test.

In these verses, we see the example of an Old Testament prophet, Elijah by name.

The thing about Elijah is that he strapped on his sandals the same as we lace up our tennis shoes. James is expressing that he was no different than we are. He could pout with the best of them. He had his good moments and his embarrassing foibles. He feared failure. He was scared to death of a real Jezebel, wait, THE real Jezebel. He was a man of passion, and that is not a total compliment.

James is pulling this great prophet, who performed miracles with some of the best characters of the Bible, off his pedestal and down to level ground with the rest of us.
*Yes, he showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Jesus.
*Yes, he left this earth, not feet first like everyone else, but in a chariot and a whirlwind of fire.
*Yes, he called down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice.
*And yes, he took hundreds of false prophets down to the river, not for baptisms, but for beheadings.

Elijah's resume' was replete with fantastic exploits. But the fact remains, he was just like you and me. His gift and calling was that of a prophet, while ours may be that of a teacher, administrator, giver, mercy-shower, pastor, etc.

And now, Elijah is used as an example for us, an inspiration. Elijah earnestly prayed and received miraculous answers. God shut up the heavens and sent a drought for 3 1/2 years because his man earnestly prayed. And then, when he got busy in prayer again, God sent the rain and the earth produced the grain.

James is simply encouraging us to pray earnestly, just like Elijah of old, and watch God work. Elijah had no advantage over us.
*He was fallible, but he was faithful.
*He was passionate, but he was prayerful.
*He was human, but he was humble.

And because God delights in doing great things, spurred on by the prayers of His children, God answered Him and is waiting to be challenged by our faith and prayers.

Last week, a dear lady in our church was up against it. She needed $350 to license a car that was given to her. It was a true need. It might as well have been $35,000! The money just wasn't there. She called to tell me of this need and I assured her of our prayers and then hung up the phone. I was immediately reminded by the Holy Spirit that 2 are better than one when it comes to prayer, so I called her right back and we prayed that God would do the miraculous for her.

As the days passed, $50 came in here, another $20 there. A couple gave her $34 to buy Christmas gifts for her children (which, by the way, a charity multiplied into $150!!!). So that was $34 that didn't have to come out of her modest bank account. Another big-hearted sister in Christ gifted her some cash. In all, the Lord had allowed her to scrape together $190 of the $350 she desperately needed. Well, that was close enough for me, so my wife and I decided to somehow make up the rest.

I was a bit late in meeting her at the DMV and when I had arrived, she had her license plates in hand. I looked at her and her plates and I wondered what in the world had happened. While waiting for me, she had gone to the counter just to check once again, for the third time, what the damages would be. Are you ready for this? $187!!! $3 less than what God had supplied her. The Lord miraculously honored our prayers.

I am convinced that the effectual fervent prayers of God's righteous servants still accomplish a lot.

Are you facing an impossible situation? Perhaps you are feeling unworthy to even petition heaven for such a need. Know this, my friend, God is looking to show Himself mighty on your behalf. Just get your life in a place where God can bless you and then begin to pray earnestly. Believe, be faithful and watch God Work.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pray and Praise!

Jas 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

This may come across as pretty simplistic, but then again, why would we want to make things difficult?

It seems most of us go from one pole to the other repeatedly, over and over again, déjà vu, time and again. We are either suffering affliction or we are doing pretty well, thank you. James gives us a simple admonishment for our visits to each pole. When we are down, pray, when we are up, praise!

Not that these two are mutually exclusive, oh no! There is nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit. It is great to praise God while at the South Pole and to pray while visiting the North. It is just so very therapeutic, as well as appropriate, to bring our afflictions to the Lord and to praise Him for His blessings.

So today, my emphasis is on singing, tomorrow, prayer may be the thing to do. Better yet, I believe I'll do both.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Patience is a Virtue!

Jas 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Jas 5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Jas 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Jas 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Jas 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Not sure who first said that patience is a virtue, but he or she nailed it. And so did Pastor James in his letter to the 12 tribes scattered abroad.

Patience pays rich dividends. Hanging in there when most would have let go is an investment for the long haul. The rewards for continuing to inch upstream against the current will soon be realized.

Jesus is coming my friends, and when we kneel before His throne, no one is going to be hearing any "well dones" for giving up and tossing in the proverbial towel. But crowns are going to be distributed for those of us who defied the odds, outlasted the enemy, gave it all we had and won the victory.

Whatever it is that has you discouraged, ready to say "I can't take this anymore" is only temporary. It will soon pass. So don't give in just yet. Resist the temptation to flee or to quit. Keep on keeping on for Jesus. For great is your reward in heaven.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Rich Man’s Curse

Jas 5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Jas 5:2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Jas 5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Jas 5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
Jas 5:5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

Consider for a moment, Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff, David Hasselhoff, just a small sampling of some rich and very unhappy people at the moment.

