Book Of James

I know a lot of people who are looking for wisdom, direction, peace, and a word from God about their life right now. I wish I had answers but I do not. What I do have is an idea. I am going to read the book of James every day for the next seven days. I challenge you to join me. You can read it from your Bible or read it here it makes no difference. The important thing is that you read it every day at least once a day. More important than just reading it I highly recommend you pray before you read it, while you read it, and after you read it. Press into God during this time and see what happens.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=HCSB

James 1:1-27 (HCSB)
1 James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings. 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. 9 The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation, 10 but the one who is rich ⌊should boast⌋ in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities. 12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. 13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. 18 By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures. 19 My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. 22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does ⌊good⌋ works—this person will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 2:1-26 (HCSB)
1 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you ⌊at your baptism⌋? 8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of ⌊breaking it⌋ all. 11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.
20 Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. 23 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25 And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 3:1-18 (HCSB)
1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, 2 for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. 3 Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. 4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So too, though the tongue is a small part ⌊of the body⌋, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our ⌊bodies⌋. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. 7 Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine ⌊produce⌋ figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water. 13 Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

James 4:1-17 (HCSB)
1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. 4 Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. 5 Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously? 6 But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are ⌊like⌋ smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.

James 5:1-20 (HCSB)
1 Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you.
2 Your wealth is ruined and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! 4 Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.
5 You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned—you have murdered—the righteous man; he does not resist you. 7 Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Brothers, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door! 10 Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. 11 See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful. 12 Now above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. Your “yes” must be “yes,” and your “no” must be “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit. 19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Reasoned Faith and the Gospel

In Matthew 8:10 Jesus says that He has not seen a faith in Israel that matches that of the centurion soldier who comes to Him to seek healing for his servant. What provoked this strong commendation from Jesus was that the man understood authority. He understood how it worked and that presence was not required for power to move. His faith was founded in his understanding of how things worked. This man was able to grasp the concept of authority in his mind and exercise his faith because of this.

Anti-intellectualism has impacted the church in at least five ways according to J.P. Moreland, and two of them will be discussed here. The first is a misunderstanding of faith’s relationship to reason and the second is the spawning of an irrelevant gospel.[1] These two things are not that far from each other when you examine what they result in, namely a weakened Christian presence in the community and in the world. The lack of one’s ability to link reason or knowledge to faith causes them to withhold their testimony with others because often times it is feared they cannot answer the questions posed to them. While the irrelevant gospel, when shared, is based on feeling or a perceived need and if someone is “feeling” fine then there is no need for the message.

One effect resulting in the lack of reasoned faith in the church can be seen in the high number of children who grow up and lose their faith. David Kinnaman says in his book You Lost Me that there is a forty-three percent or nearly eight million people who while they were active in the church in their teens do not participate in the church by their early thirties.[2] Now it should not be assumed that the entire cause for this is a lack of reasoned faith but it does play a large part. People are more and more unsure why they believe what they believe and if understanding is not present then the natural progression is to not believe it anymore. The world is becoming more and more post-Christian and with that, the old system of following your parent’s faith is diminishing.

One of the most effective ways that church leaders whether they be youth pastors, senior pastors or lay leaders can combat this is by becoming “dedicate[d] to the task of training believers to think theologically and biblically”[3] This is in no way a condemnation of any particular church, pastor, or group of churches but an overall encouragement that Christians do and will desire deep theological teaching. Instead of having youth groups that play games and hang out we should teach them the Scriptures and answer their hard questions. For adults not only should we be edifying them for the work of God on Sunday’s but instilling in them and understanding of Biblical truths that go beyond being a good spouse and neighbor.

Perhaps it is time to use the vast resources of technology to do virtual classes via email or web chats. Often times people must be pushed to ask the hard questions they have. Individuals can feel scared of asking such questions as is the whole Bible true, do we have proof Jesus rose from the dead, are the six days in Genesis six actual days, and so on. Non-Christians ask these questions often but more than a few believers are scared to push for such answers so we must be willing to give them chances to ask these questions. We must be willing to not only learn about what we believe but what others believed as well.

