Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 1, 2010

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Proverbs 14:34
What does it mean when a nation is exalted? That sounds like a good thing, but how good is it? What are some specific benefits wrought by righteousness?
Let me share at least three things that are meant by "exalted".
Exalted means "lifted".
Righteousness lifts a nature and a culture. It lifts the morality of that people. It lifts the civility of that society. The morale of that nation is higher than cultures where people don't value righteousness. Doing the right things obviously results in positive and constructive outcomes.
Exalted means "lightened".
Righteousness flows from truth. Truth originates in the character and very nature of God. With God as your source and His Word as your resource there is going to be knowledge and wisdom. Jesus said that He is "the light of the world". When you have Jesus you have light and in Him is no darkness. From the light of God's Word, truth and wisdom beam forth revealing what is right and what is wrong. Being "lightened" by righteousness leads to rightness in actions, attitudes, values and moral decisions.
Exalted means "liberated".
A people who are lifted by the truth and lightened by the truth will find freedom and liberty from His Word. Truth results in freedom. Ignorance leads to bondage. Ignorance leads to confusion and doubts. Ignorance leads to strife and fear.
A people lifted by truth and lightened by truth are free to become who they want to become in Christ. They will act right and have the right attitudes which will enrich their relationships and increase their opportunities for freedom. Listening to His truth and living in His truth shape a godly character that is free to pursue godliness.
How is a nation exalted by righteousness? Simple!
A nation is exalted by people who are lifted by the righteousness of God's Word. As a result they tend to think right, which leads to right decisions, which translates into godly living. Godly living results in lifting God high in the estimation of those who may be seeking for solid answers. God is exalted by the practical everyday decisions, actions and values you make.
A nation is exalted when lighted by the truth of God's Word and the principles it gives to live by. It makes better decisions and is better able to make quality decisions. Truth reveals the right thing to do in all decisions, and clarifies the application of that truth in daily situations. God is exalted by a people who know and show His truth.
A nation is exalted when God's children live in the liberty of His knowledge and His love. God's children live within the law and finds freedom in self-governing his thoughts, feelings, and atutides. An ignorant nation will not endure as a free nation. Study history. You will see.
I know you love the USA and desire to see her rise to the exalted standard. You, af all people will understand the value of self-governing and liberty of self-discipline. God WILL set you free!
"Righteousness, or rightness, allows God to get involved personally in that project. God will be strong and powerful in the life of those who have chosen to walk in the light of His power and glory. And over time, people will be set free and God will be glorified!

June 30, 2010

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Proverbs 14:34
By now you should know what righteousness is and where it comes from.
If you understand those simple truths then you should certainly appreciate its benefits!
According to King Solomon it is crucial for a nation to be committed to righteousness. We have seen that the Founding Fathers understood how fundamental it was to the future success of the nation they sought to establish. History records the exalted status America has achieved through its two and one-third centuries of existence.
So who is responsible to keep our nation in its exalted and righteous status? How does that happen?
Jesus proclaimed, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus makes it clear that God expects His people to used their righteous influence to positively impact the moral climate of their culture. He equates our moral influence to salt, giving a good flavor to the society in which we live and also purifying it and preserving it. Clearly, you and I as Christians should life the moral environment of where we live, where we work and even the places where we play. One simple truth confronts us, either we improve the morality of our world or it brings us down. If we don't make it better it will certainly make us worse. There is no neutral impact.
If living out the righteousness of God acts like salt in a culture, then practicing and proclaiming His truth acts like a light! Righteousness is the inner force that must be expressed through living out the truth of God's Word. The Bible refers to truth as light and anything less than truth as darkness. Nature proves that darkness and light do not coexist. Light dispells darkness and darkness only exists in the absence of light.
Are you concerned about the present condition of your beloved nation as you prepare to celebrate America's Independence for the 234th time? You should be. We are a disgraced nation.
You can despair or you can begin the repair! The solution is not in Washington DC or in Richmond or in any other capitol in our nation. To exalt your nation, commit to righteousness! To commit to righteousness connect with the Righteous One and then live in relationship with Him and His truth will shine through your life. Exalting our nation is the responsibility of God's people - The Church, The Body of Christ! That is you! That is me!
Do you consider yourself a patriot? Patriots are prayerful, purified, and principled people through whom the power of God can work! God exalts a nation through people like that!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Proverbs 14:34

This verse should be blazoned on the consciousness of every legislator, civic leader and elected official in America.
Why is that?
Because it "exalts a nation".
How does it do that?
I mentioned that righteousness is a commitment to do the right thing. That is true and it is important to do the right thing.
However, there is something even more important about righteousness. Righteousness is not just a commitment - it is a connection to the righteousness of God. Righteousness enables you to do right by making you right so you can connect with the Righteous God. Righteousness gets God involved in the life of the nation. So, when you say "righteousness" exalts a nation you are saying that God and godly living lifts up a nation. There can be little doubt of that.
Let's put faith aside for a moment and just approach this from a common sense point of view. Doesn't it sound better to have God active in the life of a nation? If God is not involved and if His power and influence are not active, what will be? When goodness and rightness are removed, what remains? What is the antithesis of rightness? What is the alternative to goodness?
If you have respect for the Founding Fathers, then I assume you would respect their views on the role of righteousness in the formation and survival of a nation. Consider this!
Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of "The Declaration of Independence" were orthodox, deeply committed, Christians? The other three all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of scripture, and His personal intervention.
"While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader . . . If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security." - Samuel Adams
"We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations, and will raise up friends for us. The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave . . . Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" - Patrick Henry, in a speech March 23, 1775.
"The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His Apostles.... This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government." - Noah Webster
"The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty- - -" - Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L.H. Butterfield, editor, Princeton: The American Philosophical Society, 1951, Vol. I p. 414, "To the citizens of Philadelphia: A Plan for Free Schools", March 28, 1787
A modicum of research will make it abundantly clear why America became a great nation with an exalted position in the world. Our Founders established this country upon righteousness because of their individual and collective connections with God!
How is your connection?

