Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Friday, January 29, 2010

Joy n Suffering

Philippians 1:1-2

1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 
2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am planning on going through the book of Philippians next.  Here is an introduction in my Bible. 

Although Paul was writing from prison, joy is a dominant theme in this letter.  The secret of his joy is grounded in his relationship with Christ.  People today desperately want to be happy but are tossed and turned by daily successes, failures, and inconveniences.    Christians are to be joyful in every circumstance, even when things are going badly, even when we feel like complaining, even when no one else is joyful.  Christ still reigns and we still know him, so we can rejoice at all times. 

Verse 1
This is a personal letter to the Philippians, not intended for general circulation to all the churches as was the letter to the Ephesians.  Paul wanted to thank the believers for helping him when he had a need.  He also wanted to tell them why he could be full of joy despite his imprisonment and coming trial.  In his uplifting letter, Paul devotes only a small space to correcting the Philippians and warning them about potential problems.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paul's final instructions

Titus 3: 12-15

12 When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolois: for I have determined there to winter. 

The city of Nicopolis was on the western coast of Greece. Artemas or Tychicus would take over Titus's work on the island of Crete, so Titus could meet Paul in Nicopolis.  Tychicus was one of Paul's trusted companions (Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7).  Titus would have to leave quickly because the sea travel was dangerous in the winter months.

13 Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.

Apollos was a famous Christian preacher.  A native of Alexandria in North Africa, he became a Christian in Ephesus and was trained by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:24-28; 1 Corinthians 1:12).

14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
15 All that are with me salute thee.  Greet them that love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.  Amen.

The letters of Paul to Titus and Timothy mark the end of Paul's writing and the end of his life and ministry.  These letters are rich treasures for us today because they give vital information for church leadership.  They provide a strong model for elders, pastors, and other Christian leaders as they develop younger leaders to carry on the work, following Paul's example of preparing Timothy and Titus to carry on his ministry.  For practical guidelines on church leadership and problems solving, carefully study the principles found in these letters.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Avoid useless arguments

Titus 3:9-111

9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Paul warned Titus, as he warned Timothy, not to get involved in arguments over unanswerable questions (2 Timothy 2:14).  This does not mean we should refuse to study, discuss, and examine different interpretations of difficult Bible passages. Paul is warning against petty quarrels, not honest discussions that leads to wisdom.  When foolish arguments develop, it is best to turn the discussion back rack that is going somewhere or politely excuse yourself.

10 A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;
11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

*a heretic - divisive, subverted - warped

A person must be warned when he or she is causing division that threatens the unity of the church.  This warning should not be a heavy-handed action, but should correct the individuals divisive nature and restore him or her to fellowship.  A person who refuses to be corrected should be put outside the fellowship.  As Paul said, he is "condemned of himself" - he is sinning and he knows it.
(See also Matthew 18:15-18 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15 for help in handling such problems in the church.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Right living in society

Obey the government
Titus 3:1-8

1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.

As Christians, our first allegiance is to Jesus as Lord, but we also must obey our government and its leaders.  Christians are not above the law, but keeping the civil law is only the beginning of our Christian responsibility. 

3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 
8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that though affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable unto men.

Paul summarized what Christ does for us when he saves us.  We move from a life full of sin to one led by God's Holy Spirit.  All our sins, not merely some, are washed away. 

We gain eternal life with all its treasures.  We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and he continually renews our hearts.  None of this occurs because we earned or deserved it; it is all a gift of God's grace. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Right living in the church

Titus 2:1-15

1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

Believers must be grounded in the truths of the Scripture, then they will not be swayed by false teachers, tragic circumstances, or emotion.  Learn the Word, apply biblical principles to your life and do what you learn.

2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.
5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Women who were new Christians were to learn how to have harmony in the home by watching older women who had been Christians for some time.  We have the same need today.  Younger wives and mothers should learn to live in a Christian manner - loving their husbands and caring for their children - through observing exemplary women of God.  If you are of an age or position where people look up to you, can you be confident that your example is motivating younger believers to live in a way that honors God?

