Tuesday, 31 March 2009
So how do we handle the critics and naysayers who don’t understand why we fit in like square pegs in round holes? Now they speak against us, and many will stay against us, but we can make a difference in some lives by our words and our conduct.
The key is that we make sure that our conduct stays above reproach. The word used here literally is ‘beautiful conduct’ and it implies that our earthly conduct, no matter what we face, is beautiful, honourable, and honest. It is the kind of conduct that makes a difference. We are to let them observe our good works and insect them in greater detail.
Eventually, if we don’t change, some are going to realise that our conduct is real and genuine. Then, because our conduct backs up our words, some may one day join us in glorifying God.
Is our conduct before the world the kind that will hold up under closer inspection? Does it endure even in the face of opposition? Will it hold up to constant and close inspection?
That is our only hope of them joining us to glorify Him!
Monday, 30 March 2009
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, - 1 Peter 2v11
As we travel through this world in our earthly sojourn there are going to be many distractions and things that are going to try and draw us away from our journey. We might even call our sojourn here a sort of ‘pilgrim’s progress.’
In Bunyan’s classic we find the pilgrim passing through a bright and shining place called Vanity Fair. Knowing they were but pilgrims bound for their own country they would not be drawn into the diversions. I can’t do better than look at Bunyan’s own words for their response to the fair
First, The Pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools; (1 Corinthians. 4v10); some, they were bedlams; and some, they were outlandish men.
Secondly, And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other. (1 Corinthians. 2v7,8).
Thirdly, But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares. They cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,” (Psalm. 119v37), and look upward, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven. (Philippians 3v20,21).
It is obvious that they did not fit in. In fact, things got so bad that they were eventually arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for their stand and their refusal to be drawn away by the worldly lusts. The people of Vanity Fair could not accept these peculiar pilgrims.
These pilgrims in the story knew the importance of not being enticed by the lusts of this world. They were not concerned about how the people in this land of sojourn would respond. Their appearance and their speech were different from the vendors at the Fair. The never did really fit in. As we contemplate the idea of a pilgrimage we have to ask ourselves if we ever really should fit into this world. It seems like a lot of believers and churches today are doing all they can to fit into our own Vanity Fair. We have to pass through and we have to be a part of it, the problem comes when we try to fit in.
I suspect it was their third response that really angered the merchants of the Fair. As the hawkers called out their sales pitch’s the pilgrims would not even look. They stuck their fingers in their ears and shouted out that their trade was always to be heavenly.
These pilgrims set a great example for us in the area of fleshly lusts. Our problem is that far too often we stop to shop even if we are telling ourselves that we are not going to buy. We let our eyes get distracted by all the kiosks in Vanity Fair. Our eyes wander from booth to booth taking in all of the fleshly splendours of the world. We should, like our pilgrims, stick our fingers in our ears and keep our eyes straight forward on the goal before us.
Sunday, 29 March 2009
I chose the KJV choice of the word ‘peculiar’ here simply because I like that word and I like the history of words. Today ‘peculiar’ has a negative connotation. When someone is peculiar it means strange, weird, or out of place.
When the KJV translators chose this word it meant a special, unique possession belonging only to its owner. That is the sense of the word here. In Christ we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. We are His unique people. We are different from the rest. We belong to Him and Him alone. As such we are indeed peculiar. If we are not peculiar we are not going to be able to proclaim His praises. It is our specialness, our peculiarity if you will, that makes our lives stand out from the world. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Etymology uses this phrase – ‘independent of the jurisdiction of the ordinary.’ If we are bound by the jurisdiction of the ordinary we can never make a difference.
I hope we are not ashamed to be peculiar. I hope our peculiarity from the jurisdiction of the ordinary allows us to proclaim His praise to a world trapped in darkness. May our peculiarity allow us to shine in darkness.
Saturday, 28 March 2009
The church is established on its Chief Cornerstone – Jesus Christ. It is laid on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. All this is made clear in Ephesians 2v20. The foundation of the house is therefore secure, but what makes up the rest of the building today?
We do. We are now the living stones that are being built together as a spiritual house. The building of this spiritual house is ongoing. We are the living stones that make it what it is.
