MonthJuly 2017

The Tongue’s Fire

Fire burns. Campfire, controlled fire, or uncontrolled fire, the fact is that fire burns in every situation. Fire burns houses to the ground, levels beautiful green forests, and crashes airplanes with passengers onboard. A campfire could give warmth to explorers in cold, freezing areas or toast marshmallows for hungry campers. Fire can be destructive or constructive, depending on how it is used.

James 3:6-10: And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

The Bible directly calls the tongue a fire. Since the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, this metaphor is  true and thus one can proceed without any doubts. The tongue is a fire, and is an unruly evil. Many times the author has, in his sinfulness, burned the house down with his tongue. One may think this is exaggeration. People don’t always realize the seriousness of the wounds caused by the tongue; when a person is burned by real fire however, they are very concerned. If one would take into consideration the fact that some words can hurt more than fire, the so called exaggeration the author made by saying he “burned the house down with his tongue” becomes more realistic of an outcome. The author disrespected his parents to the point where neither the child or the parent cared to talk to the other for quite some time. That is, until the wounds started to heal just a little.

Not only can the tongue be used for evil, but James reminds his readers that the tongue is also used to praise God in song at church; the same tongue we used to disrespect our parents in the car twenty minutes earlier or belittle a sibling in that same time period. How is it, that we can praise God with a smile on our face, after we disrespect our parents in anger? How dare we think that God is willing to hear our praises to Him, when we have sin in our lives! Quite well James writes in verse ten: “My brethren, these things ought not so to be!

To conclude, consider your words the next time you speak. Think before you speak; how would Jesus respond in your situation? Would He lash out at his parents in anger? Would He berate his younger brothers or sisters? Would He watch his words in everything He said? Would you?

 

 

 

Respect of Persons

Different jobs have different levels of disgust to them. That kind of job may to some people be beneath the line of work that they would think they deserve to do. With this mindset, one slowly gains a false sense of self-importance that they carry with them throughout their teenage and even their adult years if unchanged. Not only does this logic towards jobs create this mindset towards the job, but it creates the mindset towards other people who have the job. This respect of persons is ungodly, and James discusses it in today’s passage in James 2:1-3, 8-.

James opens this section of the book with a command.

James 2:1 – My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

In other words, don’t try to live life as a Christian if you have respect of persons. While committing respect of persons does not make one lose their salvation, James essentially states you cannot be walking the Christian life correctly and committing respect of persons. Choose one or the other; by trying to do both, one essentially becomes unprofitable and useless for God.

James 2:2-3 – For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

The point the author would like to make is not about what the ambiguous person who made the decision to favor the rich man over the poor man. Instead, believers should question their own hearts on what they would do if and when they get into this situation. One may wonder the best way to treat the situation. To esteem the rich man better than the poor is wrong, and to esteem the poor man above the rich man is also wrong. There is middle ground, and that would be to treat them both the same, as James makes the case for in verse 8.

James 1:8 – If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Both men count as a “neighbor”, and the commandment of “treating neighbors as thyself” is restated. One can only treat himself one way, therefore, that same person must treat everyone one way. There cannot be preference regarding respect of persons, and James calls it a sin in the next verse.

James 1:9 – But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

In closing, respect of persons must not be in any Christian whose goal is to be godly. Treating everyone alike will earn the approval of God; His divine approval should be what every Christian looks for on a minute by minute basis. Remember as well, Jesus could call the Christians up to Heaven at any time, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone. If one has committed respect of persons, it would be a good idea for them to ask forgiveness for it, and repent of it, so they can get back on track for God.

 

Principles Are Not Preferences

Principles are not preferences

In Wednesday’s post, I discussed the fact that God’s Words are Timeless. The purpose of that article was to emphasize the need for believers to recognize that the Bible is relevant today for how we live our lives before God, thousands of years after its inspiration.

We started to discuss how the Bible has more than direct commands such as “Thou shalt not steal”, and “Honor thy father and the mother”. For God’s words to be timeless, He had to provide principles in the Scriptures that would dictate how we should live and how we would bring glory to Him who created us.