What does money tend to buy, happiness or sorrow? If you think about it, most often the more money a person has, the less they trust other people. When you don’t trust people, you become cynical. Cynical people are not happy people.

The more they have, the more they have to worry about protecting it. It is ironic that the rich build nice dwellings to impress, then, for the purpose of security, eventually they have to erect fences so nobody can see the property.

Many of the rich tend to look down upon those who are without. Many are kind only to those who are in a position to do something for them. Subsequently, they have no use for “the little people.” They are placed in a position to oppress the poor. They become the lenders and, as the Bible says, the borrower is servant to the lender.
The rich may also feel they are above the law or moral standards which are the norm in society. Therefore they may abuse drugs, sex, money and privilege to their own destruction.

Joy comes only when we place others above ourselves, when we serve rather than being served. Constant pampering and being catered to causes discontent and a lack self worth and fulfillment.

Also, riches have a tendency to be very transient. They can mean nothing in the wake of a law suit, a divorce or a prison sentence.

There are those who have monetary riches who are very happy because they have learned to use their resources to be a blessing to others. They give heavily to the Lord’s work and to charitable causes. They have found that they have been blessed to be a blessing.

Having said all of that, we Americans need to realize that we are relatively rich. Our standard of living is so far above the average person in the world that we cannot deny that we are living luxurious lives. Just the fact that we have a house, a car, a cell phone, a computer, 3 meals a day and snacks to boot, hot and cold running water and plumbing, heat and air conditioning, furniture, TVs (plural), a job, closets and drawers full of clothes and an education, place us among the world’s richest class. We may not be considered filthy rich with money to burn, but we are in the upper 3 percent of the world’s population.

Therefore, we need to take James 5:1-5 personally. We have to avoid the pitfalls of the rich and be responsible with the monetary riches we are blessed with. Rather than using what we have to buy multiplied sorrows, put your riches to work in tithing, blessing the missionaries, alms-giving, serving our fellow man and helping those who are in need. These are the things that remove the rich man’s curse from us and enable us to be on the path toward joy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Got Grace?

Jas 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Jas 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Jas 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Grace has been defined as God's unmerited favor to man.

The old acrostic has it this way:


The older I get, the more I understand and depend on the wonderful grace of Jesus to help me make it through the amazing maze of life. I realize that I must submit myself to the Lord, to His agenda, to His leadership, to His wisdom. On my own, I have neither the strength, resources, nor the brain power to make it through.

It is scary to think about where this old sinner would be had it not been for God's amazing grace upon my life.

I see in today's passage that I have a few responsibilities in regards to procuring God's favor on my life.

1. I must humble myself before God. I think of II Chron 7:14, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Pride is a divider. It is the sliver just under the skin which festers, causes irritation and disrupts normal activity. It has to be removed before comfort can be realized once again. As long as foolish pride remains in my life, God cannot give the grace that is sorely needed.

2. I must submit myself before my Master. How often I forget, He is the Commander in Chief, I am a foot soldier. He must lead, I must follow. He must increase and I must decrease. I need to die daily. I must lay my agenda, my desires, even my hopes and dreams at His feet and shoulder His yoke of meekness.

3. I must resist the devil! That is, I need to stand against him, oppose him at every turn. I have to withstand his onslaughts. God seems to shower His grace upon us when we say yes to Him, no to the enemy. I need grace to do spiritual battle, grace to withstand.

4. I must draw nigh to God. If I am to experience the riches of His grace, I have to snuggle up near to the heart of God. The closer I get to Him, the closer He gets to me. This is where the grace falls like rain upon our lives.

5. I must cleanse my heart and purify my mind. Simply put, repent and deal with sin and be consumed by the Word. Again, James tells us that we are either going to be friends with the world or with God, there is no middle ground. Befriending one entity negates our friendship with the other.

6. And finally, to be the recipient of God's marvelous grace, I must weep and carry the burden over that which breaks God's heart.
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

People have made a mess out of their lives, they are headed for a devil's hell and we Christians go merrily along the way as everything was hunky-dory. We need to “see the need and spread the seed!” Only God's grace will deliver these needy souls and we are the agents of change.

Psa 126:5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Psa 126:6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Our tears, watering the Word of God that we plant in the hearts of others will result in an abundance of grace.

Father, gracious Benefactor of grace, I depend on your grace to take me through this day. Slay my pride as I prostrate myself before your emerald throne. I submit myself before you today. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth and in my life. Grant me greater grace that I may stand against the onslaughts of evil. Draw me close to your side so that we may be as one. Cleanse me from the filth of this world. Wash me once again in Calvary's flow and fill my heart and mind with righteousness. Lead me to souls this day to souls for which you died, souls who need an infusion of your grace. Empower my witness with the Holy Ghost's fullness. Thank you for your amazing, marvelous, wonderful grace! In Jesus' mighty name, Amen!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who art thou that judgest another?