This will cause the pushing of an irrelevant gospel to almost disappear. The gospel as it is presented at times now is you need Jesus to make you better and happier. The problem arises when people feel just fine. They have no perceived need in their lives so the solution for a happier life is a non-necessity to them. They are quite happy where they are at, however, this approach is not the tradition that we see in the Bible. An important aspect of sharing the true Gospel is understanding the community you are in. Paul when speaking to the people in the Areopagus in Acts 17 not only shared the truth of God from Scripture but also from what they already thought to be true. He was able to bring in things they knew and show them how they already had some understanding of what he was saying.

Moreland suggests in his book that the more we grow intellectually in other areas the more we will understand the Bible. This will not only “enrich life and contribute to Bible study and spiritual formation” but in turn, it will give us understanding into the world God created.[4] If I want to properly share the Gospel with a Muslim then it serves me well to understand the Muslim position. By doing this I not only have a better knowledge in the truth of my faith but what they believe as well. I can then meet them where are at and in doing so I open doors.

The challenge before the church is great and task daunting but the rewards are greater. By better understanding our faith and how it is built upon reason we not only secure our own thinking but also find that the world around us changes as well. Expanding our knowledge should not be feared because while it is true that “knowledge by acquaintance is an important foundation” it must be remembered that we are commanded in the Bible to grow not only in grace but also the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).[5]

[1] J.P. Moreland, Love God with all your mind 2nd ed, (NaviPress, 2012), 19; 24.

[2] David Kennaman, You Lost Me (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books), 22.

[3] Moreland, 51

[4] Moreland, 93

[5] Moreland, 59

Prayer

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In Mark 11:24 Jesus says “Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them” and to be honest I struggle with this. It is not that I struggle to believe that God will hear my prayers, although sometimes this is the case, it is more of do I believe this is my prayer? Do I actually believe that this is the request I want to make to the God of heaven and earth?

I am approaching the God who sustains the universe, took on human flesh, died and rose again to save my soul, sits in glory surrounded by the praises of His angels, and I am asking for this. I am stunned by my selfishness, aware of my pride, and confused by my own self-interest. When I come before the King of glory I sometimes find myself understanding Isaiah who said: “woe is me for I am undone.” How can I ask for things, because as I stand in His presence all I can do is think “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

The amazing thing to me is I stand there before Him in awe of His beauty and majesty He asks what I request. The only answer I can find is that I desire to sit at your feet and worship you. Oh, how I wish this to be my daily encounter. Instead, I often allow my fears, confusions, and selfishness dictates prayers that I do not even believe.

Superheroes

 

Superheros are all the rage lately. Movies are being made and the gear is everywhere. I think one of the reasons people love superheroes so much is for the most part they represent the best in us. They are typically noble, brave, strong, and almost flawless. It is not that they do not have flaws, but we usually overlook their flaws because we either like them so much, or because by and large their powers are more valuable than their flaws.

For example while Batman has no powers to speak of he is an amazing superhero but he obsessive and has never been able to move on from the death of his parents. The Hulk is ridiculously strong but to say he has anger issues would be an understatement. Superman, the man of steel, well his power is just insane but yet he has this constant need to be accepted and changes himself to fit in. Captain America is one of my favorites but he is stubborn and feels that his moral high-ground always makes him right. The amazing Spiderman has an amazingly low self worth and has a hard time balancing priorities. While Ironman’s suit may be iron his personality is Swiss cheese. I think you get the picture. These guys are great but they are not perfect.

There is another list of people that we sometimes idolize and make superheroes. They are found in Hebrews chapter 11. Your Bible might even call them the “Heroes of the Faith.” We can read Hebrews 11 and come away with an unhealthy view of ourselves because we are no Abraham, Moses, or Rehab. We can read about their greatness and think we are worthless when that is the opposite of what we should come away with. The point is not that they were great and mighty but that they trusted the Almighty. They are remembered for their faith in God not their shortcomings.

Let’s look at some of them real quick. Abraham who is considered one of the greatest men in the Bible did not trust God to give the promise and took his wife’s maid to bed. David who slew the mighty Goliath also slept with a married woman, got her husband drunk, and then had him killed. Rehab who saved the Israelite spies was a prostitute. Samson who was a Philistine slaying machine was also selfish and vain. Moses was stubborn and made God give him someone to speak for him. Samuel who was the greatest judge in Israel did a poor job raising his kids.