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Proverbs 14:34
Leading up to this week-end's 234th celebration of America's freedom, I am going to explore some of the things that has made the USA an exceptional place. And it IS an exceptional place!
In just a dozen words, Solomon, who knew about greatness, captures its essence. "Rigtheousness" is the key word.
I contend it is impossible to understand the greatness of America without comprehending the vital role righteousness plays.
So, what about righteousness? What it is you need to understand?
The first aspect of righteousness that is significant is justice. Notice, I said "justice" and not "fairness". God has no real interest in fairness but He is extremely interested in justice. Why?
Justice presumes a moral standard. Justice acknowledges that there is a right and there is a wrong according to an absolute standard. For the Founding Fathers that absolute moral standard was the Ten Commandments. Don't take my word for it:
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” - James Madison, 1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia
“ The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code.” - John Quincy Adams. Letters to his son. p. 61
“All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” - Noah Webster. History. p. 339
When you begin to grasp the thinking of these great men, when you get your mind around the concept of justice then you gain a better understanding of the importance of righteousness. Righteousness at its elementary level is "rightness". You can paraphrase this verse to say, "Rightness exalts a nation....."
America has been exalted as a nation because it has always valued "rightness" and has sought to reconcile unjust situations based on this absolute standard of "rightness".
America is great because America seeks to be right!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery" also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:8-13

Remember when you were in school and your teacher tried to challenge by reminding you that the grade you earned for this class would go on your "permanent record"?

Sometimes that motivated you and sometimes it didn't. Your permanent record only mattered if you were concerned about your long-term success. The contents of your permanent record could help open or close some doors for you in the future.

If you weren't concerned about your future, your "permanent record" didn't matter to you. Maybe at that point in your life you were more concerned about spending time with your friends or watching TV or playing video games or anything more pleasurable than studying!

In this portion of Scripture James reminds you that you have a "permanent record" and how you treat others goes on your "permanent record". When it comes time to determine your eternal destination God will look at your "permanent record" and reward you accordingly.
If you believe your "permanent record" matters, make sure you show love and respect to others. Always be sure you treat others as you like to be treated. Don't prejudge others and don't let your prejudices prevent you from helping connect people with God. Your purpose must always be more important than your personal preferences.
Make sure your "permanent record" is pleasing to God. If it is, you'll become permanent!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 26, 2010

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2: 12-13

How do you respond under pressure?

It has been suggested that who you are under pressure is revealing of who you really are. I tend to believe that.

You must keep in mind as you read and study James that these are Christians under pressure. Pressure most of us have never known, the pressure of persecution.

As James describes what faith should look like and how people of faith should live, it is being lived out under pressure. Faith is giving your best when life deals the worst! Do you return mercy for malice?

In these verses he reminds you that you will be judged and your faith will be judged based on how well your actions and attitudes match those of the Savior. If you say you have faith but do not demonstrate love your faith will be judged as insincere.

The context for faith in this instance is within the meeting of believers. How do you show love to a guests who comes into you meeting? Do you size them up or do you serve them? Do you act differently to a wealthy looking person than to a shabbily dressed one? Faith looks for what it can give rather than what it can gain. Here's an example:

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he ought to worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned, “If Christians have caste differences also, “ he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.

Bad judgment.

Your faith is being continually judged by how you treat others. You will be ultimately judged by how you treat others. If you want to be judged mercifully, give mercy. Show kindness and love to whoever comes into your fellowship. Start tomorrow at church!

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010

"If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:3-4
How do you determine the value of something?
In this consumer-driven, value-oriented world, how do you decide what is a good price to pay for an item.
Generally, there are several factors.
First is the brand name. Over the years, certain companies have distiguished themselves as being an industry leader in their product. The quality and reliability of their product has earned them trust with consumers. So, when shopping for that item, one of the first considerations of value is the name brand. Some are willing to even pay a higher price to purchase that item made by that company.
Second is the need of the consumer at the time. If an important appliance goes out and needs to be replaced in a hurry, the urgency of the situation may require you to pay more for the first available unit. Urgency sometime dictates the price.
Third, there is the more subjective issue of personal preference. You may pay more for an item just because it strikes your fancy or touches you emotionally. It has greater value because of the happiness it brings you. Because you like it better you are willing to pay more for it.
So, when it comes to value, there are market forces that come into play, and there are some economic forces that factor in and there are subjective issues, as well.
In James 2, he deals with how you determine the value of a person who comes into your fellowship. There should be one determining factor - God created them, God loves them and Jesus died for them. That makes them valuable to God and you are to ascribe that value to them. If you judge their value based on outward factors or selfish subjective factors - you are sinning and will answer to God.
Everyone is valuable to God! Everyone who enters your church or your LIFE groups or simple crosses your path during the day is a person of great worth to God and should be treated as such by you.
Failure to do so will cost you - big time!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." James 2:8-9
What's love got to do with it?
What's faith got to do with it?
It's the deal!
Faith enables you to be loving toward those you don't favor. Actually, that's the point of this exhortation!
Again, I call your attention to the fact that James says you should not "show" favoritism. It does not say you shouldn't feel favoritism or have favorites.
In our 21st Century culture there is WAY too much emphasis on how you feel or what you think. Faith is about what you actually DO! That is one of the main truths James is communicating in his Book of James - "faith is demonstrated by works". It doesn't say anything about how you feel or what you think!
Faith is a commitment to live out the Law of Love toward those who you may not even like on an emotional level!
Anyone can embrace someone they have "warm fuzzies" for - but it takes a person of faith to be loving toward another they may not feel favorable toward.
Faith is fleshing out love and truth and Christian character!
Faith is not limited to how you feel or what you favor! Faith acts on what is true and what glorifies God.
How is your faith?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010

"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." James 2:1

For a church fellowship to be healthy and transformational their must be an atmosphere of love and acceptance. In this first half of the second chapter, James makes the argument against showing prejudice.