As such we are a whole new generation of a holy priesthood. As spiritual priests we offer up spiritual sacrifices. These are not the old bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament. Our spiritual sacrifices are scattered throughout the New Testament. Our sacrifices now are those of praise, thanksgiving, good works, submission, and prayer.
What a privilege we have, building on the foundation laid by Christ Himself and the apostles and prophets. Let’s be careful that we do not neglect our duties as spiritual priests!
Friday, 27 March 2009
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, - 1 Peter 2v1-2
You ever watch a new born baby? Most of us have. Did you notice how little time a new born has to be mean, deceitful, hypocritical, and envious? Did you notice how little time they have for speaking evil about other people? If a new born is awake they are normally after one thing – milk. In those first few days and weeks they are growing at a phenomenal rate and that growth requires nourishment that only milk provides.
Peter uses this perfect illustration to tell us how we are to behave. If we truly desire to grow we will be hungry for the milk of His word because that is the only way we are going to grow. If we are that desirous for the word we won’t have time for the stuff that usually occupies our time. We won’t have time for malice. We won’t have time for deceitful living. We won’t have time for hypocrisy. We won’t have time for envy. And we certainly won’t have time for evil speaking.
We should desire God’s word with the same intensity that drives a new born to scream for his milk. Our hunger should be so deep that it becomes overwhelming. If it did we would not have to worry about the nonsense above.
We have a huge advantage over that baby. When that baby is hungry all she can do is scream until someone feeds her. All we have to do is pick up our Bibles and read. We can go to church to hear it taught. We can study it with others. We can listen to sermons online. We are never at a loss for that milk. If we are not fed, for most of the world today at least, it is our own fault.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Thus wrote Percy Shelly in his sonnet Ozymandias. Ozymandias is another name for the Great Pharaoh Ramses II who ruled Egypt for 66 years in the 13th century B.C. Ramses had a statue built to his own glory, and had engraved on it the words ‘King of kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.’
Many indeed consider Ramses the Great to be one of ‘greatest rulers’ who ever lived. His accomplishments are astounding. This led him to believe that no one could ever match his glory. And yet, three thousand years later nothing remains but his own glorious words in the sand. Shelly’s friend Horace Smith wrote a sonnet on the same topic that boldly makes a modern day application –
‘We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.’
What better picture of the truth of James 1v24-25? Every man, even the rich, famous, and powerful Ramses II is like the grass that fades away. After a reign of 66 years many thought that he indeed was a god because that lifespan was extremely unusual. But the day came when he died and withered away, just like the flowering grasses in a field.
Today we can build our own mini-Egypts and erect our own mini-statues as tributes to our own glory, but one day it is all going to fade away. I think it just barely feasible that we spend far too much time on that which fades away and far too little time on the one thing that does endure.
The word of God endures forever. It still stands. It stood in Ramses day and it is still living and abiding today. Ramses mighty kingdom could not endure the passage of time, but the word of God has.
So what are we going to do? Are we going the construct our own Ozymandias statue to all the great things we have done? Or are we going to construct our lives around the only Thing that lives and abides forever?
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Born again is a beautiful phrase. A new birth is always a joy. The first breaths are taken in and a baby which has spent months hidden away breaks forth into the world full off potential. In most cases everyone is excited at what this new birth might bring.
A new spiritual life is just as excited. A person who has been in the darkness of sin bursts forth into a whole new life. This new spiritual life is made possible by the incorruptible word of God. The amazing thing is that this word is not done working yet. It continues to live and abide in us giving us all the power we need for daily living.
The problem is that too many people don’t avail themselves of that power. The only way to get the word of God into our lives where it can work is for us to take it in through Bible study, devotions, and hearing godly teaching.
God’s word is alive and powerful. It still abides. Lets be sure that we let it live and abide in us.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Love one another fervently with a pure heart. We talk a lot above love for each other, and I think we honestly try to do just that. This passage goes just a little further in the description of love though.
The kind of love that Peter writes about is a fervent love. It is a love which not just kind of casual and half hearted. Bible love is fervent and intense. This last weekend the Irish rugby team won the Grand Slam of the Six Nations for the first time since 1948. Fans were intense and fervent in the support for their side. This is the kind of love that we are to exercise for each other. It is dominant. It is in control. Love for each other is to be our passion.