However, they are not remembered for these things. They are remembered because they served God. God works in people like you and me. James 5:17 says that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours but he prayed for rain and God listened. We can get sidetracked and forget that God works through ordinary to confuse the mighty. You are not useless if you are in His hands. If you serve God and have placed your faith in Him then you are something special. God is able to do great and mighty things if you will just let Him.

Like I said superheroes and heroes of the faith are great but not perfect. There is one who is perfect though. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the Father. He is worthy to be looked at in adoration and place our faith in. There is no better one to look at and think “wow isn’t He amazing.” When we put our faith in the right things then everything else changes. God made you and God wants to use you.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

Chapter Nine – Missing the Point

This is a rough draft from chapter nine of my new book. It is a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark.

 

Chapter Nine – Missing the Point

When deciding what to look at in chapter 9 we are faced with a what at first appears to be a series of different situations and incidents. There is the transfiguration, the demon that could only come out by prayer and fasting, Jesus’s second prediction of His death, a conversation about who is the greatest, others casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and a series of warnings from Jesus. These things on their own present a difficulty when trying to decide what gets the little time together we have. However, there is a common theme that runs through most of these incidents. If you saw it at first, then, to be honest, you did better than I because I had to read and reread a few times. In most of these events, someone missed the point.

At the transfiguration, Peter missed the point by wanting to make three tabernacles. He wanted to make one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. I am not sure but it would seem that his hope was the other two would stay awhile. Peter made the mistake of putting these three on the same level. He foolishly thought the Messiah was about the same as the previous prophets. In Peter’s mind, as well as others of his time, Moses and Elijah were two of the greatest people to ever live. Moses because he led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then later the Law was given through him. Elijah because he was a mighty prophet. So mighty of God in fact that he was taken to heaven by chariots of fire. For them to come and speak to Jesus must have been a sight and only reinforced to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The problem, as we said, is that Peter put these three on the same plain. Jesus however, is greater. The Father Himself actually corrected Peter by declaring “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

Peter foolishly thought these three were the same but how many times have we foolishly placed things on the same level as Jesus? How many times have we missed the point and thought something was as big as God? A job. A death. A new child. A tragic loss. A debt we cannot pay. A new marriage. A failed marriage. A wayward child. There are good and bad things we put on the same plain as God. We elevate these things and build dwellings for them to stay and take up a place of high importance in our lives. Just like Peter we need to be corrected and reminded that Jesus is the beloved Son and it is to Him that we must listen.

                This is my beloved Son; listen to Him. Mark 9:7

The next one to miss the point was the father of the possessed child. If there is anyone who gets a little extra sympathy from me, it is a distraught parent. I cannot imagine having to see your child go through something that you cannot fix. Seeing them suffer and knowing there is nothing you can do to fix the situation. Knowing that your child is hurting and you cannot take it away crushes you as a parent. This man did what he could, and he took the child to the disciples but they were not able to do anything. Enter Jesus. The man comes before Jesus and says “if you can do anything have compassion on us.” Have you ever reached a point like that? To just cry out to God and say “can you do something?”

The man for all his love for his child missed a point, though. It was not a question of if Jesus could do something. Instead, the question was did the man believe? The man questioned Jesus’s ability when in this case it was his faith that was in question by Jesus. Jesus was able to and did cast out the demon. He tells the disciples after that they could only do this by prayer and fasting. There is a common misunderstanding that surrounds this section of Scripture. I have heard people say to others that they do not have the faith to be healed and some site this verse as proof of their claim (that enough faith is needed) but there is a problem. The problem is that it is not the father who needed deliverance but the son. The faith of the son was not in question but that of the one bringing the petition to Jesus. In the same way, we should not be so quick to question the faith of the infirmed if we are praying to God for them. If we interpret this section correctly we should see the man is acting as the intercessor for another and his faith is questioned. The question we should ask ourselves is not do others have enough faith but do we?