Jas 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

Baptist. What a wonderful name, expressing history, heritage, principle and integrity. Too bad people like the Kansas Westboro hatemongers drag that blessed moniker through the mud of their misdeeds.

Independent. Simple, expressive. Meant to imply congregational polity, no denominational interference, the Bible as the final authority.

Fundamental. Here we have a problem in these latter years. The distinction has been hijacked by some real bumpkins; non-Christian, uneducated and willingly ignorant is the mental picture most have inferred from the typical fundamentalist. The delineation has come to mean...well, mean. The fightin' fundamentalist wing of conservative Baptists have seemed to take upon themselves the role of judge, jury and executioner in all things religious and life-style.

I praise God that IFBs were never given the opportunity to rule a state or country. Seriously, they would make Rome look like cuddly kittens and the Inquisition like a picnic. Had the fightin' fundys ever been "the man," life under their iron fist would make Communist China seem an appealing place to live.

I could sure name names and tell stories from the inside, but I won't. That's their tactic. I certainly have my doubts as to whether any or many of them will make it to the pearly gates, but who am I to judge? There is one Lawgiver, and though I am an Independent Fundamental (sans the 'tude) Baptist, that Lawgiver 'taint me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unanswered Prayer or "Just What I Always Wanted! How Did You Know?"

Jas 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Jas 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Jas 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Jas 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Jas 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
Jas 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

It is gift giving (and receiving) time of year again. There is probably nothing which permeates the crevasses of our minds for these 3 to 4 weeks as much as getting the right gifts for the right people.

The Father in heaven is no different. He is all about gifts. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

The best gifts He has for us are the gifts of answered prayers. He delights in doing so.

What a tremendously practical epistle Pastor James gives us. No doubt, his own, very large church (the one started by Jesus) experienced all of these issues he addresses. Issues which had keep his people (and us) from getting our prayers answered.

I would suppose that he pastored several members who were having problems getting their prayers answered because they were tying the Lord's hands so He could not dispense needed blessings to them for their carnality.

Here, James gives several hindrances to answered prayer.

1. Relational problems due to personal conflicts. Vs 1. They experienced infighting because they could not control the flesh as it warred against their spirit. This is often the case. People pick at others because they have issues within themselves; hidden sins, bad habits, rotten attitudes, carnal acting out. If the heart is wrong, relationships will suffer. the result of all this is that their prayers were not being answered. Could this be our problem even now? Clean up the inside and watch your relationships sweeten up.

2. Lust, anger and aggression. Vs 2. These people were acting like children of the devil and wondering why the Father wasn't opening the windows of heaven in reward. Get a clue! God NEVER blesses sin.

3. They weren't praying, really praying! Vs 2. Answered prayer is dependent on preparation. We have to get ourselves into a place of blessing before we can be blessed. Then we have to bathe matters in prayer before we can expect answers. We have to walk properly before God, and then kneel humbly before His throne. When our heart is right, our life is right, when our life is right, our desires are right, when our desires are right, we have the right to ask. When we ask, we will receive!

4. Missing the mark. Vs 3. If I am praying for a Ferrari and the Lord knows I need a Kia, guess what? My prayers aren't going to be answered. Not according to my desires anyway. And I praise the Lord for that. Sometimes we ask the Lord to move that mountain when the need is for grace to climb the mountain or wisdom to go around it. I have learned that God's answers to our prayers are much wiser than our passionate pleas for ease, comfort and satisfaction.

5. Worldly conformity. Vss 4 & 5.
How dare we live like the world and want heaven too! We want all the world has to offer and expect heaven's smile. Ain't happening folks! God demands that we come out from the world, separate ourselves from it's looks, it's cares, It's wickedness. Then, and only then, does He say, "I will receive you unto myself." We are confronted with a choice, friendship with the world or friendship with God. There is no middle ground. God says that friendship with one makes you an automatic enemy of the other. Remember Lot's wife?

Verse 5 clearly tells us that God's Spirit within us is jealous over us. He wants us exclusively for Himself. The words "lusteth to envy" are curious words expressing His strong desire for our allegiance. Who or what has yours?

6. Pride. Vs 6. God wants to give to His children, He is just waiting for us to get our acts cleaned up, get serious on our knees, line our desires up with His and humble ourselves. When we meet these simple requirements, Heaven's windows will open and you will have so many prayers answered you won't even know how to contain all the blessings.

Verses 7 through 11 reiterate these principles for answered prayers.

Father of lights, we ask that our lives would be such that you would take joy in answering our prayers. We wish to be on the same page with you in our desires. The gifts we want from your hand include the salvation of souls, your blessings upon your church, an increased ability to give to your work and those around us whom you lead us to help. We pray that missions work would grow. We ask for grace and strength to build your kingdom. We ask for greater hearts to worship you properly. Keep us near to your heart. Deliver us from the world's clutches that we may not become victims of it's evils. Give us the provisions which enable us to better serve you, and nothing which will distract us from that effort. May we have safety, protection and guidance as we carry on your work.