Verse 1: Partiality contradicts faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of glory.

God calls us to express His unconditional love to anyone who comes under the influence of our church. It doesn't mean that everything goes and we can't have standards, but we must welcome and include everyone He sends our way.

2. Verses 2-4: Partiality reveals a judging heart and behind it evil thinking.

Members of a healthy fellowship relate to each other and guests based on Scriptural principles and not on superficial personal preferences.

3. Verse 5: Partiality to the rich contradicts God's heart, because he has chosen many of the poor for himself.

This sounds like God prefers poor people over the rich. Isn't that hypocritical? I am not prepared to question the motives of a Holy and omniscient God. But the fact is poor people are generally more receptive to the Gospel than rich people.

4. Verse 6a: Partiality dishonors people created in the image of God.

It is not for us to choose whom we will minister the grace of God. It is our calling to love whomever He leads into out fellowship. If we focus on the superficial we will be ineffective in developing the spiritual.

5. Verses 6b-7: Partiality to the rich backfires and becomes your downfall.

If you are preferring the wealthy because of what you think they can offer your church financially you will be building on the superficial rather than the spiritual and that always backfires.

6. Verse 9-11: Partiality makes you a transgressor of the law of liberty.

Anytime love is given with conditions there is bondage. Extending grace to everyone without regard to who they are or what they can offer creates an environment of unconditional love and freedom. People are free to be themselves without the feeling they have to measure up in order to be accepted.

7. Verse 13: Partiality is not mercy. But if you don't show mercy, you will perish.

Mercy means we believe the best of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. We treat others as we have been and want to be treated. Mercy means I offer the grace of God even to people I may have a prejudice against.

Favoritism and partiality are deadly for any organization, but especially so with a church where the love of God must operate. As human beings we will have favorites and we have have biases, but as Christians we cannot allow those human judgments to influence how we respond to those who come into our fellowship.

Love 'em or lose 'em.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010

"Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:2-4
Everyone has favorites don't they? How is it possible to not prefer some people or some things over another? If you had to choose between guacamole and a banana split, I'll bet you could do that. So, why would James tell us not to have favorites?
The short answer is - He doesn't.
He doesn't tell us not to have preferences or favorites, but he commands us to not allow them to influence how we treat others. Believers are to treat people the same regardless of personal preferences.
Isn't that fake?
No, it is faith. Faith does what is right not what is comfortable or easy.
When you treat a rich person better than a poor person does that necessarily mean you like the rich person better than you like the poor person? Probably not! It probably means that you like what the rich person can do for you. So, is that not fake? Of course it is!
A church should be a faith place and not a fake place. So, love must rule the day and love treats everyone the same regardless of personal preferences.
Did Jesus have personal preferences? Where there people He liked better than others? Of course! He had twelve disciples but there were three in His inner circle. His favorite place to go was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Many of the Pharisees and religious leaders were exceedingly cruel and critical of Jesus. He didn't like anything about them and let them know it. They were far from being His favorites.
When Jesus died on the cross He died for everyone. He didn't die for just the people He cared most about.
If we in the Church are to be the people of the Christ, and we are. And if we in the Church are to be people of the cross, and we are. Then we must, like Christ on the cross, treat everyone with love and respect regardless of our own personal preferences or biases.
Easier said than done - but it must be done for the glory of God and the health of the Church.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010

"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." James 2:1
A local church is all about God and all about people. A local church exists to connect people with God and with each other. To do that, there must be a clear understanding of what those relationships look like.
You can be sure that the reason James wrote this admonition is because these Christians did not have a clear understanding of what believers need to do to facilitate those connections.
First, I want to point out that James says not to "show" favoritism. That also acknowledges that human nature does favor some people or some groups over others. That is honest! That is real! Having favorites is what it is - natural. But as believers we are not given to the natural we are given to the supernatural. It is okay to have favorites but through the grace and power of Jesus we don't allow our prejudiced influence how we interact with people in the church.
Second, I believe God sees people in two basic groups, those who have received Jesus as Savior and those who haven't. In my experience, that is how healthy local churches view people. Human nature wants to group people by race or status or gender, God's nature just sees individual from various backgrounds, ethnic groups and economic classes as those who are saved and those who are lost.
Obviously, you have different exprectations and approaches to each group. You treat believers differently than you do non-believers. You expect believers to act as though they know Christ and are led by His Spirit. Unbelievers are not going to do that. Unhealthy churches tend to confuse those things, they make unrealistic demands of unbelievers and allow believers to get away with careless living.
This is how I want Fred Wes to view people. I want us to live in unity with other believers and with urgency toward those who are spiritually lost. That is a worthy goal - unity and urgency! Let's love God together, let's love each other in God and in unity let's focus that love on lost people that God has placed in our lives!
You have prejudices. So do I. But what we do with those makes ALL the difference between healthy churches and unhealthy churches.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