I do believe! Help my unbelief. – Mark 9:24

The last thing I want us to look at is the way the disciples missed kingdom greatness. The disciples had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest in the kingdom but when Jesus asked them what they were talking about they had nothing to say. This is one of those things in the Bible that transcends time and culture. You do not really need to know about the historical setting or cultural nuisances in order to understand that the disciples wanted to know who was the best. This is not a specific issue to the disciples but a fundamental flaw inherent in all people. It is the desire to be important and to be known. In our day with cell phones, social media, blogs, and streaming video we can be famous for just being famous. We have people who are famous in our day just because they are on TV or just because they make on-line videos. They do not actually do anything nor have they studied for years to learn something they are simply famous because they are. It is very odd. That is just how it has come to work in the world and because it feeds our natural desire to be important and known we allow it hoping someday we will be known. In God’s kingdom, it does not work this way, though.

Jesus says that those who want to become great in the kingdom must serve. If you want to be exalted, you must be humble. If you want to be first you must be last. It is contrary to the way things work in the natural but in reality it should be. If Jesus has come to bring God’s kingdom, then we should understand that it is different than what we have. Jesus uses a child as the example of what we must be like. A child while loved does not have much to offer. They are dependent on the parent for everything. We must be like a child and be dependent on God. Not seeking our own but trusting in our Father for direction, provision, and instruction. A child thinks they know more than they do but as any parent can tell you their child is not as smart as they think they are. You and I are not as smart as we think we are. We think we know a great many things but God knows all things. To be great then in the kingdom then is to understand your place and serve those who God puts in your life. There are no famous people in the kingdom of heaven except God alone.

If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. – Mark 9:35

 

Questions:

  1. How do you think Peter missed the point in putting Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus?
    1. Moses and Elijah are important in Israel’s history but not as important. What do we do things that are not as important as God?
  2. Are there things you have put on the same level as Jesus?
    1. How can we better prioritize these things in our lives?
  3. The father went to Jesus because he knew he could not do it himself, have you gone to Jesus for things that were beyond you?
    1. Do you ever wonder if God cares?
  4. Jesus asked the father if he believed; do you believe when you pray?
    1. The father confessed his need for his faith to be strengthened, have you ever acknowledged a lack of faith?
  5. What was wrong with the disciples wanting to be great?
    1. Do you desire greatness?
  6. What does it mean to be humble?
    1. What is the difference between true humility and false humility?

Stand in faith

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Sometimes I struggle. I don’t understand why things happen or don’t happen. I start to feel like I am missing something. Like maybe I am being shorted in life or something. I start to feel like my faith is weak. But then God steps in (and He always steps in) and reminds me that it is not the size of my faith that is the problem but the focus of my faith. I start thinking about how I am good at this or that and I deserve this or that.

My father-in-law used to tell me “dead men don’t have rights.” Colossians 3:3 says “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Galatians 2:20 says “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (that’s a little King James for ya). The point is that my faith sometimes gets misplaced. It starts to be about me and not Jesus. I need to be reminded that I am in Him and He in me. He is the Author and Finisher (or Perfector) of my (or the) faith. If I stand in my faith in myself I will fall but if I stand in Him and faith in Him then I stand. #faith #God #Jesus

Books about a book?

So I wanted to do something a little different today. I was looking around my office and noticed I have a few books. To be honest, I have more than a few books and I keep adding more. This is partly because of classes and partly because of sales. To be honest though the start of my collection was given to me from my father in law Gil. He started the habit so I guess he’s to blame. The reason I bring this up is because when I am reading my Bible a lot of times I turn to these commentaries or studies if I am stuck or want to see what others think about the same passage. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree, and sometimes I learn. I realized though that a good portion of people does not have the same type of library so I thought I would offer some ideas and thoughts. I’ll break down some basic categories below, but please keep in mind this is just a high-level overview not an in-depth look at all possible options. This is just meant to get you going.

Commentaries:

Commentaries are great but to be honest, most people are not ever going to pick one up or read one. I love them but even I don’t read them front to back. I skim through to find what I need. I might read chunks but not a front to back kind of book. There are two-three categories of commentaries but I doubt you care. The most popular in a non-academic setting is a devotional commentary. This is going to go through a book of the Bible and give you thoughts on it. Very good for going deep in a single book.

