Friday, May 29, 2009

James 3:6

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
To say the least, James is using strong speech. Let's just see how he describes the tongue: It is a fire. It is a world of evil. It corrupts the whole person. It sets the whole course of a person's life on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by hell. Wow.

If you look at this as an overreaction or you feel that this is a bit extreme, please try to remember who the author is. I am not referring to James, sure he penned these words, but we know that scripture is inspired by God... All scripture.

Therefore, we know that the tongue, which simply stands as a representative for our ability to communicate, has been affected by the fall in a terrible way. We can go through life with the understanding that our speech is bent toward sin and the speech of others is bent that direction as well. It is no wonder that so many of our problems are rooted in the way we relate to others.

I was recently doing a "project" in my Bible classes that were pertaining to the "put off - put on" concepts in scripture, and part of that project was for my students to pick something that they were working on, or more accurately, that God was working on. The day that they came in with their topics I asked the question, before hearing any of their choices, "How many of you picked a topic that has something to do with how you relate to other people?" 100% said yes, and more than 75% picked something relating to their relationship with a brother or sister.

As we worked through the topics I noticed that communication, whether it was how they were communicating or their reaction to how they had been communicated with, kept coming up. The words of James don't sound so extreme when you begin to analyze our society. This was just a couple of Bible classes at a small Christian School, but I challenge you to consider how many of your problems/challenges are associated with the "tongue."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

James 3:5

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

The word "likewise" tells you to look at the previous verses. When you do, you can see that the tongue, just like a rudder or a bit, is a small thing that can impact or steer something big.

I love the second sentence of this verse. Most of us who have a mouth have had a moment where we have thought something similar to that as a result of something we said, "... what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark!"

As we consider our tongue, there are many proverbs that jump to mind. But there is one that I would like to share this morning. It is Proverbs 17:28,

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

James 3:3-4

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

Don't get this verse confused by the previous verse. In the previous verse it says that the person who can control his tongue can keep his whole body in check. This is not to say that the tongue is like a bit to your body. These verses will be explained in the next verse. They are simply building a mental picture of how something small can affect something big.

A bit is small, a horse is big. A rudder is small, comparatively, to the big ship. Small things can sometimes impact big things. We are going to see that the tongue is like that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

James 3:2

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

We're all human beings, and it is true that stumbling is a part of the package. Stumbling with your words is an even bigger part of the package. The "foot-in-mouth disease" has become a major part of that human condition.

If there is a man who is able to never be at fault in what he says... Wow. He has got to be near perfect.

Monday, May 25, 2009

James 3:1

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

James has just finished discussing the role of works/deeds in our lives, and he is about to launch into a discussion of the tongue. In the middle there are a couple of verses that I don't think should be skimmed over. It is easy to move past these on your way to the verses on the tongue. It is also easy to pop in and take these verses without mentioning the context. So, trying not to ignore the context and trying not to skim past... let's take a look at these few verses.

In this verse it is stated that not many people should presume to be teachers. The reason that is given is that, if you teach, you will be judged more strictly. This isn't necessarily talking about God's judgment of you... It could be, but I believe it is referring to the obvious. When one teaches these things that James has been talking about, your life will be under scrutiny.

It is always true that you need to practice what you preach, but it may be more true if you are a teacher (or a preacher) that practicing what you preach becomes essential to your teaching.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Genesis 1:31

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The sixth day draws to a close. God has created everything in the universe, and it was all very good. There wasn't anything that wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Genesis 1:30

And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God completely balances out the system. Every living thing has been provided for. The most amazing portion of this verse is the final words. Think about it... God speaks it and that's the way it is.

What He speaks ... happens.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Genesis 1:29

And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Still in the sixth day, God decrees to man what he can have for food. His food is to be every plant with seed and every seed with fruit. Everything from bananas to green beans, tomatoes to bread fruit, God made it all for food.

Our God is the God of provision. When He calls us to do something, He not only supplies what we need to get the job accomplished, He also provides the need. Think about it: God made the garden! Adam's job was to take care of the garden, and it is the garden that was going to supply his needs (the fruit came from the garden).

Many times in life, what God calls you to do is the exact thing that He will use to supply your need. Application: Do what God says to do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Genesis 1:28

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
God's word for man is established a few verses back when He decides to make man and give him purpose. In this verse God reveals His word to man. God's revealed word to man at this point is only this. Nothing more is revealed to Him, that we have record of. Man's responsibility is now to obey God's word.

In many ways, things have not changed. God has revealed His word to us, in a much grander scale, but the call is still the same. We are to obey His word.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.


Here the author, Moses, takes a moment to state clearly the creation of humans. So, remember today:

#1 - There is a Creator. He initiated all, and all things are in His hands.
#2 - We are creatures. We are created beings. We are not the end-all of this universe.
#3 - We, as creatures, are created in the image of our creator.

Don't forget these things as you go through your day, as you interact with other creatures, don't forget that God is the creator of us all and we are all in His image.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Genesis 1:26 b

And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Here we, as the descendants of Adam and Eve, are given dominion over all the earth. We are to rule it, or subjugate it, and that is exactly what that word means.

I think that most people believe that in one way or another, but we must be careful not to forget whom we serve. This is why this "ruling" should be considered as a stewardship. Since we are ruling under another, then we should be ruling on His behalf.

I guess the question that should be asked is this: How would you use the earth, with its resources and its creatures, differently, when you have this knowledge?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Genesis 1:26 a

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
I pause on the first half of this verse because it is so amazing what has just happened.

First of all there is the "us" found in this verse. If I had more time we could break that down and show the roots of the trinity found in Genesis chapter 1. Even the word "God", in the original, is elohim - the plural of el - meaning "god".

