Sunday, December 19, 2010

He Will Carry You...

I thank the Lord for deciding to grant me another year of life upon this earth. Another year to serve, learn, grow and love. At the same time another year full of hard times, trials, doubts, fears and uncertainties. Yet as life goes on I know my Master in a more intimate way. I feel much more connected to His heart, I value more and more what is important to Him and less what is important to me. I don't know what your life is like but we all go through times when life seems dark, when it seems that there is no way out. You feel trapped, scared and helpless. I want to show you a promise from God in the book of Deuteronomy 1:29-31.

Let's go back a little. Israel escapes from Egypt, they are on their way out but their is just one thing. They are backed up against the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, their is no way out. Put yourself in their place, what would you do? Freak out, run around, maybe try to swim and make it to the other side or just surrender? Just at the right moment God parts the sea in two and gives you a way out. Wow! How many times have we heard this story and never really realized how heightened the emotions must have been that day. After this God led them through the wilderness, gave them the law in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. The people entered into a special covenant relationship with God and received a new way of life. They went from being slaves to being the sons of the King of the universe. They were even promised to receive a special new land which flowed with milk and honey. After God came to meet Moses on Mt. Sinai, Israel headed out to take over the new promised land. To make the story short, they disobeyed and the penalty was death to all but two men. They would had to wander in the desert for 40 years until every last one of them died! We come to the point where they are all gone and a new generation rises up and is ready to enter the promised land. After they had crossed the Jordan and defeated two kings Moses decided to give the law again in a sermon type of way. That's the book of Deuteronomy the constitution of Israel as a nation. Israel had seen God carry them through the wilderness with many miracles and wonders.

The verses I want to focus on are 29-31. God is calling His people to do a hard task, take out the nations before them. Some are giants, most are bigger than them and all in all it's a scary situation for them. What does God say? He tells them, " Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place." I cried as I read this passage yesterday, God carries us as a father carries his son. Do you realize how much God loves you? You might be going through some really hard times with the economy, with your family, who knows. But I want to let you know, if you have given your life to the Lord Jesus, if you have repented from your sins and truly believed in Him, God carries you as a father carries his son. What's your Red Sea, what impossible situation are you facing? Know that God is right there, He might not speak to you in an audible voice, He might not even let you feel His presence but know that He's there and after all is done you will be able to say, "The Lord carried me through it all just as a father carries his son."

Why does God do this? I think for a couple reasons. First, so that we know Him in a more intimate way (by the way what are we without a living relationship with Him). Second, to make us depend on Him and not on ourselves. Last and most important, to grow our faith. When the moment comes that God asks us to do something difficult we will need to have a deeper faith to be able to trust Him. And when we've went through the storm with Him we will know that He is faithful and that we can trust Him with our lives. I challenge you to fully give yourself over to Him and trust Him. You will then discover that God truly loves and cares about you especially when you are going though life's impossible moments.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Longer I...

Over the span of a year and two months I've been in Peru. To be honest I haven't enjoyed hardly any of it. Most of the time it's a chore and I can't count the number of times that I've wanted to return home. I can truly say that it's only by God's grace that I'm still here but surprisingly I can say that I'm glad that I haven't went back. I write to tell you that I now am understanding what Paul meant when he wrote Galatians 2:20 that says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This verse has nothing to do with salvation from our sins but in fact a painful process that results in a beautiful thing. The Lord Jesus said that Paul would suffer much for the name of Christ, this is certain. He was flogged, beaten, ship wrecked and even stoned. He passed many nights without food, sleep or adequate clothing. Paul is a man who knew what it meant to suffer for the name of Christ and out of those sufferings and difficult times God imparted wisdom to him and something even more important, a personal and intimate relationship with his Savior, Jesus Christ.

So we come to this passage and the apostle Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Paul had learned the biggest struggle of every Christian, surrender. He had been beaten and bruised so many times that He learned to submit to the will of God. He could finally say I no longer live, Christ lives in me! This is to say that his will had been submitted to the will of Jesus and he could now say, not what I desire but what You desire, and in this way Paul died to himself and to his own desires. But what did he have to do to get to this point? Be put through God's school of hard knocks and learn little by little to die to self and submit to exactly what his Lord Jesus wanted of him and the result was amazing. Paul did miracles, healed, taught of Christ and led many into a personal relationship with Jesus.

You see, the truth is that we are all called to this level of surrender and commitment to our Lord. Our biggest struggle as people is giving up what we think to be ours. Our stuff, our cars, our house and most of all, our free will. We don't trust God! This is our great problem. We have one life to choose who we will serve and we only have two options, ourselves or our Lord and Commander Jesus Christ. The Bible says in Matthew 16:24-27, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'" Christ is our Commander and we are called to get in line, shut up and obey His orders. To finish I want to ask, Who do you serve?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leviticus 5:14- 6:7 (Guilt Offering)

We made it to the last sacrifice. This last one also has to do with sin but it's a little different. Have you ever heard someone say that all sin is the same? I've heard it many times and asked them to back up that argument biblically but they couldn't. We're going to see here that God does not view all sin as the same. The Guilt Offering, also known as the Awsham in Hebrew, is a sacrifice that deals with holy things or things that are set apart. As we continue with the subject of holiness we're going to see that God holds a high value on the things that He calls holy. Let's jump in and take a look at what God has to say about the things that He set apart for holy use.

First off, did you know that some sins have a higher price than others. In the sin offering the common people could offer four things: a female goat, female lamb, pigeon or a turtledove. In Leviticus 5:14-16 we see that the Guilt Offering required a ram, no exceptions, not even for the poor. The ram in the Jewish culture was a symbol of prosperity because it held the seed and had the power to reproduce. When we violate the holy things of God we lose part of our future or prosperity. How so? The Guilt Offering was used in the case of sexual sin as well (Leviticus 19:20-22). Did you know that your sexuality is a holy thing set apart by God for your husband or wife. When we choose to live outside of the boundaries that God has set for us we are out of His protection and can/will lose a part of our future (Leviticus 18 gives guidelines on what God expects as far as sex goes). If you choose to sleep around and you have a child or obtain a sexual disease, those are things that cannot be taken away and will most definitely affect your future. How are you treating your sexuality?