For many centuries, principles from Scripture took different forms. In this short essay, we will not have time to discuss the past, but only a small glimpse into the present.

Let’s start by discussing definitions of these two words, principles and preferences.

Here’s a helpful definition for principle: “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

As you can see, it is called a fundamental truth. So why is a principle described as fundamental?

We cannot live our lives within acknowledging principles. If we ignore them, we often do it at our own peril, (and perhaps the peril of others.)

For example, if you jump off a mountain top cliff into the air, the law of (also a principle) gravity will insure that you will fall some distance down the side of the mountain.

However, when we take this into consideration for how we ought to live our lives, to be holy, like God is Holy, we often rationalize about our ability to determine “true” principles that should govern our lives, as foundational to our beliefs.

We suggest that following such principles are optional, open to liberty, a matter of grace, or some other such notion. Or, we simply change the discussion to refer to these principles now as preferences.

Here, then is a helpful definition of a preference:  “a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.”

I find that this definition gives us great insight into why people choose certain principles to be preferences.

If we make principles from the Scriptures into preferences, we have changed the dynamic of a propositional truth (principle) into a subjective object that we like more than another choice (preference).

To take this one step further, if a believer chooses to uphold and live by the principle, others who now maintain that the principle is actually a preference, might consider you a legalist because of your standing by the principle.

Said another way, if a believer decides to hold a propositional truth, others may say that you simply like that choice better than another.

Here is ultimately where the rubber meets the road. In the postmodern age in which we live, it is a well known fact that civilized cultures see truth as unknowable beyond a reasonable doubt. Because truth is so “unattainable”, a society or a group within society must agree on how they ought to live.

The deep challenge with such thinking (and really there are a plurality of challenges) is that mankind and the culture are now the driver of “accepted truth”, rather than the Scriptures.

In Christian circles, our “internal culture” of leaders have done the same thing as the world. We have labeled truths (which indeed are principles) as essential or non-essential.

So, is any truth really non-essential? Let’s put this another way. If principles are propositional truths which are foundational to our beliefs, are any really non-essential? I humbly say, No.

Unfortunately, we have taken Scriptural principles, God’s timeless words from His revelation to us, and made them into preferences. Following the truths of God has been replaced with “What do I prefer?” based mostly on our own desires and fancy, not God’s Word.

I understand that the world rejects the notion of the “certainty” of principles.

But we are believers. We are certain. By our very nature, true believers of Christ are outspokenly counter cultural in that we are certain of our beliefs.

Or are we?

You be the judge.

Or is there another who is better fit to show us the way?

God’s principles are not preferences, and calling them such just blinds us from His revelation and will for our lives.

Are God’s Words Timeless?

(I am filling in this week for my son, as he is off at Camp Barnabas at Ambassador Baptist College; I will be posting Wednesday and Saturday and his careful and insightful posts will return next week)

Are God’s Words Timeless?

In considering what to post today, I gave some thought to some of the challenges we face in knowing how the words of God are to be understood today in 2017.

Many would agree that there are clear and obvious statements to define who we are, what we are to believe about God, and about ourselves.

“Thou shalt not steal”, is easy enough for most anyone. (apart from our human weakness and tendency to rationalize almost any behavior and justify ourselves.)

It gets a little more difficult when we look at words from God that do not declare or pronounce exactly what we should do or think.

But if God’s words to us are indeed timeless, we need to carefully examine the Scriptures for all the principles by which we should steward our lives for Him.

These principles are often debated; mostly things around dress, entertainment, and activities always come to the forefront of discussions and often make for heated conversations. Words like liberty, license, and legalist seem to always create a dense fog over the truths being honestly sought by many.

One disturbing trend I have heard numerous times from even learned men of God, is the following straw man: “God didn’t say I couldn’t do [fill in the blank]”

Some of you might ask why is this a straw man… Why is it a false argument?