True love is also to be out of a pure heart. That means that true love is love without regard to self. True love is all about the other person and not about self. True love never has the wrong motivation.
Love each other. Love each other fervently. Love each other purely. This is the clearest indication that our own souls have been purified.
Monday, 23 March 2009
Redeemed. Bought back. Purchased. Ransom paid.
One would think that these things required money. We read about kidnappings and ransom demands and they always require vast amounts of money and other conditions. They demand ‘silver and gold’ in payment.
In a sense the world today has been ‘kidnapped’ from God’s presence by sin. It has been kidnapped by an aimless conduct passed down by religious tradition.
The ransom demand is not gold and silver. The payment for this kidnapping is much more precious – the demand was the shedding of blood from a prefect Sacrifice. We can try all we want, but only one thing will satisfy the demand.
The precious blood of Jesus, without blemish and without spot, is the only answer. This is such a simple truth that if we are not careful we can forget about its importance. We may even take it for granted.
Our church has recently begun to observe the Lord’s Table before every Sunday morning service. I have appreciated the opportunity to weekly reflect on that precious blood. As we prepare for the table our minds should not go to the observance itself, but to the price that was paid to redeem.
I hope that we will never take that precious blood for granted or grow accustomed to it.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
When the loins of our minds are girt up in the hope His coming we are to live our daily lives, not like we used to live when we did not know any better, but is a whole new way. We are now to live our lives as His obedient children.
What does it mean to live as His obedient children? It means we are to be holy in all of our conduct because of His instruction to be holy, because He is holy. Children manifest character traits of their parents. God’s character is holiness so therefore it should also characterise us.
We are to be holy in all our conduct. We are to be holy in everything we do. At work, at play, at church, at home, at school, and any other place we are we are to show holiness. We are to be as holy at work as we are at church. We are to be as holy when playing games and sports as we are when we are reading our Bibles. We are to be holy in our secular reading as in our sacred.
In fact, when we think about it, is there really a distinction between secular and sacred if we are to be holy in all of our conduct? There is not a ‘holy time’ and a ‘non holy time.’
Holiness is a way of life, not something we put on for church on Sunday.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
There is that word ‘hope’ again. In reality that is a major part of our daily life, isn’t it? It really is all about hope.
I like the practical application of this verse. My parrowphrase of it would be – ‘Get your act together, think about the right things and get serious about your faith. Rest in the hope that this is all going to be worth it when we see Jesus. When we see Him it will be worth it all.’
Our problem tends to be misplaced hope. We place our hope in our country’s security. We place our hope in our jobs. We place our hope in our bank accounts. We place our hope in our families. We place our hope in so many things.
The truth us that all of these can fail, and they sometimes do. If we have the wrong focus and our hope is misplaced we will get down and discouraged.
When that happens we need to realise that we have a better and more certain hope; the hope of his coming. We need to get serious about it and ‘gird up the loins of our minds’ with that marvellous truth.
Lets do something about our misplaced hope.
Friday, 20 March 2009
Do you ever find yourself getting used to the mystery of salvation? At first it is amazing, fantastic, thrilling, and full of wonder. As the years go by it can become just a part of life. I don’t think that is necessarily wrong – salvation should become a part of our life more and more as we grow.
But sometimes it is good to have a reminder of just how special salvation is. It is something that the prophets wrote about but did not really understand. It is something the angels want to know more about. And we get to not only know about it, but fully experience it!
Whenever salvation gets to he old hat – pause to think of the prophets and angels who wish they had that blessing!
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Seeing is believing. How often have we heard that? And to be honest, in many cases seeing is indeed believing. I tend to be a sceptic. If someone tells me something I normally want to see the evidence or find out a source so I can check it out myself.
However, there are times when not seeing should also be believing. None of us has ever seen Jesus face to face. Despite that we love Him because He first loved us. Even though we have not yet seen Him we can rejoice with joy unspeakable and with a joy that is full of glory.
The problem is taking this theory and making it practice. I think it is all a matter of focus. If our focus is in the here and now, with all of its troubles and trials and struggles it is going to be very difficult to rejoice with inexpressible joy.