Next in verses 17-19 God says that even if the person sinned while being unaware it is still sin. Our level of understanding doesn't make sin something else, it's still sin. I man who once asked me, "Well, don't you think that if you don't know it's sin that for you it's not sin?", I didn't know how to respond because I didn't have as good of a grasp on the Bible but later I found out that it's not true. Even if you don't know, it's still sin. Our responsibility is to know the Bible and find out what God expects from us.

Another case of use for the Guilt Offering is in the personal relationships of Israel (Lev 6:2-3). The examples here are the following: deceit (in regard to a deposit or security entrusted to him), robbery, extortion, and finding something that was lost and then lying about it. When we use our relationships with others in order to gain we are taking something that is set apart and using it for an unholy purpose. Not only did the person have to offer the Guilt Offering but also had to pay back 120%. There's too many people who believe that after wronging someone all that is due is a simple I'm sorry. Let's use the break it buy it principle here. If we harm someone or cause some damage it's our responsibility to go above and beyond and make the situation right. This is not only meant to look out for the other party but also meant to fix the relationship as well. God is all about relationships. In the law it's easy to think that God was so demanding and cruel but it's really the contrary. If we look at the context of Israel just coming out of slavery we have to understand something. They had no idea how to live in peace with each other. God gave them the the civil code (Exodus 20-23; Numbers 5-6, 15, 28-30) while they were in the desert so that they would know how to relate with their God and also how to have right relationships with their neighbors. God is all about relationships and desires us to live in peace and love with other believers.

Lastly in 6:6-7 we see an even deeper issue. The sin that lies in our hearts. The very thing that separates us from God. How do we deal with that? Simple, by faith in Jesus Christ and turning around 180 degrees saying, "I don't want to go that way anymore, I don't want to sin against you anymore Lord Jesus". The good news is that God can and will clear the guilt in between us and Him and will make our relationship right. I thank God for His Son whom He offered on the cross. Jesus is our one-size fits all sacrifice. Through Him and only through Him can we approach God. The book of Leviticus is the heart of God and these five sacrifices show us some practical principles on how to approach a holy God as an unholy people. God has never changed His system, salvation has always been by grace through faith. These sacrifices are the grace of God. The fact that He showed them how to approach Him is grace or unmerited favor; and the faith of the Israelites in the sacrifice is what cleaned them of sin.

To finish up let's take a look at Romans 7:23-25, "...but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Wow! That's all I can say, Christ set us free from sin. Sin is anything that separates us from God and we had no way to approach God because of our sin. God set us free, let us not be conformed to our old ways but let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds through the Word of God. If you desire more of God, if you are sick of being defeated by sin, know that there is victory in Christ. He desires us to have a holy life. Amen!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leviticus 4:1- 5:13 (Sin Offering)

The Sin Offering. As we go tearing down misconceptions of Leviticus and the five sacrifices that we find here we're just now entering into what are called the expiatory sacrifices or, sacrifices that deal with sin. The Sin Offering found in Leviticus 4:1- 5:13 is called Chata'ah in the Hebrew. The word comes from an archery term that technically means to miss the mark. That's what we're dealing with today, missing the mark. How many times do you feel as a Christian that you miss the mark? No matter how much we desire to be holy and pure we as humans make mistakes, it's a fact. Thanks be to our God who offered His Son as a one-size fits all sacrifice. Just by faith in His blood we have forgiveness of our sins, by His precious blood we are reconciled and made right with God. Thank You Lord!

This section of Scripture deals with unintentional sin. If we look at the contrary (intentional sin) we can get a better idea as to what unintentional sin really is. In the Hebrew the word intentional is defined as "done with a high hand", in other words it's sin done with a set purpose against God. Unintentional could be defined as passive sin. In this category sins such as the following would most likely be included: sins of ignorance, sins of omission, sins committed without conscious intent and intentional non-defiant sins (some example are in Numbers 15:22-31). I don't know about you but I've got some things like these in my life that need taken care of. Let's take a deeper look at the Sin Offering and pull out a couple principles along the way.

This passage is interesting because it's divided into four parts: The priests (vv3-12), the community(vv13-21), the leadership (vv22-26), and the common people (vv27-35). The first thing that sticks out to me is this division which appears to go from highest importance to lowest. In other words for each category God required a certain animal or animals, for the sin of the priest a bull was necessary and would have been of higher value than a female goat which would have been offered for a common person. The first thing we must know in our approach to understanding sin and it's effects is that the higher up you are and the more influence you have over the lives of others, the higher the price of sin for you. How is that to be applied today? If a Pastor sins and goes astray, how many more people will be affected than if a member of the congregation falls away and leaves the church? As leaders and representatives of God we need to realize that our sin has a high price, not only will it affect us but many others who follow us. In North America we really enjoy the idea of our "freedom". We don't want anybody to tell us what we can or can't do because we have our "rights", well let me tell you, you have fun living in your sin while you are young because people who you will love, people who you can't see yet, people who don't exist will feel the effects of your disobedience toward God. Many people tell me, it's just one smoke or one party, who's it going to hurt? The answer just might be the one's that you will grow to love the most. Our sin will always have consequences.

Next, in verses 4, 15, 24, 29 and 33 we see another interesting principle. The person who offered the sacrifice had to lay their hands on the animal and then it was acceptable for sacrifice. In the Jewish culture this laying on of hands was a symbol of taking responsibility for the sacrifice. The person was acknowledging that the animal was pure, without defect, and ready for sacrifice. We also see this in the New Testament when a leader was to be entered into the ministry. The apostles or leaders would lay hands on the man and acknowledge that he was a pure man ready to be used by the Lord in the ministry. Now that we know this, what does this actually say to us? Have you ever heard this? "The Devil made me do it!!!" I have and it's very much related with this principle. We must take responsibility for our sins and the consequences thereof. How many people run around wondering why their lives are falling apart. They don't even stop to acknowledge that it might have something to do with their licentious lifestyle that causes all to fall down. When we find ourselves far from God the first thing we need to do is recognize that we are the ones at fault. We must know that it's not God who separates us from Him but our very sin which acts as a vehicle which carries us far from our One, True Love.

