Wednesday, December 19, 2007

James 1:25

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.
(NIV)

The opposite to the man who lives in self-deception is the man who looks into the word, and does what it says.

Notice that it says that this man is looking intently. That word intently means to stoop down in order to clearly see. This man is studying the word. He is desiring to have his heart revealed.

Notice also that he is not forgetting the word. He walks away and immediately puts it into action. His heart has been revealed and he knows that something needs to be done. He doesn't forget the word, it is in his heart.

Be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

James 1:24

and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
(NIV)

This is the path to self deception. Look into God's Word. It reveals who you are. You have the opportunity to change, but you don't. You will (rest assured) deceive yourself.

This is a warning. It is a promise. If you do not change, as a result of looking into the Word, you will deceive yourself.

What is that deception?

You think that your stance with God is acceptable. You are OK. You walk away thinking that you are pretty good.

If a young teenage boy goes to the mirror in the morning, realizes that he has bed-head or maybe he sees a huge blemish on the end of his nose, but walks away without doing anything about his hair or popping the zit... He may go through the day, thinking he is OK, but everyone around him can see the problems.

Something needs to be done about the problems.

Don't go to God's word without changing as a result. Maybe even when you are reading this post (not because of my words, but because of the quote from the Bible at the top) you might realize some blemishes in your own life. Be a doer and a hearer. Don't deceive yourself. If you walk away unchanged then you are self-deceived.

In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us of a large number of people who will stand before God, ready to enter in, but Christ tells them "...depart from me, I never knew you." These people respond in a state of alarm. They are surprised by this. How did they enter into this state of self-deception? Maybe it was by hearing the Word, but not being a doer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

James 1:23

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
(NIV)

The rest of this thought is in verse 24, so we can only look at the beginning of the thought today.

The listening is equated to the looking in the mirror. God's word reveals who you are. It is a wonderful characteristic of God's Word. Hebrews 4:12 puts it this way:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
(NIV)

It discerns (or judges) the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is living and active. It gets down to the soul and the spirit. What an amazing book. If you look intently into it, it will tell you who you are.

Are you reading His Word? I mean really! It is THE Word of God, are you reading it?

Lord, Help me to look intently into your Word.
Help me to look there daily.
Help me to dwell on it moment by moment.
Help to bury it deep into my heart,
so deep that it becomes a permanent resident.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

James 1:22

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
(NIV)
In the original, this verse starts with one word, a command. It says become. We are to become or make ourselves to be doers of the word. James is telling us that we are to do what the word says in such a way that that is what we are. We are doers.

There is a warning here as well. If you are not a doer of the word, you will deceive (or delude) yourself. I don't know about you, but one of my fears is that I will be self-deceived. We see people like this on American Idol all of the time. They think that they are good singers, but they are absolutely horrible. We do not want to be like this in the spiritual sense. We do not want to think that we are doing a great job, just to find out that God is absolutely displeased with our lives.

If you hear the Word of God, but do not do what it says, then you will deceive yourself. It isn't optional, it is a true warning from God.

Become today. Become a doer. As you hear the word of God, start putting plans into action. Don't wait. If you have waited, then you are already in that state of self deception. Pray that God opens your eyes and allows you to see who you are. Read His word. It is quick and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It will pierce you down to your soul, your spirit. It will allow you to see the thoughts and intents of your own heart, which Jesus has told us is deceitful and desperately wicked. Pray for His help today.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

James 1:21

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.
(NIV)
Once you are saved, and truly a child of God, the guilt of sin is washed away, but the lifestyle of sin remains. There are things that remain, that linger. James is telling us to get rid of it. He tells us to cast it off, as if by the hand. Throw it away! The word prevalent is a word that the Greeks used to refer to excessive ear wax. I am sure to a Greek this would have been picturesque speech.

At the same time as we throw off the remains of sin, we are to humbly accept the word. Accept literally means to grab hold of. So we are to throw off the old and grab hold of the new. It is important to note that what we grab hold of is the very Word of God. It is the Word that has been implanted. It is the word that can save you.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that the Word of God can save you? If you did, how would you treat those words? Wouldn't you pour over them daily... Then try them out! All of the time?!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

James 1:20

for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
(NIV)
God desires a righteous life for you. A life that is modeled by Christ Himself. God desires this, and according to Romans 8:28-29, God is working toward that end, in all things.

The phrase "bring about" has to do with working toward, or achieving. Your anger is not working toward that same end that God is working toward. Your anger is self-centered and self-motivated. Your anger is because of the failures of life to give you what you want. Whether it be a nice job or obedient kids or a spouse that respects you, if you don't get what you want, and it makes you angry... you are dealing with a heart idol, and that anger is working in the wrong direction. The anger is an energy boost, but if it is to still get what you want, it is not working about that righteous life that God wants for you.

Turn your hearts towards God's Kingdom. When you are angry, ask yourself why you are angry. Ask God to show you what His anger is all about.

Monday, December 10, 2007

James 1:19

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
(NIV)
Here is some good practical advice from James. It is a three step process...
  • Quick to listen
  • Slow to speak
  • Slow to become angry
There are many men in the American church that need this advice. They might have the slow to speak part down, but the quick to listen is rare, and the slow to become angry is non-existent.

The phrase that is translated as "take note of this:" is in the original just one word. It is a root word that means, to see or to know. In this case, it is in the present perfect tense. It means that you are presently in the act of seeing this and knowing this. It doesn't mean that you already know it completely or that you need to know it in the future. You are knowing it right now.

Take the time to listen to everyone today. Don't wait. If something seems offensive to you, don't jump to the weapons of mouth destruction. Your words should be used to build people up, not tear them down, so think twice before you speak. Retrain your mind for the big picture. Don't get angry so quickly. Wait patiently.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jonah 2:10

And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(NIV)

Don't you just love fresh starts. They're not always fresh, but they are a start.

The God that we serve is a God of fresh starts. My mind goes to the many times that Christ reached out his hand, pulling a lame man to his feet, and saying, "...now go and sin no more." Or the woman caught in adultery, "...neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."

Only a God of grace will allow a swallowed man to repent. Praise Him.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Jonah 2:9

But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD."
(NIV)
Jonah started by fleeing from God's command and God's purposes. He rejected the idea that the people of Nineveh should hear about God and have the opportunity to repent. They were enemies and deserved death and destruction.

He runs and ends up swallowed up in God's overwhelming grace... "Grace?!? Don't you mean a whale?"

No. Grace. Jonah recognized this grace. He speaks of it in the previous verse and is now stating that he is not like those who would forfeit their grace. In fact, he turns to thanksgiving because of this. His in the belly experience is a source of praise. He turns to God in sacrifice and obedience. He will keep his promises to God.

