Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Week Ten – “Faith Works Out In A Healthy Body” James 5:13-20
There was once a man who owned a GREAT DANE-and this Great Dane was not only extremely large-he was also a very ferocious dog. Picture him in your mind as sort of a "mean Marmaduke." He was a huge muscular animal with jaws of iron, a mouth full of sharp teeth-seemingly invincible. He was definitely not the kind of dog you would want jumping up in your lap. Well, one day the owner of this monster of a dog took him for a walk. Actually, I'm not sure who was walking who-but as they strolled through the neighborhood he saw another man across the street who was also walking his dog. However, unlike the Great Dane, THIS DOG was little. He had short legs, a pug-like head, and no tail. He had no hair-and instead his squat body was covered with green leathery skin. In short, he was a very ODD looking dog-and compared to the GREAT DANE he appeared to be very weak and powerless. The owner of the GREAT DANE was staring at this other little dog when the GREAT DANE-who had been looking the other way growling at a little old lady-this GREAT DANE suddenly turned his huge head and caught his first sight of this odd little dog. Well, the Dane immediately strained against the leash until it snapped in two. Then he charged across the street at top speed obviously intending to attack this odd-looking little K-9. The owner of the Great Dane yelled to the man across the street, "LOOK OUT! My dog is on the loose and he's vicious! He will kill you and that little dog of yours! RUN for your life!!!!" But, it was too late-the GREAT DANE was already at top speed, teeth bared but when he leaped to attack, the odd little dog bared its teeth and simply opened his mouth unbelievably wide and SWALLOWED the Great Dane whole. Then he began smacking his lips in satisfaction as if he had just enjoyed a great meal. Well, that was the end of that big, mean GREAT DANE. The owner of the GREAT DANE was absolutely astonished by what he had just witnessed. And he said to the other man, "What kind of dog is that?! I'm a real expert on dogs and I have never seen a little dog that could do what your little dog just did!" Then man replied, "Dog? What dog? This is not a dog. Before he got his nose run over by a truck and his tail cut off by a train, this used to be an ALLIGATOR!"
THINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE BIG TO HAVE A BIG BITE – (I.E. – JAMES)
Over these Summer months we have been studying James and learned that the central theme of this great Book is “faith without works is dead”. That is why we entitled this series “FAITH WORKS OUT”. This morning we conclude that study by looking at James’ last words where he claims faith works out in a healthy body.
Last words are very important………….
The proper exercise of prayer works out healthy relationships! Here James speaks of three types of prayer that produce three types of healthy relationships.
I. Prayer Works Out For Yourself, V. 13– PERSONALPRAYER
WHAT IT SAYS: (READ VERSES)
WHAT IT MEANS:
The first healthy relationship you need is a healthy personal relationship with God. That is only possible through prayer – intimate prayer! One of the keys to intimate prayer is to see prayer as RELATIONSHIP NOT as a RESOURCE….
The word in the Greek literally means, “to suffer misfortune, to be in distress, to be under stress, to be under tension”……
You may be dealing with a variety of issues……. - James says, “You must pray.” When you’re under tension you have two choices. Turning to God – or turning away from God. James encourages us to turn to God.
That is how faith works out – through INTIMATE prayer with a God Who knows you intimately and longs to be intimately known by you.
The sign of a healthy relationship is a Christian whose first response is to pray when under stress or pain. When you love someone you want to share your heart with him. There are times in life when we rejoice. There are other times when we weep. The word “praise” is used 550 times in the Bible. It is to be the lifestyle of the Christian. When things are going well in your life – Praise God. When you are suffering – Pray to God.
JAMES IS MAKING AN IMPORTANT POINT HERE – HE HOLDS YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH!
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS ARISE FROM INTIMATE PRAYER. HEALTHY CHURCHES DEVELOP FROM HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.
II. Prayer Works Out For Sufferers, Vv. 14-16 – POWERFUL PRAYER
WHAT IT SAYS: (READ SCRIPTURE) - There has been much debate over verses 14 through 16.