6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
7 In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

In ancient Greek society, the role of the husband/father was not viewed as a nurturing role, but merely a functional one.  Many young men today have been raised where father neglected his responsibilities to his wife and children.  The few husbands who are good examples of Christian living in their families are extremely important role models for young men who need to see how it is done more than to be told how to do it. 

If you want someone to act a certain way, be sure that you live that way yourself.  Then you will earn the right to be heard.

9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
10 Not  purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. 
*purloining - pilfering

Slavery was common in Paul's day.  Paul did not condemn slavery in any of his letters, but he advised slaves and masters to be loving and responsible in their conduct (see also Ephesians 6:5-9)
The standards set by Paul apply to any employee/employer relationship.  Emmployees should always do their best work and be trustworthy, not just when the employer is watching.  Businesses in the United States lose millions of dollars a year to employee theft and time-wasting.  If all Christian employees followed Paul's advice, what a transformation it would make. 

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorioius appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesusu Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 

The power to live the Christian life comes from Jesus Christ.  Because Christ died and rescued us from sin, we are free according to God's will and to do good.  Then we will look forward to his wonderful return with eager expectation and hope.

15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.  Let no man despise thee.

Paul told Titus to teach the Scriptures as well as to live them.  We must also teach, encourage, and correct others when necessary.  Although good teaching occurs in classrooms and small groups, much of the teaching Paul refers to must be done in the 'classroom' of personal and family relationships. 

Of course verses 4-5 hit the hardest with me.  I tend to fail in this alot!  Am I setting a good example to my daughter?  This is something I must pray about continually.  It is not easy whatsoever! 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Warning against false teachers

Titus 1:10-16

1 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

"They of the circumcision" were the Judaizers, Jews who taught that the Gentiles had to obey all the Jewish laws before they could become Christians.  This confused new Christians and caused problems in many churches where Paul had preached the Good News.  Paul wrote letters to several churches to help them understand that Gentile believers did not have to become Jews first in order to be Christians - God accepts anyone who comes to him in faith (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:2-7)  Although the Jerusalem council had dealt with this issue (See Acts 15), devout Jews who refused to believe in Jesus still tried to cause problems in the Christian churches.

11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not , for filthy lucre's sake. 
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies
 *filthy lucre sake - the sake of dishonest gain, slow bellies - lazy gluttons

Paul was quoting a line from a poem by Epimenides, a poet and philosopher who had lived in Crete 600 years earlier. "To play the Cretan" had become a phrase meaning to be a cheat and a liar.  Paul used this familiar phrase to make the point that Titus's ministry and leadership were very much needed. 

13 This witness is true.  Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of mean, that turn from the truth. 

Paul warned Titus to be on the lookout for false teachers.  Some false teachers are simply confused - they speak their misguided opinions without checking them against the Bible.  Others have evil motives - they pretend to be Christians only because they can get more money, additional business, or a feeling of power from being a leader in the church. 

You can recognize false teachers because they will
1) focus more attention on themselves than on Christ
2) ask you to do something that compromises or dilute your faith:
3) de-emphasize the divine nature of Christ or the inspiration of the Bible or
4) urge the church to make decisions based more on human judgment than on prayer and biblical guidelines.

15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Some people see good all around them, while others see nothing but evil.  What is the difference?  Our souls become filters through which we preceive goodness or evil.  The pure of heart (those who have Christ in control of their lives) learn to see goodness and purity even in this evil world.  But "defiled and unbelieving people" find evil in everything because their evil minds and hearts color even the good they see and hear.  Whatever you chose to fill your mind with will affect the way you think and act.  Turn your thoughts to God and his Word, and you will discover goodness more and more, even in this evil world.  Fill your mind with what is good, and then there will be little room for what is evil (Philippians 4:8).