This change of mind comes because of that last phrase, "... Salvation comes from the Lord." There is no other place to turn, but to Him. Jonah is in need of salvation, and recognizes that the only one who can hear him is the one who can save.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jonah 2:8

"Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
(NIV)
This verse is the reason why I picked this passage.

Grace is freely given to us. It is abundant, amazing grace. It abounds all sin, no matter how great the sin. But according to this, when you cling to the idol, you forfeit your grace.

I have heard grace defined as the energy that God gives to do right. I would agree with this definition. It is grace that enables us to choose the right things to do, but if we cling to the idols, we forfeit this energizing grace.

As you go through your day, if you find yourself lacking in the grace department, the grace to be patient with a co-worker, the grace to be loving (all of the time) to your 3rd grader, the grace to choose right when you are struggling with lustful thoughts, the grace to be obedient to your parents, no matter what they ask ... It doesn't matter what it is, if you are lacking in the grace, it may be because you are still wanting something more than God himself. You may have an idol in your heart that needs to be cast out and destroyed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jonah 2:7

"When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
(NIV)
Jonah is now saying to the Lord, not in a sarcastic way, but with a sincerity of heart in his desperate situation, "Remember me? I turned to you. It may have been on my death bed, but my prayer rose to you."

It doesn't have to be a life-threatening situation for you to feel like your life is ebbing away. It could be any number of stresses of life or trials of life that are impacting you. It could simply be your kids or your boss or your spouse or you job... It doesn't matter. The point is that you humble yourself and turn to God.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jonah 2:6

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.
(NIV)

You have to wonder how deep Jonah sank. In the last verse he was talking about seaweed, and in this verse he is talking about being down with the roots of the mountains. Regardless, it was God who brought Jonah up.

In this verse Jonah acknowledges that God was the one who brought him back up. He was not out of God's reach. Even though Jonah was trying to run from God, it was God who brought him back.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Jonah 2:5

The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
(NIV)
I have the tendency to take this very literally for Jonah. After he was tossed into the water over the side of the ship, the waves would have been overwhelming in the middle of the Mediterranean. Then as he began to sink, before he lost consciousness, the deep surrounded him and the seaweed was wrapped around his head. It is a miracle that he survived.

The story of Jonah is a truly amazing story that we tend to forget or leave for the children's classes. Kids love the story. That a man was swallowed by a whale (or big fish) then spit back up in the direction that he was supposed to go... It almost sounds like a fairy tale.

But the story of Jonah is a real story. It was a real man that was thrown into a real sea. He really shouldn't have made it, but God had a distinct purpose for him. God did something extraordinary with Jonah: He changed his heart. While Jonah was in this predicament, he turned to God, when he had been running from God.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Jonah 2:4

I said, 'I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.'
(NIV)
In Jonah's prayer we see repentance. He knows that his actions have brought him far out of relationship with God, but he is turning. He is looking again toward the dwelling of God. In the Old Testament times this turning of the face, or looking toward something had the idea of squaring the shoulders. He obviously wasn't really doing that because he was in the belly of a fish, but it had to do with the mind and the heart. Setting your face toward something was telling about your mindset. Jonah was set on God.

Where is your face set today? Are your shoulders set toward God? I need to be asking myself these questions today, not just in some things, but throughout the day. In everything we do, we need to look again toward God's holy temple.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jonah 2:3

You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
(NIV)
It is necessary to point out that God is in control in this situation. Notice that it says, "You hurled me..." Even though we know it was some fishermen that did the deed, Jonah attributes this action to God. Notice also that Jonah attributes ownership of the waves and the breakers to God. God is in control of all things and He owns all things.

This isn't really all that difficult of a concept to understand. Some tend to make the sovereignty of God into a big debate. They are more concerned about arguing over the fine points or trying to convince others with their eloquent talk, than they are about how God's "in-controlness" is affecting their own daily walk with the Lord.

Whether you can debate it or not, be glad that He is over all. That when the bad stuff happens to us, He is there, He is in control. God never scrambles to fix things. Nothing happens that He hasn't allowed.

Maybe you are in a situation that you have been hurled into. Quite possibly you may feel that the waves and the breakers are pounding you and pushing you under. Whether or not it is for the same reasons as Jonah, turn to God now and acknowledge that they are His waves and His breakers. Trust that He knows what you can handle, and seek His purposes.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jonah 2:2

He said:
"In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
(NIV)
For many, there is no prayer until they are in distress. I know I have been that way before. If I am honest, I am still like that now. It takes a stressful situation before I get (even figuratively) to my knees. For some it is when they are in the depths of the grave that they begin to cry out to the Lord. Whether the "depths of the grave" is speaking about what they feel like, or if it is like Jonah and they are genuinely near death, when they get to that point, prayer begins to happen.

We know from other places in scripture (Deut. 8:1-3, Psalm 119:67, Psalm 119:71, I Peter 1:6-7) that trials and afflictions are used by God to bring us to Him. One of the first signs of that new closeness between a person and God is that calling out. The Bible is packed full of examples of people who cried out to God when they were in a hard place. There have been many times in my own life that I have cried out to Him.

The best part of all is that He listens and He answers. If that does not amaze you.... Well, it should! It is an amazing thing that the God of the Universe will listen to our cries when we are in our distresses. It is an amazing thing that He responds to us when we are approaching the grave.

But He wants us to continue that cry. Long after the distress is gone, He wants us to continue the fellowship with Him. If you are in a distress and this has brought you to Him, that's OK. Allow the God of heaven to use this in your life to grow that relationship. He is the God who sees and the God who saves, He is worth talking to.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jonah 2:1

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
(NIV)
I have never been in a fish. I hope to never be in a fish, but there have been many times that I have been in a similar predicament.

I have been like Jonah. I have been walking the opposite way from the way God would have me to go. Sometimes it has been a life decision, like Jonah's. I knew that God wanted me to go a certain way, but I didn't want to go that way. Eventually I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. I was acting "wisely" to some observers, but in my heart I knew the truth.

Sometimes it isn't some major life decision, but a simple command. God's way has been laid out for me, but I just simply don't want to do it. I want to do things my way instead of His way. So I head the opposite direction and find myself in a fish (figuratively speaking).

Have you ever been in a "fish" situation in your life? You have gone the wrong way and you end up in a smelly, sticky situation. I don't believe that Jonah is the first one to end up in a fish, and I am sure he won't be the last one.

Notice though that Jonah, once he is in the belly, begins to pray. Jonah chapter 2 is that prayer. As we read through it, I hope that you consider your own belly of the fish situations. Many people truly find God when they are in the worst of situations.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ephesians 5:33

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
(NIV)


This passage seemed to go back and forth between the two ideas of Christ and His Church and the husband-wife relationship. Paul (the author) ends up here back where he started, and in the context, that is the main point that he is trying to get across.