The last principle that I would like to point out lies in Leviticus 5:7-13. If we go back to Leviticus 4:27-35 we see that the sacrifice was either to be a female goat (vv27-31) or a female lamb (vv32-35). In Leviticus 5:7-13 we see an exception. The Israelite if poor could offer a pigeon or turtledove. This wasn't so that the man who had lambs and goats could save money, this was for the poor, those who couldn't afford a goat or a lamb. How gracious of a God we have, One who understands our weaknesses and inabilities. God provided a way so that all could have a right relationship with Him. Although He is so big, He is so humble and loving, because of that He sent His Son Jesus to the earth to die for you and me. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, took our sins upon His very shoulders, and died on the cross in our place. The punishment that we deserved was taken on by Him. What does he ask of us? That we truly believe in Him, that we repent of our sin, that means turn 180 degrees and no longer live like we did before.

Although Christ died there are many who use His grace or unmerited favor as a license to sin. This is straight up wrong and disgusting. Let's go to 1 Peter 1:17-21. It tells us that we must conduct ourselves with fear while we are on this earth because we were redeemed by the very blood of God's Only Son. I ask that you be honest with yourself wherever you are, whoever you are. Are you using the blood of Christ as a license? Do you say to yourself that you can do it because God will forgive you? It says in 1 Peter 1:17 that God judges impartially according to each one's works. How is your heart, what kinds of movies do you watch, what kind of music do you listen to? God is coming back soon and He's coming back for a pure bride, a pure church. If He came back today do you think He would have reason to take you? God bless you all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leviticus 3 (Peace Offering)

How much has God done for you? You might respond by saying not much or you may truly recognize the grace (unmerited favor of God) in your life and you really desire to give back to Him for what He has done and continues doing for you. The Peace Offering, also known as “Shelmim” in the Hebrew has everything to do with giving back to God. The word shelmim means to settle or rebalance the account.  The offering was applied in quite a few different cases some of those are the following: successful military campaign (1 Sam 11:15), cessation of famine or pestilence (2 Sam 24:25), an acclamation of a candidate for kingship (1 Sam 11:15) (1 Kings 1:9, 19), national spiritual renewal (2 Chronicles 29:31-36), an annual family reunion (1 Samuel 20:6), and the harvesting of the first fruits (Exodus 22:29-31) (1 Samuel 9:11-13, 22-24, 16:4-5). These are a few examples that apply to the Peace Offering. We can tell by the list that these are obvious blessings given by the hand of God. The Israelites would offer this as something much more than just a mere spoken thank you, they actually gave things up as an attempt to resettle or balance the account in between them and God. There are a lot of rich principles in chapter 3, let’s take a look at some of them.
When we truly recognize the hand of God in our life how should we respond, with a thank you? What about a dollar out of our pocket into the offering plate? Verse 1 shows us that our offering must be without defect. Offerings with defect were not accepted. Entering into the theme of thankfulness we need to recognize that our offering must be with a pure heart and joy in our giving. For many people giving their tithes and offerings is like pulling teeth, it doesn’t come out easily and it’s a painful process. It’s true that it could hurt a little if you give generously but the joy in our hearts upon having the opportunity to give should override that little bit of pain. If we can’t give to God with a pure heart it’s much better that we don’t give at all. God expects us to have a clean, pure heart in giving back to Him.
Next we see in verses 3 and 4 that in our giving back to God our offering has to be the best. The verse tells us that the Israelites had to give the fat of the offering. The fat in their time was the best of the best. In Genesis 4:4 and 45:18 we see two examples of what the word fat meant for them. Before we move on we should ask why, why give God the best?  Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are a few reasons:  God, whether you believe He exists or not, gives us the very breath we breathe and could take it away in this very moment, He deserves the best because of who He is, He has done so many thing for us, and not to mention He owns everything including the clothes on our very backs. Knowing this we see that everything we have is just stewardship, things that we handle for a short time. We are responsible for these things and are expected to steward them responsibly. We should give God the very because if we can, we are showing that we have no other gods before Him, it shows that He is Lord of all our things. If you can’t give God the best of what you have, if you don’t have joy in what you give to Him it’s probably because there’s a deeper heart issue at hand. If you can’t give God your best it’s probably because God is not the Lord of all your life and that in His eyes is a problem (Luke 18:18-23).
Before we finish let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 8. We can match up this chapter with Leviticus 3 because we see quite a few principles on what real giving looks like. It’s clear that this passage is about money (some of the principles have only to do with money) but it can be applied to most areas of giving in our life.
·         (v1) It’s not wrong to talk about money
·         (v2) The church in Corinth gave out of their poverty
·         (v3) Give what God enables you to give, give beyond your abilities, and don’t give because you’re forced, give because God wants you to
·         (v4) Don’t dread giving but rather be delighted in it
·         (v5) True giving starts with giving yourself to God
·         (vv6-7) Organized giving has to be instructed, aided, and taught
·         (v8) True giving shows spiritual maturity
·         (v9) Jesus modeled to us what true generosity really is and He won't ask us to do something that He hasn't already done
·         (vv10-12) Don’t hold back because of what appears to be lack (Mark 12:41-44)
·         (vv13-15) Giving is individual and communal, if everyone gives what they’re supposed to there will be enough for all (Acts 2:43-47)
·         (vv16-21) Handling of all funds must be open and honest
·         (v22) For people to be trusted with funds they must be tested
·         (v24) Giving is a testimony to others
The best example of the Peace Offering is what we do on Sunday mornings, the giving of our tithes and offerings. We are thanking God for the income that He's given us and re-balancing the account Although finances are just one area of our lives these principles can be applied in many other areas. We can give back to God in many ways, with the time He’s given us, with the gifts and talents He’s given to us, among many other ways. By sacrificing, we are showing that our hearts are thankful and that God is the Lord of all the areas of our lives.  How are we handling the blessings that our Lord has given us? Do we hoard them or do we decide to freely give back? Do we give to others and choose to be good stewards or do we choose to invest only in ourselves?
Before we finish this lesson I would like to share a story that I found on the internet, it’s called….
The Pearl Necklace
The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand she saw them, a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please mommy, can I have them? Please mommy, please!" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face. "A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma." As soon as Jenny got home she emptied her piggy bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday her grandmother gave her that new dollar bill that she was waiting for and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?" She responded, "Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you." Her father replied, "Then give me your pearls." Somewhat startled Jenny frantically said, "Oh daddy, not my pearls. You can have Princess, the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail., remember daddy? It's the one you gave me. She's my favorite." The understanding father said, "That's okay honey, daddy loves you. Good night." And with that he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?" The little girl said, "Daddy, you know I love you." Her father again asked for the pearls. "Oh daddy not my pearls, you… you can have my babydoll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper." The father again understandingly replied, "That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you little one, daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?" Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy and when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver she finally said, "Here daddy, it's for you." With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind father reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time but was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