"So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out." Genesis 6:14
It was a Sunday evening service and only a handful of people were gathered in a basement that served as a sanctuary. The good people of the Bourbon Bible Church had intended to build a main story above the basement but it hadn't happened yet.
A seven-year old boy sat on the aisle about five rows back. At the the of the message the pastor gave an invitation to come forward for salvation. He didn't seem like he really expected anyone to come and showed surprise when the young boy stepped out into the aisle and came to the front accompanied by his mother.
The pastor dismissed the rest of the congregation and invited the youngster and the mother to join him in a room off the side of the sanctuary. When they gathered there the pastor asked the boy if he wanted to accept Jesus as his Savior and the boy said he did. So, the pastor began to tell the story of Noah and the ark. It was the first time the boy had heard it and he was riveted on each word the pastor shared. At the end of the story he told the young fellow that salvation was like the ark and if wanted invited Jesus to become his Savior it would be like coming into the ark. After leading the seven-year old in a simple prayer the door of the ark swung open!
That night happened fifty-three years ago and I remember it well because that young boy was me. That was the night I became a Christian and entered the ark of salvation.
Needless to say, the story of Noah has always had special significance to me. There is no doubt that it is a metaphor for salvation and it was literally the means of salvation for Noah and his entire family - not to mention the animal kingdom.
With this in mind verse 14 caught my attention because I think it illustrates a profound truth about the relationship between grace and works in salvation. It involves God's favor, our faith and works that evidence our faith.
God had favor on Noah, but Noah had to spend over a century building something he had never seen before to prepare for a threat he had never witnessed told by a God he had never laid eyes on. Salvation is provided by God but must be appropriated by our faith and proven by our works of righteousness.
Like, Noah, you have found grace in the eyes of God. And like Noah, you must enter it. Salvation is where our faith meets His grace!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19, 2010

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." Genesis 6:8

If it were easy being a good dad, everyone would be doing it.

Noah qualifies as a good dad. I think you could put him in the great dad category.

That begs the question, "What defines a great dad?"

Here's my answer based on what I know of the Bible and from what I see of Noah:

1) He pleased God.

That's what it means to find "favor" with God. He was a great earthly father because he pleased his Heavenly Father. How? By being "righteous, blameless and walked with God".

2) He prayed

Where does it say that? How did he know about building the ark? God gave Noah a detailed description on how to build something he had never seen before - a boat!
3) He perservered
For over 100 years he worked on constructing the ark. Every day for more than a century he got up and went to work on this ship of salvation.
4) He protected his family
Obviously, he delivered his family from the flood waters, but more importantly, he protected them spiritually from the moral corruption of that day.
5) He provided for his family.
As a responsible bread-winner, Noah made sure his wife and children had what they needed.
Noah is in the Hall of Faith listed in Hebrews 11. Rightly so! But he also ranks high on the Hall of Fathers. He became a great father by pleasing His Heavenly Father!
How about you? Have you found favor with God? Are you pleasing your Heavenly father by being righteous, by being blamesless, and by walking with Him?

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

"Noah did everything just as God commanded him." Genesis 6:22

It isn't easy to be a dad. You dads probably know that by now. But, if you are one you'd best do it well! Here are some insights from "Focus on the Family" verifying what we know, fatherhood it crucial to the development of healthy kids.

A father is more than a "second adult."

That a mother is necessary to her child is rarely denied, but in a culture which openly questions the mother-father family structure, the role of a father is often portrayed as little more than a biological contributor, or a second adult whose gender is meaningless to child development. Fatherhood studies say quite the opposite: a father contributes uniquely to his children's lives, and he is essential to their well-being.

Fathers are essential to child well-being

Emotional and intellectual development - As a male parent, a father brings unique contributions to the job of parenting that a mother cannot. Psychology Today explains, “Fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children.”1

Avoiding incarceration - Studies have shown that the presence of a father strongly correlates to children avoiding incarceration. The absence of the father as an authority figure can contribute to a child’s disregard for laws and rules. A survey of youth in custody concluded that “70% of juveniles in state reform institutions grew up in single or no-parent situations.”2

No substitute - There is no substitute for a father’s love, involvement and presence in the life of his children. As noted sociologist David Popenoe explains, “Fathers are far more than just "second adults" in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”3

Fathers are uniquely-equipped to contribute to children’s needs

Different relational styles broaden a child's experience - Dr. Kyle Pruett explains that fathers have a distinct style of communication and interaction with children. By eight weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother or father interacting with them. This diversity, in itself, provides children with a broader, richer experience of contrasting relational interactions — more so than for children who are raised by only one parent. Whether they realize it or not, children are learning at the earliest age, by sheer experience, that men and women are different and have different ways of dealing with life, other adults and children. This understanding is critical for their development. Dr. Pruett says "A father, as a male biological parent, brings unique contributions to the job of parenting a child that no one else can replicate."4

Verbal patterns teach different communication styles - Mothers will simplify their words and speak on the child’s level. Men are not as inclined to modify their language for the child. Mother’s way facilitates immediate communication. Father’s way challenges the child to expand her vocabulary and linguistic skills — an important building block of academic success.5

Fathers and mothers are necessary for balanced discipline - Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan tells us that fathers stress justice, fairness and duty (based on rules), while mothers stress sympathy, care and help (based on relationships). Fathers tend to observe and enforce rules systematically and sternly, which teach children the objectivity and consequences of right and wrong. Mothers tend toward grace and sympathy in the midst of disobedience, which provide a sense of hopefulness. Again, either of these by themselves is not good, but together, they create a healthy, proper balance.
So, what do you do when you have a really big job?
You could do like Noah did. When He was given the assignment of saving his family from the judgment of the flood he handled the big job by having a narrow focus.
He became a successful earthly father by commiting himself to pleasing his Heavenly Father.
The job of a father is to pray for your family, to provide for your family and to protect your family. Noah accomplished all three by doing one thing - obeying God!
Guys, learn from Noah, If you want to handle the big job of being successful at all the things required of being a godly dad do one thing - obey God!
"Noah did everything just as God commanded him." Are you obeying God in everything?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17, 2010