Second, there is communication. God did not create man so that He would have someone to talk to. There was obviously perfect communication going on before we were in the picture. This is not a trivial side thought, this is essential to understanding your purpose. God did not need to make us, He chose to make us to display His own glory. This is why you could truly say that the "chief end of man is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever." (John Piper changes this catechism slightly to say, "The chief end of man is to Glorify God by enjoying Him forever." I believe that Piper's version is more accurate to the truth.)

Third, we are made in the image of God, in His likeness. There are all sorts of great theologians who have broken this down, and I am sure that they have done a much better job than I could ever do. So, I won't attempt to break this down to determine the ins and outs of the words image and likeness. I do want to say this though, when you read this verse, don't skim past that part. You could almost say it this way, "You are just like God... You're NOT God, but you are just like Him. There are so many things that He can do and qualities that He has, but... if there is anybody that you're like... You're like HIM."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Genesis 1:24-25

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Here we start day six with the creation of all of the stuff on the land. Everything that you can think of: giraffes, zebras, lions, ants, lizards, turtles, scorpions, hedgehogs, ostriches, kiwis, platypus, squirrels, goats, rams, termites, snakes, walking sticks, earwigs, you name it. He spoke it all into creation. Every design was His.

Plan a visit to a zoo and marvel at the goodness of God's creation. Look out your window in the morning and watch the squirrels and marvel at God's creation. Look at your cat or your dog and marvel at God's creation. Why are they the way they are? Why is your dog loyal? How can your cat have such amazing acrobatic abilities? God has written that into His creation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Genesis 1:22-23

And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

These verses are very interesting. The word that is translated "Be fruitful" could be translated as bear fruit. The next word is "multiply" and that word is translated well, it means to become great or increase in number. So, the fruitful, if only thought of as fruitful, as in having babies and laying eggs, seems to double up what God is commanding, unless you go with another possible translation of the word.

The other translation? branch out.

Take this into the context of the idea of "kind" mentioned in the previous verses. Here is the Strong's definition obtained from the Studylight site.

kind, sometimes a species (usually of animals) ++++ Groups of living organisms belong in the same created "kind" if they have descended from the same ancestral gene pool. This does not preclude new species because this represents a partitioning of the original gene pool. Information is lost or conserved not gained. A new species could arise when a population is isolated and inbreeding occurs. By this definition a new species is not a new "kind" but a further partitioning of an existing "kind".
Can you see how these two ideas fit together? God created the "kinds" and then commands them to branch out. This is how we have the great "Showcase for Creation" found in places like the Galapagos Islands. Click here to read an article from the Institute for Creation Research that discusses this exact thing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Genesis 1:21

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

This verse carries so much more weight after you have visited an aquarium. I just came back from the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC. I went there on a field trip with my son. They have a decent sized aquarium at the zoo. I was blown away at the complexity of the life in the ocean. And to think that God invented it all.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Genesis 1:20

And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens."

At the beginning of Day 5, God creates of the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. He is filling up with life what he made on Day 2.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Genesis 1:18-19

to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Here we have the purpose of the lights laid out with a little more detail. The first purpose is to rule the day and the night. Obviously talking about the sun and the moon primarily. The second purpose is to separate the light from the darkness. This is something that God had already done on a previous day, but now he is handing that over to the physical sun. There had already been day and night for three days without the help of the sun, but God had now given this heavenly object the role of bringing light to the day. This role was already mentioned in verse 14.

Another role mentioned in verse 14 pertains to giving signs and seasons, and days and years. The stars and the sun and the moon fulfill that role perfectly. So perfectly and so precisely that there are whole sciences dedicated to studying the movements of these heavenly bodies. There are millions of dollars poured into the study and discovery of new things out there. These things that ultimately were made just for bringing light to the earth.

Notice that, once again, these things are all good. God is somehow able to view the whole of the universe, that vast expanse, and state, "It is good!" I wonder, did He boom that voice across the universe when he said it?

By the way. This means that the oldest molecules in the universe can be found right here on this planet. This little rock of a planet is the oldest thing out there by three days. How is it possible that the light has made it from those other stars and galaxies? C'mon! He's God! He just spoke a Universe into existence! He just imagined and spoke every DNA sequence for every tree and every plant into existence! A question like, how did the light get here, seems like a moot point!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Genesis 1:17

And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,
I could have placed this verse with one of the others, but I wanted to keep it by itself because of the phrasing of the first part of the verse. Notice that in the previous verse God created these lights, now it is telling us that he is placing them in the heavens. That is what those words mean. The New American Standard translates it as, "And God placed them..." We should tarry on that thought for a moment.

In the next little phrase we get to see the partial purpose of the stars and the other planets, of the moon and the sun. Their purpose is tied to this one little planet. Even though this planet isn't the physical center of our solar system or our galaxy... It is at the center of the universe. God's plan is being worked out here. All of those other objects up in the expanse of the heavens are just light fixtures.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Genesis 1:16

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.

Here we have this passing statement about the creation of the bodies of the universe. Our sun, our moon, and all of the other planets and stars are lumped together as, "...and the stars."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Genesis 1:14-15

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

I am sure that throughout history, most of the readers had no idea what was really created in this phrase. I believe that it wasn't until the invention of the telescope that people really started to understand. The sad part is that this element of creation, like all elements, is to bring glory to the creator, not to glory in the creation alone. Yet that is exactly what we do!

Give God glory today at what He has made!

I would like to point out that God also created these objects, not just to give light, but to be used to determine seasons and times and year, etc. Still today, even though we have all of this amazing technology, we still use the stars and the sun and the moon to determine our days, nights weeks, months, years, etc.