16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Many people claim to know God, to be "born again." How can we know if they are telling the truth?  We will not know for certain in this life, but a glance at their life-styles will quickly tell us what they value and whether they have ordered their lives around Kingdom priorities.  The way we live says much about what we believe (1 John 2:4-6).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Qualifications for church leaders

Titus 1:5-9

5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Crete, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, had a large population of Jews.  The churches there were probably founded by Cretan Jews who had been in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:11) more than thirty years before Paul wrote this letter.

Paul had appointed elders in various churches during his journey (Acts 14:23).  He could not stay in each church, but he knew that these new churches needed strong spiritual leadership.  The men chosen were to lead the churches by teaching sound doctrine, helping believers mature spiritually, and equipping them to live for Jesus Christ despite the opposition. 

6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
(no striker - not violent, given to filthy lucre- greedy for money.)

8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine to both exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Paul briefly describes some qualifications the "elders" or "bishops" should have.  He gave Timothy a similar set of instructions for the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 3: 1-7; 5:22).  Notice that most of the qualifications involve character, not knowledge or skill.  A person's life-style and relationships provide a window into his character.  Consider these qualifications as you evaluate a person for a position of leadership in your church.  While it is important to have an elder or pastor who can effectively preach God's Word, it is even more important  to have one who can live out God's Word and be an example for others to follow. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leadership in the Church

Titus 1:1-4

1 Paul, a servant of god, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

Paul wrote this letter between his first and second imprisonments in Rome to guide Titus in working wiht the churches on the island of Crete.  There was a strong pagan influence on this small island, therefore the church needed strong Christian leadership

In one phrase, Paul gives his reason for living.  He calls himself a servant of God - he was committed to obeying God.  This obedience led him to spend his life telling others about Christ.  How would you describe your purpose in life?  To what are you devoted?

2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

The foundation of our faith is trust in God's character.  Because he is truth, he is the source of all truth and cannot lie.  Believing this truth leads to a God - honoring life-style.  The eternal life he has promised will be ours because he keeps his promises.  Build your faith on the foundation of a trustworthy God who will not lie.

3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith:  Grace, mercy and peace, from god the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Titus, a Greek, was one of Paul's most trusted and dependable co-worker.  Paul sent Titus to Corinth on several special missions to help the church in its troubles (2 Corinthians 7,8).  Paul and Titus also traveled together to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:3) and Crete (1:5).  Paul left Titus in Crete to lead the new churches springing up on the island.  Titus is last mentioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:20; his last recorded letter.  Titus had leadership ability, so Paul gave him leadership responsibility, urging him to use his abilities well. 

I am a bit excited about venturing into this book.  I have never really studied an entire book like this aside from Ruth and Esther.  Whenever we do this type of study in church I tend to get lost because I don't always hear the preacher.. something I really struggle with in churches with my hearing impairment.  I am starting with these small books to get myself into the habit of Bible reading daily.  I tend to dig deep into a huge project and never actually accomplish it.  I am thrilled that with the Lord's help, I have made it this far. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Restore wandering believers

James 5: 19-20

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Clearly the person who has slipped away is a believer who has fallen into sin - one who is no longer living a life consistant with his beliefs.  Christians disagree over whether or nit ist is possible for people to lose their salvation, but all agree that those who move away from their faith are in serious trouble and need to repent.  James urges Christians to help backsliders return to God.  By taking the initiative, praying for the person, and acting in love, we can meet the person where he is and bring him back to God.

The book of James emphasizes faith in action.  Right living is evidence and result of faith.  The church must serve with compassion, speak lovingly and truthfully, live in obedience to God's commands, and love one another.  The body of believers ought to be an example of heaven on earth, drawing people to Christ through love for God and one another.  If we truly believe God's Word, we will live it day by day.  God's Word is not merely something we read or think about, but something we do.  Belief, faith and trust must have hands and feet - ours!

I think about all the times I have known where someone has left the church and it seems that no one will continue to take the time to talk to that person.  I have seen people avoid past church members like the plague.  It really saddens me because isn't that the time to reach out and see what is going on in the lives of those brothers and sisters in Christ?   I even watched it happen to my own child.. when he left the church he was suddenly ignored and treated like a stranger.  It only pushed him further away and now he wants nothing to do with christianity.   