*It is important to note that there are commentaries that cover a single book like Luther’s Commentary on Romans, commentaries that cover a few books like Alter’s commentary on the Wisdom books, and whole Bible commentaries like MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary.

Bible Handbook:

Bible Handbooks are like commentaries but smaller and for the books of the Bible. They usually have a few pages dedicated to a book and offer background and highlights. Some are bigger than others but they are great to have because it can fill in some needed information about the book, author, and other relevant background info. Halley’s a good one because it does some chapter breakdown, but the Holman Illustrated is good as well because it is smaller.

Software:

Software is in its own category because there are so many options and ways to customize. If you watch the video then you can see the one I use. There are some free/cheap options like Word Search or E-Sword and I have used both. Word Search is nice and is free and then you buy books to add to it (some are free). I have used Logos in the past because a friend of mine has it and it is great but you need some money to invest in that one. Accordance is another but I have never used it. It is supposed to be as good as Logos. For websites, you can use them to get some help but be weary there are a lot of fruitcakes out there.

Study Bible:

I saved Study Bibles for last because this one of those things you should get. A study Bible is like having a commentary in the Bible. There are hundreds to choose from depending on what you are looking for. There are application study Bibles that tell you what to do with a Scripture, women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, military Bible’s, children’s Bibles, apologetic Bibles, and just about anything else you can think of. They are great to have and I used one for years as my daily reader. They provide just a little info or help on almost every verse and are a great resource.

Why?

Why get any of these things, though? I mean can’t you just read the Bible and go from there? Sure you can. The Holy Spirit is more than capable of teaching you what the Word says if you are listening. But adding extra things into your Bible study is not about hearing or not hearing from the Holy Spirit. Instead, it is about going deeper. It is about digging deeper and adding to your faith knowledge. How do you know though if what you think the Holy Spirit is telling you is true? Maybe you are reading your own bias into the text. What if you pick up a study note that says there is no mention of three kings just three types of gifts would that change the way you read the section? What about reading and finding out that Isaac was not a little boy during the testing of Abraham. He was a young man somewhere between 18-30. That kind of changes things doesn’t it. We add in these things because we don’t know everything. We should never assume we do. That is arrogance. So grab your Bible, study notes, highlighter, or tablet and dig deep.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Have Faith Get Credit

I am reading through Romans and I started thinking about Romans 4:3 which is also Romans 4:22 and Galatians 3:6.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

As it should it got me asking the question “what did Abraham believe?” The simplest answer is  God; Abraham believed God. Martin Luther in his commentary on Romans says that “this… must be understood in an absolute and general sense…Abraham was a man who, at all times, was ready to believe God.” In Romans and Galatians Paul is quoting Genesis 15:16 where it says Abraham believed God when God told him he will have a child, but in a much larger sense, Abraham was believing in God to be God.

He was believing that God could be kept to His word and that the things that God said would come to pass would in fact come to pass. Abraham believed God when He told him to leave his land (Gen 12:4). Abraham believed God for a son even though he was old and as good as dead (Rom 4:19). Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead if he had to sacrifice him (Heb 11:19). Abraham even believed God when He told him to circumcise himself and his whole household (Gen 17:23). Abraham had faults and failures but his life overall is one that is marked by faith in God.

It is so simple, yet so difficult. Belief is all that is required and it has always been that way. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God” and when we understand that God does not change (Mal 3:6) we can understand that it has always and will always be that way. You might think that Abraham was given righteousness because he followed the Law but no that is not the case as the Law did not come until 430 years later. Maybe it was because Abraham was circumcised but no that was about 10-13 years after Genesis 15. Maybe you might think the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt because they kept the Law and it was due to them to be freed but no the Law was given to them after they believed and crossed the Red Sea. Belief always comes first. At no point has it ever been different. When my wife and I prepared to move to Maine with no money or a place to live it was done because we believed God said go. He provided a place to live for us there but the belief that He was God and good was first.