"This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." Genesis 6:9Justify Full
"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." Jesus made this interesting statement as He was warning His disciples about the end times. This powerful statement reflects two crucial truths: God can only take so much wickedness and evil before He rains down judgment, what does He require of us to escape that judgment?
In a sea of gross darkness, fueled by the activities of malevolent spirits, Noah stood out like a beacon of light. He wasn't just nicer or more kind or a little less evil than the rest, he was a righteous dude!
It is instructive to know what Noah did to gain the favor of God and be chosen to save the entire human race. Genesis 6 gives three insights into that answer:
1) Righteousness
What does it mean to be righteous? In short, it means being right with God. It means making your decisions based on what is the right thing to do. It means resisting what is wrong. This rightness or righteousness is characterized by the statement in verse 22 - "Noah did everything just as God commanded him."
What is the key to righteousness? Obedience.
Not only was that right, it was entirely necessary for someone who would spend the next century building a boat in the middle of the desert preparing for something that had never happened before.
Are you committed to doing the right thing? Are you living in obedience to God?
2) Reputation
Not only was Noah well thought of by God - as important as that is - but he had the confidence of his friends and neighbors.
Not only was that admirable, that was necessary for someone who was about to embark on a major project to rescue an entire race!
I think one thing that is noteworthy about his reputation is that having a good reputation was not Noah's main concern. While you should care about your reputation it should not be the driving force in your life. If you worry too much about looking good to others, your motives will be tainted and your decisions will be selfish. Noah developed a good reputation as a result of being right with God.
How is your reputation among those you live with? How are you known at work? Does your reputation reflect well on God? Is God's love and grace reflected through you?
3) Relationship
Noah was righteous and of a good reputation because of his relationship with God. He walked with God. In a day when everyone else was running away from God, Noah was running with Him.
Today, as we face what could be these last days Jesus referred to, relationship with God is easier and more rewarding that it was for Noah. Why? Because of Jesus! Because of the Holy Spirit! We have both available to us, Noah didn't.
Are you walking with God through your relationship with Jesus by the Holy Spirit? Your righteousnes and your reputation will flow out of your relationship with God. How is your walk with Him?
Noah found favor with God and changed the course of history.
How will history record your rightness, your reputation and your relationships.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." Genesis 6:8

One of the most dramatic moments in the amazing account of the Creation is when God had completed His masterpiece, looked it over, and pronounced it "good". A perfect God had combined His creative genius with His incredible power and spoke the universe into existence.

So, how bad would it have to get for God to change His mind about the "goodness" of this creation?

Real bad. Check this out:

"5The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." Genesis 6:5-7

What an amazing portion of Scripture! It reveals a God Who had found such delight in His creation now grieving over what it had become. What He had created for His pleasure now brought Him great pain. Think about that! Think about how destructive sin is! Think about how it breaks the heart of God!

This condition could not continue. Something had to be done to make this right! How would that happen?

God had it in His mind to destroy everything and start over. But amid the degradation and disgrace there was one beacon of hope - Noah, a righteous man.

You have to understand the circumstances surrounding this statement - "Noah found favor with God" - to fully appreciate what "favor" means. To grasp grace you must understand the alternative of disgrace.

In a world filled with men who were disgracing themselves, Noah found grace. Grace refers to God's "unmerited favor" offered to us. This means that God is looking for reasons to extend His kindness and goodness toward us and Noah's righteousness brought favor on him at a time when God was ready to destroy everyone and start over.

Consider the powerful difference one person can make when God's favor rests upon them.

Over the next few posts I want to explore the attitudes and actions of Noah that brought God's favor upon his life.

But this morning I want to ask you, "Is your life bringing God's grace or His disgrace upon you, upon your family? Are you living in a way that brings God pain?"

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 15, 2010

"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:25-27
The third theme in chapter one is that of serving. How you serve is a reflection of what you believe.
What does it mean to serve?
James gives us a couple of insights.
True religion, is faith that serves God and others who are in need.
The key to serving God is obedience. You must listen to the Word and learn the Word so you can live the Word. Until you live it you don't believe it. Until you live it you haven't learned it.
In order to obey God you must deal with the sin that is revealed in your life from looking into the Bible - a moral mirror. That is where obedience begins. You can't disregard the Word and dismiss the conviction of the Holy Spirit and expect to serve God. Getting right with God takes your focus off of you and gets you focused on what matters to God.
What matters to God is helping the helpless people Whom He loves. He mentions a couple of them - widows and orphans.
Faith works out through service. Faith exercises obedience by caring for those God cares about. There are needs all around you that you could meet if you were to get your eyes off of yourself and your suffering. Obedience opens your heart to God and your eyes to the needs of others.
How is your religion? Are you living what you say you believe? Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Are there some sinful attitudes or unhealthy habits you are nurturing in your spirit?
If you are not living your faith you don't really have a faith. Your religion is worthless.

June 14, 2010

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22

A second big theme of the first chapter of James is your approach to the Scriptures.

I think there are three common approaches to the Word.

Some read the Bible for inspiration. When they need a little emotional boost or a spiritual lift they pull the Book from the shelf and read some verses.
The Scritpures certainly ARE inspiritational, just consider the Psalms, for example, but they are far more than that. If you are just reading them for inspiritation you are short-changing yourself.
Some read the Bible for information. There certainly is a ton of great information in the Scriptures. Think about it - there is historical information. Much of what we know about the rise of human culture we know from the Bible. The Bible contains amazing stories about heroes and villans, about wars and conquests and some steamy love stories. If you want to know about the origin and early history of the Church, it is all contained between the covers of this Book. But it offers more than just information.
A few read it for implementation. THAT is what James recommends for you. The Bible is a living Word. For the Bible to be truth and transforming it must be lived out in the lives of believers. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life must be allowed to flesh out the power of His truth through you.
James admonishes you to "do" the Word not just "hear" it. How about you? What is your approach to His Word?
Are you reading it for inspiration?
Are you reading it for information?
Or are you reading it so you can implement it and allow its power to transform you - and others through you?