First, I can proclaim easily that the opposite argument can always be made in cases such as these.

For example, what if I was crazy enough to say “ipads are sinful and no good believer should use one.” (all analogies brake down but bear with me for a few moments)

Your response could be: “Well, God didn’t say I couldn’t use an ipad”

In return, I could reply with: “Ok, but God didn’t say you COULD use an ipad either!”

Second, it is a false argument that often is used to simply support a humanistic line of reasoning to justify behavior that does not bring glory to God.

Whether it’s music listened to, clothes worn (or not worn), or even activities people participate in, this argument has become fashionably acceptable to some in justifying behavior which in previous generations would have been considered inappropriate based on principles found in Scriptures.

Finally, it is a false argument because it ultimately puts the choice of the legitimacy of behaviors on the mind of man, of you and of me, rather than God above all else.

You have (maybe unintentionally) now made yourself Judge of right and wrong. You have abolished the ability of the Scriptures to address the concepts of music, dress, entertainment, etc. By using this argument, you have denied the timelessness of the Word of God and its ability to meet the needs of believers for all generations.

I know determining these principles from Scriptures is work. I am a father raising two boys in a world that has always been at odds with our Creator.

That said, I want to encourage you to study the Scriptures, and know this. Since God desires to reveal Himself to us, and He does so thru His Word, we must seek to know the His truth in His Scriptures. When we use such a false argument as mentioned earlier above, we inadvertently make ourselves the arbiters of right and wrong.

God’s words will last forever. His truths are timeless. The Word of God was written so all men throughout all of time could be reconciled to their Creator.  Don’t take the easy way out. Surrender your liberty and license to Christ. Abhor your legalism for the truths found in His Word.

Let me close with these words from God as written by Paul. . .

Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

Kenneth M. Lengel

Hearers and Doers

There are two types of Christians in the world today. One group hears preaching at church, reads the Bible, and goes their way thinking nothing more of it. The other group lives the principles from the preaching they heard at church, bases their life standards off of the Bible, and goes their way with the purpose of serving God. James addresses this distinction starting in James 1:22.

James 1:22 – But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

The obvious command is to be a doer of the word, but do not miss another part of this verse. Take the phrase “and not hearers only.” Not only are Christians told to follow the principles in the Bible, a subtle command is to listen to the Word preached and taught. What the author thinks some people may miss is the fact that Christians are to listen to those who have studied the Bible longer. There are limits, for example, the author would not go to a Catholic priest for Biblical advice, simply because the Catholic viewpoints are not what the author believes. But just because a Baptist preacher is sixty, seventy, years old does not mean they don’t understand the Bible for the current generation.

There is another phrase in verse 22 to look at: “deceiving your own selves.” A Christian may think they are a great Christian because of their accomplishments. However, just because one goes to church every time the doors are open does not take away from the fact that God has principles He wants followed. The author could go to church all the time but if he is rebellious to his parents, God will still hold the author accountable for not being a doer of the word but a hearer only. One must be very careful to not deceive himself or herself into thinking they are a good Christian based on works. Rather, one should look to please God in all aspects of life, and not be concerned with what people think of their works.

James 1:25 – But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Verse 25 gives Christians a benefit to being a hearer and a doer, as the verse says “this man shall be blessed in his deed.” The blessings of God will always outrank the praise or acceptance of man. This statement may seem hard to live by on earth, as the majority of the worldly culture pushes for fame and glory. There should be a clear difference between the Christian and the non-believer’s goals. For example, for people who don’t believe in God, they do not believe in life after death. So in their mindset, no matter what they do during their life span on earth, it won’t affect them. Christians on the other hand do believe in life after death, and should life their life accordingly. Remember the praise of men is temporary, while the praise and blessing (or lack thereof!) of God are eternal. Christians should be both hearers and doers of the word for a true godly Christian life.