Sadly, I often find my own joy conditional on my circumstances. I rejoice when things are going well and get down when things are going badly. The problem then is that I am believing what I see instead of the One I cannot see.
We have seen that we are pilgrims and strangers passing through this land. If we get distracted along the way there is no way that we are going to be able to rejoice with that unspeakable joy.
Rejoice when the economy is in free fall and all our jobs are under threat? Rejoice when physical trials hit? Rejoice when our families are in crisis?
As hard as it sounds the answer is yes. It all comes down to a matter of believing. Do I really believe in the final salvation of my soul? If I do then this is all bearable. If not then I am sure to get mired down.
The only hope for this unspeakable joy is for us to choose to believe what we cannot see and to keep that deep rooted joy no matter what we happen to be able to see.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
How do you find out if something is genuine? A key way is to put it through a test to make sure that it is real.
One way to test gold is to heat it to the melting point. When that happens all of the impurities rise to the top and are scrapped off. What is left after it is done is pure gold.
Genuine faith is rare. Where there is genuine faith there is praise, honour, and glory to God. Genuine faith is real and it always survives every test that it is put through, and yet, we don’t like faith tests any more than we like pop quizzes in school.
If it were not for tests though how would we know if our faith was genuine or something we picked up along the way? Faith tests are nothing to be feared. Even when the tests seem to hot to handle may we embrace then so that the genuineness of our faith will allow us to live lives that are to the praise, honour, and glory of our Saviour.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. - 1 Peter 1v3-5
I have an inheritance coming…someday. My mom’s Cousin Carl died a couple of years ago and I am due 1/102 of his estate. That inheritance has been tied up in court and it seems to just be dragging on. I don’t know how much the estate is worth. I don’t know what my share will be, but I do know that the longer it takes the more that taxes and legal fees are going to eat into it. But, on day, hopefully, something will be there. If it happens after I die my children will have to share 1/102 six ways giving them each, I think, 1/612 of the estate.
Like most inheritances this one is not sure and it does slowly fade away. If and when I get it that still doesn’t keep it from fading away. Earthly inheritances do fade away and are certainly not kept safe and secure.
But our spiritual inheritance is different. It is part of our living hope that comes through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and it gives us an inheritance that is
Does not fade away
Reserved in heaven
Kept by the power of God
My eternal inheritance is nothing like my earthly one, except they both required a death. No matter what happens here on earth, or how long it takes, nothing is going to happen to my spiritual inheritance. It is unspotted so its legality is never in question. There is no need for probate court because it is undefiled; there are no questions about it. Instead of being held by the state it is held in heaven. It is kept, not by a law office, but by the power of God.
I don’t know what is going to happen to Cousin Carl’s estate, or if it will ever come through. But I do know that my eternal inheritance is coming one day. Of that I can be certain.
Praise God for an inheritance that is sure.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Parepidēmos. The word refers to a stranger, a pilgrim, a resident in a foreign land, or an alien. It refers to a person who lives one place, but has another home. We see earthly examples of this in all kinds of situations. Ambassadors, soldiers, business people, and missionaries move to foreign lands and reside there as strangers.
This is the word Peter uses to describe believers scattered all over the known world. Indeed they are strangers and pilgrims in their new lands in a physical sense, but there is another sense of the word. Not only were these believers pilgrims and strangers in a physical sense, but they are strangers and pilgrims in the spiritual sense.
There are times when people change their homes to a new physical location and are no longer pilgrims in that land. They grow to love their new land and choose to move their heart and affections to that new home. They may even change their citizenship to legally make that place their home.
However, for believers the mark of stranger is one of distinction and honour. Believers are citizens of heaven. Believers are, or should be, perpetual pilgrims. This world is not and should never be our home. We live here, we work and play here, but we must never feel at home here. When we start to feel at home here there is a problem. When our hearts and minds focus on the visible things of this world instead of the invisible things of our true home we are bound to become more like this world.
This world is not my home, I am just passing through. I am a pilgrim, a stranger, and an alien until the day God calls me home.