What are you holding onto?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Leviticus 2 (Grain Offering)

Today let's talk about the Grain Offering found in chapter 2 of Leviticus. Again the Grain Offering has nothing to do with sin. I want to the Lord for the book of Leviticus because it shows us how to approach a Holy God as an unholy people. The word in Hebrew for the Grain Offering is "Minchah", it means the apportioned offering. The way it was explained to me is kind of like a person who has a pizza, the grain offering is like giving God one slice of your pizza, that is apportioning. This offering is interesting, it doesn't involve any blood or animals but instead grain. In verses 1-3; 14-16 we see that the Israelites could bring their offering in a few different forms: fine flour, fresh heads of grain, or grits of new growth. The Israelites would bring their Grain Offering in whatever stage of growth. If the plants were fully mature and they had been harvested the Israelites offered fine flour, if the plants were still growing they would bring the grits of new, if they were about to mature they brought the heads of grain. Another important part of the Grain Offering is that the Israelites had to depend completely on God for their grain harvest. If there was no rain there was no grain and that's not good. Their economy wasn't like ours, there was no McDonalds or Taco Bell, they had to depend on the rain and who makes the rain fall? Now that we know a little bit of the context, how can we actually apply this to our lives?

First of all, God wants your surrender and trust at whatever stage of life you're in. There's a lot of people who say, "I'm too young for God to use me or I'm too old, or I'm not sufficient" (Ex 3:11). It doesn't matter what your excuse is, God wants your obedience and surrender at whatever stage of life you're in. Just like Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:12 don't let people look down on your youthfulness. There is no such thing as too old or too young in the Kingdom of God, it's never too late to give to God.

Did you know that God wants what we have right now? I'm a missionary, I hardly have any physical possessions apart from the clothes on my back. Does that mean I don't have anthing to give back to God? No! That's just an excuse, God wants what we have in this moment. Maybe you find yourself in the same situation as me, you don't have much to give so you think you have nothing to offer God. Know that that's not true, there are many things we can give to God in this moment, perhaps things not tangible but things very important to us. If God asks that I give up a day of watching television so that I can spend more time with Him I must be willing to do that. We need to remember that God doesn't need anything, He just desires the heart of the sacrifice and wants to know that He is Lord of ALL the areas of my life.

In the Jewish culture they had to depend on the rain in order to have grain. This sacrifice was also meant to constantly remind the Jewish people of their God who provided for them. By their sacrifice they were recognizing that their harvest came from the Lord, not from their own hands. It would have made more sense to not sacrifice right. Without sacrificing you have more, well this is kind of where faith comes in. Are you going to show God that you trust Him and recognize that He is the one who blessed you, or will you hoard the blessing for yourself? How many times do we actually recognize who gives us all the things we have. In the society of the United States it's easy to become comfortable and think, "look at what my hands have done." If you find yourself in that train of thought let me tell you that it's not by your hands but by the hands of God that you are blessed. We must constantly remember Him, He wants us to remember that He is Jehovah Jireh (God our Provider). If we don't constantly remember God we will become prideful, our head will swell up, and we will start to believe that our success was brought about by our own hands.

I want to say again, God doesn't need our things. He does all this for us. Yes, for us, the sacrifice isn't for God, it's for what happens in our heart. If we don't continually receive from God and as a practice give to back to Him and to others we will become like the Dead Sea. Do you know why there's no life in it? Because it only receives and never gives anything out. A sea or lake that is alive not only receives but gives it's water out to other sources. God desires that we have life. That is why He desires that we give and sacrifice, so that we might experience true, vibrant life. There is life in death to ourselves.

"God we thank you Holy Lord for what you've done for us. Many times we are ungrateful and don't remember you, but today we just want to say thanks without asking for anything, just a simple thanks. God we love you and always want to be willing to sacrifice what we have in this moment. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leviticus 1 (Burnt Offering)

I'm sorry for my inconsistency in blogging, I desire more consistency in keeping track of the things I'm doing and learning and am going to try to improve that. As I continue my study through the law I currently find myself in Leviticus. God is opening up His Word to me and challenging me to live a holier life. I would today like to share with you all some lessons God has showed me in the first chapter of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1 talks about the burnt offering, in Hebrew called "oleh" meaning everything goes up. Good stuff here in Leviticus 1, this sacrifice, as said in the post Walk Through the Law, has nothing to do with sin, in fact the first three sacrifices have nothing to do with sin, it's the last two, the sin and guilt offering that act as expiatory sacrifices or sacrifices that deal with transgression. The burnt offering is different in that it is the only sacrifice in which the priest has no part. Normally the priest would have a part of the sacrifice that he could eat but this one was wholly set apart for God.

I want to start out by asking, does God need anything? Does God really need our sacrifice so that He can gain something? The answer of course is no. So if God doesn't need my sacrifice, then why all these laws about sacrifices and giving to God? The answer is what it does for us. The sacrifice is for what happens to our hearts when we offer it to God, the divine truth that is revealed to us about God upon sacrificing. Now of course today we don't sacrifice animals, we're really not supposed to (and if you are doing it watch out for the Animal Rights Activists), this was the law for some Jews about 4000 years ago but we can still pull out great principles as to what God requires of us His people. Leviticus is all about approaching a Holy God as an unholy people. Knowing this we can ask, why did God decide to give the order that the Israelite people partake in the burnt offering and even more relevant, why did He decide to tell us about it? We'll get to that at the end but for now I want to point out some principles found in chapter 1 and then I would like you to filter those through the theme of the burnt offering which will be found at the end of the post.

Verse 1 brings out a good point, it'd be easy to pass by quickly but we see an important principle here. It says "Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting." You see, a leader receives revelation from God when he spends time with God. That revelation will change the lives of many when transmitted correctly, truthfully, and with love. This book is revelation straight from the heart of God to His leader and then transmitted to the people so that they could have a closer walk with their God. We as well need to always be with God, learning from Him so that we can transmit the truth He reveals to us to those that need it most.