This whole chapter is about earthly relationships and behaviors, but if you go back through you will find "Christ" sprinkled all through it. He is our example, our motivation, and our reward. He is our all in all! It is hard to talk about anything good without mentioning Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ephesians 5:32

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
(NIV)
The author is bouncing back and forth between the two topics: Christ and the church, husbands and wives. When relating the quote from Genesis, speaking on the one-flesh relationship of husbands and wives, the author pauses to mention that it is a "profound mystery" or a great mystery. The word mystery comes from a word that means to "shut the mouth." It is used by rabbis when referring to some O.T. saying that has a hidden meaning.

God is never pulling things together at the last minute. There might be some stuff that is a mystery to us, but it is simply because God has not revealed it to us. There is nothing that is a mystery to him. In fact, as He reveals new things to us in the New Testament, we find that He had things planned from the beginning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ephesians 5:31

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
(NIV)
This verse is a quote of Genesis 2:24. The context in Genesis is the creation of man and woman. The woman was taken from the man's flesh, and it is "for this reason," as the verse says, that a man leaves his parents and is united with his wife. It is a one flesh relationship.

This relationship is meant to be permanent. As it goes in our wedding ceremonies, "...till death do us part..." That is the way God intended it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ephesians 5:30

for we are members of his body.
(NIV)
In the context, here is the explanation as to why Christ feeds and cares for the church.

There are several different applications that we could pull from this teaching. Applications regarding our roles as members of this Church-body. But the main idea in this particular passage is not our roles, but His role. And specifically in this passage, Christ's role as the head includes feeding and caring.

As members of the body of Christ, we do not need to worry about anything. We will be provided for, just as Christ sees fit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ephesians 5:29

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—
(NIV)
Never in scripture are we commanded to love ourselves. We are often times, like in this verse, reminded of the fact that we do love ourselves. In fact, we are born as lovers of self. Any parent could attest to that fact. There has yet to be a baby born that will consider the feelings of others. It just doesn't happen.


In the previous few verses of this chapter, we are told that husbands are to love their wives "in the same way" as Christ does the church. This isn't enough explanation for some men. Some men need something a little bit more detailed, so Paul explains it in a way that any man would understand: Love your wives the way you would love your own body. Nobody hates themselves, not really. (People who say that, are really just struggling with a completely self-centered view of the world.) So men, Love your wives the way you love yourself.

This sounds very similar to Christ's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself." That command is attached to and intertwined with the command to Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

You know how to take care of yourself, just turn that care around and aim it at your wife. Use Christ's example, but also use your understanding of your own self to determine how to love.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ephesians 5:28

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(NIV)
This is how it was from the beginning. Jesus tells us that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and "they will become one flesh." (Read Mark 10:1-12)

Why is marriage a holy and sacred thing?

Marriage is a holy and sacred thing because God said it was a holy and sacred thing. He "invented" marriage for more than just procreation. Procreation can happen outside of marriage, if no one has told you yet... Marriage is more than that. It is a picture, and I will say it every time that I write on this topic. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) for all of these same reasons.

In this verse, the emphasis is put onto the man, the husband. He is commanded to love his wife, "in the same way" as this love that Jesus has had for His church. It is a tall order, but we do it to fulfill our vows to Christ.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ephesians 5:27

and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
(NIV)
Christ, as the perfect example of husbandry, is cleansing His bride. We can all, as Christians, feel the effects of this cleansing. It impacts us in our daily lives. He is sanctifying each one of us, and the job will be completed in one final step at the end of our lives. Then the church will be without blemish, holy and blameless.

Notice that the purpose of this cleansing is to present the church to Himself. He is not cleansing the church for another, but for Himself.

As we continue to read through this passage, and look at the role of the husband, keep in mind that the requirements of the husband are all for this same end result. He works at cleansing his bride because she is his. He presents this woman to himself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ephesians 5:26

to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
(NIV)
The husband, in following the example that Christ has set forth, is to be a good shepherd to his wife. He, through sacrifice of himself, is to be cleansing his bride.

The husband should be a skillful master of the Word. He should know how to wield the Word of God in such a way, not as a sword, like one would normally think, but as a washcloth. Gently washing his bride.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
(NIV)
The husband's role is to love the wife. The degree, or the measure, of this love is comparable to Christ's love for the church. To get a demonstration of the extent of Christ's love for the church, simply look at the cross.

This is a great love, it is a sacrificial love, and it is a love that holds no room for selfishness. I am fighting the urge to elaborate, but I believe that if a man really looks to the cross, my elaborations will seem trivial. The man who seeks to love their wife the way Christ loved the church must be calling on Christ daily for His grace. He is the only originator of this kind of love.

If you are a husband, look to the cross today. Compare your love... not to the bad husbands of the world, compare your love to Christ and what He did on the cross. Then call on Him to enable you to live that kind of love.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ephesians 5:24

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
(NIV)
No one doubts the role of the church. The church is clearly to submit to Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, but this command is very clear concerning wives. They are to submit to the husband. In fact, they are to submit to him in the same way as the church submits to Christ. There is no other option, no other loop-hole command.

When the husband is fulfilling His role, which will come up in the next few verses, this task becomes much easier. The challenge comes when there is a husband who is not fulfilling his role. The woman must not presume upon herself though; if she truly desires God to work in the heart of her husband, if she wants that husband to fulfill his godly role as a husband, then she must start with herself.

What does this look like? A wife must submit to the authority of her husband in all things. The only exceptions would be if the husband is asking her to do things that would not please God, because as the apostles put it, "... we ought to obey God rather than men." Also if there is a true threat of physical harm to either the wife or her children, this would constitute fleeing the situation, but not divorce. In both of these extreme situations, if the wife can still submit in whatever ways that she can, this attitude may yet win her husband.

I Peter 3:1 states,
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives..."

God's plan is always the best plan. Begin trusting Him today, not just in word, but in daily life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ephesians 5:23

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
(NIV)
Here we have the connection, the illustration is laid out for us. The relationship of Christ and the church is pictured by the relationship of a husband and wife. There are all kinds of examples that we could draw from this concerning Christ and the church: how there is love, communication and intimacy between the two. (I think this video helps to illustrate that point.)

There is also teaching to be directed at a husband and wife. Paul, as he writes this passage is driving in that very direction, but he will go back and forth between the two.

In this verse we see that the reason why a wife is to be submissive to the husband, it is because the husband is the head. More importantly though, we see why the husband is the head, it is because Christ is the head of the church. I can see how this could be difficult in some marriages, but it is important to realize that God ordains leadership.

Not all husbands are naturally good leaders, but God wants them to lead in the home. God's plan for every husband is to fulfill his role in the same way that Chris fulfilled His role as savior.

But before we get too much into that, let us first accept the roles that God has given and seek to fulfill them to the best of our ability.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
(NIV)
If anyone endeavors to commentate their way through the Bible, they will eventually run across many verses like this. Understand please, I am not talking about the topic, I am talking about verses that many have come to reject and almost cringe at.