Analysis of James 1:19

Some verses in the Bible have so many principles or practical messages in them that they require their own blog post to be discussed in any depth. This is not to say that one verse is more important than another, but there are some differences in certain cases. Such is the case with this verse, James 1:19. James starts a new section of his letter with the verse and makes a powerful statement filled with three principles to live by: swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

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

The first point that James makes in this familiar verse 19 is that every person needs to be swift to hear. In the author’s personal life, a decent number of problems result from a lack of listening to the other person. However, it is not enough to just listen to what a person said; one has to be able to comprehend the meaning conveyed. For a very simple example, if a friend tells the author the sky is blue, the author must be able to understand basic grammar, as well as colors and what the sky is. As this is one of the simpler examples, it comes to people much faster than some other examples that could have been used, but the principle involved is valuable and needed for everyday conversations.

The second point James discusses in this verse is to be slow to speak. The author openly will admit that he has a firsthand problem with this one, and can speak from a decent amount of experience. As the radio host Rush Limbaugh has said before, words mean things. While the statement was made in reference to political issues, the author would like to draw lines to connect the quote with spiritual matters. It is possible that my words are trusted by some of the readers of the blog. If the author conveys any wrong Scriptural meaning in his posts, the readers may have been inadvertently tricked into believing something that is not true. The author then is responsible for that person’s believing the wrong things, and will also be in trouble when tried by almighty God for his life’s actions.

To give another example of “Words mean things”, let’s say the author says something very hurtful with his tongue to a person named Johnny. The author realizes his sin and asks for forgiveness. Johnny can easily forgive the author for the hurtful words, but the pain Johnny has from the words does not go away as soon as the author is forgiven. Words mean things, so James encourages the believers to watch what they say when talking.

James makes a third point in this verse, and that is to be slow to wrath. Wrath is the cause of grudges and other more hateful acts, and needs to be kept in check. Besides that, the testimony of a Christian is not to reflect anger and bitterness, but cheerfulness and kindness. However, there are times where wrath is justified, as the best example for the Christian life, Jesus Christ, showed readers of the Bible when He cleansed the temple of God. The only place for wrath is when it comes to sin. One must be very careful to not be angry with the sinner, just the sin. Wrath towards sinners does not push the cause of Christ, as is seen in verse 20, which complements verse 19.

James 1:20 – For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

To conclude, James opens this section of his letter with three strong principles that apply to every Christian’s life. One should take care to listen and comprehend the meaning of words, as well as know how to speak words that edify and not destroy. Wrath should be nonexistent when relating to God or other sinners, but righteous anger towards sin should be apart of every Christian’s life. These principles can and should be applied every day, if one wishes to live a life honoring God.

 

 

 

 

The Source of Temptations

Does God tempt Christians to sin? Is there any reason to believe that this is factual? In any case, whether God tempts Christians with sin or not, what right does man have to make such an accusation of almighty God? Can man, even if correct in his assumption, punish God for tempting him? No, of course not, God has ultimate authority to do whatever He wishes, as He doesn’t answer to any man or any other creature. As if this fact wasn’t enough, the Holy Spirit directed James to write this passage in James 1:13-18, reaffirming the innocence of God in temptations.

James starts out very blunt, giving a stern command and then explaining it afterwards. He wants his readers to understand the “why” behind the command. Take a look at the first three verses of this passage.

James 1:13 – Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Very plainly stated in verse 13, do not accuse God of giving temptations. James is not denying the all-powerful nature of God in this verse; he says that God does not tempt man instead of God cannot tempt man.

To take a practical look at this, here is a silly example. The author is walking down the path of life, right beside God. The quiet path that the author and God are walking on leads to a big city. God guides the author inside the bank and to the back with the safe, surprisingly without any problems from the guards. God opens the safe and says He will come back to the room in a minute, leaving the author alone with the cash. To get to the point, would God tempt the author to break one of His own rules? It doesn’t make sense. God won’t tempt a person to contradict His divine rules.

James then takes a look at where temptations do come from, and where he places blame for temptation is very important.