Everything else we may ask for is secondary, merely gravy on top of the tremendously vital things we have just prayed for. We watch and expect and give thanks for your answers.

In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A New Post, a Better Attitude

Jas 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
Jas 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
Jas 3:15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
Jas 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
Jas 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Jas 3:18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

I had posted a blog this morning about James 1:1 and 2 concerning "masters" and "offending", but then reread the rest of the chapter and thought better of it and pulled the thing. It was my carnal desire to blast and condemn pharisaical, narrow, inbred legalists using the very words of Jesus in His 7-fold condemnation of them in Matthew 23.

Having read today's verses, I had to retract those harsh words and I realized that I was sinking to the level of the hateful pied-pipers of the church world.

In comes down to this, it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Mat 18:7

Therefore, I will resolve to pray for my enemies. I pray that they will not continue to inflict others. I pray that they will surrender to the mission field, perhaps Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, I glory not. I glory not that they misrepresent the gospel. I glory not that under their tongues is the poison of asps.

And so, I revert from earthly, sensual and devilish wisdom back to wisdom, pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Thanks for bearing with me a little while in my folly. II Cor 11:1

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More on the Tongue

Today is the Lord's day. Most of us will be in fellowship with the brethren. Let us be on guard of our tongue, seeking only to bless, not to curse others.

Jas 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
Jas 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
Jas 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
Jas 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
Jas 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Jas 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Jas 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Jas 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Jas 3:11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

Lord, please control my tongue today. Help me to think before I speak. May that which I speak edify the believers. Temper my words with wisdom. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that His fruit may be produced. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

3 Great Omissions of Christians

Jas 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, Jas 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

And here they are:
1. Judgment without Mercy
2. Faith without Works
3. Platitudes without Pragmatism

The biggest criticisms Christianity and we, as individual Christians face, have to do with our hypocrisy. And really, just as much as the boneheaded sins we commit, is the fact that we omit things that are so obvious to the world.

We are so quick to point out the foibles of others, noses pointed high toward the heavens, coming across as "holier than thou." You've heard it a million times. You have also heard the adage "hate the sin, love the sinner." But let's be honest, we really do seem to invert that admonition. Let mercy, rather than judgment be a driving force in your life.

And then, go ahead and have faith. It is impossible to please God without faith. But, the fruit of faith is righteous works. We really cannot claim to have faith unless it is proven by results.

Finally, we are so good at spewing out "pie in the sky" platitudes to those who are in a fix, but not being a part of fixing that fix. James' example is seeing someone in need and saying to them, "God bless you!" Well, a handout and a hand up would have been a little more practical.

Let's begin to turn the tide of deserved criticism against well-meaning, but little-doing Christians into praiseworthiness because of our sincere attitudes that result in good works.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rich Man, Poor Man

Jas 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. Jas 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
Jas 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Jas 2:4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
Jas 2:6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Jas 2:7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
Jas 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
Jas 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

Nothing against those who have worked hard and have gotten ahead in life, but there are many who have also worked very hard and have never had the breaks. In my experience, loving God has absolutely nothing to do with a bank balance. Clothing bought at Nordstrom's does not make a better Christian and that which is taken from the mission box.

Furthermore, the tithe of a millionaire carries no more weight than that of a street person. 10 percent is 10 percent.

So why do we allow people with a goodly amount of bling to get our respect?

Perception and assumption. We perceive one who is well off to be more blessed by God and to have been a better decision maker than the one who is down and out. We assume that the poor person is poor in judgment and work ethic. The danger of this is that we could very well be assuming wrongly. Perhaps the poor man lost everything in a catastrophe. Maybe they have given it all away. It could be that they were robbed or cheated out of their substance. An accident may have left them unable to work or a divorce may have left them penniless. Finally, they may have chosen the simple life over the hoarding of wealth so that they would be free to serve God rather than mammon.

When a visitor next walks through the doors and into your assembly, be color blind and money blind. Giving, serving, loving and worshipping is open to every social strata.

Remember, Jesus had only the clothes on His back. He didn't own a bed or a pillow. He had no dwelling to call home. His roots in this world never went too deep. He was slammed because He chose to spend time with the low life’s of His day. Yet there never was a richer man than He.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bridle that Tongue!

Jas 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

Have you ever tried to get the bit and bridle on a horse? It can be a real challenge, especially when the horse has no desire to be controlled or ridden. If videos had been taken of the times I have tried to fit a horse with a bridle, AFV would have loved to have had the footage!