The word "sick" can mean both a physical sickness (as in the gospels), or weak in faith (20 out of 34) In verse 15, the word "sick" can refer to someone who has become weary. So James could be speaking about those who have grown weary spiritually because of their afflictions.
Regardless of the different opinions, James outlines what must be done.
1) - the one who is sick, must call for the church elders (plural, not singular).
2) - when the elders come, they are to pray over them and anoint them with oil (probably olive oil). It was the custom during James' time period to anoint the sick with a mixture of oil, wine, and water. The term "anointing" carries the idea of "to rub over”…..
3) - there needs to be confession of sin. Verse 15 speaks of the forgiveness for the sick person's confessed sin, and verse 16 says that everyone who is involved needs to confess their sins. In fact, the context of this verse seems to advocate entering into a very vulnerable and transparent relationship of confession and accountability which will enable them to “get healed” or released from the bondage of destructive sinfulness…….
FROM PERSONAL PRAYER GROWS RELATIONSHIP. FROM POWERFUL PRAYER GROWS FELLOWSHIP! See how the health of a church develops out a spiritual environment like this?
III. Prayer Works Out For Strugglers, Vv. 17-20 – PREVAILING PRAYER
Tony Campolo, A Baptist minister, was invited to speak at a college in Valley Forge Penn. He drove to the college and before he spoke several men took him in the back room and began to pray for him, that God would use his speech.
While these men were praying, one man, just off the cuff began praying "And Lord, about Burt Harris. Lord, Burt Harris needs you really badly. Because he lives in that trailer down the street and he is considering leaving his wife and family. And Lord if you could just get through to Burt Harris...that would be great." and then went on with his prayer.
Campolo thought, "that is strange that he should pray that here." He went out and he spoke and finished his message and then he got in his car and was driving home. And he picked up a hitch-hiker. He said he knew that he wasn’t supposed to pick up hitch-hikers, but he thought, ’being a preacher, anytime I can get a captive audience, I’ll take advantage of it."
So he gets this guy in the car and he is talking to him and he says, "By the way, what is your name?" and the man said, "Burt Harris". Campolo stopped the car, turned it around and immediately headed the opposite direction. The man looked at him and said, "What are you doing?" Campolo said, "I am taking you back to your wife and family whom you are trying to leave."
The man went white! He never said another word, he sat there speechless and Campolo drove him straight up to this guys trailer. And the guy says, "How do you know where I live?" Campolo said, "God told me." (in a way He really had.)
Campolo said "I took this guy inside his home and the family and marriage was restored and God did an exciting thing."
One of the most revered men among the Jews was Elijah. And rightly so! He was a powerful prophet mightily used of God and who was rewarded with one of the awesome exits any human being has experienced - remember the firey chariot thing? REMEMBER MT. CARMEL?
Elijah's passion was to call sinners back to God. In particular, he wanted to call the people of God back to their God. Everything he did was for that purpose. The dramatic events on Mt. Carmel were for that end. And that is the point of what James is saying here, "We need the spirit of Elijah in prevailing prayer for lost or straying people!" That prevailing prayer can only happen when God's people in God's Church will enter into healthy personal relationship and into powerful healthy fellowship and then God will encourage them in prevailing intercession for the lost!
There were very few of these episodes that you could consider emotionally touching. But I do remember one. Gilligan had gotten his feelings hurt and decided to move away to the other side of the Island to live alone in a cave. Immediately, this became a miserable existence for Gilligan—he was all alone. But also miserable for everyone else on the island—one of their own was no longer among them, in fellowship with them...and there was a terrible void. They missed him at the dinner table. They missed his jokes, his laughter, his gentleness. They even missed his clumsy screw-ups. I think at one point in the episode they were sitting around the dinner table taking turns talking about the specific things they missed about him. So what did they do? I think it began with Skipper. He decided to leave the rest and go live with Gilligan so he wouldn’t be alone. Then another person did the same. Then another. Until finally, all seven people were together again on the other side of the island in Gilligan’s cave. In true spiritual community, we either make it together, or we don’t make it...at least not in a healthy way.
That my friends, is a healthy church! That is what I envision. That is my passion. That is better than healings and it will become a healing place!