I won't be going through every verse but I do want to point out two very important principles. The first of those is in verses 3 and 10. When we offer things to God it has to be the best, if not, it's not a sacrifice. The sacrifices offered here had to be without blemish or defect from the best of the herd or flock (Definition of defects in Lev 22:17-25). God deserves the best. How many times when giving our offerings do we choose to give a dollar or a few quarters instead of giving from the heart, although tithing and money offerings pertain to the peace offering in Leviticus 3 the principle is the same. How often do we give God what is comfortable for us to give, how many times do we really step out in faith and say God, you've done so much for me, you deserve the best and then give to Him from our heart. If our sacrifices to God don't hurt us, our heart is probably not in it and the heart is what God really desires (Genesis 4:2-7). Like we said, He doesn't need our stuff.

The last principle that I want to share is in verses 5 through 17. We see here a list of processes as to how the burnt offering was to be prepared. Just as said, our lives are to be a living and holy sacrifice but we need to know that the how to get there is contained in the mind of God and in His Holy Word. This life must be lived according to God's standards not what seems right in our own eyes. Our standards will always fall short of God's. Even if what He has us do seems weird or ridiculous it's the right thing (Joshua 6:3). There are too many Christians walking around living so much like the world that they couldn't even be distinguished between a purebred heathen and a true believer. We have lost the importance of holiness in today's preaching. We try so much to be like the world and we even justify ourselves with reasons like, "I'll be able to reach more people for Christ because they'll see that I'm like them." This thinking is wrong, we are called to be holy as God is holy, so let's examine the scriptures, spend time with our Lord, and when He shows us the path to holiness let's be obedient to His voice.

We now arrive to our answer from the earlier question. This is the central idea of Leviticus 1. In Romans 12:1 Paul says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." He is referring to the burnt offering in Leviticus 1. When he says, present your bodies, he's talking about an inspection, in fact the same inspection that took place when an Israelite offered his sacrifice, the sacrifice had to be blameless, without defect. Each sacrifice was to be inspected by the priest before being offered on the altar, in the same we we are to be inspected by God to show that we are blameless before Him. Friends and family, we must be holy and blameless, offered completely to God. The main principle of the burnt offering is surrendering every area of our lives to God, just as everything went up in the offering so must our life be, completely surrendered to God. I want to ask you personally, are you surrendered to God? You might say yes right away but really think about it. Your music, what you watch, what you say, the things you do, what you wear, are you really surrendered to our Lord? If someone was to look at your iPod would they be able to tell if you're a true follower of Christ or are you spending your days blending in with the rest of the world? Every day before I start my devotions I have to surrender to God, I have to die to myself because my heart always wants to stray away from my One True Love and always wants to fulfill it's desires not those of God. It's sad but true. I have to surrender and say "God, whatever you want from me today, I will give it to you", if I don't do this it's impossible for me to hear the voice of God. I love you all and pray that you will hear the voice of God this week and obey. God bless you all!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walk Through the Law

My desire is to know the Word of God and to make the Word of God known. Over the past few weeks I have been doing a very interesting study on the first five books (known as the Torah or Pentateuch) of the Bible and would like to share that briefly with you all. A lot of people get the sacrifices and all the laws mixed up, so let's clarify shortly on the three types of law that are found in the first five books of the Bible.

CIVIL CODE (Exodus 20-23; Numbers 5, 6, 15, 28-30): This was the law followed by the Israelites while they were in the desert. Before they made it to the promised land they had to follow what we call the civil code. Remember, they had no idea how to live as a nation nor as a civilized people because they had just been set free from slavery in the land of Egypt. God gave them this portion to tell them how to live together while they were on their what we could call, "camping trip".

CRIMINAL CODE (Leviticus): This was Israel's hand book on how to approach a Holy God when you are not holy. We have in the beginning five sacrifices the burnt, grain, peace, sin and guilt offerings. The first three have nothing to do with sin but more to do with surrender and thankfulness to God, these are often called the soothing aroma sacrifices. The last two, sin and guilt, are those that dealt with sin. The rest of the book tells the Israelite people how and when to apply said sacrifices.

CONSTITUTIONAL CODE (Deuteronomy): This book was for the Israelite people when they entered the land of Israel. They needed a constitution and the book of Deuteronomy was just that. It's what made a Jew a Jew. Inside of Deuteronomy we find 15 different subjects or codes of law.

In the remaining part of these five books we find stories about the lives of others. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the journeys of Israel, etc. This part can be used as a guide for learning from mistakes and successes. We see men who followed God but definitely screwed up along the way, also we see people who's hearts were far from God and how the Lord dealt with them. As many know we can learn in two ways, example or experience, we all know that learning from example hurts a lot less.

When reading these portions of Scripture we must first have in mind that it was written to Jews
not to us. However, it applies to us in the sense that we can find good principles on how to live a holier life or on how to approach our Holy God as an unclean people. My prayer is the you too can find the richness found in the beginning of the Bible instead of believing those who say, "it's too dry and really has nothing to do with me." God bless you all!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brokenness and Happiness

Well, for someone who isn't in the habit of blogging I have quite a bit to write. The subjects on my heart this past week are that of happiness and brokenness. Doesn't seem like they go together but I believe that they do. To be honest these past 9 months in Peru have been work. Meaning, I haven't wanted to be here. I've wanted to go home, get back to the place that made me happy... or so I thought. On the verge of leaving, like literally about to buy my plane ticket I called my parents to let them know how I was feeling and what I had planned to do. My Mom said take a week, think about it, pray about it, and then see if God would say anything to me. I told her I could not hear God in this very difficult time, so I set this time aside to seek God's will, if He didn't make it clear to me that He wanted me here then I was going to be on the soonest flight home. I decided to take two weeks, well I guess I only needed one. This was honestly one of the hardest times in my life, fearing that God would want me to stay here when I really wanted to come home so badly. My excuses were few but somewhat reasonable, I wasn't happy, didn't think it was a good fit for me, and didn't like some of the things inside of the organization. Day three and God spoke to me, not in an audible voice but He made me understand a truth that I had known but that was more head knowledge, not something that affected my life. "Gary, you can not receive happiness from what you do, what you have, or who you know, only from an intimate and growing relationship with Me, your God." Wow, that blew a reason off of my list as to why I should go home. As time went on, day four, five, six my excuses and reasons as to why I should leave faded and the Will of God remained. "Gary, I have chosen you for this hour, I want you to stay here." God had been breaking me down so that His will might be done in me, so that I would submit to Him and live only to do what He wants from me, not what Gary wants. Ouch, man that's a tough lesson and a process that will not be finished over night. The breaking process must continue, it hurts, but how good to know that my God is good and what He is doing inside of me is for my well being. It all came to light on the 11th of this month when I read one of my writings, something I had written a year before on July 10th, 2009.