There are many that feel that way about this particular verse. If you talk about wives being submissive to their husbands in America, whoa... hold everything. Most people hear this and they immediately get this picture in their mind of some mountain preacher with an amazingly thick southern accent preachin' this verse, with many hardy amens in the background.

There is a picture that should come to your mind when you hear this verse. It isn't southern preachers though. In fact, any mention of marriage should bring to mind the illustration of Christ and the Church, or Christ and His people. Marriage, though it has other God-given purposes, is meant to illustrate these roles.

I would also like to add that God is the authority on the subject of marriage. There are two types of authority: there are those who have the position of authority, and those that have the knowledge that makes them an authority. It is a wonderful thing when those two things are combined, and in God they are. He is in authority over us. He is the sovereign Lord of all creation, but He is also the authority on every subject, for he created all things. Do you realize that God invented the very idea of marriage? So we should go to Him to learn how this marriage thing should work.

We can see in this verse that the role of the wife is a submissive role. This has nothing to do with who she is as a person, and should never make her less, or her opinion less. This has to do with the role in the marriage.

There are many examples throughout scripture and also in the world of how having two heads isn't actually better than one. Most of the time when there are two people or two organizations or two governments... it leads to disaster. The Bible even talks about the double minded man and how unstable he is.

If you are a wife and you are reading this, might I suggest that you choose this role. Be submissive to your husband. It might be an act of faith, but remember that you are not trusting in the husband, you are trusting in God, and you are exhibiting that trust by doing things His way.

If you are a husband... Well, we will get to you in a few more verses. Your role is much more difficult if done correctly.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Psalm 136:26

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
Down to the last verse of this chapter. The author, though he could have gone on much longer, focused most of his attention on Israel's history. In the last verse he thanked this loving God for daily provision for all creatures.

In this verse he simply tells us to "give thanks..." and that is exactly what we should do.

I know, from personal experience, and from the experiences of others, that this simple idea of thankfulness can be so elusive at times. There are days and situations that seem so overwhelming that giving thanks just doesn't seem sane. But we give thanks to God, not just because of the bad things that He rescues us from. We give thanks because of WHO God Is. He is the creator, He is the rescuer and the redeemer, He is the sustainer, He is the God of Heaven!

If you only give thanks to God when He does things the way you think they should go, then He is not really your God, you have become your own god.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Psalm 136:25

and who gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
The author of this Psalm has brought us from the timeless past before creation right to today in today's most basic need. The Psalmist can write of these things because that is the God that he is writing about. A God whose Love Endures Forever!

He is not a God that simply created us and then kindof let us go on our merry way. He is not a God that simply exists in some sort of transcendent state, just sortof in everything. He is not a fickle God whose love comes and goes with our behaviors towards Him. He is like no other god that men could think up for He is the true God. The God whose love has endured and is enduring even today.

While today is still today... Praise Him!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Psalm 136:24

and freed us from our enemies,
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
Each of these verses has told us an evidence of God's love, and how it endures forever. As men, we can only evidence this eternal love by starting as far back as we know. We know that just before creation, there was God. He has always been, and He always will be. We know that He is (and always was) good. That is where the Psalmist started in verse 1. Then the Psalmist states that this good God was THE God and THE Lord. Then He begins to discuss our entrance into the picture through His creation.

As the author progresses through the Psalm, he relates some of the history of the children of Israel. And now he has brought us to the author's own life as he talks of how God has freed him (and the people) from their enemies.

As you think of God today, think back through the freedom He has freely given you. Think back to how He worked in the lives of the apostles and the prophets and the patriarchs. Think back to His creative works. Think back to who He is as King of kings and Lord of lords. Think back to His goodness that was there before creation. Think back to His enduring love. A love that always has been and always will be.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Psalm 136:23

to the One who remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.

(NIV)
God remembers.

He will not forget your situation. He will not forget your hardships. He will not forget your hurts. He will not forget where you are and where you have been. He remembers.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Psalm 136:22

an inheritance to his servant Israel;
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
God fulfilled His promise to His people when they entered the land. They received their inheritance. God took back from the petty kings of this world and distributed to His people.

There is an inheritance for God's people still. We don't have to wait till heaven to receive our inheritance, it is available to us now, as we pass through the land. The petty kings of this world state that they own happiness, fulfillment, joy, contentment, and peace, but those lands belong to the King of Kings. He offers those places to us as belonging to part of His Kingdom.

Let us join in the inheritance today.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Psalm 136:21

and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
I don't want to stretch a verse too far. I know from experience how easy it is to make a verse say what you want it to say, so when I come to scripture, I am always trying to come open to the Spirit of God. I am always asking to be taught, in that moment, with that verse. With that said, on to the verse...

This Psalm was just talking about these kings that opposed God's way, and God took them out. Now we get to see what God did with their lands. He made their lands part of the inheritance. It is important to understand at this point that it was all God's to begin with. They didn't really own the lands, so it was always His to give. But these kings claimed these lands as their own and refused God's way.

On a non-political scale, I believe that this is still happening today. I believe that culture and society have claimed several items that belong to God. They have perverted these items, but God wants to give them as an inheritance.

One example of this, if I might be so bold, is the area of sex. (I know in bringing this up, I run the risk of changing the ads listed on this blog to something inappropriate...) Sex was created by God. He came up with the idea. He invented it, and set up its guidelines on how it is best to be enjoyed, and the greatest enjoyment is in marriage.

Society and culture have taken ownership of this. They claim to know best how this is enjoyed. When God's way comes into the picture, they oppose it with everything that they have. God is not opposed though, He retakes what is rightfully His and gives it as an inheritance to His people.

What is sad is when people continue to live under these kings, under their rulings. God will ultimately wipe out all wrong philosophies and beliefs, but in the meantime, He will rid them out of the lives of His children. He will clear the path for our opportunity to live in the promised land today.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Psalm 136:19-20

Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.

and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
These two kings opposed the children of Israel as they were trying to enter into the Promised Land. They came out in all of their splendor, with their entire army, to stand against God's plan. Needless to say, it was a disaster for them.

I think that it could best be understood in the final verse of Numbers 21,
So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.
(NIV)
This is how our loving God will deal with all those "kings" in our life that oppose Him and stand in His way. He will prevail as the one and only Lord of our lives.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Psalm 136:17-18

who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.

and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
We call Him the King of kings and Lord of lords, because that is exactly what He is. All through Israel's history, at least when they were seeking after God, we can see examples of how God is in control of all things. If there is a king that He wants to take out, He will use whoever He wants to use to make that happen.

He isn't done taking kings out of the picture.

Because of His great love for us, He will continue to take those kings out of the way. Even down to the little kings that are all over the place. Ourselves. Even after we claim Him as Lord, so often we continue to be the kings of our own lives. We continue to make rulings and pass amendments and make judgments, but the great King, who knows much better than us, wants His throne. He will throw down the king of selfishness and pride and take His place.