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Faithful Prayer

James 5:13-18

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.  Is any merry?  let him sing psalms.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing  him with oil in the name of the Lord
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he haved committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

James refers to someone who is incapacitated physically.  In Scripture, oil was both a medicine and a symbol of the Spirit of God.  Thus oil can represent both the medical and the spiritual spheres of life.  Christians should not separate the physical and the spiritual- Jesus Christ is Lord over both the body and the spirit.

People in the church are not alone.  Members of Christ's body should be able to count on others for support and prayer, especially when they are sick or suffering.  The elders should be on call to respond to the illness of any member, and the church should stay alert to pray for the needs of all its members. 

"and the prayer of faith" does not refer to the faith of the sick person, but to the faith of the church.  God heals, faith doesn't, and all prayers are subject to God's will.  But our prayers are part of God's healing process.  That is why God often waits for our prayers of faith before intervening to heal a person.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

"Confess your faults" can be translated "Confess your sins." Christ has made it possible for us to go directly to God for forgiveness, but confessing our sins to one another still has an important place in the life of the church. 
1) If we have sinned against an individual, we must ask him or her to forgive us.
2) If our sin has affected the church, we must confess it publicly.
3) If we need loving support as we struggle with a sin, we should confess it to those who are able to provide that support.
4) If, after confessing a private sin to God, we still don't feel his forgiveness, we may wish to confess a sin to a fellow believer and hear him or her assure us of God's pardon.

In Christ's Kingdom, every believer is a priest to other believers (1 Peter 2:9).  We must help others come to Christ and tell them of Christ's forgiveness.

17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 

The Christian's most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer.  The results are often greater than we thought was possible.  Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails.  This is backwards.  Prayer should come first.  Since God's power is infinitely grater than our own, it only makes sense to rely on it- especially because he encourages us to do so. 

Prayer is an area that I struggle the most with.  I sometimes can have these conversations with God in my mind while I am doing things like the dishes.. but to actually sit and focus on talking to the Lord.. that is where I have trouble.  It isn't that I don't have faith.. I think it is more because I don't feel worthy.  Something I have struggled with for a very long time.  I want to feel comfortable talking to the Lord.  I want to feel his presence throughout the day and always be in communication with him.  This is something I will continue to work on. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Patience in Suffering

James 5: 7-12

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.  Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

The farmer (husbandman) must wait patiently for his crops to grow; he cannot hurry the process.  But he does not take the summer off and hope that all goes well in the fields.  There is much work to do to ensure a good harvest.  In the same way, we must wait patiently for Christ's return.  We cannot make Christ return any sooner, but while we wait there is much work we can do to advance God's Kingdom.  Both the farmer and the Christian must live by faith, looking toward the future reward for their labors.  Don't live as if Christ will never come.  Work faithfully to build his Kingdom, for the King will come when the time is ripe.

9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 

When things go wrong, we tend to blame others for our miseries.  Blaming others is easier then owning our share of the responsibility, but it is both destructive and sinful.  Before you judge others for their shortcomings, remember that Christ the Judge will come to evaluate each of us.  He will not let us get away with shifting the blame to others.

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure.  Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

A person with a reputation for exaggeration or lying often can't get anyone to believe him on his word alone.  Christians should never become like that.  Always be honest so that others will believe your simple yes or no.  By avoiding lies, half-truths, and omissions of the truth, you will become known as a trustworthy person.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Warning to the rich

James 5:1-6

1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4 Behold, the hire of the laboureres who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and hte cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in the day of the slaughter.
6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

The 'just' are the defenseless people, probably poor laborers.  The poor who could not pay their debts were thrown in prison or forced to sell all their possessions, and at times, even sell their family members into slavery,  With no opportunity to work off their debts, the poor people often died of starvation.  God called this murder.  Hoarding money, exploiting employees, and living self-indulgently will not escape God's notice.