As hard as it is to get an obstinate horse fitted with a mechanism that makes it behave, it is even harder to get our sinful nature to accept the bit and bridle for the tongue.

This little member, the tongue, ignites huge fires. It produces a world of iniquity and defiles our whole bodies. It is set on fire of hell! See what Pastor James has to say about the tongue in chapter 3, verses 2-8.

He also states that no man can tame the tongue. Therefore, for me to keep my tongue from hurting myself and others today, I am going to have to get that bit and bridle in place and hand the reigns over to God. Indeed, He must be the One sovereign over the words of my mouth throughout the day.

Heavenly Father, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pure Religion

Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

I got to thinking about religion today as the continuing saga of Tiger Woods has been unfolding before us on the 24/7 news networks.

I have a million thoughts concerning the poor guy, his wife and his children. Here are just a few...
1. We are all human, and therefore subject to moral failure (see: "transgressions")
2. We don't really know what's going on in their family, just what he leaks out on his website. Even then, we tend to read between the lines and speculate, otherwise, I could not continue these thoughts.
3. For the past ten years, millions of people have literally wanted to be Tiger Woods, right now, nobody wants to be Tiger Woods. Strange how fickle fans can be.
4. Sin not only eats away at your life, but the lives of many innocent people around you.
5. I wish I had an Escalade to crash!
6. Why was it a Caddy and not a Buick???
7. Golf club…meant for the vehicle’s glass or the husband’s privates?
8. A wildly popular, super rich, great looking, best of the best athlete will be hounded to no end, but will get a pass in the end. That’s okay, I am all about contrition and 2nd chances.
9. Have you seen Tiger's wife? What was he thinking? People have got to quit buying into "the grass is greener" syndrome. Drink waters out of your own cistern.

But my number one thought in all of this, if this were a famous, professed "Christian," his faith would be called into question. Christianity would be attacked. The word "hypocrite" would be all over people's lips. But wait a minute, where is the denigration of Buddhism now that one it's most famous adherents has "transgressed?" It's all over the news, "he's human." Duh! Are not Christians that sin also "human?" Do people curse the Buddha when a professed believer transgresses? Nah! But let a Bible-thumping evangelical or a "Christian" politician get caught with his pants down and it is the Christian faith which takes the bashing.

The best thing is to just live out a pure religion before our God. Busy yourself visiting and helping those in need and keep your nose clean. And when we do fail, love covers a multitude of sins.

By the way, long drives, great chip shots and consistent drives are icing on the cake.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Hearer and a Doer

Jas 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Jas 1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
Jas 1:24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Jas 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Do you have kids? Then undoubtedly you have experienced the joy (not!) of a child who listened to your instruction but failed to follow through with the action.

Oh, how many times I was that kid! And how often am I that child of God? I am in the Word daily, I minister the Word to others, the Word of God is the "tool of my trade." God's Word speaks to my life, my situations, my needs on a regular basis. And yet, I often fail to carry through with what I have just read, listened to or studied.

To me, it is almost humorous when James uses the analogy of a guy looking in the mirror, walking away and forgetting what he just saw. It's kind of like looking at the reflection of a 215 pound man, walking away and recalling a 180 pound guy.

The mirror tells the truth, doesn't it? But our short term memories have a way of distorting the truth, unless we take steps to insure the integrity of the image. And so it is with the mirror of God's Word.

The best ways of preserving what we see when we have been spoken to from the Word:

1. Meditate on what you saw in God's mirror throughout the day.
2. Look for opportunities to make practical applications of the Word's message to you.
3. Put into practice early and often the lesson you learned.
4. At the end of the day, rehearse in your mind how God's Word made a difference as it was used in your life.

How blessed we are to have God's living, pragmatic, powerful Word that speaks to us, works in us and changes us more and more into His image.

Now that's what I want to see when I look into the mirror.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sick 'Em

Jas 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

What is Natural isn't Necessarily Right. We may sometimes justify what is wrong by asserting that it is the natural thing to do. Man is a sinner, so what do we expect of him but sin?

James raises the bar for Christians. He admonishes us to replace the natural with the supernatural.

As believers, we are constrained to lay aside the provisions for the flesh, we are not to give place to its desires, we are to lay the natural aside, to suppress its demands, to slay the old man and receive the Word of God, which has been engrafted (implanted) into us.

Doing the natural naturally brings about death. Heeding the Word brings life, because it is able to save our souls.

Practically, we need to get the Word of the Lord into us, so strongly that we are saturated with it. If out of the heart the mouth speaks, then our hearts need to be inundated with the Bible. Our words and actions need to be overflowing from the engrafted Word within.

Too many believers are overcome by sins because they feed on filthiness and naughtiness. Ungodly media has overcome their Christian sensibility.

As the old-time, converted shaman of the Navajo nation put it, "In me are two dogs fighting, a white dog and a black dog, the winner? The one I say sick 'em to!"
Within us are two natures, the one that will emerge victorious is the one we feed most.