But just as He has always done, He calls us to participate in this throwing down.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Psalm 136:16

to him who led his people through the desert,
His love endures forever.

(NIV)
Once again we are reminded of God's leading. He leads us in the good times and in the harshest of times. It seems like we always want His leading the most when times are bad. But the next hard time that comes up, we have already forgotten His guiding hand from the last time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Psalm 136:15

but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
What a great end to such a stubborn pharaoh. To watch his entire army wash away.

Pharaohs believed that they were gods. And to have some hebrew slave come in and tell him that the God of gods has demanded to let His people go. It is no wonder the pharaoh kept saying no. Why should the god of the Egyptians give in to the God of the Hebrews? It made no sense to him.

But pharaoh was no god.

Neither are we. We cannot stand up against the God of the Universe. We try to set ourselves up as our own gods in our own hearts. We try to run our lives, but the one true God will wash all of our defenses away, like He washed Pharaoh's army away, and take his rightful place. (or He will leave you to your devices and let you destroy yourself.)

C.S. Lewis once said,
There are two kinds of people, those who will say to God, "Thy will be done." or those to whom God will say, "Thy will be done."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Psalm 136:14

and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
There are so many times that God does not just pop us out of our situation. That is usually what we want to happen, we want relief, and we want it now! But God leaves us in the midst of the trial.

All through scripture, we can see this idea. We see Daniel left in the midst of the lions and his three friends in the midst of the flames. We see Jonah, who tries to get out of the midst of his enemies, but God sends him there by putting him in "the midst" of a whale. There is Elijah oh his mountaintop experience, in the midst of the Baal worshipers. Jesus Himself who rides in on a donkey, amongst those who He knows will kill Him. And the Good Shepherd prepares a table in the presence of our enemies.

God, believe it or not, works in the midst. If you are in the midst, don't seek "out", see God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Psalm 136:13

to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever
(NIV)
For the Children of Israel the events of the exodus stand out so significantly. There is alot of meaning there, both for the nation of Israel, but also as individuals.

The story of the nation of Israel is a parallel to the life of a Christian. Slavery in Egypt is pre-salvation. The dividing of the red sea, and all of the events that lead up to it, is salvation. The promised land is the living that a Christian should be experiencing. The wilderness wandering is where most of us end up living instead of enjoying the promised land. The conquest is where we start cleaning house, booting out all of the false ideas and idols. And just like most of us, Israel maintained a certain amount of idolatry throughout that time and the time of the kings. And it continued until the captivity. Sometimes for us as well, it takes a significant trial to rid us of idolatry.

Here we have the nation of Israel leaving the land and they end up backed against this sea, so God parts it.

He has done the same for us. Christ has made a way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Psalm 136:12

with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
We can know from other places in the Bible that God is spirit. He is not a physical being sitting around somewhere, like the old Greek or Roman gods. Jesus says quite specifically, "God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)

God is spirit, but He is not some sort of ethereal spirit that is just permeating the things that are. Truly He is sustaining all things. Not only physical existence, but it is also by Him that nations rise and fall and kings come and go.

We can see in this verse, that even though God does not have a physical hand or a physical arm, He is active. That is the essential teaching from a verse like this, He is not a passive God.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Psalm 136:11

and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
Truly we have a deliverer.

The saving of the Israelites from the land of Egypt is such an example of our own salvation. We also were in bondage. We also were slaves to sin and self. And just as the Pharaoh believed himself to be a god, so also we were born seeking to be our own gods.

Christ comes to set us free. He is desiring to bring us out from among them, but it doesn't take ten plagues to set us free. Just one amazing sacrifice, the first born of God, for true freedom.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Psalm 136:10

to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
In ancient Egypt, the other plagues could almost have been dismissed as natural occurrences. We know that they are not, but the blood water, the locusts, the darkness, the boils... even though each can show how vain and empty the Egyptian religion was, the pharaoh wasn't swayed by any of them. He was a god, both to himself and to his people, and there was no way that he was going to bow before the God of the slaves.

Most of us are like that. We are our own god and the god of our own little world, but The God of Heaven and Earth will have His rightful place. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

For some, it won't happen until the end.

For others, the trials (or for the Egyptians, the plagues) that are always pointing to God, will bring them to God. The Pharaoh recognized, at least temporarily, that the death of each first born could not have been a natural occurrence. At least for a moment he let go of the reigns and realized that he could not fight this God. Unfortunately for the Pharaoh and his army, this was only temporary, and true Lordship was never acknowledged.

The question is, will you be like the pharaoh? Will you dismiss all things, both good and bad, as random natural occurrences? Will it take the loss of something big to get your attention or will you turn your eyes to Him now?

On a side note:
Francis Schaeffer uses this passage in his book titled Genesis to illustrate how the Bible speaks of the creative acts as real events that occurred in a real space-time situation. He points out that this chapter starts with these events, and moves through other events that are considered true history, and there is no transition that would lead you to believe that all of it isn't true history. This chapter is a powerful support of a literal creation, just as Genesis describes it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Psalm 136:9

the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
It doesn't take you long, when looking up at the stars, to begin to feel very small. The sky is so vast that it can overwhelm the mind. David put it this way,

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:3,4 (NIV)

Maybe it has been a while since you paused and looked at the night sky. I would like to recommend this tonight. Take a moment out of your busy day and marvel at God's wonderful lights.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Psalm 136:8

the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
I have been teaching a history class at my school, and we are currently talking about the ancient Egyptians. These people, along with many other ancient civilizations and even many primitive tribes, would worship the sun.

It reminds me of Romans 1:18-25 which talks about this exact thing. I won't quote the entire thing right now, but I do want to at leas put up part of verse 25, which says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator."

That is exactly what they were doing. Worshiping something that was created.

I have been watching a show on the Discovery Channel lately called The Universe. And I have to tell you, the modern day, atheistic, evolutionary scientist isn't such a far shot from those ancient Egyptians. They both ignore the creator, they both ignore the one that set the sun up for the day.

The sun God made to rule the day
Will surely one day pass away.

Its fiery blasts will be no more
With Jesus knocking at the door.

Sun worshipers will see defeat
And knees will bow as sky retreats

Without the sun it won't be night
For then we'll see the one true light.

Then all this earth will be undone
And out will step the Bright True Son!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Psalm 136:7

who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
Before the sun, there was light. Before any of the stars were made, there was light on this earth. There were plants basking in that light and oceans reflecting that light.

Then, once it is clear that this earth is dependent on God and God alone and that even though we are not the physical center of anything, we are the focal point of His creation... He makes a Sun and a moon and stars to fill up that vast expanse of sky.

Did He make the "great lights"? Yes, just to declare His glory and to let us know that His love endures forever. When you look at creation, and you marvel at God's abilities, don't stop there. Remind yourself why He created all of this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Psalm 136:6

who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.