James proclaims the worthlessness of riches, not the worthlessness of the rich.  Today's money will be worthless when Christ returns, so we should spend our time accumulating treasures that will be worthwhile in God's eternal Kingdom.  Money itself is not the problem; Christian leaders need money to live and support their families; missionaries need money to help them spread the Gospel; churches need money to do their work effectively.  it is the love of money that leads to evil (1 Timothy 6:`10).  This is a warning to all Christians who are tempted to adopt worldly standards rather than God's standards (Romans 12:1-2) and an encouragement to all those who are oppressed by the rich.  Also read Matthew 6:19-21 to see what Jesus says about the riches.  

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth currupt, and where theieves do not break through nor steal;

Laying up treasures in heaven is not limited to tithing but is accomplished by all acts of obedience to God.

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trust God in making future plans

James 4:13-17

13 - 16 It is good to have goals, but goals can disappoint us if we leave God out of them.  There is no point in making plans as though God does not exist, because the future is in his hands.  What would you like to be doing ten years from now?  One year from now?  Tomorrow?  How will you react if god steps in and rearranges your plans?  Plan ahead, but hold on to your plans loosely.  I f you put God's desires at the center of your planning, he will never disappoint you. 

14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away

Life is short no matter how long we live.  Don't be deceived into thinking you have lots of remaining time to live for Christ, to enjoy your loved ones, or to do what you know you should.  Live for God today!  Then no matter when your life ends, you will have fulfilled God's plan for you. 

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 

We tend to think that doing wrong is sin.  But James tells us that sin is also not doing right.  (These two kinds of sins are sometimes called sins of commission and sins of omission.)  It is a sin to lie; it can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it.  It is a sin to speak evil of someone; it is also a sin to avoid him when you know he needs your friendship.  We should be willing to help as the Holy Spirit guides us.  If God has directed you to some kind act to do, some service to render, or some relationship to restore, do it and you will experience a renewed and refreshed vitality to your Christian faith. 

Two verses that stick out to me today.  The first is one that I had memorized a long time ago (20 years or so) and I still tend to forget that our life is short.  How many times do I tell Anna.. maybe tomorrow.  Not now.. Maybe next week.  How do I manage all I need to do today and not push other things aside?  This is something that I need to pray on.  The last thing I want to do is constantly push special times with Anna, aside.  

 The second verse I had never thought about.  However, just a few days ago I was watching a momversation about lying to your children.. and she mentioned about how she just doesn't really lie about Santa or the Tooth fairy.. she just doesn't tell the truth either..  and I got to thinking.. is it just as wrong to withold the truth?  Apparently it is.. now I am not saying we need to go out there and tell the truth about Santa.. however, there are lots of times we withhold information from our loved ones.. I know I have.  (I just won't tell the whole story and he won't get upset).. or what about those deeds we feel the Lord is leading us to do.. I tend to try my best to ignore or not take notice.. Never did I really think that this would be categorized as sinning.. although it is disobedience.. I think it is just easier to ignore it.  hmm... 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Drawing Near to God