(GOD CALLED ME HERE TO RAISE UP A HEALTHY CHURCH……..)
PERSONAL PRAYER – Out of personal prayer grows relationship – HOW IS YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER?
POWERFUL PRAYER – Out of confession and accountability grows fellowship – HOW POWERFUL IS YOUR PRAYER?
PREVAILING PRAYER – Out of intercession grows discipleship – WHO ARE YOU PRAYING FOR?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Being the Body of Christ you can easily reason that the Church would be called out from sin. Don't you think that is reasonable? So, if you are called out from sin and you continue to sin how does that impact the Body? If I continue to sin or if I sin against you, doesn't that impact the Body?
Being the Body of Christ you can also logically assume that we are called out to God. I mean, who is it that would call us out of the world other than God? So, if the Church is called out from sin and to God, how do you think sin affects that?
Being the Body of Christ we are called together. You are called out and I am called out and together we are the Church. So, if we are called out together how does sin impact that relationship? If I sin against you doesn't that create some stress or tension in our relationship? Of course. And vice versa.
Think about what sin does. Sin separates us from God. How can that be good for the Church that is called out by God for God?
Sin also complicates. Once Adam and Eve sinned their lives got immediately complicated. Sin harms relationships, impairs judgment, stirs up guilt and alienates us from God. How does complicating life enhance the Church? It doesn't!
Just those two problems caused by sin are damaging enough to the Church to make the case that sin needs to be dealt with within the Church if the Church is to fulfill its mission as the Body of Christ called out of the world.
James prescribes drastic action to deal with sin. Confess them to each other and prayer for each other. When you know what my sins are and I know what your sins are then I can pray specifically for God to strengthen you. I can also do something else significant, I can hold you accountable. You can hold me accountable. We will each know how seriously the other is dealing with our sins. Transparency and accountability are effective weapons against sin in the church. If I am intentionally standing against my sin and you are standing with me against my sin, doesn't it make sense that I will be stronger in resisting sin?
Sin prospers in the darkness but whithers in the sunlight (Sonlight) of truth. James says expose it to the light of truth and shine the searchlight of accountability on it and you will be healed! When you are healed and I am healed guess what happens to the Church? Health!
So, why wouldn't you want to do that? Why would a church promote that?
We will discuss that in the next post!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Last words are important. Last words of important people are especially important. Last words of important people talking about important things are very important.
So, as James draws this important Book to a conclusion what do you think his focus would be?
Since he has been reminding these believers what a healthy church looks like it would stand to reason that what he says would be most important and he would center on important stuff. What important stuff should a church know in order to be healthy?
According to what he writes in these last several verses, healthy relationships are essential to a healthy church fellowship. And healthy church relationships center around prayer, praise, personal purity, and passion for spiritually unresolved people. Healthy horizontal relationships result in healthy vertical relationships. The better we get along with one another the better we will get along with God and the better we relate to God the better we will relate to others - especially believers in our fellowship.
For years I have looked at this portion of Scripture and focused on the promise for healing. God does heal. But after He heals you, then what? How do you stay healthy? How do you become more healthy?
I think this is the focus of what James is communicating as he seeks to close an important letter filled with important reminders.
Let's explore some of these things together over the next several days.
I commented on prayer yesterday but there is much more to be said about it. Prayer IS the key to a healthy relationship with God and having a healthy relationship with Him is essential to your health. Praying with others is central to healthy relationships with them. Praying together with other believers is a key component of spiritual unity and power. As you call on Him together you are bonded to Him and to one another. As you interceed to God for one another, fellowship goes to another level. Love grows. Compassion grows. Trust develops. Friendship deepens.
Those are all healthy things!
You knew prayer was important but maybe you just didn't understand HOW important it is. Now you do! So, how will this influence your prayer life? What will you do differently in your prayer life - pray tell?
The old saying is trite but true, "The family that prays together stays together" and they like it!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
As I began studying this portion of Scripture it looked at first glance that it might be misplaced. I didn't immediately see how it fit in this section about suffering. But on further meditation I came to see it differently. In fact, the entire section hinges on this one verse!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This morning we are going to study James 5:1-6 and examine our attitude toward material possessions.