(NIV)


The Psalmist has said that He is God, He is Lord, and that He does Great Things. Then to back these statements up, he has begun to go through, starting from the beginning, and list some evidences that show Godship, Lordship, and Wonder.

We know from reading Genesis that God's creative acts were done through His Word. He spoke, and it was. He spoke time and space into existence. Then He begins to speak matter into existence. In this verse we are reminded that He has brought every square inch of earth and every drop of water into existence. He created a planet that points to Him!

I have talked of the immensity of the universe, but frankly, I still get amazed at the expanses of the ocean. I can remember the first time I saw the ocean, it made me feel so small. It was almost scary thinking of that much water, and its depths.

The World is His, and everything in it. His Love Endures Forever.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Psalm 136:5

who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever
(NIV)
With knowledge and understanding God made the heavens.

Look at the Sombrero galaxy and consider the understanding of God.



Now consider the sheer number of other galaxies that are in the heavens. This picture was taken when the Hubble space telescope pointed at a seeming empty part of the sky. It reminds me of when God told Abraham to look up at the stars of the sky and count them. Then He says, "if indeed you can..."

Consider the understanding of God.

And yet this universe is not as big as His love.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Psalm 136:4

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
If this verse said, "to him who does great wonders..." it would still be a great verse. We could talk about all of the wonders that God does. Everything from the rings of Saturn and the Sombrero Galaxy to the forming of a child inside its mothers womb or even how electrons are spinning around the atoms and not flying off. We could talk about all of those things and marvel at His wonders.

But get this, all of the great wonders are His!

He doesn't just get credit for great wonders, He gets credit for all of them, because the verse says, "to him who alone does great wonders..." God has no counterpart. He has no arch-rival. There is none like Him, and He is the only one who is doing the wonderful stuff!

He is the changer of hearts and lives. He is the redeemer. He is the savior. He is the God who hears and the God who sees. And the most wonderful of all, His love endures Forever!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Psalm 136:3

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
You might be thinking that this verse is basically the same as the previous one. God of gods... Lord of lords... Let me dig a little deeper.

The word that is translated as lord (both times) is a word that means to rule. Our God is in charge. He is the ruler of all of the other rulers. He is the master of all masters. He is the boss of all bosses!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Psalm 136:2

Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
I have tried to start this post at least three times now, but I keep getting stuck. I want to start off with some commentary about how God is The God. There is no one like Him. There is no power or authority anywhere in this universe that is anything near who He is. But what keeps throwing me off are those two words at the beginning, "Give Thanks..."

Usually when I allow my mind to delve into the bigness and the greatness and the uniqueness of God, it doesn't lead me to thankfulness. Not that it shouldn't or couldn't, but I am usually just starting to feel a little small.


Here is a picture taken by the Voyager Spacecraft on Feb. 14, 1990. It was taken at a distance of over 4 billion miles from earth. In the picture, the blue circle that was added later is around the earth which is shown is a band of sunlight.

This picture is called the pale blue dot because one man when he saw this said something about every man who had ever lived, lived his life out on that pale blue dot. God is so big.

Notice though the end of the verse, just as the end of every verse in this amazing chapter, "...His love endures forever." As infinite as the universe is, it is NOTHING compared to the bigness of God's love! His Love is Forever!

Why should my mind go to giving thanks? This God of all gods loves even me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Psalm 136:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
(NIV)
The world is a difficult place. Sometimes it seems like there is an awful lot of bad going on. All you have to do is watch the news for 60 seconds and you will hear of something bad that someone has done.

Then there are all of those "little" bad things. Cars breaking down when you are on your way somewhere important, kids getting sick, finance troubles, arguments with your spouse, etc. And sometimes it just seems like everything is going sour.

Don't let all of those things fool you or sidetrack you.

God is good.

Think about that little statement. We don't say it all that often, especially when your lawnmower has stopped working or you are on the side of the road with a flat tire and you are going to be late for work. But He is most assuredly good.

This Psalm is going to take you on a small journey through God's goodness, and in every verse remind you of his greatest goodness, "His love endures forever."

You see, all of those things don't take away from God's goodness. Those things are reminders of the curse of sin and of the ongoing wickedness of mankind. We are sinners, but God's love endures and God is good.

Give thanks to Him today. Give thanks to Him for all of the times that He let your lawnmower start. Give thanks to Him that He has redeemed you and changed you so that you don't need to rant and rave at the side of the road when your tire is flat, but that you are able to remain patient. Give thanks that he is able to mend the brokenhearted. That He is able to redeem the most wicked of men and is able to give the most hurt of people the joy of forgiving.

He is such a good God in spite of our sinfulness. Give thanks. His love endures forever.

Friday, September 07, 2007

James 1:18

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
(NIV)
Firstfruits is a word that can be used to refer to first parts of a harvest that were offered to God. In a way, we are those firstfruits of His creation. Our lives are a living sacrifice to God. Consider Romans 12:1,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
I would like to point out the beginning of this verse. It says, "He chose to give us birth..." In the NAS it puts that phrase like this, "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth..."That is probably a better translation of this phrase because of the use of the word will. In the original, that is the word that is used, and it means exactly that. God purposed to bring us forth. It was according to His will.

Whether you would consider yourself a Calvinist or not, phrases like this should not be ignored.

We should also not ignore the phrase "the word of truth" because it is through this that God births us as Christians. We do not get to God any other way. There is no other way, there is no other path to God. Some argue with this, they would say that all roads lead to God, but that is definitely not a Biblical teaching.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(NIV)
Two things that I want to point out about this verse.

The first is that all good things come from God. He is the source of good. As the Psalmist says, "Thou art good, Thou doest good." And this thought of God is essential to hold on to in those moments when things aren't good. Instead of blaming God, we need to see that He is using those things to build us up as humans.

I would love to continue these thoughts on the goodness of God. Sometimes we don't acknowledge it enough, and when we do, we speak of it in a surreal sort of way. Almost as if God's goodness isn't the same as the real word goodness. The only other time that God's goodness comes up is when we are blessed in some big way or when we see God's hand of protection. These are most definitely good, and from the Father of the heavenly lights, but we let our praises trail off when something goes sour. This is why we need to go right to the second thing.

This next thing that I would like to point out is that God does not change. The same God how protected you in that car wreck is the same God who allowed your Grandma to die. I am not trivializing anything, and I am most definitely not trying to be silly. It is the same good God! He doesn't change.

Just know that when life throws you those curve balls, God has seen it... allowed it... and maybe even wept as Jesus did over Lazarus, but all of these things He Will Work For Good!

Praise be to the Good God!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

James 1:16

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.
(NIV)
Don't be deceived. The world is constantly trying to tell you the opposite to this. The world will tell you that sinful pleasures do not lead to death, but don't be deceived.