James 4:1-12

1 Quarrels ("wars and fightings") among believers are always harmful.  James tells us that these quarrels result fro evil desires within us.  We want more possessions, more money, higher status, more recognition.  When we want badly enough to fulfill these desires, we fight in order to do so.
2  We should ask God to help us get rid of our selfish desires and trust him to give us what we really need.
3. The most common problems in prayer; not asking, asking fro the wrong things, asking for the wrong reasons.  Do you ask God to only satisfy your desires?  Do you seek God's approval for what you already plan to do?  Your  prayers will become powerful when you allow God to change your desires so that they perfectly correspond to his will for you (1 John 3: 21-22)
4 There is nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life.  God gives us good gifts that he wants us to enjoy (1:17, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Timothy 4; 4,5).  However, friendship with the world is seeking pleasure at others' expense or at the expense of obeying God.  Pleasure that keeps us from pleasing god is sinful, pleasure in God's rich bounty is good. 
5-6 the cure for evil desires is humility.  Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude we deserve what we see, touch, or imagine.  It creates greedy appetites for far more than we need.  We can be released from our self-centered desires by humbling ourselves before God, realize we need nothing except his approval.  When his Holy Spirit fills us, we realize that this world's seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer.
7 Although God and Satan are at war, we don't need to wait until the end to see who will win.  God has already defeated Satan.  When Christ returns, Satan and all he stands for will be eliminated forever! (Colossians 2:13-15, Revelations 12: 10-12)  However, Satan is here now and trying to win us over to his evil cause.  With the Holy Spirit's power we can resist Satan and he will flee from us.
8 How can I draw close to God?  James gives us 5 suggestions
     1. Submit to God - realize you need his forgiveness and be willing to follow him.
     2. Resist the devil - don't allow him to entice and tempt you.
     3. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts
     4. Let there be tears, sorrow and sincere grief for your sins
     5. Humble yourself before God and he will lift you up.
10 Humbling ourselves means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone.  It is working with his power according to his guidance, not without own independent effort.  Although we do not deserve his favor, he reaches out to us in love and gives us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings. 
11-12 Jesus summarized the Law as love to God and neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-40) and Paul said love demonstrated toward a neighbor fully satisfies the Law (Romans 13:6-10). When we fail to love, we are actually breaking God's Law.  Examine your attitude and actions toward others.  Do you build people up or tear them down?  When you're ready to criticize someone, remember God's law of love and say something good about him or her instead.  Saying something beneficial to others will cure you of finding fault and increase your ability to obey God's Law of Love. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wisdom from Heaven

James 3:13-18

13 -18 Have you ever known anyone who claimed to be wise but acted foolishly?  True wisdom can be measured by the depth of one's character.  As you can identify a tree by the type of fruit it produces, you can evaluate your wisdom by the way you act.  Foolishness leads to disorder, but wisdom leads to peace and goodness. 

14-15  Bitter envy and selfish ambition are inspired by the devil.  It is so easy for us to be drawn into wrong desires by the pressures of society and sometimes even by well-meaning christians.  By listening to the advices . "Assert yourself,"  "Go for it," "Set high goals," we can be drawn into greed and destructive competitiveness.  Seeking God's wisdom delivers us from the need to compare ourselves to others and desiring what they have. 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Controlling the tongue

James 3:1-12

1 Teaching was a highly valued and respected profession in Jewish culture.  Many Jews who embraced Christianity wanted to become teachers (masters).  James warned that although it is good to aspire to teach, the teacher's responsibility is great. 

2,3 What you say and don't say are both important.  Proper speech is not only saying the right words at the right time.. but controlling your desire to say what you shouldn't.  Some examples are gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering and lying.  Ask yourself before you speak..

1. is it true?
2. is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?

6 James compares the damage the tongue can do to a raging fire- the tongue's wickedness has its source in hell itself.  The uncontrolled tongue can do terrible damage.  Satan uses the tongue to divide people and pit them against one another.  Idle words are damaging because they spread destruction quickly, and no one can stop the results once they are spoken.  We dare not be careless with our words thinking we can apologize later because scars still remain. 

If no human being can control hte tongue, why bother trying?  Even if we may not achieve perfect control of it in this life, we can still learn enough control to reduce the damage it can do.  It is better to fight a fire than to go around setting new ones!  Remember we are not fighting the tongue's fire in our own strength.  The Holy Spirit will give us increasing power to monitor and control what we say.  As Christians we are not sinless, but we should never stop growing.

*Wow!  When I think about it, I still bear the scars from words in my childhood.. Words that should have never been said..  these words came from people who loved me.. but yet they still linger in my mind... and it still affects me and my actions to this very day..

with that being said.. do I do the same to my children.  Normally I would say no.. I have never said those words.. but are there other words that I thought were not bad but still ended up having the same affect??  I am sure there are.  

Lord, please help me to control my tongue.  Help me to keep things that are not kind or necessary to myself.  Help me to keep growing in this area.  