June 13, 2010

When I assumed my first ministry assignment at Princeton Wesleyan Church in Illinois, I spent a year preaching through the Book of James. I figured the theme of the Book - "practical Christianity" - might be a good place to start. It was a pretty safe bet!
This Summer I am trying to do it in 10 week with Father's Day, July 4 and giving my assistant an opportunity to speak. This is proving to be a bigger challenge than I thought. So much good stuff and so little time!
Having completed Chapter One this morning, let me see if I can summarize that Chapter in a timely and coherent manner.
In Chapter One I identify three big themes: Your attitude during suffering, your approach to Scripture and your actions in serving.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
How do you take joy in suffering? Is this some form of masochism?
I give you three reasons to rejoice in suffering. First, rejoice in the confidence that God is in charge of your trials and testing and He promises that He is faithful to make sure you are not tested beyond your endurance and that He will provide a way of escape. Also, He promises that everything works out for good to those who love and serve God.
Another cause for rejoicing is that tests and trails bring you to greater commitment. Here James admonishes you to commit to His wisdom. When things get tough you tend to be guided by your pain or to seek His wisdom and insight. He promises that if you ask for wisdom He will shower it upon us. Fully commiting to Him and placing our trust in His wisdom will definitely bring us joy.
Thirdly, you can rejoice in character of God and the knowledge that His character will be developed in you as you trust Him through your suffering.
That is how you develop the right attitude during suffering.
No one wants to suffer. But, it sure helps to know that your suffering is profiting you and your pain is not being wasted. Consider what Jesus' suffering gained you and rejoice in what your suffering can secure for you - an Him!

Friday, June 11, 2010

June 12, 2010

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." James 1:23-24
Check this out:
How do you determine your reality?
The evil queen in the Snow White story depended on a magic mirror to get her truth. She did that because she agreed with what she heard from it. It told her what she wanted to hear.
One day she had to hear something hard - the real truth. She didn't handle it well. She did what people do when they don't want their fantasy to be disturbed, they destroy whatever dares to challenge them - usually that is another person.
Let me ask you something, do you have a magic mirror?
Seriously, do you? Of course, I am not talking about a literal magic mirror - we ARE dealing with truth and reality here!
But, if we are not careful we can be lured into a comfortable habit of hearing what we want to hear and believing convenient lies. Denial is not just a river in Egypt!
Unless we are willing to open God's Word and expose ourselves to Biblical teaching and preaching - we will live in our little self-constructed fantasy world. We will listen to our magic mirror and find comfort in the lies. We will find ourselves feeling threatened by people who question us or challenge our reality. They have to be brought down or destroyed to discredit their truth and preserve our reality.
Here in our text, James suggests an alternative to our magic mirror. He calls us to look into the mirror of God's Word and to measure our reality against His.
It is hard to discover you are not the fairest of them all - until you disover HE IS! And you can be like Him!
Is it time to trade in your magic mirror and get real?

June 11, 2010

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." James 1:23-24
Mirrors have something in common with truth. Can you guess what it is?
Both can be very cruel.
Sometimes I don't like what I see when I look in the mirror. But, if I want to know how I look I need to do it. The only way I can improve how I look is to get a realistic view of myself so that I can repair the damage.
My alternative is to try to image how I look or to wish I looked a certain way and let that fanatasy guide how I view myself. While I might fool myself with those false notions I would not fool anyone else. They would honestly see what I refuse to see.
Anyone who really cares about their appearance will stand before the mirror to get the truth and then adjust to that reality. Healthy well-adjusted people do that.
If that makes sense to you then you will understand what James is saying when he compares the Word of God to a mirror. Not a mirror to reflect our outward appearance but a mirror to reflect the condition of our spirit. That is not any easier. But, it is necessary for spiritual health.
Mirrors and Bibles are necessary tools for anyone who wants to live a healthy and successful life. The reason that is true is because each of them keep us in touch with reality. That is the purpose of faith. Faith brings us in touch with what is real in life - and beyond. The great irony here is that in order for us to connect with the spiritual and eternal reality that is God, we must be willing to deal with the truths that we can see and know.
I think the struggle is being willing to move into God's reality rather than stubbornly trying to shape God around our notions of what it real.
God is the Arbiter of what it real and what is true. He reveals that to us through His Word, the Bible. And that requires us to daily present ourselves before His Word to allow it to reflect our weakness or sins.
Each of us have a choice. We can live in the ugly fantasy world of our foolish pride and rebellion. Or we can humble ourselves before the truth of His Word and make the hard adjustments required to align with His eternal realities.
What is real to you depends on what you decide is true. If God is true then He should determine what is real in your life. If He isn't, then it is up to you to shape your own reality. The only way to really know is to a hard look in the mirror of His Word.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10, 2010