Christian, which nature are you feeding? Are you regularly taking in copious amounts of God's Word which is able to save your soul? Or are you drinking in the world's filthiness and naughtiness? Who will you say 'sick 'em" to today?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hurry Up! Slow Down!

Jas 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Jas 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Pastor James has so many gems of wisdom in his epistle. I suppose his admonition in verse 5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" is born out of personal experience.

Here, in verses 19 and 20, he shares some of the most profoundly simple words of wisdom in his entire letter.

"Simmer down, shut up and listen" are words that will keep us out of trouble and give us the advantage to use the wisdom we asked for back in verse 5.
When are we hot-heads going to learn that our violent passions never do a lick of good? Nothing positive ever results by our “losing it.”

When we fail to listen, but instead insert our uninformed opinions and ill-conceived tempers several things result:

1. We lose the respect of others. The respect which we may have carefully built over years of careful cultivation can be stripped away in a moment of rage. Treasure and protect the respect you have gained.

2. We surrender favor and effectiveness. You want and need people to like you, Christianity and the God you serve. We are to “adorn” the gospel. It is necessary that you have a platform of favor if you wish people to heed what you have to say. A fit of anger undermines that foundation of favor and renders you ineffective with those who have witnessed your wrath.

3. We instill fear and loathing. Perfect love casts out fear. It is hard to love a wrathful, angry person. Nobody wishes to be in the company of people with anger control problems. Anger effectively burns bridges of trust and fondness.

4. We operate outside of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit in us includes joy and longsuffering. It is obvious to all observers that a person of wrath is living after the flesh rather than being filled with the Spirit of God.

Please, my friend, check your anger. Keep your tongue and instead, listen, gather the facts, act rather than react. In doing so, you will exhibit wisdom as well as the fruit of the Spirit. You will be more likeable, finding favor and the opportunity to be effective in dealing with your loved ones, your Christian family and those with whom you interact.

We wish to affect the righteousness God in self, situation and in others. Our wrath will never accomplish such a noble work.

Hurry up and listen, but slow down, listen so you can simmer down and get things done for God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is God Thankful For?

James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Firstfruits are those crops which are presented as an offering of thanks before any other.

This is a truly amazing verse. That God considered me, in my depravity, and then birthed me into His family with the Word of truth, is mind-boggling. Furthermore, I am among the firstfruits of His thanks!

There are presently over 7 billion inhabitants of earth currently and probably that same number in the past total 14 billion made "imago Deo" in the image of God. Yet, only a small percentage have the high privilege of being thought of and bought by God. And I get to be one of that number.

I have nothing to bring, nothing to offer Him. He gets nothing when He gets me, yet the Sovereign chooses for me to be a kind of firstfruit of His creatures. This means that I am prominent in His plan and pre-eminent in His purpose.

In case you were looking for something to be thankful for with Thanksgiving so near, lift your eyes above the things of the earth, above the things that will pass away, to the throne of God, where we of His household are privileged to be the apple of our God's eye and the firstfruits of His thanksgiving offering.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Stupid Things People Do To Themselves When They Know better

Jas 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

I am presently dealing with no less than 6 individuals or families who were grounded in the faith, but are willfully sinning and refuse to do the right thing. They have been drawn away because of their own lusts, they have been enticed and have fallen for the temptations. They cannot see that at the end of that path is death!

Pastor James tries to short circuit the whole mess by telling the brethren "do not go astray!"

How frustrating it is to see them turn their backs on everything that is right and holy; on their God, their families, their churches, on common sense, on godly counsel and for what? Their own lusts and stupidity, and eventually, death!

Most of the problem has to do with impatience. They want what they want and are tired of waiting on God, so they take things in to their own hands, doing things their own way and have shut themselves off from truth, blessings and life. They justify their poor decisions by saying “I have prayed about it and have peace.” But anybody with a lick of sense knows that is nothing but a smoke screen trying to divert the conversation. Imagine, “I am going to be a prostitute, I have prayed about it and God has given me peace!”

I used to preach a message about the broken vessel. I explain that God molds us into the vessel that will eventually reflect His Son Jesus. But when we get so high and mighty in our lives (see: independent) that we tell the Potter to take His hands off of our lives, He does and we fall to the floor and shatter into hundreds of pieces.

That's where the erring brethren end up, away from God and shattered into broken pieces.

Sad, sad, sad! Do not err, my beloved brethren.

Lord, we place ourselves back into your skillful hands this day that you may mould and make us into exactly what you want us to be. We remove our hands and stubborn wills from our agendas, and we ask that you have complete control. Restore those who have fallen, mend the broken, save the lost. In Jesus' magnificent name, Amen!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take the Chicken Exit

Jas 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Jas 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Jas 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

The very first time I ever saw a "chicken exit" was at Disney's Space Mountain. Pregnant women, the elderly, people with bad backs or heart problems... these and others were warned to get out of line and take the door to the left, or else! In fact, as the line progressed toward the loading docks, there were several opportunities to bolt from the line. A person could never say they weren't warned.