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Faith results in good works

James 2: 14-26

v14 Agreement with a set of Christian teachings - is incomplete faith.  True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts.  If our lives remain unchanged, we don't truly believe the truths we claim to believe. 
17 By serving and obeying God, we cannot earn our way into heaven, but such 'works' show that our commitment to God is real.  Works of loving service are not a substitute for, but a verification of our faith in Christ. 
18 While it is true that our good works can never earn salvation, true faith always results in a changed life and good works.  True faith involves a commitment of your whole self to God.
21-24 Belief brings us salvation; active obedience demonstrates that our belief is genuine.
25 Rahab lived in Jericho, a city the Israelites conquered as they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 2).  When Israel's spies came to the city, she hid them and helped them escape.   In this way she demonstrated faith in God's purpose for Israel.  As a result, she and her family were saved with the city was destroyed.  Hebrews 11:31 lists Rahab among the heroes of faith. 

* I had never really thought about works being a result of faith.. Before salvation the message around me was all .. you must do good.. must do more good then bad.. then after Salvation it became, works does not save.. Salvation is only given as a gift.. I had never really thought about how the two were to be combined.. but when you think about it.. It kinda just falls into place.  You have a desire to do good.  I know for myself if I ignore that desire.. the Holy Spirit doesn't allow me to rest.  It just makes perfect sense.  


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do not favor the rich

James 2:1-13

In this chapter, James argues for the necessity of good works.  He presents three principles of faith:

1.) Commitment is an essential part of faith.  You cannot be a Christian simply by affirming the right doctrines or agreeing with biblical facts. (2:19) You must commit your heart and mind to Christ.
2.) Good works are the natural by-products of true faith.  A genuine Christian will have a changed life (2:18)
3.) Faith without good works doesn't do anybody any good.  It is useless (2:14-17).

commentaries verse by verse -
1. To have "respect of persons" means to show favoritism to some people over others.  We do this because we would rather identify with successful people than with apparent failures.  The irony, as James reminds us, is that the supposed winners may have gained their impressive lifestyle at our expense.  God views all people as equals, and if he favors anyone, it is the poor and the powerless.  We should follow his example.
2-4.  It is often assumed that the rich, are rich because they are blessed by God, when it could only mean the person had the good fortune of being born in a wealthy family.  God does not promise earthly rewards or riches.
5.  This does not mean the poor will automatically go to heaven.  Poor people however, are usually more aware of their powerlessness, and thus easier for them to acknowledge the need for salvation.  One of the greatest barriers for the rich is their pride.  For the poor it is bitterness. 
8-9.  We must treat all people as we would want to be treated.  We should not ignore the rich, because then we would be withholding our love.  But we must not favor them for what they can do for us while ignore the poor, because they can offer us little in return.
10. We must not use this verse to justify sinning.  We dare not say "Because I can't keep every demand of God, why even try."  James reminds us that if we've broke just one law, we are sinners.  We can't decide to keep only part of God's law and ignore the rest.  Ask for forgiveness where you need it, and then renew your effort to put your faith into practice.  Measure yourself, not someone else, against God's standards.
12. As Christians, we are saved by God's free gift through faith, not by keeping the law.  But as Christians we are also required to obey Christ.  God's grace does not cancel out our duty to obey him; it gives it a new basis.  It is no longer an external set of rules but a "law of liberty" - one we joyfully and willingly carry out because we love God and because we have the power of his Holy Spirit to carry it out. 
13.  Only God in his mercy can forgive our sins.  We can't earn forgiveness by forgiving others.  But when we withhold forgiveness from others after having received it ourselves, it shows we don't understand or appreciate God's mercy toward us.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Listening and doing