May we never be comfortable in the land of our sojourning.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
The title for this devotion, even though I had not read the passage yet, has been ringing though my head for hours. We went to Three Tenors (plus a soprano) concert last night. One of the solo performances was Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Bring Him Home’ from ‘Les Miserables.’ Although the setting has nothing to do with the passage, the title does.
In the song Valjean is at the barricade asking God to take Marius home. In the passage the task of bringing some one home is ours. Let us take a brief look at our application of ‘bring him home.’
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, kick him while he is down and get him out of your sight. If he does happen to come back treat him like a pariah and make sure he feels good and guilty for his sin. Never let him forget.’
That tends to be our modern interpretation of an erring brother. I don’t know how we got that way. Over and over in scripture we are taught that our action in dealing with others is never to put them on trial or punish them, but to bring them to the truth.
I am sure that plenty of folks will differ with my view of this passage, and that is fine, but, after all these are ‘Roger’s Reflections’ and not ‘Mark’s Musings’ or ‘Bill’s Blunders’ or whatever.
James writes to the brethren and says that if any one you wanders from the truth. That seems to me to indicate that he is talking about believers. He then calls upon the other to turn him back from the error of his ways. He says that is they do that they will ‘save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.’
Okay – here is my take and then I’ll make an application. If I see a brother in Christ wandering away from the truth my goal is to bring him back home into the family. If he comes back he avoids all kinds of sins and even possibly death. Therefore my goal and my motivation is to ‘bring him home.’
Even if I am wrong there is a principle about which I am not wrong. When one errs we need to go after him with a passion. Our passion cannot be fear, anger, resentment, or bitterness. Our passion must be love and a desire to see him come back home.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. – James 5v16
I have to say right at the very start that I don’t fully understand prayer. I know that God wants us to pray. I know that answers to prayer are contingent on His will and His knowing what is best for us. I know that there are times when God says ‘no’ to our prayers. I also know that the effective, fervent prayer of a right believer will accomplish much. I don’t know if I will ever get it all sorted out, but maybe that is best.
The context of this teaching on prayer is the prayer of faith that will heal the sick. I don’t know why some people get better when we pray and some don’t. I am not going to answer all the questions in this little devotion. Instead I want to look on something that is clear and unarguable – the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man does avail much.
Prayer is effective when it is fervent and when it is offered up by a righteous man. We are of course made righteous by the blood of Christ at salvation. However, we can’t hope to offer up effective prayers unless we are living righteous lives. If we are holding on to sins in our lives God is not going to hear our prayers and we can’t expect them to be effective.
However, when we confess our sins and deal with them we have the most powerful tool on earth. When we pray we open up a power and a resource that is without limits. I don’t know how it works, but prayer does get things done. I know that from the testimony of His word and I know that from the testimony of experience.
I may not know the particulars, but I do know the truth – the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man does avail much. That is certain.
Friday, 13 March 2009
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment. – James 5v12
I think it is interesting that James uses the phrase ‘Above all my brethren’ here. Obviously this is important and not something we can take lightly or just dismiss.
What is the ‘above all?’ ‘Do not swear an oath of any kind.’ I would not fight over it, but my personal impression is that we are not to take an oath on the Bible, or perhaps even say, ‘So help me God’ when committing to tell the truth in court.
Leaving that aside for now one thing is true. Our word should be enough. Our ‘yes’ should be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should be ‘no’ and that should be the end of the story. Absolute honesty and integrity should mark the child of God. When we say something that should be it – people should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the truth.
I think there is an implication here as well. We need to be very careful about what we promise. We should never promise something if there is any doubt that we can carry it through. ‘I’ll do my best’ or ‘I’ll try’ are probably wiser to use than ‘I promise’ when it comes to plans. “Lord willing’ is of course the best response.
Particulars aside, we need to be people of our word. There should be no doubt when we say something that we are telling the truth and that we can be trusted. God expects no less out of His people.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as ‘blessed assurance’ does it? But let’s be brutally honest, will we? In real life sometimes that blessed assurance can seem kind of ethereal, distant, and other worldly, can’t it? Sometimes that blessed assurance seems kind of far off. .
Maybe I am the only one who ever feels that way. Maybe spiritual Christians never have a problem with the realities of day to day life. Maybe truly godly people never have to deal with discouragement, despair, disappointment, and depression.