There is nothing "chicken" about making a wise decision. Can you imagine complicating a pregnancy or irritating a bad disc just to feel the thrill of a speeding roller coaster? How foolish!

And how foolish for the Christian when the holy Spirit of God kindly nudges us toward the chicken exit when we are bombarded with the temptation to sin, and for us to continue on toward sin?

Temptation equals a drawing away from doing right by our own struggles with powerful desires. That particular battle is exacerbated by the enemy when he dangles it in front of us, enticing us. As we have pondered it for a while, diminishing in our minds the consequences, accentuating the pleasure and imposing on the grace of God, we ignore all the escapes God provides for us and we take the thrill ride.

But, alas, the ride always results in loss, pain, chastisement. guilt and remorse. Pile up the thrill rides in which the escapes the Lord provides are ignored, and they result in death.

The enemy is a smooth operator. When he entices, he only advertises the immediate gratification, but never the long range consequences.

Do yourself a huge favor, when temptation comes knocking at your door today, watch for the chicken exits that God provides throughout the course of your temptation. Taking that escape has great rewards. Finally, you will not be able to say you weren't warned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When, not If

Jas 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Jas 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Notice the certainty of the matter of temptation. Verse 13 says "when", again, the same in verse 14.

There is no sin in being tempted. Our Lord Himself faced strong temptation in the wilderness. Hebrews tells us He was tempted in every point (of the law) like we are, yet He never succumbed to it.

The old way of explaining temptation is that you have no control of a bird circling far above your head. However, when you allow that same bird to build a nest in your hair, you have allowed things to progress to far.
We must never allow temptation to build a nest. Resist the devil, we are told, and he will flee from us. Temptations can give way to thoughts, if we allow them to, then actions will follow.

Well, there are one or two things we can do about the bird flying over head, we can go inside or we can grab the shotgun and blast it out of the air. I like that option.

That brings us to the "whens," not "ifs" of today. When temptation hovers, are you going to allow it to build a nest in the fertile soil of you mind or move away from it or blast that vulture from the sky?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just Hang On!

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

If you are a child of God, you are the recipient of many promises. On the down side, one of those promises is spoken by Jesus in John 16:33, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Ye shall have tribulation! Lovely, right? You probably feel you get your share and other's too.

But hang on child of God, endure it, overcome it, because there is a crown awaiting you for withstanding temptation. What you are experiencing now is not even worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in you. This is the Lord's promise to those who love Him.

You love God, right? Then this is the upside of what you are now going through. The future is looking much brighter. So just hang on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unwavering Faith

Jas 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Jas 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

A guy has a tree that is making a mess out of his and his neighbor's lawn, branches fall often on both homes. The neighbor insists the tree be removed but the tree service says it'll cost $1500 to take the tree out. Obviously, the man doesn't have the cash, so he decides to take it to the Lord in prayer.

"Lord" he offers, "I need this tree out of my yard and I can't afford the price of the removal, so if you would be so kind as to have your angels come down overnight and take that thing away, Amen!"

He sleeps fitfully and awakes with trepidation. He makes his way to the window, throws open the shades and guess what? The tree still stands in the yard!

"Phooey" he says, "Just like I thought, the tree is still there."

Does that sound kind of like the prayers we offer up? Doubtful, ineffective, faithless, unbelieving. I imagine that God would delight in honoring the prayers of those who fully believe that He can do anything, rather than anemic prayer offered in faithlessness.

I have an inkling that you have a mountain that needs moving today. Instead of being tossed between the waves of your doubt and your faith, why not just put God to the test and let Him be God? We know this, faithless prayers offered from doubting hearts always go unanswered.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wisdom from God

Jas 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

One of the toughest things in life is finding the right answers to perplexing situations. Having the discernment to make good calls, right choices and wise decisions can be like walking blindly through a mine field.

But God does not leave us without resources when it comes to needed wisdom.

I have found a few things very helpful in my decision making. Granted, when I don't employ the wisdom that God has provided, I always end up regretting not asking my Lord for His mind on the matter. I could share some nightmares about that, believe me.

Here are the things God uses most to impart His wisdom to us when we sincerely inquire of Him.

1) The Word of God. First and foremost, the Bible is God's complete and final revelation to mankind. Contained therein are all the answers of life. We must simply be willing to open the Book and mine for its riches. As Paul told Timothy, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Read the Word for tried and true principles and solutions.

2) The Holy Spirit. God has sent forth His precious Holy Spirit into our hearts to guide us, to give us impressions. Jesus promised that when the Spirit came to us, He would guide us into all truth. Be sensitive to the leadership of God within you.