James 1: 19-27

19 - when we talk to much and don't really listen, we communicate that we think our ideas are better.. It is best to really listen to others when they talk.
19,20 - this anger erupts when our egos are bruised.. "My opinions are not being heard!" We should never become angry when we fail to win an argument or feel neglected.. it never helps.
21 - James advises us to get rid of all that is wrong in our lives.. the salvation message alone can save us.
22-25 It is important to know what God's Word says, but it is more important to obey it.
27 when we give with no hope of receiving in return, we show what it means to serve others.  True faith means nothing if we are contaminated with the world's values. (money, power and pleasures)

The verse that really stands out the most to me is verse 19

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:  

This is easy for me to put into practice with others outside the family.. however, I struggle with this in my home.. especially with my children.  This is something that I feel is so important yet it is so hard to remember.  Something I must ask the Lord's help with more often.  I think I should make this my theme verse for now. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Enduring trials and temptations

James 1:18

1. This book was written by James (Jesus' brother) to encourage believers in their faith during the difficult times of persecution.
2. James mentions when we face temptations, not if.
3. We benefit from trials and temptations.. We learn patience.
4.  Ask God for the strength to get through these times, then be patient.. God is helping us to be mature and complete (perfect)
5.  Ask God for wisdom if you need it
6.  Asking in faith is asking with confidence that God will align our desires with His purpose.  God does not grant every thoughtless or selfish request.  A wavering mind is not completely convinced that God's way is best.. you must commit yourself wholeheartedly.
7-8.  an unstable mind is like the restless wave.. rely on God to show what is best for you.
9.  A brother of low degree would be a person of humble circumstances.. without status or wealth.  They are often overlooked.. even in churches.  Strive to treat them as Christ would treat them.
10 - 11 Wealth, status and power means nothing to God.. they can disappear easily.  What you have in your heart, not in your bank account matters to God  and endures for eternity.
12-13 God tests people, He does not tempt them, He does allow Satan to tempt.  This refines our faith and helps us grow in our dependence to God.  Resist temptations by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His Word.
14-15 Temptations begin with an evil thought that becomes sin when we dwell on it and allow it to become and action.  Sin grows more destruction the more we let it have it's way.. the best way to stop temptation is before it is too great or moving too fast to control.

I will continue verse 19 - 27 tomorrow.  Not a bad start.  I am using the Life Application Bible.. I love the commentaries in this.

My Bible Study Journal

I have decided that I really need to start studying my Bible.  I have been failing miserably at this and just need to start over now!  I have done a bit of googling and came across some good tips.

  1. Decide On A Time.  My goal will be around 6:30am.  I plan to start riding my bike and listening to praise at 6am.. then having my morning tea with Bible study. 
  2. Decide On a Place. That will be Living Room table, which means it needs to be cleared off in the evenings before bed!  
  3. Decide On a Time Frame.  I will start with 15 min and move from there.  
  4. Decide on a General Structure.  I would like to read at least one chapter.. then read each verse again and really thinking on the meaning.  
  5. Choose a Bible Reading Plan or Bible Study.  Right now my plan will be to start in the book of James and allow the Lord's leading when the time comes for the next book to choose.  
  6. Plan to Spend Some Time in Prayer.  This will be a tough one.. But I will pray before each reading starts.  
  7. Consider Spending Some Time in Worship.  This will start when I bike in the mornings.. I will only listen to praise during this time.  
  8. Consider Spending Some Time in Writing in a Journal.  I am hoping to use this blog for my Bible Journaling
  9. Commit to Follow Your Daily Devotional Plan - This will be the hardest part.. but I need to remember if I fail to get back up and keep going.  
  10. Be Flexible and Willing to Make Changes to Your Plan.  This should be the best time for me, however, I know that weekends will be tougher and will probably need to work on an adjustment there. 
  1. Keep working at your daily devotional plan for 21 days. By then it should become a habit.
  2. Pray for God to give you the desire and the discipline to spend time with him each day.
  3. Don’t give up. Eventually you will discover the joys and blessings of your obedience.
  4. If you are married, consider developing a couple's devotional plan.
What You Need:
  • A Bible
  • A Pen or Pencil
  • A Notebook or Journal
  • A Bible Reading Plan
  • A Bible Study or Study Aid
  • A Quiet Place