I. THE PERSPECTIVE ON WEALTH, Vv. 1-3
The Bible nowhere condemns wealth. It just insists that the rich must be responsible, and aware of the perils of wealth. The most important aspect of money management is the control of our attitude towards it. Money is not “the root of all evil” as Paul is often misquoted. His actual words are, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). James did not consider it a sin to be rich. His concern was with the abuse of riches that caused God to be forgotten. Let me take a second and see what went wrong with the rich man.
• He hoarded everything he had. • Because he hoarded everything and would not give anything up, he cheated anytime he could so he could keep his wealth.
Charles Swindoll in some of his writings pointed out there are different types of poverty:
First, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and poor WITHIN.
Second, there are those who are rich WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.
Third, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.
Fourth, there are those who are rich WITHOUT and poor WITHIN.
WHICH ONE OF THOSE DESCRIBES YOU?
II. THE PROBLEM WITH WEALTH, Vv. 3-6
James brings several charges against the unjust rich. He accuses them of insensitivity, injustice, indulgence and independence.
A. Insensitivity - vv. 2-3
James hated the insensitivity that failed to alleviate the needs of the unfortunate, while hoarding wealth for selfish pleasures or for no purpose at all. They were insensitive first, to proper priorities and values; and secondly to the needs of others.
There is the story of John G. Wendel and his sisters. Even though they had received a huge inheritance from their parents, they were some of the most miserly people of all time, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves.John was able to influence five of his six sisters never to marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Yet, her only dress was one that she had made herself, and had worn for 25 years.The Wendels had such a compulsion to hold on to their possessions that they lived like paupers. Even worse, they were like the kind of person Jesus referred to "who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). Daily Walk, June 2, 1993.Or take Bertha Adams. She died in 1976 at the age of 71, on Easter Sunday in Palm Beach, FL. Coroner’s report ... she died of malnutrition, weighing 50 pounds. Begged for food. Her home was a "pigpen .. big mess!" They thought she died penniless. Two keys found among her belongings were to a couple of safe deposit boxes. In one box they found 700 shares of AT&T stock and $200,000. In the other they found $600,000 in cash.
To stockpile wealth demonstrates insensitivity to priorities. Worse, it shows insensitivity to people. James said earlier, “Anyone...who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (4:17). What a colossal sin to see others perishing in bitter need while you store up goods you can never use. In the end your wealth is lost and the poor remain destitute. How can there be such callous disregard for others?
B. Injustice - vv. 4a, 6
These rich were guilty of great injustice. They not only defrauded the poor workers, they paid off the judges and undermined the courts of justice. James charged them with no less than murder.
The rich also used their influence and social standing to oppose the poor who brought charges against them. “Condemn” (v. 6) is a judicial term and suggests that they may have perverted the legal processes to accumulate property and wealth. The wealthy often have political power and can buy what they want. A joke says, “The Golden Rule is that ‘Whoever has the gold makes the rules!’” The destitute workers had the just cause, but the courts were controlled by the affluent. James says, “You have condemned and murdered innocent men....”
The Lord Almighty is a name for the Omnipotent God of all power. He is deeply concerned about justice for the poor and insignificant. He cares for the downtrodden. He cares so much that He sent His Son to dwell among insignificant people. Jesus was born of a poor virgin in a borrowed barn and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He knows all about injustice.
One unknown writer described His ministry:The preacher never stopped talking about money.The congregation clutched their billfolds and squirmed.He told them not to worry so much about stuff that’ll rot.He told them that the folding stuff was not the currency to buy meaning and happiness.He singled out one man and told him to sell everything and then give the proceeds to the poor.He had them shaking their heads when he said, “Happy are the poor.”Some of the best-dressed stomped out, their noses in the air.A few of the wealthy and powerful slipped quietly into a backroom and had a contract put out on the young preacher’s life.And it only cost them thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus knows injustice.
C. Indulgence - v. 5
These selfish rich were flaunting their wealth by buying luxurious stuff in the face of other's suffering.