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:18-21
This portion of Scripture has a lot to say about how to benefit from the Word of God. Today I am thinking of Jesus' parable about the sower and how when he sowed the seed it fell on four different types of soil and resulted in four different types of results.
From these verses here in James, as well as in Jesus' teaching it is clear that for the teaching of the Word to be effective there must be some preparation on the part of the hearer. The seed of God's Word can only produce fruit if it falls on fertile soil.
When prepared hearers interact with a prepared teaching the result is a spiritual harvest.
James is presenting a point of view quite different from the mindset of modern church-goers. He is placing the responsibility on the hearers of the Word to make sure they are spiritually prepared when they show up for the teaching. It is apparent that he understood the power was in the truths being taught not in the techniques of the teacher.
The modern church is characterized by a vastly different attitude and approach. Many 21st century believers come to church unprepared and expect the preacher to move them with his presentation and oratory skills. No wonder there are so many anemic Christians and unhealthy churches.
Certainly, the more skillful a communicator is the easier it is to receive his teaching, but even the most skilled teacher can only sow the seed and the seed is subject to the soil upon which it lands. It is the duty of any preacher or teacher of the Word to show up well prepared and to work hard to continually hone his communication skills. That is a given. But the listener shares an equal responsibility to show up prepared.
A healthy church is a place where a well-prepared teacher of the Word interacts with properly prepared hearers in the power of the Spirit. In that atmosphere the preaching gets better and the people get better!
How do you prepare?
James gives a couple of insights on that!
First, prepare your attitude. He specifically mentions the problem with anger. Angry people don't learn well for a host of reasons. I think there are people who come to hear the Word for inspiration. They want the teaching or the sermon to make them feel good - or bad - who knows? But coming to church just to get moved emotionally is not healthy. The Word is about instruction not just inspiration. It is your responsibility to come with an open mind and a teachable spirit. James suggests the attitude of humility.
Second, come prepared to actively involved yourself in learning. Bring your Bible. Bring your pen to jot down notes. Expect to hear from God and to be convicted by the Holy Spirit. Understand that growth results from obedience. James says the Word is like a mirror that will show you the spiritual flaws in your life. If you are not prepared to take an objective look at your soul, save yourself the hassle of coming because once you hear the truth you are responsible for what you do with it.
Spiritual growth and health are the result of prepared teaching connecting with prepared hearers. When the seeds of truth are planted in good soil your get a spiritual harvest!
Want to help your preacher be better? Be a better hearer! Expect him to be prepared but prepare yourself.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9, 2010

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:18-21
The theme of James is "practical Christianity". The Book of James provides the answer to "what should a Christian look like?".
What can be more practical than the issue of dealing with anger? James makes some very interesting observations regarding anger. He says that an angry heart is not receptive to the Word of God.
Why is that?
Let's examine these several verses:
Anger is reactive and not open to instruction. When you are angry you are not usually open to truth. Neither you mind nor your spirit are receptive to what others have to say. You do not wanted to listen you want to lash out.
Anger is usually not based in righteousness. There is a righteous anger but what is described here is not that. This is referring to negative emotions expressed in angry ways. In fact, he insinuates that their anger originated from their immorality. Unrighteousness is not usually good soil for the seeds of truth to land in.
As powerful as the truth of God's Word may be - and it is - it is rendered ineffective by those who do not receive it with the proper attitude or mindset.
Therein is the problem. Anger and unrighteous attitudes cannot be overcome apart from the power of God's word. But that power cannot be recieved into a proud or arrogant spirit. So, angry people not given to God's Word tend to get angrier and less open to truth and that leader to further unrighteousness.
On a more positive note James reflects on the advantages of humility. It leads to hearing the Word of truth and hearing what it says.
So, we can say that anger resists the Word while humility recieves it.
Which best describes your attitude toward the truth of God's Word, anger or humility?
Do you need to be more open to listening to others whom you might be inclined to disagree with?
Is there any area of anger that is keeping you from receiving the Word of God?
If so, what will you do about it?

Monday, June 7, 2010

June 8, 2010

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

I was a little wierd when I was growing up through the ranks at Claypool High School and later at Warsaw Community High School. How was I wierd? There are probably a number of answers but the one I am thinking about right now is how I used to like taking tests. Being an athlete and loving to compete I looked at a test like I looked at a ballgame, it was contest between me and the test. Those days of class lectures and textbook reading and note-taking were like practice and a test was like game day. I loved game day but good practices led to good performance in the game! Passing the test was like getting a win!

How things have changed over the years in the church. Nowadays when we think about being blessed we don't think in terms of suffering. But James declares that "blessed (to be envied) is the man who perserveres under trial".

Christians in 2010 American tend to believe they are blessed when they avoid difficulties. I am not sure where they get those notions. Certainly not from the Bible.
So, how are we to understand this truth? How can it be a blessing to have trials?
Actually, it isn't. That is not what the verse says. What it does say is "Blessed who preserveres in trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life....." So the blessedness is not in the struggles but in the strength God gives us to endure them. The knowledge that when life gets too big for you you have a God who is bigger than life and can make you bigger than the struggle!
Passing a test made me happy! Perservering through a difficult trial in life will, too! That's what it means to be "blessed" in our trials and tests. God is able to help us ace every test life can give us!
Trials come to pass and only God can assure us of passing each test. Are you trusting Him? Are you drawing strength from Him when life gets difficult?

June 7, 2010

Here Is The First Challenge From James: Either You Suffer For Your Faith Or Your Faith Will Suffer.


“2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

How can there be joy in trials?

Confidence In His Provision – In good times we tend to focus on what we want God to do for us but in suffering we tend to focus on what He has already done for us!

Confidence In His Promises – Once we realized He has promised we will make it through the trial we can stop doubting and start watching how He will lead us through.

Confidence In His Presence – We don’t really know God until we know Him in our suffering.
Psalm 23
Psalm 91

“1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9 If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge- 10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 5 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."

Confidence In His Purpose

If you are going to suffer isn’t it good to know that your suffering is going to accomplish something useful and beneficial? This testing has been allowed by God to develop some spiritual maturity and spiritual depth in your life.
Suffering is a fact of life. It is not a matter of if it is a matter of when. Illnesses, relationship struggles, financial disasters, government oppression, accidents, etc. Those things will happen whether you are a believer or not. Believers and non-believers will suffer. So, given the fact that you are going to suffer – would you rather suffer with or without Christ’s presence in your life?

Confidence In the Price

In the case of these believers that James is writing to they were suffering BECAUSE they were Christians. I am afraid those days are not far away for us……….

When struggles and trials come you can face it with confidence! YOU CAN FIND JOY!