3) The Preaching and Teaching of the Word. God's preacher was sent to us as a shepherd. The shepherd's task is to feed us, to lead us, to equip us with the needed tools to minister to us. Heed the preacher's words as he walks closely to the Lord.

4) Godly believers which God places in our lives. God has put these good people in our lives to help us, to assist us in our walk with Him, to aid us in our growth and to counsel us in our dilemmas. Draw from their wisdom. The Word tells us that in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.

5) Open and closed doors. God uses circumstances in our lives to direct us away from that which is harmful and lead us towards that which is helpful. Our problem is when our agenda clashes with His, we may tend to knock down the doors He has bolted shut. At other times we hesitate at doors He has opened wide to us. Be aware of what He has opened to you and beware of that which is closed.

Beware of the pitfalls of many well-meaning people who have made grave mistakes based on:

1) Their walking by sight rather than by faith.

2) Leaning on the flesh rather than the Spirit.

3) Claiming "they have peace about it" when making a foolish decision based on their own lusts.

4) Listening to worldly friends, counselors or coworkers.

5) Acting according to situational ethics (what seems right at the moment) rather than being driven by principle.

6) Doing only what benefits self, without consideration of family, church, coworkers, country and the Kingdom.

Friend, God fully desires for you to make the best decisions and has enabled you to do so. You have to look in all the right places to answers to tough questions and avoid the wrong avenues.

May God bless you and help you to find your answers.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Patience' Perfect Work

Jas 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

We could all use a little more patience. My problem is that I want it right now!

The word "patience" here means a "cheerful endurance." We extol old Job. The phrase "the patience of Job" has worked its way into our colloquialisms. That poor rich man lost anything and everything a man could lose in a very short time. One thing he didn't lose, however, was his trust in God. "What…" he said to his wife, "Shall we receive good from the hand of the Lord and not evil? Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" Way to go Brother Job!

The floodgates of hell came against this man of God of ancient times, yet he endured. In the end, he was twice the man and had twice the things he had before.

Patience, we are told, has a perfect work to accomplish in us. That work is to make us complete and mature in every aspect, in need of nothing. That is the literal rendering of "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

Please, brethren, don't get impatient with patience. The trials are going to come, you are going to have setbacks, the wheels are going to fall off of your agenda. But God is not going to allow anything to happen that isn't for your good and your growth if you are faithfully serving Him.

Let patience do her perfect work for you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh Joy!

Jas 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Jas 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

What brings joy? "The joy of the Lord is your strength" says Nehemiah 8:10.

In the Old Testament, Joy came about through great victories, by bringing the ark of the covenant back home, bearing a child, coronating a king, national repentance, righteousness, dedication of the temple, relief from suffering, worship and quite a few other things.

The New Testament adds several joy givers to the list. However, James gives us a new and strange reason to be joyful, falling into various temptations. What? Psalms says that weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning. But James says to consider it a joyful thing while the night of weeping is still upon you.

Verse 3 tells us why joy is called for before the relief comes. Trials make us better. They temper our mettle, they cause us to rely on God's grace and draw near to Him in prayer. Remember, God never does things to us, He always does things for us! So we are to have joy in the midst of the storm anticipating the great blessings that will result from enduring the storm.

Next time trouble arises in your life, don’t despair, take heart in knowing that God can make this trial a blessing which will strengthen your faith, work patience in you, draw you close to the Savior's side and make you a better Christian.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Miracle of the Diaspora

Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Imagine a certain ethnic group, let's call them the Walenthians. And say that 1900 years ago, they were persecuted and scattered to the four corners of the earth.

1900 years later, travel to any Walenthian enclave...Paris, the Pyrenees, Ethiopia, Poland, Russia, Brazil, Miami, Cleveland or New York. Observing them for a while, you may notice that their language has taken on a local flavor, perhaps even their dress, but their practices are identical, the manner of their diet, their religious observances, even the taboos. How could this be possible?

It would be made possible by their allegiance to a common code which ties them, out of every nation and culture, to their own sub-culture.

If you ever get about three months to set aside other reading ventures and are able to devour a certain book, The Source, by James A. Michener, I highly encourage you to do so. As in any book, eat the meat, but spit out the bones. But I guarantee you are in for an education about the first set of "God's people" the Jews.

Author James (the apostle, not the Quaker) writes to all the Jews of the Diaspora, the scattered ones. He testifies and instructs of the Christian faith by which they may maintain their commonalities and peculiarities. He is a Jew writing to Jews, a pastor admonishing sheep. His epistle is scattered by the four winds to the four corners to further tie together a sub-culture of a sub-culture of different cultures. That is Jews who believe in the Messiah Who came to set them free.

So before you plow into The Source, take a long look at Pastor James' epistle to the redeemed part of the Diaspora.