In his commentary on Galatians for 3:6 Luther says, “To believe in God as Abraham did is to be right with God because faith honors God. Faith says to God: “I believe what you say.”” God wants you right with Him and He has done everything for you to be right with Him. He gave His Son as the penalty for sin so you could enjoy everlasting life, and He raised His Son so that you might live an abundant life. For me I sometimes think “yeah but what if it doesn’t work out?” and to be honest sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe not the way I think maybe not at all. Sometimes bad stuff still happens but you can either dwell in the possibility of the negative or have faith in God that He is God. When you decide to have faith in God it should not be for a thing but in that He is God and He is good. Your faith should be in God not in the benefits of His being God. My daughter does not trust me because I provide things for her although I do. Instead, she trusts me because she knows I have her best interest at heart and I am good (at least in her eyes). Her faith in me is not predicated on the possibility of things, and our faith in God should not be predicated on the possibility of material blessing. We believe because He is God.

When you read the Old Testament you can see that a lot of them did not have a firm grasp on the idea of an afterlife. For most it was not a common idea as it was still being revealed. However, in spite of not having an idea that they could live forever with God they worshiped, obeyed, and served Him because if this life was all they had then He should be trusted in it. How much more should we worship, obey, and serve knowing we will live with Him forever. The joy of receiving Him is the most blessed thing we could ever have, everything else is a bonus.

That is not to say however that we should not believe God for everything. As mentioned Abraham believed God for all those things but it started with faith in God. In believing God to be good and in believing Him to provide we honor Him. We honor God when we believe that He can make a way where this is no way to see. When we place our faith in God to do the impossible we exalt Him above the world, above logic, and above us. When we believe God He pleased.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Compounding Interest and Faith

On one hand, I know it might sound silly and to those who think it does you can just ignore this post and move on to something in the Archives, but I want to be a better Christian. I want to know more and do more for God. Not because I am trying to earn favor or get something from Him but because I love Him and want more of Him. I guess I just want to add to my faith. The question is can I and should I? Should this even be a desire to have?

2 Peter 1:5-7 says it is possible and more so that I should give all diligence to this very task of adding to my faith. That I should actually not just want this but do it. There is a lot in these three verses, and it might just spill into two posts so bear with me because as my daughter used to sing “we’re going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship…”

There are seven things we are told to add to our faith in these three verses. Seven things that are supposed to be compounded upon each other. It is like compounding interest which is awesome when investing and horrid when paying. Compound interest works like this; You put money in and then interest is added to that, but that interest money that is given is now added to the total and you get interest on the whole amount. So for example, you put in $100 with 25% interest (unheard of I know) for four years, you would have somewhere around $244 at the end. Whereas if the interest did not compound you would only have $200 at the end of the year. It is like the whole doubling a penny a day trick where you end up a few million in a month or something like that. Peter is talking about the same thing. Start with your faith and then compound it.

2 Peter 1:5-7 But also for this very reason (see verse 4) giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

These are the things that are supposed to be compounded on each other. It is not faith, then virtue, then knowledge and so on setting them aside after each use. But they are supposed to go one on top of the other so that as you compound them so we will have knowledge of Jesus and not be shortsighted or unfruitful. So let’s look at the list:

Virtue

Knowledge

Self-Control

Perseverance

Godliness

Brotherly Kindness

Love

I also think it important to mention that this is not a 1-7 list. It is not first Virtue then Knowledge as if when you do one you are done with it. No this is a continual list as in keep adding to these things. Sometimes you are working a little more on Self-Control then Brotherly Kindness. The order is not nearly as important as the act of the adding. So onto to Greek….

Virtuearetē

Moral excellence as modesty or purity. Think of Virtue as being ethical. If it is right then do that. Regardless of ease do the right thing and take the right path. Virtue is added by doing.

Knowledgegnōsis

Knowledge here is actually specific to the things of the faith. It is not just any old knowledge. It is not learning more about Starfish (which are pretty cool), but the things the Bible says. This is done by reading and meditating on the Word of God.

Self-Controlegkrateia

Self-Control is funny to define because it is like defining the word “is.” But I shall try. Self-Control is not giving in to your desires. It is realizing that you can say no to the TV, girl/guy, yes to quiet time, and so on. Self-Control is only done when tempted to not have it. You can only have it when you need it.