James is saying this because there is a high propensity to deception in this area. This deception goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. "...surely you won't die!" says Satan. "Surely God will not kill you for eating of this tree."

As the next few chapters of Genesis can attest to, that sin did most assuredly lead to death. It started with Abel, as the first murder victim, but then it just goes on. Especially when you get to the genealogies, he was born... he died... he was born... he died...

A similar passage to this is found in Galatians 6:7-9. It starts off, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." This law of sin is like the law of gravity. If you jump up in the air, you may think that you are flying for a moment, but don't be deceived, you will fall back down.

Praise be to God that He has set us free from the law of sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

James 1:15

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
(NIV)
Sin always leads to death.

No matter what lies your selfish desires tell you, sin will still always lead to death.

It started in the garden when man first sinned. God warned that man would "surely die" if he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One of my Bible professors told me once that phrase, "surely die" could be translated as, "dying you shall die."

When man sinned that first sin, he immediately became spiritually dead. Another immediate change was his physical body. He began to die physically. And if he did not repent and seek God in faith, that God is able to save him from these deaths, then man would eventually be sentenced to eternal death and judgment.

Your own sinful desires will tell you otherwise. Your lusts will tell you that the way to really live is through these various avenues of worldliness. Those selfish lusts will tell you that following after God and obeying His commands will be such a sad state of existence and that you will fall far short of the "living" that you could enjoy.

Jesus Christ says plainly, "I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE. No man comes to the Father, but by Me."

The decision then is an issue of faith. Will we walk in faith, believing that God's word is true? Will we trust that His way is better than ours? These are the decisions that we must make. The decisions that seem so plain when we are reading our Bibles or praying or typing a blog about the book of James... The answer seems so elusive when we are in the midst of our selfish temptations and the lies are coming at us full stream.

Prepare your minds today for the onslaught.

Monday, September 03, 2007

James 1:14

but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
(NIV)
This is such an important concept to understand. Your temptations come from your own evil desires. If you spend all of your time focusing on your circumstances or the people around you or your genetics... then the battle will continue to rage.

The phrase "dragged away" is one word in the original, and it is normally used in hunting situations, when one would draw out an animal from its hiding place. The word "enticed" actually means to bait. Your desires... your lusts... are drawing you out and baiting you to sin.

I tried to think of a good way to word this, then JONO left a comment in the previous post that put my thoughts into words.
"...probably even more than the devil or worldliness is Me tempting Me.
The devil just exploits whats already there.
The kingdom of Me has big eyes and loves to tell you what I have & what I can do.....as fast as I deconstruct it to make way for the kingdom of God, I'm off making bigger and I wrongly think better plans for ME."
As we battle sin in our lives, we must go to the root of that sin, and that root is located deep within ourselves, in the kingdom of Me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

James 1:13

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
(NIV)


There are some important theological issues being covered in this verse. I am going to hit on them, but I am not going to go into detail... This is only a blog... right? :)

God does not tempt anyone to do something evil. This is the first theological point. James' understanding of this comes from the second theological point in this verse, which is that God cannot be tempted by evil.

If you understand what evil is, then this is an obvious conclusion. Like I said, I am not going to go into detail, but allow me to take a slight excursion here: Evil is anything that is not God. God must be God, therefore God cannot be tempted by evil. If God cannot be tempted by evil, then it would follow that He also would not be tempted to draw anyone else to evil.

The important thing is to try to understand why James is bringing this up. A deep theological discussion seems out of place here. If you look at the next few verses, you can see that James is starting a discussion on sin and temptation. It is important, in our own personal battles with sin, to know two things.

One important thing to know is that God is on your side. Actually, you are on His side, but the point is that He is not against you in your battles with sin. He desires for you to succeed. He is giving you every tool that you need to have victory over sin.

The second important thing to take note of is where temptation comes from. I will get into where exactly it comes from in the next verse, but it is so important to know that it doesn't come from God. You might be thinking, "duh!" But consider how often people blame God for their temptations and their sins.

Think of the man who struggles with anger. He might not say that God is tempting him, but he says that his father was like that and his grandfather was like that and the guy before him, and so on... What he is really saying is that God made him that way.

What about the homosexual who blames genetics for his or her temptations. Sometimes they will come right out and say it. I have heard it myself, they will say, "... well then, why did God make me this way?" Ultimately they are saying that God is the one responsible for their being tempted with evil. (By the way, people are not genetically homosexual. They have been trying to say that for years, but there is no scientific evidence to back that up.)

Maybe it isn't because you were born a certain way, but because of your circumstances. You might say that you are struggling because of your job or your kids or your finances, etc. But in reality what you are saying is that it is God's fault because of the life that He gave you! You will end up sounding like Adam, who said, "Lord, it is this woman that you gave me!"

What temptations are you blaming God for?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

James 1:12

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.
(NIV)
Have you ever heard the phrase, "...don't get the cart before the horse..."? It is used when people have the tendency to get things backwards, also because a horse pulled cart works great as opposed to a cart pulled horse.

Well, some people have a tendency to do something similar with at verse like this. We must be careful to understand that Christ first loved us. If we love Him, it is because He first loved us, and we cannot get these backwards. So, in one sense, Salvation comes first. Before perseverance, there is salvation.

Some read this verse and think that the crown of life is salvation. Like somehow, if we can persevere then we will receive salvation. But the crown of life is a result of salvation just as perseverance is a result of salvation.

In this passage, James is writing as it happens. Those who persevere (because of true salvation) will receive the crown of life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

James 1:11

For 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.
(NIV)
The reality that is being taught here is not just directed at the rich. As the Psalmist says,
You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.
Psalm 39:5 (NIV)
This applies to us all. Our lives are passing so quickly, and our glory should not be in what we accomplish here. A big house, an established retirement account, a new car, even our kid's educations paid for! All of these things are temporary. One day you will breathe your last and these things will all be gone.

Let your glory be in Christ. Let your glory be in what He has done in you. Don't glory in what you can make with your own hands. If you do, then you are no different than an idol maker who sits and carves out his idol, then turns around and bows to it.

Even the poor man shouldn't glory in his lack of goods. There are some like that who talk about how they don't have all of that stuff, and speak about the new cars and the big house like they were worldly in and of themselves. You are missing the point if you are saying that.

It is all about Jesus Christ. It is all for His glory. Everything in our lives should point to Him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

James 1:10

But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
(NIV)


I had to do a little digging on this one.

In verse 9, remember that it was talking about a brother in humble circumstances. The word humble or low is the Greek word tapeinos, which is an adjective. So, the circumstances are low or humble, and the boasting that he does is literally in his height.

The rich man is to also boast, but notice that his boasting isn't in his height, it is in his low position. That low position, in the original, is just one word; it is the word, tapeinosis. Look familiar? That is the noun form of the adjective that is describing the other man's circumstances. The rich man's boasting is when he is knows that ultimately he shares the same fate as the man who does not have. If a rich man can come in humility to Christ, there is a glory in that.