Today’s thought is not for those folks. Today’s thought is for people like me who sometimes have to hold on to raw faith, grit my teeth, and simply endure. Today’s thought is for people like a Christian friend I talked to last night who is struggling to keep their head above water and just survive. Today’s thought is for those who have that blessed assurance, but have a hard time seeing it because it is someplace out on the horizon. Today’s thought is those who need something to get through today and all its ugliness.
‘Indeed we count them blessed who endure.’ While we can never forget that blessed assurance, we also need to not forget the blessed endurance. Who is our example of blessed endurance? ‘You have heard of the patient perseverance of Job.’ Job experienced the blessing of endurance when at the end of his life he saw what the Lord intended – that He is compassionate and merciful.
Who else endured? Read Hebrews 12v2 to find out. Somehow I think that if Someone like Him endured we can’t really expect any less for our lives.
‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.’
In reality we can’t separate blessed assurance and blessed endurance. It is that blessed assurance that strengthens us for blessed endurance. We should never feel guilty while enduring. We have a couple of pretty good examples. Dig in; hold on to the raw faith that gives us the blessed assurance, and rest in the fact that there is a blessing in endurance.
Like Job we will see that God is very compassionate and merciful. Like Jesus we will see the joy that is set before us.
Let’s learn the lesson of blessed endurance.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
I have recently made a decision to greatly back off my posting on a Christian forum. I did not make the decision because there is anything wrong with it, and not that there is anything wrong Christians debating and discussions. The reason is that I am seeing that there is far too much grumbling and begrudging there.
The word for ‘grumble’ is translated ‘grudge against’ in the KJV. The idea is kind of ‘muttering under your breath’ attitude. This attitude may not be loudly spoken or clear, but it is that much more subtle, quiet, murmuring spirit that can never get anything done.
Grumbling is insidious because it never cam accomplish anything. It may be even more dangerous than clearly speaking out because it leaves so much unsaid and up in the air. It sets peoples minds to run off in all kinds of directions.
There is no room in the body for all of this nonsense. There is no room for fighting and disputing. There is no room for grumbling or begrudging. These are selfish and prideful actions that only lead to destruction and judgement.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. – James 5v7-8
Despite what we see around us one day it will all be made right for God’s people. James writes the words - be patient ‘brethren.’ He is writing to those who are his brethren in Christ. Because their eternity is secure they can look forward to the coming of the Lord.
Sometimes it does seem like the whole world has gone upside down. Sometimes we wonder if justice really will prevail. People find success in lying, stealing, cheating, and violence. We might think, along with Habakkuk,
‘O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.’ (Habakkuk 1v2-4)
So how do we handle all this? How do we get through? How do we deal with what is so clear right in front of our eyes?
James has the answer – establish your hearts and be patient because the day of the Lord is coming. A farmer knows that his crops will not grow as soon as he plants them. He knows he has to wait for the right season to come. In the meantime he tends his fields while he waits for the harvest.
One day God’s children will enjoy the harvest. The day of the Lord is coming. The day is coming when He is going to sort it all out and His justice will prevail. It may or may not come in my lifetime, but it will come. One day He is going to set it all right. In the meantime I need to stay at the task He has given me and wait for Him.
The prophet Habakkuk had it right - I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.
After Habakkuk made this choice he was able to see and rejoice in waiting on the Lord.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3v17-19
Be patient. Establish your hearts in this confidence – the day of the Lord is coming.
And in the words of the songwriter – ‘What a day that will be!’
Monday, 9 March 2009
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! – James 5v1
As we examine the word of God we find that while not all riches and wealth are condemned there is a general warning against them. Wealth seems to be very, very dangerous and only a few can be entrusted with it.
Here we find a roaring condemnation of the rich who got that way by ill-gotten gain. Those who gained their wealth on the back of the poor are told that the time is coming to weep and howl for the miseries headed their way. They have gathered up their silver and gold. They have underpaid their workers and pocketed the wages.
God openly condemns such action. The gold and silver will be witnesses against. The stolen wages cry out to God for justice.