This is what I wrote a year ago:

Break Me!
7/10/09 5:46pm

I'm learning more and more that I can put no confidence in the flesh. The flesh will let me down 100% of the time. Paul even says in Philippians that we put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:1-6). More and more God has been dealing with me on the confidence that I place in my flesh. So what's the remedy for this? We must be broken and filled with the Spirit. Jesus says in John that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5).

We must also be broken. I don't really know how to be, other than asking God to do it. I believe God is the only one who can break us. Once we are broken of ourselves I believe that the Spirit of God will shine through in a much more brilliant way.

Apart from brokenness I believe the keys to being filled with God's Holy Spirit are simple. Devote yourself to God's Word, prayer, and fellowship. In Acts 1:14 we see that the disciples were continually devoting themselves to prayer and fellowship. It was after their devotion to these two things that the Spirit of God fell upon them.

The only way the Apostles did what they did was because of God's power through them. If we want that same power I believe it's available but we must pay the price of sacrifice in order to get it. We must dedicate our lives solely to God and ask Him to break us. This seems to be a painful process but I know that in the end it must be worth it.

I believe that the Lord might use Peru in order to break me. It's what I ask and pray. Lord God, break me so that I can be used of You in a greater capacity.

End of note.

So as you can now see, I was trying to escape a beautiful but painful process that God is putting me through in order to break me of myself. Just like the Bible says, He disciplines the ones He loves. This life is short, so let's be focused on eternity. If God has got you in a certain place that happens to be a hard painful process just endure. The word endurance in the Bible is "Hupomeno" and it literally means to remain under the pressure of. God is calling us to remain under the pressure of the tough circumstances, if that is where He has placed us He wants us to stay there. Also, for those who would say that they aren't satisfied with life, know that only a relationship with God will fulfill you. Your wife won't do it, your job won't do it, drugs and alcohol can't help, nothing you do will fill that God- shaped hole in your heart. If you don't know God He is willing in this moment to start an intimate, amazing relationship with you. We were born sinners, separated from God but He didn't create it to be that way, we chose to disobey and sever the relationship that we had with Him. About 2000 years ago He sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die in our place for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God so that we would have another chance to know the one true God. Jesus is like our bridge to God, we must place our faith in Him and turn from our sins. From there the relationship with God has started, now you are called to live in a different way than you lived before (Ephesians 4:1- 6:9). God is happiness and joy, let's choose this week to renew our relationship with Him. Keep the goal in mind... eternity, with the One who made us.

Friday, June 4, 2010

James 5:13-20 Prayer and Shepherding

James ends this book out with two very important subjects: prayer and shepherding. Subjects that are often neglected. James displays the power of prayer although at times it might seem to be useless and dry, we see why we should pray here. Also, he presents the subject of shepherding or spiritual care for one another.

(vv13-18) BE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER: If you're suffering or going through some tough things, pray! Just like we read in the last chapter, we must have patience and endurance through this life, but while we're waiting and persevering let's pray! How about those who are cheerful, let them praise the Lord. In verses 14-15 it's somewhat difficult to pull out the true meaning of what is being said, so let's take a deeper look. The word here in the NASB translation is sick. "If anyone among you is sick." At first glance we would think that this is a man who has some disease or sickness. If we look at the Greek and read within the context we will we find something very different, James is not talking about a physical sickness. The word sick is Asthenei which means to be weak. If a brother is sick in the faith, if he is spiritually weak, he is to call the elders of the church so that they might pray for him. This prayer will restore him who is spiritually weak. In other words the prayer will save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, save a suffering one, or aid one to an effect (Energeo). Also if he has committed sins they will be forgiven, this man will be restored, refreshed, and ready to continue on in his walk with the Lord. In the first part of verse 16 we see the importance of community prayer. Let me ask you in this moment, do you feel spiritually dry and dead? Then God wants you to spend time with those closest to you, those who have a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with the Lord so that you can be restored. They are here for you in your times of need and you in turn for them. God will use them in your life to restore you to a state of fullness in your walk with God. Remember that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and can accomplish much. Keep the importance and power of prayer in mind. In verses 17-18 James tells us about Elijah and what the prayer of a righteous man really can do. We find this example in 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46. If a man can pray and it not rain for three and a half years, how much more can our prayers assist those who don't know Christ. How much more can our prayers impact the world that we live in.

(vv19-20) BE A SHEPHERD: What does it mean to be a shepherd. Let's take a look at a few passages so that we can get a better idea as to what the word shepherd means (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Zechariah 11:4-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4). These are only a of the few passages that talk about shepherding. Today we call shepherds pastors and many of them aren't true shepherds, many don't do what they are called to do. They are called to shepherd the people or flock of God. That means to feed them, to take care of them, to guide them and make sure that they are well. I think Psalm 23 is the best example of what a true shepherd really is. We as well are called to shepherd those who have gone astray from the truth. Onto verses 19-20... "if any of you strays from the truth." The word stray is Planao and it means the following: cause to stray, to lead astray, wander, roam around, lead away from the truth, lead into error, to deceive. "If any of you strays from the truth and one turns him back", this is shepherding this is being a true friend. When a brother is spiritually sick and straying from his Master's path, the true shepherd turns him back and shows him the way. The one who does this saves his friends soul. The word soul here is Psuche, it means breath, breath of life, the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing, a living soul. In other words you save the actual life of the one who is going astray from the truth. How can this be? Here's an example. A long time ago a famous christian hymn writer went astray from the faith. For years he lived a life of carnal pleasures and strayed so far from the grace of God that he once used to sing about. One day he ran into a woman who was reading a book. Very interested in the book, the woman came across a line from one of the authors famous hymns and quoted it to him. The man told her, "Ma'am, I am the poor miserable man who wrote that hymn." The woman then told him that those rivers of grace that he sang of still flowed today. The man repented, turned back to the Lord, and was fully restored. This story is true; and in this case the woman was used by God to save the soul or life of this man.

CONCLUSION: Let's be continually dedicated to prayer and fellowship so that when we are weak or spiritually sick our brothers and sisters in Christ can lift us up and restore us.