James 1:14 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Notice that the blame is not placed on God, and it is not placed on man. The blame for temptation is placed on the lusts of man. What is the big deal here? If the blame was on man himself, sin would not be able to be overcome without a genetic change. The Christian has power to resist temptation, in other words the lusts of man. With control over sin, Christians can resist temptation and have a victorious Christian life. Satan does not have to lead the Christian astray from the straight and narrow path for the Christian to sin, Satan just has to control what’s on the side of the path. Lusts will take Christians out of the ministry if not resisted, as the next verse states.

James 1:15 – Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

To conclude, Christians should not blame God for temptations; they should instead focus on controlling their own lusts, limiting them wherever possible. “To err is human” may be a familiar saying but to the Christian, “To err is sin” would be a better phrase to live by. James shows that God’s purpose for men is to live godly lives, as he concludes in the final verse of the passage.

James 1:18 – Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Dealing with Temptations

The writer is sure, in writing this post, that every reader has been faced with some kind of temptation, big or small. The author also notes the struggle one faces from temptations, as he himself has succumbed to temptation many times before. Therefore it is important that one knows to treat temptation knowing God’s will, purpose and help for the temptation. A godly mindset towards temptation will not make it disappear completely, but will make it easier to bear. The passage that will be used for this post is James 1:2-5, and is the first post in the series on the book of James.

How is one to treat a temptation according to God’s will? Should the reader run to a corner and cry? Or complain to the world a on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Maybe someone has done these things, and if tried for long enough, realized it only adds more problems to the temptation. Take a look at what the Bible says:

James 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

One can see that God’s will for treating a temptation is by counting it as one of the happy moments of your life. If you do anything with social media, praise the Lord that you have a temptation and that you have the strength to bear it! This is a wonderful example of the love and mercy that God shows to man, and the unsaved people of the world are looking for this level of enthusiasm from Christians.

James does not stop with how to treat the temptation, he deals with God’s purpose through the temptation. As will be discussed later in the chapter in more depth, temptations are not from God, but the principle that Joseph applied to his situation still applies: God has all things working for good! The benefit to temptation is seen in the following verse.

James 1:3-4

What does a Christian get from temptation? Patience? That is an unusual reward, but one that is well needed in the culture today. Maybe the reader thinks they possess patience, and doesn’t need temptations any more. The author would question the person’s ability to bear everything Jesus bore through his persecution, without a word of complaint. That took a great deal of patience, and is the ultimate example to look up to.

In conclusion, James discusses getting God’s help for the temptation in order to deal with it. As with anything one may face in life, God is the only answer to problems faced, and as many ways as people would like to go around God, it never pays off. Focusing on God’s commands leads a person to a happier and easier life and will ultimately pay dividends in temptations.

Final Notes from 1 Peter

The series on 1 Peter which the author has written on is by no means a full study of the book, as parts were left out for various reasons. This post concludes the series, and will serve as a reminder of what one would have learned in the previous five posts.

First, one saw in the first post of the series the principle of serving God over self. Peter showed his readers the rewards for serving God, as well as the debt the Christian owes to One who died a bitter death on the cross 2000 some years ago. Peter opens up the issue of religious persecution to be discussed in chapters 3 and 4 as well.

Second, Peter starts a talk on submission in government and business. He gives the command that one is to be submissive to authority except where it crosses biblical lines. This is especially important in the US, with political tensions reaching the height they have today. One must learn and remember that God puts all leaders in place for His own reasons, and Christians need to respect their leaders.

Third, the issue of religious persecution is brought up again, this time giving an interesting command that may have caught the original readers by surprise. When trials and persecutions come to Christians for obeying the commands of God in the Bible, don’t get afraid or be troubled, be happy. One should understand that by suffering for doing right that they are glorifying God, which is the Christian’s main objective.

To close, be happy with religious persecution, submit to authority where biblical lines are not crossed, and serve God always. When one follows these commands, God is pleased and glorified, which, as was said earlier, is the Christian’s main objective. The author hopes this series was encouraging and helpful to the reader’s walk with God.

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