God is just. Justice will always be served. Ill gotten gain is its own witness against its owner. Justice will prevail against those who garner their wealth without regard to others.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
One of the worst applications of any scripture in my life happened about 32 years ago in the Phillips Chapel at Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. I won’t embarrass the speaker, even if he is with the Lord now, by giving his name, but he ‘preached’ on this passage.
He went through a whole long list, each accentuated with – ‘To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.’
Is it good to pray an hour a day?
Is it good to share the gospel with six people a day?
Is it good to refrain from the world’s entertainment?
Is it good to get up at 5.00 and have devotions?
And on and on and on. I am sure that he thought he was doing right. I am sure he wanted to get us worldly college students sorted out. I wanted to ask him, ‘Is it good to preach a verse in context and not rip it out for your own purpose,’ but thought better of it.
The context in James is very clear. The context is treating people right. The context is not looking down on people because they are poor and needy. The context is not favouring the rich (see next section for more on this). The context is not thinking so highly of ourselves. The context is not leaving God out of our plans. The context is having a humble spirit. The context is that it is not all about us.
Sure, we can take the principle of ‘not doing good’ and apply it in other areas, but not with a list of man made requirements. I might as well as, ‘is it good to take your pastor out to eat? Well, to him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it to him it is sin!’
The truth is that it is good to put away our bias on rich and poor. It is good to control our tongue. It is good to plan things in the will of God. It is good to not speak evil. It is good to remember the brevity of life.
To not do those things is sin.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." – James 4v15
I like some things that have mostly vanished from our culture. One of things has slowly faded to the point that it is rarely seen anymore. When you look at old posters and announcements, especially those in a church context, you will normally find the two letters ‘D.V.’ someplace on the document. D.V. stands for the Latin phrase Deo volente meaning ‘God willing.’
A couple of weeks ago applied for a part time job that would have allowed me to teach literally online at home for a couple of hours a week. From the time of the application I have ‘Lord willing’ in my heart and prayers. Despite that when I got the news yesterday that I have not even been shortlisted for the job, despite having all the qualifications they sought, I was disappointed. Not crushed mind you, but still disappointed. My will was not God’s will.
Learning to accept God’s will as best is not easy, but it is right. It is so easy to leave Him out of our plans, hopes, and aspirations. We are so much in the way, and so convinced that we are right that we can leave him totally out of our plans.
Our desire should be that ‘God willing’ is more than just words on our lips and ‘D.V.’ is more than just letters on a page. Our desire should be that ‘Lord willing’ in the motto on our hearts.
Friday, 6 March 2009
I think it is interesting to notice the kinds of plans James uses when he talks about the shortness of life. “We are going to go to this city, spend some time there, run a business, and make a profit.’
For some people life is all about what we can do to make sire that we make the biggest gain. It is tempting to spend our whole life trying to can get and grabbing at the brass ring that we may or may not ever get. We make plans based on what is going to benefit us the most.
The problem is that it is so easy to get caught in this trap that we forget what life really is. What is life? It is nothing more than the morning mist that is quickly burned off by the rising sun. It is there, vaguely defined and sort of ethereal, and then it is gone. Poof! Life is over. The days, weeks, months, years, and decades have passed away and we ask ourselves, ‘what have I really done?’
We are constantly reminded of the brevity of life. Yet another television personality is dying at a tragically young age. She was well known for her party lifestyle and free living just a short time ago now she is dying of cancer in her mid-20s. She could never have imagined at the height of her popularity that she would be dead in a very short time.
Our lives are so short, so fragile, and so fleeting. What are doing with them?
Thursday, 5 March 2009
‘Who do you think you are to speak evil of your brother and judge him? Have you got the whole Law figured out? You are so busy trying to interpret the Law for others that you can’t do the Law yourself. Let the Lawgiver do His job. Stop speaking evil of your brother and get busy being a doer.’
Admittedly that is quite a parrowphrase but it does capture the essence of what James is saying here. How can we be about doing the Law if we are looking at everyone else and testing them according to the Law? There are some who seem to have taken on a ministry of judging and speaking evil. They somehow feel justified that they are earnestly contending for the faith. They spend their lives trolling the internet looking for dirt to dig up and post. Those who spend their lives this way are not doers of the word, but set them selves up as judges.
