Saturday, November 28, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Heb 13:25 Grace be with you all. Amen. Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy.
Have you ever thought much about the parts of the Bible which are not God-breathed but are a big help?
1. The headings of the Psalms written as instructions for the mood or background of the Psalm
2. The addendums such as the one above to give historical, biographical or geographical context
3. The italicized words added by the King James translators to add clarity to the thought.
4. Chapter and verse divisions which facilitate the reading and study of the Word. By the way, those of the New Testament were developed by a preacher on horseback as he traveled his circuit. I am glad he didn’t have a cell phone!
5. The Apocryphal books, which, while not the Word of God and not included in most of our Bibles, are of historical value.
6. Concordances and study helps such as word translations, cross references, etc., which greatly aid in our understanding of the Bible.
I could add one more of my favorite parts, not really related or even on par with these. That is the notes we write on the fly-leafs and margins of our Bibles. Personal blessings that we pen or pencil in as God spoke to us through the preaching or our personal study. These are the things that we wanted to preserve, so we reverently penned them into the eternal record.
I have preached from the flyleaf of my Bible a few times and was greatly blessed by doing so. It included quotes, quips and quiet time thoughts from the back of the old black Book that keep on blessing even though they fade and wear gracefully.
Without all of these mentioned above, the Bible would still be complete, but I thank God for them and for the aid they bring us rightly dividing the Word.
And so endeth my blogs from the book of Hebrews. Written to whosoever readeth from a kitchen table, by Gary
Postscript: I didn't even mention the autograph page where signatures of the great pulpiteers are etched for the ages. Nor did I mention the introductory pages where license was given by King James for the translating and publishing of our English Bible.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Heb 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
The recent presidential elections brought the present regime in on the promise of change. Boy, did we get plenty of that! About the only change we aren't experiencing is change in our pockets.
Sometimes some change can be good; socks, underwear, inept leadership. But when it comes to the bedrock of society change is nothing more than erosion. Which of the Ten Commandments could use a makeover? I, for one, vote that lying, cursing, adultery, coveting, theft and murder remain blacklisted. Though, I am sure, those in power would say, "Yes we can" to altering God's law.
Listed here in verses 7 through 9 are six things that must be constant.
1. The Word of the Lord. "...who have spoken unto you the word of God:"
God's Word must be spoken, that is, taught and preached, in truth. We must speak it as it is to people as they are. Speaking of change, the only way to change the darkened heart of man is by pounding it with the hammer of the Word. faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
2. Faith in the Lord. "...whose faith follow," This is the faith that was once delivered unto the saints for which we must earnestly contend. Jude 3. This is the faith that must be unfeigned, that is, real. I Tim 1:5, II Tim 1:5. The only change needed with true faith is growth!
3. A Good Testimony. "...considering the end of their conversation." The world needs to see Christianity that lives what it preaches. This phrase literally means, "attentively beholding the behavior of a believer upon their exit." Now, that's a mouthful, but it simply means that when a consistent Christian exits this life, you can only extol the virtue of their lifestyle. Something must be said about clean living in line with God's Word.
4. Jesus. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." The theologians use the word "immutability." This means unchangeability. In Malachi we are told, "For I am the Lord, I change not." When it seems that everything around us is settling into shifting sand, we can always hold to God's unchanging hand. Each of us can point to an individual in our lives who has always been there for us, usually that is a mother or a spouse. But even they are limited in their ability to always be dependable. But Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.
5. Doctrine. "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." The Scripture likens people who are biblically double-minded individuals to objects floating to and fro on the sea, anchorless, moving about with the winds and the waves, undependable, without character. Eph 4:14. Doctrine simply means teaching. We need to be consistent in our teaching of the Word.
6. Grace in the Heart. "For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;" Our hearts, the very core of our beings are established, anchored, made sure, by God's grace. It is His work in our hearts and lives that makes us steady, solid citizens of heaven.
Keep your change, I'll hang on to the Word of God, a sincere faith, living a good testimony, my Savior, solid Baptist Bible doctrine, and God's unmerited favor.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Hēgeomai is the Greek word used here concerning those who "rule over" us. The word means to consider and command. In democratic circles we appoint over ourselves those who have the capacity to think and act on behalf of others.
In some venues, such as the church, it is God Who appoints, yet, in a sense, we get to ratify His man. (Pity the church which fails to do so).
Under that leadership, we are called upon to remember our thinker/actors.
By remembering, we do three things; 1) We are to make mention of them, especially to God. 2) We are to be mindful of them, that is we consider their motives, their calling, their responsibilities, their "case load," Their schedules, ad infinitum. 3) We remember that they are also made out of the same stuff we are. Though they are held to a higher accountability, we understand they are subject to emotion, mistakes and limitations like we are. 4) We should also remember to be a blessing to them in our support, our subjection to them, our showing of appreciation and our teachability.
Ask yourself today if you are properly remembering those under whom God has placed you.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Kids these days! Never content with what they have and always wanting more. Kids nothing! Most of the adults I know, even Christians are constantly wanting more of this world's goods, hoping that things will bring fulfillment.
The writer of this passage gives these immortal words of wisdom, “be content with such things as you have - Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.”
If you have Jesus, you always have everything you will ever need, for He has promised to meet our every need according to His riches in glory.
The word conversation, as used here, is not talking just about the things we say, rather it infers the way we live. When others watch our lives, they ought to see that we are not covetous, but satisfied and grateful for what we have.
So, instead of an attitude of "I want, I want, I want", portray a spirit of "I thank, I thank, I thank."
Monday, November 2, 2009
Heb 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Marriage, the union of one man and one woman for a lifetime, is God's plan for the propagation of the race, for sexual and relational fulfillment and to model the nuclear family.
The world's lie, however is that we are not to be bound by such antique notions of marital fidelity and sexual purity.
Let society argue what it may, the promise of the verse is that God will judge whoremongers, adulterers and those who defile the marriage bed.
Perversion, in its several forms, is so rampant that it has become the norm and chastity so rare that it is called freakish. The 2000 plus years that have transpired since this verse was penned changes nothing. Sin, in any context, is harmful to individuals, communities and societies.
God did not merely suggest, but commanded moral purity for our own good, not to withhold pleasure and suppress natural desires. Indeed, the greatest fulfillment comes only within God's plan of marriage, monogamy and fidelity. Anything else is harmful psychologically, emotionally, physically and societal. As always, God's way is the best way.