“5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. 9The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

In order for work-outs to help you you must commit to a work-out routine and schedule. Commit means you are loyal to something – dedicated to something – you take responsibility for something.

What should I commit to in my spiritual work out?

Faith Works Out With Wisdom, Vv. 5-6

GOD’S PERSPECTIVE – Big View Of Life – Eternal View

Faith Works Out God’s Way, Vv. 7-8


Faith Worths In God's Worth , Vv. 9-11



“12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.” James 1:2-18




In Short, He Is Everything He Says He is! And More!

In Short, He Can Do Everything He Says He Can! And More!


I am going to commit to God’s character because He is committed to what’s best for me. HE IS GOOD! HE IS PERFECT! HE IS PERFECTING ME!

Why Does This Matter?




James tells us that joy is the result of:







Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 6, 2010

"He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." James 1:18

James's epistle is incredibly important and practical! It was written to believers who had dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. Some of them had been part of the great Jerusalem Church and now they were starting over in a new place with new people. James, the brother of Jesus is trying to rally these dear brothers and sisters by reminding them of who they are and how they should be.

A theme of James is "practical Christianity" and he paints word pictures of how faith should be lived out and what a church should look like. These early believers are living under the pressure of persecution that had dogged the Church since the martydom of Stephen.

So, does James try to diminish the pressure on these Christians? Not at all! In fact, he adds some pressure by reminding them that they are the "firstfruits" of Jesus Christ. What is that about?

Throughout the Old Testament, which established the Jewish culture, the idea of the firstfruit is very important. The firstfruits of everything belonged to God, whether it was from the flocks or from the fields. The firstfruits were the best because they received the most attention, the most care and preparation.

When applied to the emergence of the Church in the Roman Empire, James is challenging the believers as the first look the world would get of the church to make sure it was a good and healthy one. The rest of his Book is devoted to instructing them how to do that.

Why does this matter to us?

First, we are the current generation of the Church and need to carry on the legacy of these believers. We represent our Christ and the Faith in 21st Century America. It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate to our culture what the love and grace and power of God looks like.

Second, as they were the first look that the world got at the Church, it is conceivable that we could be the last look the world will have if we are to properly interpret the times. No one knows for sure, but if we are the last generation of believers before the end of the age, how should we live? What should a healthy church look like?

This is what I will be sharing over the Summer as I lead you through a detailed study of this powerful and practical Book.

What if it is true that you are part of the "lastfruits" of God's plan for the world? How then should you live? How should you do church? If this is the last look the world gets at the Church, don't you want to make sure it is an accurate glimpse of the love, grace and power of God?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 5, 2010

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:5-8
If you are going to find joy in the midst of hardships not only will you need confidence you will need commitment. Just like you have confidence in Who God is you must commit to His wisdom. Only His wisdom will give you the perspective and the patience you need to navigate through the trial.
In order to work out your faith you must make a commitment to faithful exercising His wisdom just like you make a commitment to a physical workout routine. Maybe you identify with this guy:
For Christmas this year my wife purchased me a week of private lessons at the local health club. Though still in great shape from when I was on the varsity chess team in high school, I decided it was a good idea to go ahead and try it. I called and made reservations with someone named Tanya, who said she is a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and athletic clothing model. My wife seemed very pleased with how enthusiastic I was to get started.
Day 1 - They suggest I keep this "exercise diary" to chart my progress this week. Started the morning at 6:00 a.m. Tough to get up, but worth it when I arrived at the health club and Tanya was waiting for me. She's something of a goddess, with blond hair and a dazzling white smile. She showed me the machines and took my pulse after five minutes on the treadmill. She seemed a little alarmed that it was so high, but I think just standing next to her in that outfit of hers added about ten points. Enjoyed watching the aerobics class. Tanya was very encouraging as I did my sit ups, though my gut was already aching a little from holding it in the whole time I was talking to her. This is going to be great.
Day 2 - Took a whole pot of coffee to get me out the door, but I made it. Tanya had me lie on my back and push this heavy iron bar up into the air. Then she put weights on it, for heaven's sake! Legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made it the full mile. Her smile made it all worth it. Muscles feel great
Day 3 - The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the tooth brush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I am sure that I have developed a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was okay as long as I didn't try to steer. I parked on top of a Volkswagen. Tanya was a little impatient with me and said my screaming was bothering the other club members. The treadmill hurt my chest so I did the stair monster. Why would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by the invention of elevators? Tanya told me regular exercise would make me live longer. I can't imagine anything worse.
Day 4 - Tanya was waiting for me with her vampire teeth in a full snarl. I can't help it if I was half an hour late, it took me that long just to tie my shoes. She wanted me to lift dumbbells. Not a chance, Tanya. The word "dumb" must be in there for a reason. I hid in the men's room until she sent Lars looking for me. As punishment she made me try the rowing machine. It sank.
Day 5 - I hate Tanya more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. If there was any part of my body not in extreme pain I would hit her with it. She thought it would be a good idea to work on my triceps. Well, I have news for you Tanya, I don't have triceps. And if you don't want dents in the floor don't hand me any barbells. I refuse to accept responsibility for the damage, you went to sadist school, you are to blame. The treadmill flung me back into a science teacher, which hurt like crazy. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like a music teacher, or social studies?
Day 6 - Got Tanya's message on my answering machine, wondering where I am. I lacked the strength to use the TV remote so I watched eleven straight hours of the weather channel.
Day 7 - Well, that's the week. Thank goodness that's over. Maybe next time my wife will give me something a little more fun, like free teeth drilling at the dentist's.
As an old coach used to say, "There is no gain without pain."
That is true, and life will bring plenty of pain. However, if you are not willing to commit to God's wisdom you will have a lot of pain without any gain.
Will you trust God's wisdom? Will you commit totally to His way?