This concludes the book of James. A book full of blunt spiritual truth. Let us apply these truths to our lives. Let us not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well (James 1:22).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

James 5:7-12 Patience and Endurance

Don't try to escape that trial! If God has put you there, remain right where you are. The word endure in the Bible is hupomone, and it means to remain under the pressure of (Romans 5:3). I want to ask you today what kind of pressure you are facing. First off, are you where God wants you to be? If so and you are facing trials and problems, stay firm and endure. Today, we will be learning about the importance of patience.

(vv7-8) PATIENCE: I believe that over the last nine months God has been using my circumstances in order to teach me patience amidst other things. In truth, the last nine months haven't been enjoyable and the thought of going home is ever present. Although this is true, I am called to be patient and endure, just like the farmer who waits until the harvest. In life we are going to go through hard times. We as Christians are going to go through many months, possibly years, wondering where God is, asking ourselves why He has deserted us. During these times strengthen your hearts. Yes, strengthen your hearts, but how? We strengthen our hearts by reading the Word, pulling out the promises of God, and standing on them. Let's stand on God's promises and trust in Him. He is highly glorified in this.

(v9) DON'T COMPLAIN: Don't complain? But I'm going through a really tough time, how can the Bible ask me not to complain? It advises us so that we might be pleasing and honoring to Christ. Listen to this: A master has many servants working in the field, he selects one and gives him the hardest work in the field but secretly plans to pay him the best out of all the other workers. The master expects his worker to have a good attitude hoping that the worker will trust in his faithfulness and fairness. When the master tells the worker that he will return, he hides in a bush and watches the worker. The worker complains and curses under his breath all day long. He even cursed at his fair master, being very short-sighted, the only one he damaged was himself. When the master returned he was very disappointed with the servant. He told the wicked servant about the wonderful pay he had for him but how his complaining lost him his wages. In the same way we must trust our Good Master. We must trust that He loves us dearly and has the best in mind for us.

(vv10-11) BIBLICAL EXAMPLES: Let's follow the biblical example that have been left for us. How many of you have read the story of Job and learned about the suffering that he faced. What happened? This man Job went through horrible trials, and not once did he curse God. After years, Job was blessed by God double, double than what he had before! Because of his endurance and faithfulness God blessed him abundantly. We also have the prophets, faithful men who loved the Lord and proclaimed His Word. They went through some hard stuff but were still faithful to God; they now have their reward in heaven. God is full of compassion and mercy, so let's conduct ourselves in such a way that is pleasing to Him.

(v12) BE TRUE TO YOUR WORD: Finishing up, we are told not to swear. In other words to affirm, promise, threaten with an oath, or invoke. This passage is very often misinterpreted but all the James is saying here is to be true to your word. When you say something, do it! If you say yes, let others know that that is what you mean.

CONCLUSION: I don't know what you are going through right now, but know that if you are where God wants you to be and you're going through some tough stuff , it's good for you. Trust in God, strengthen your hearts, and stand on the Word, knowing that God will take care of His faithful servants.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

James 5:1-6 Stewardship of Wealth and People

What's more important, people or wealth? Today we will deal with the stewardship of our wealth and the people in our lives. I believe that this passage will deal with all of us as we read it today. The heart issue is our greed or love for material possessions which unfortunately is normally bigger than our love for others.

(vv1-3) THE RICH: "Come now you rich, weep and howl...", actually means, burst into tears. Why would a rich man cry? He should have all that he could ever need or want. Well... not actually. As we see in verses 1-3, wealth is temporary, it might make us happy for a moment but then it rusts and fades. Just like James says, "...your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted." As you all know, when we first get something new it's really cool... for the first week. The things of this world don't satisfy. This is why James tells the rich to burst into tears, because they have put their trust, their love, and even their very lives into their stuff, and upon seeing the vanity of it all, and how it doesn't last, their reaction should be that of sadness. They've wasted their lives on collecting worthless junk and now the rust and decay of their stuff is a witness against them.

(v4) WHAT REALLY MATTERS: What really matters in this life? Is it money, cars, houses, stuff, or maybe the Kingdonm of God? Maybe it's the people that God has placed in our lives. Just as the rich here have invested their lives in things that don't matter, they also have rejected the thing that really does matter, the Kingdom of God, that which is unseen. Many times in this life we reject that which is really valuable for a cheap plastic imitation. Let's reach out for the Kingdom of God and not be like the rich man who refused to pay his workers their salary. The Lord desires that we might be giving, not hoarding. He desires us to invest in His eternal Kingdom, in the lives of those who need Christ. These are the works that will last, the things that won't rust or fade away.

(v5) BE AFRAID: James recaps here, talking again about the life of wanton pleasures that the rich live. James' comparison is very short but should inspire a healthy fear inside of those that are living a life of wanton pleasures and neglecting the Kingdom of God. He compares the rich as a fattened calf ready for the slaughter. This was probably a good expression for the Jewish audience who might have seen many fattened calves slaughtered in sacrifice. This is an example of what a greedy life will earn us.

(v6) PUT YOUR LIFE INTO WHAT COUNTS: Again recapping, James puts more emphasis in how the rich oppress the righteous. Their world view is twisted and instead of pursuing riches they should be helping those whom God has placed in their life.

CONCLUSION: Today we've learned some tough spiritual truths. One thing I don't want you to hear is that money is bad. There is nothing wrong with money in itself, but we must take care of our motives and greedy attitudes. We must use our stuff to please the Lord and advance His Kingdom, not to hoard it and spend it on our own desires (James 4:3). God doesn't give us things for our own pleasures, but that we might use them for His purposes. Let's seek the Kingdom first and also seek to honor the Lord with all the things He has blessed us with.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

James 4 Selfish Desires and Pride

James wants to tell us about our selfish desires and pride that reside inside of us. We'll be seeing the source, cure, and effect of our selfish desires and pride.

(vv1-2) OUR PLEASURES: James introduces our subject; the selfish fights that we face as Christians. Let's keep in mind here that James is writing to the Jewish believers or the 12 tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1). Apparently the Jewish believers were having problems with fights and quarrels and James came in to straighten things out. The first thing that we learn is that the source of our quarrels originates from the pleasures deep inside of us.