Perseverancehypomonē

Perseverance in the Christian faith is a whole lot like exercising. It is that dig deep moment. It is the my legs are shaking but I am going to keep going moment, the I want to quit or let this discouragement in moment but I am going to keep at it. I am going to push forward. If courage is doing it regardless of fear than discouragement is giving into the fear. Perseverance is not giving into the hardship but pushing on towards the goal.

Godlinesseusebeia

Godliness is reverence and respect for God. It is just the realization that you are not God. It is understanding that your ways are not His ways and that He can do as He pleases and that His purposes are good.

Brotherly Kindnessphiladelphia

Not this city or movie. This means love. Not agape love because that is slightly different but this is love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you see others being persecuted or hurting or needing help it is doing what is needed. It is taking time to serve and love the body.

Loveagapē

Now, this is real God like love. This is 1 Corinthians 13 love. I won’t say too much because a lot has been said, but suffice to say it is giving of yourself.

So there we have it. There are seven things and all of them hard. All require something of us, but all give us something better than what we can be without them. When applied and compounded we get a faith that is strong and we will have fruit.

We managed to get it all in one post. It’s a long post but oh well.

Just a thought,

Mike

Insanity Workout and the Book of James

I am about to start the Insanity workout program. I usually like to lift but have no time for that lately and I cannot seem to get rid of some weight that just seems to hang out. I have been doing some light workouts in the morning nothing amazing but enough to not lose too much strength. So I decided I would give Insanity a try.

I watched the commercial, read real reviews online and it looks legit. So at this point I have no reason not to believe the program will work for busting out some fat loss. I have a small amount of faith in the program, but to really build that faith in the program up I am going to need to actually work it out.

That is what James is talking about in James 2:24 “You see then that a man is justified by works, not faith alone.” James is writing to Jewish believers specifically according to verse 1. And while I am not positive I get the feeling some of them took their new found liberty to the wrong place. I get the feeling they were so happy to be freed from a works based system decided they needed to do nothing anymore. That is shown in 2:15-16 when he says if you send someone away who is naked and cold, saying bless you and go in warmth and peace but do not give them anything to be warmed or clothed then you have done nothing.

It is a lot like the talk that goes on nowadays from Christians about this problem and that problem. Most times you can hear a hundred “solutions” but little to no action of any sorts. If prayer is mentioned it is only in word and little actual praying is done (a generalization of course). I have done this and am as guilty as any other. If we talk about the homeless problem but do nothing we have done nothing, if we talk about sex trafficking and do nothing then we have done nothing and so on. Now to be clear I am not talking about “raising awareness” which is done to the masses on FaceBook and Twitter because there is a time for that. But would it not be better if we raised awareness while acting?

I know we cannot be active in every area that needs it but if you are known for working with young pregnant women in need and mention something to raise awareness about homelessness then I am more likely to hear you then if you are only known for raising awareness.

James is talking about your faith causing action. He uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to show this by showing that Abraham’s belief caused action. It was not just a belief that did nothing it was a belief that acted out of the belief.

It is the same way with our faith. I believe Jesus died on a cross and took my sin and shame. That belief is the reason I am who I am today and not who I was before. But my belief in that has changed my behaviour and actions so that now I work because of the change not in order to have that change.

One last thing I think helps is two words in verse 22 of chapter 2. It says “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works was made perfect.” The words working together is actually one word in the Greek. The word is sunergeo where we get the words synergy or synergism, and it basically means a partnership where both benefit.

When you believe in God’s promises and finished work you have faith, and then when you do a work because of that faith you get more faith and can now do a greater (or more) work which in turn gives you a greater faith. It is a beautiful thing.

Now a word of caution. Do not by any means attempt to earn salvation, favor, or merit from God. No amount of helping the poor, feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, sharing Facebook statuses will get you in with God. Check your motives every time because you will likely start to work and feel like God should have blessed you because you did X, Y, or Z. But it does not work that way because your best work is still pretty lame to be honest.

Just a thought,

Mike