There is one Lawgiver. Why can’t we just let Him sort it out and get busy doing the work ourselves? Does this mean we never confront and expose error? No, of course not. That would not be reasonable or responsible. False teachers must be confronted with the desire to restore them to the truth.
The problem here is the harsh judgemental attitude that results in speaking evil of the brother. The Biblical attitude is love and a desire to correct. The wrong attitude is this harsh desire to punish.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
When I watch Christian relationships and discussions I find that there is often a tendency to try and make sure, no matter what, that we don’t look bad. We feel slighted, rightly or wrongly, and then we feel the need to set the record straight and get back at the one we feel slighted us.
This kind of getting back always leads to a degeneration of the relationship and more and more hurt feelings. It never turns out well.
Why do we always feel the need to defend ourselves in these situations? Either the criticism is justified or it is not. If it is justified we need to humble ourselves and sort it out. If it is not justified we need to humbly point out the error and leave it. Why? Because God says that if we will humble ourselves He will lift us up.
Who does a better job of lifting, us or Him?
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
I think we all have times in our lives when we feel that God is not quite as close as He used to be. Sometimes it feels like He has left us all alone to deal with whatever we are going through.
The bad thing is that if we are not careful when can be tempted to blame Him! “Where are you when I need you God?”
I suspect we have a wrong perspective on who moved. James tells us the truth. If we draw close to God He will draw close to us. How do we draw close to God? Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts. Get both the actions and the heart behind the actions right. They go hand in hand and they both keep us from sensing God’s presence.
I like the way this is related. The outside sins are obvious. That is pretty clear. But if we get the outside actions clean without a purified means that we are, to put it simply, double minded hypocrites.
Don’t feel close to God? I wonder who moved?
Monday, 2 March 2009
We don’t like to talk about him much. The world has made some kind of weird and scary cartoonic icon out of him. At this stage he has been made such a fantasy that people have a hard time remembering that he is real, very real and is a very real threat.
Peter puts it in terms we can understand – the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We read of the licence he was given to afflict Job. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was sent as a messenger from Satan. He is much more real than the guy in a red suit in a cartoon or the nasty dripping drooling caricature in a horror film.
He is much, much worse. He is the master of subtlety. He appears as an angel of light. He is a liar. He is tricky. He casts doubt. He has learned in our western culture that the obvious tricks don’t work. He is much craftier here.
We battle the world around us. We battle our own flesh. Boy, oh boy do we battle the flesh. But we also battle the devil himself. I can think of a couple of times in my life when I really believe that I have seen him at work. It is a terribly scary experience.
So what do we do? First we must submit to God. We place ourselves under His authority. The word here a military term dealing with submitting to the commander. It’s like a troop lined up waiting for His command. There is a scene in the Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V where the English army is lined up before the battle of Agincourt. There is fear in their eyes. Yet they are ready for the battle. They are straining at the lead. They are chomping at the bit. They are waiting for the command to fight.
This is what submission is all about. It is this kind of submission that allows us to move on to the next step – resist the devil. He must be opposed. We can’t give an inch. I recently wrote on the issue of ‘No Surrender!’ This is the time for a no surrender attitude. We cannot budge an inch. We cannot give ground. We can’t play around.
The battle against Satan is real and serious. But the promise is even more powerful. Resist the devil and he WILL flee from you. Satan has no power, none, nothing, not one bit of strength against a child of God who is submitted to Him and resisting the attacks of the devil.
Greater is He (Christ) who is in us (His church) than he (Satan) who is in the world.
Submit. Resist. He will flee.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
The previous verses here talk about being friends with world and how that is the same as being an enemy of God. In that context we read that despite that God gives more grace in those situations, but His grace is for the humble.
Why? Because the proud do not think they really need God’s grace. They mouth it, they talk about it, but when it comes right down to it they think are doing just fine, thank you very much.
The humble are like the foolish and weak and base that God uses. These folks confound the world because they are nothing to speak of. They are not the rich and famous. They are those who are humble enough to truly admit in both word and deed that they are nothing without God.
If the proud think they can do it on their own God is going to let them – to the humble He will pour out His grace.