(v3) YOU DON'T RECEIVE: This is a great verse of clarity. I personally get fed up with hearing people take verses like Matthew 21: 18-22 and saying that God wants you to be happy and wants you to have the desires of your heart. Yes, He does want us to be happy but He's not going to give us whatever desire we may have inside of us. God will give us the desires of our heart if they are according to His will. If we ask with the wrong motives we won't receive because God does not want us to spend or squander it on our own wanton pleasures. If God gave me every desire of my heart I would be a mess, so thank you Lord for that.

(V4) FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD: Let's remember that we are talking in the context of selfish disputes and our evil desires that spur them on. Well ... we have to choose here, God, or the world, there's no other option. James is laying out the seriousness of our selfish flesh and the desires of the world. What does this mean, that we can't have nice things a nice house or a nice car. Not necessarily. We can't be engaged to both Christ and the world, we have to choose who we will live for and who we will yield and surrender to. If we choose the world we are enemies of God and reject Him but if we choose Christ we reject the world and no longer serve it.

(v5) GOD JEALOUSLY DESIRES US!: This verse is very hard to translate but I believe that in the context we see the meaning. God jealously desires us! He wants to be our every desire and our fulfillment. If we choose the world over Him we are refusing the best love and fulfillment that we could ever have.

(vv6-10) HUMBLE YOURSELF: So we see the strength of our selfish desires. How could we ever escape them? Good thing that you asked because we are given the antidote here in verses 6 through 10. Humble or submit yourself to God. The word submit here is a military term which means to arrange oneself under the command of. So let's get back into the marching line. When a soldier goes off to do his own thing and not the will of the commander he is stepping out of line and now is considered an enemy of that army. We as well have to get back in line and humble ourselves under the command of our Master. This is a submission of our will to His will. Also we see that we have to resist the Devil. The word resist means to set oneself against, to withstand or to oppose, and the promise is that he will flee from us.

(vv11-12) THE JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDE: In these selfish fights brought on by selfish desires. The effect is a judgmental attitude. If you speak against your brother you have gone from being a doer of the Law to a judge of it; and since there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, it's impossible for us to take His place as unrighteous judges of the law. Practically speaking, what does this say to us, I believe that it's very simple. It all comes back to the humility or our spirit. If we are not humble we will by nature want to judge those around us. Let's humble ourselves and recognize our position as servants. Let's follow the example of our LORD GOD who created the earth and came down in the humble form of a servant to wash the feet of 12 dirty men. How humbling for us. What sinners we are!

(vv13-16) EMPTY BOASTING: Once again we come to the subject of pride and boasting is just one of the many forms of pride. We are left with the example of some business men who claim that they are going to make "X" amount of dollars on their trip. We see here the pride of man. This reminds me of the false teaching I've heard time and time again saying, "You have to claim your reality! Speak what you want into existence! Make a demand upon God and He has to give it to you!" We call this the "name - it - claim teaching". Let's just say that this is not biblical in any way. You don't speak your future into existence and you definitely DO NOT make a demand upon God the Creator of the universe. Instead, we must practice what we see in verse 15. "Instead you ought to say, 'If the LORD wills, we will live and also do this or that'". Let us again remind ourselves of the humility that we must possess because if we don't, we are practicing evil as stated in verse 16.

(v17) CAN'T PLEAD NOT GUILTY: Very simple, James says that if we know the right thing to do and don't do it that it's sin. All to say that we can't say that we didn't know. In other words, we call this the sin of omission, knowing the right thing to do and not doing it. In conclusion let us put into to practice all that we have seen and learned today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

James 3:13-18 Real Wisdom

Today we come to the section in James about true wisdom. Many times in life we are confused about what wisdom really is. James is going to confront some of our false concepts of wisdom today as we study through this section.

(v13) WALKING WISDOM: Here we see two things, that wisdom walks and that wisdom is gentle. Sometimes we think that the wise man is the one who is loud and can talk big. Before moving on further let's keep in mind that James has just finished talking about teachers and our need to control the tongue. Here he is most likely referring to the teachers as well, those that might have thought that to be loud was to be wise. Knowing this, we see here that wisdom walks not just talks. James says "Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." Our wisdom can be displayed in the silence or in our behavior. The definition of the word behavior in Greek is, way of life, behavior, or conduct. This shows us that wisdom is not just theory or just words, wisdom is very practical. Wisdom is to be displayed in every action. Not only does wisdom walk but wisdom is gentle. This word gentle is the word for mild disposition or meekness. It doesn't take a big man to be strong in his opinion or speak big words, it takes a big man to learn to be quite and gentle. After reading through this passage several times I kept getting the image in my head of two men in an argument. One man very strong in his opinion, shouting at the other and the other very slow to anger and very in control of his behavior. The man who is slow to anger is the one who displays the practical wisdom.

(v14) WISDOM ISN'T...: Wisdom is not bitter jealousy. In other words it's not harsh excitement of mind, fervor of spirit, defending anything, zeal on behalf of, envious or contentious rivalry. I think the best way to sum up this word is that wisdom is not reactive it is proactive. Wisdom does not act out defense or fervor of spirit but wisdom acts out of thought, wisdom is proactive. Just like the men in the argument, wisdom is the not the one who reacts from anger but the one who is proactive, thinking about what he says before he says it. The second thing that wisdom is not is selfishly ambitious. This is the desire to put oneself forward or a self-seeking pursuit. Wisdom does not wish to put itself first. Wisdom is giving, seeking for the good of others first. This type of wisdom is considered earthly, natural, demonic, and wherever this so-called wisdom exists there is "disorder and every evil thing."

1.)PURE (Hagnos) sacred, pure from carnality or fault
2.)PEACEABLE (Eirenikos)peaceable, pacific, loving peace
3.)GENTLE (Epieikes) suitable, fair, mild
4.)REASONABLE (Eupeithes) easily obeying, compliant
5.)FULL OF MERCY (Eleos) mercy, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted, exercise of the virtue of mercy
AND GOOD FRUITS (Agathos) good, pleasant, excellent
6.)UNWAVERING (Adiekritos) without uncertainty
7.)WITHOUT HYPOCRISY (Anupokrites) unfeigned, undisguised, sincere

CONCLUSION: Today we have seen what true wisdom really is. Many can come with big words and a heavy disposition but the man who practices these words is the one who possesses true wisdom. "Lord, thank you for Your Holy Word, Father help us today to grasp the concept of true wisdom and apply it to our lives. Lord, Your Word promises an abundant life to those who live it. Help us to apply what we've learned today. Love Ya Father!"