By the way, I was studying the roots of the word that is translates as glory in this and the last verse. Study light tells me that it is a combination of two words, one that means "to boast" and the other that means "to pray". I am putting this in here just in case you might think that I am promoting boasting. In these verses the boasting, glorying, or taking pride is not in the sinful sense, as they can be sometimes. They are truly directed to God and for God. The heights that the poor man reaches are the heights in Christ and the humility of the rich man comes from a work of Christ in that man's heart, just like all humility is.

So ultimately we boast of Christ! We boast of who He is and what He does!

Monday, August 27, 2007

James 1:9

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.
(NIV)
To properly understand this verse, you need to take a peek at the next verse. Once you do, the meaning of the "humble circumstances" becomes clear. We have shifted slightly in this passage to the topic of money. But it is not a complete shift, because as many of us would attest to, money is a trial in and of itself.

This verse reminds me of how God seems to enjoy turning everything upside down... or maybe it is upside up. Maybe we have things so twisted and distorted that it only seems that way to us. Regardless, in this case, the low is really high, and the high is low.

This verse is speaking of a Christian brother, who James is telling that he has the ability to boast in something. Even though most would say that this man has nothing to boast about, the "humble circumstances" can be defined as, "barely off the ground". Yet James says that even though he is barely off the ground, he is in the heights! As one who is a child of God, there is plenty to boast of.

Consider this today. God gives and God takes away. Don't let possessions fool you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

James 1:8

he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
(NIV)
"Double minded" is literally "two souled". The soul in the Bible is the seat of affections or desires. It is the wellspring of all that you want. The man of two souls is unstable because he is torn on the inside.

We all struggle with that inner battle. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:14-25, but we need to take this verse in context. This is not talking about a Christian man who is battling the inner man, this is talking about a man who is not steadfast in his faith in Christ. He has never taken that stand of faith. He is a doubter, he expects nothing from the Lord, nor should he.

These are the kind of people that you need to steer clear of. Their instability that is caused by their lack of faith causes them to seek to control everything themselves. This usually leads to actions that have no care or concern for others, and they usually leave a path of destruction behind them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

James 1:7

That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
(NIV)
This is one of the reason's why I love the book of James. He gets right to the point. The person who does not have faith, should not expect to get anything from the Lord. That is very blunt, but it is a reality.

The challenge with a verse like this is to apply it to your own life. Because if you do have faith (which you can't be a Christian without it) then you should be expecting things from the Lord.

What are you asking for from Him? Where is your heart when you come to Him?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

James 1:6

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.
(NIV)
From the previous verse we learned that when you are lacking in wisdom, you should ask. God is a generous God who gives to all who ask, and He does not show favoritism. You do not have to meet some quota of goodness or righteousness before you can ask God for wisdom, or anything else for that matter. If there was a quota, you would never meet it anyway.

The word believe here is normally translated as faith, and the two words are closely related. When you ask God, you must believe that He can deliver. We see this so many times in the gospels when the people come to Jesus and ask for healing. So often Jesus will say to someone, after they are healed, "...your faith has made you whole."

The faith must be centered in Christ himself. It is not to be centered on what you want God to do. Many people make that mistake, they start praying and asking God to give them what they want instead of praying., "Your kingdom come!" Our faith must not be in what God does, it must be a faith that is IN HIM.

Faith in Christ is a steadfast and sure faith. It does not waiver or change because it is focused on the Unchangeable One. The person who focuses on what God will do is the one who doubts. He waivers from a lack of knowledge of God's ways, which are much higher than ours. The one who doubts is the one you see at church with their hands lifted high because God just met some need, but then the next week they won't even come to church because in their minds God has failed them. They are now even toying with atheism because they are not even sure their is a God. They come and they go, they are high then they are low because their faith is misdirected.

Where is your faith today?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

James 1:5

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.
(NIV)
Much of the book of James does not require much explanation. He writes in such a straight-forward style. I like to read through a verse, then try to re-word it in a way that it is easier to understand, but with this verse, the meaning is plain.

This plain meaning leaves a person facing the real issues, which is what James wants anyway. The real issues have nothing to do with what kind of Biblical scholar you are, or what a wonderful theologian you have become. The real issue has to do with what you are going to do about what you just read. We all lack wisdom, so when you encounter a verse like this, you should be moved to do something.

Ask for wisdom today. You need wisdom, and God gives wisdom generously. He also gives this wisdom to whoever asks, there is nothing you have done that will prohibit the asking of wisdom. If you turn away from whatever sins are in your life, and turn to Jesus, you will be granted great wisdom.

Monday, August 20, 2007

James 1:4

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(NIV)


This goes right along with what I was saying in the commentary on the previous verse. Perseverance is one the most key essentials to true Christianity.

In this verse you can see that perseverance leads to Christian Maturity, but it is only a whole or complete perseverance that will do this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

James 1:3

because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
(NIV)
I have come to believe that perseverance is one of the key components in true Christianity. The one who sticks to their faith in Christ, and does not fall away, is the one who is exhibiting true faith. Faith that falls away isn't real faith.

Notice even in this verse that perseverance springs from a tested faith. It reminds me of a chemical reaction. To the eye hydrochloric acid and water look the same, but if you drop a cut penny down in the acid, it will have a reaction with the zinc in the penny. The penny will begin to bubble, producing hydrogen. If you drop a penny in water, nothing noticeable happens.

The same is true of faith. The person with faith, when the trial is added to their life, it produces perseverance. This why it is called the "...testing of your faith..." A similar passage to this one is I Peter 1:6-9,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(You can read the commentary on these verses here.)

Trials will come, and if your faith is real, so will the perseverance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

James 1:2

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
(NIV)
The word pure could also be translated all or all kinds or every kind. You could say, "Consider it every kind of joy possible when you are facing trials."

There are some who believe that a Christian's joy isn't real joy. They believe that real joy and happiness comes from that self-indulgent lifestyle. They believe that the world offers real joy, and what these Christians are experiencing when they have joy is some kind of weak alternative. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. The joy that Christ offers is the real stuff.

Notice also two additional things.

First, notice that this multi-faceted joy is not dependent on what is happening. This joy takes place in the middle of trials, in fact, in the middle of various kinds of trials. The world can't offer this. Reality shows us over and over that the world falls short in offering any lasting joy or happiness. Things seem good for awhile, but it never lasts.

Secondly, notice that it is commanded. In fact, the word consider is just as often translated as ruler, chief, governor, lead, or have rule over. It is almost as if James is telling us to have rule over our own minds. In other words, we are to command our own joy, and to do it in such a way that we will even demand it in the midst of trials.

Instead of being like a wave on the sand today, command your joy.

In the next few verses in this chapter of the book of James, we will see some reasons why and how we can do this, but for today, take charge.