We’ve heard of people like that. People who hoard every penny they have, but never have the joy of spending it or giving it away. In those days wealth consisted primarily of food, garments and money. The wealthy ate well, dressed well and spent lavishly. James says, “Your wealth (probably referring to food) has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded.” They carefully accumulated foods, fashions, and fortunes, only to find them worthless. Things were valued so highly that they had no need for God.
Those are the things that God – and everyone else dislike about rich people! It’s not their wealth it what it tends to do to people who put too much trust in their riches.
III. PROSPERING WITH WEALTH
A. Make God Your Source
Change your affections – “Where your treasure is…….”
B. Make Serving God Your Course
Change your attitude – IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
C. Make Stewardship Your Force
Change your approach – Honor God with the tithe & offerings
In 1985, Chuck Colson was on the Bill Buckley television program, talking about restitution and criminal justice. A few days later he got a call from Jack Eckerd, a businessman from Florida, the founder of the Eckerd Drug chain, the second largest drug chain in America. He saw him on television and asked him to come to Florida. He agreed Florida had a criminal justice crisis, would he come down and do something about it? And we did. We went around the State of Florida advocating criminal justice reforms, and everywhere we would go Jack Eckerd would introduce me to the crowds and say, "This is Chuck Colson, I met him on Bill Buckley’s television program. He’s born again, I’m not. I wish I were." Then he’d sit down.
About a year went by and I kept pestering Jack Eckerd about faith in Jesus. Eventually one day he read some things including the story of Watergate and the Resurrection out of my book, Loving God, he decided that Jesus was, in fact, resurrected from the dead. He called me up to tell me he believed. When he got through telling me what he believed I said, "You’re born again!"
e said, "Marvelous!" The first thing he did was to walk into one of his drugstores and walked down through the book shelves and he saw Playboy and Penthouse. He’d seen it there many times before, but it never bothered him before. Now he saw them with new eyes. He’d become a Christian.
He went back to his office. He called in his president. He said, "Take Playboy and Penthouse out of my stores. The president said, "You can’t mean that, Mr. Eckerd. We make $3M a year on them." Eckerd said, "Take them out of my stores." And in 1,700 stores across America, those magazines were removed from the shelves, because a man had given his life to Christ.
Colson called Jack Eckerd and asked "Did you do that because of your commitment to Christ?" He said, "Why else would I give away $3 M? The Lord wouldn’t let me off the hook." Isn’t that marvelous? God wouldn’t let me off the hook.And what happened after that is a wonderful sequel and a wonderful demonstration of what happens in our culture today. Jack Eckerd wrote a letter to all the other drugstore operators, all the other chains, and he said, "I’ve taken them out of my store, why don’t you take them out of yours?" Nobody answered him. So he wrote them more letters. Then Eckerd’s Drugs began to get floods of people coming in to buy things because they’d taken Playboy and Penthouse out. And so People’s Drug Store, and then Dart Drugs, and then Revco removed them from their shelves. While the pornography commission in Washington was debating what to do about pornography, across America, one by one, stores were removing them. And the 7-11 chairman, who sits on Jack Eckerd’s board, finally gave in, and 5,000 7-11 stores removed them. In 12 months, 11,000 retail outlets in America removed Playboy and Penthouse, not because somebody passed a law, but because God wouldn’t let one of His men off the hook. That’s what brings change.
Isn’t that an amazing story. Jack Eckerd risked losing $3M per year because a very wealthy man found true riches. That’s a great testimony about our faith in Christ and what we are compelled to do!
How about you? How is your heart toward you money and your material possessions? Do you own them or do they own you? Is your “stuff” more important to you than your salvation?
What would you have done if you were Mr. Eckard?
Are you trusting in your savings for your security? Do you spend more time checking the stock market than the Scriptures?
We are headed for economic times like we have never seen, wealth is going to disappear, everything you have worked for and depended on is going to be worthless,
TWO WAYS TO CHECK:
- YOUR DATE BOOK – How am I spending my time? What am I planning?
- YOUR CHECK BOOK – How am I spending my money? Am I a steward?