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Why, Why, Why?

Why, Why, Why?  The single most annoying question to infect the ears of a parent, teacher, or pastor.  This question is a never-ending circle of cause and effect that if brought to its final conclusion can end up at the creation of the world every time!*

James, however takes this question in three different routes to answer three specific questions as to why we as a people fall into the trap of Worldliness.

Question 1:  Why do we fight among ourselves?

If you have lived in this world longer than a few minutes you already know that arguments and quarrels are something we cannot seem to shake.  Every day seems like another fight and another time when “they” are wrong and “we” are right.

The church is not immune to this problem.  Even in the time of James there was fighting and strife inside the people of God.  As James, with the direction of the spirit of God, attempts to address this issue he uses a culprit that has already appeared in his book as the cause of all our sin….Our Own Fleshly Desires.

In James 1:12-15 he spells out how our base desires are what tempt us into sin and cause us to seek after other things.  By that same note James here in chapter 4 says that it is the fight between our old and new flesh that causes arguments and quarrels.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.”  James 4:2

James says that we desire things in our life both fleshly and spiritual and we cannot obtain them so we murder, steal, and fight.  However he leaves us with what is the base problem “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Question 2:  Why are my prayers not answered?

So all of our quarrels can be summed up in that we do not have the things we desire, and we do not have the things we desire because we do not ask!  It seems so simple all we have to do is ask God and he will give it to us!

Again if you have been involved in Christianity for any length of time you have run up against the statement, “God did not answer my prayer”.  Putting aside the fact that “no” is just as much an answer as “yes”,  we encounter the problem that not everything we as Christians have prayed for has come to pass.

James once again has the answer.

“You as and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”     James 4:3

So the reason that we do not see prayers being answered is because like the people of James’ day we are praying wrongly.  We do not see health and wealth pouring from the sky precisely because we are praying for health and wealth.

You may ask then, “How should I pray?”

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”  Matthew 6:9-13

The Lord’s Prayer, as it has come to be know gives us a great instruction on how we should set up our prayers.

1. Adoration of God The Father

2. Request for the will of The Father

3. Request for what we need to do The Fathers work.

4. Forgiveness for when we have disobeyed The Fathers words.

Question 3:  Why can’t I have it all?

We are by our very nature an adulterous people.  Every good thing that God has done for us and we still try and find ways to sneak the world into our lives.  It is from that lack of commitment that this final question spawns.  “Why can’t I have both the world and God?”

James again in answering these three questions lays out the answer to us beautiful in his letter to the people.

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”   James 4:4

Anyone who has been married can tell you that its not as easy as it looks from the outside.  As a man I can attest that the other women do not get uglier just because I am married (like I thought they might) nor do my thoughts get easier to manage.  Rather, I now focus my mind on my wife so that she is my every thought.

This is how James speaks about our relationship with God.  The world and all it offers us does not get less appealing just because we give our lives to Christ.  Rather, we are called to focus on God above all the things of this world.

Just like a marriage, James says that our relationship with God is one of a singular nature.  I cannot expect to flirt with other women and not have my wife be mad at me. Likewise, we as a Church cannot have friendship with the world and still be a bondservant to Christ.  We must be committed wholly to Him.

In answer to the question Why, Why, Why, James simply replys…Love God, Seek His Will, and Ask in His Name.

*(ex.. Why does a grasshopper hop – cause it has legs – why does it have legs – cause God made it that way – Why did God make it that way? – Cause he created the world, now be quiet and go to bed!)

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Count The Cost And Come

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28

Ten years minimum is how long Naomi had spent in the far country of Moab.  Ten years that from what we know had brought her nothing but heartbreak and misery. She has spent enough time away from God to know what it means to be under his favor. So it should be no surprise that when Naomi hears in the fields of Moab that the LORD has returned to his people and they have food again, she wastes no time delaying but sets out for home.

It must have been a strange sight for anyone that day to see three women hauling all the possessions they had in the world down the road that led out of Moab.  Even stranger when, for what to passers by must have seemed like for no reason, these three women stop moving completely and have a “sob fest” right in the middle of the road.  As a man I can tell you I would have just felt absolutely awkward even walking near a group of crying women.  Why are they so sad? Why are they in the middle of the road? How do i keep from making this more awkward? All these and more would have been questions going through my mind.  Yet what happened in that road is probably one of the most profound moments in the Book of Ruth (a book just jammed with profound moments.)

Naomi doesn’t want to be a burden. Like so many people, older people especially, she just wants to finish out her life with a little dignity.  She doesn’t want to drag these young ladies down with her to a situation that they were in some ways obligated to follow.  Naomi decides to give them an out. If you have ever seen, Harry and the Hendersons, you will know the situation well.  Naomi knows how hard it is to join another culture first hand, and so she is throwing all the facts at these women she can to get them to run away, “for there own good.”

There is allot you can unpack from this segment of scripture, but one I want to focus on is this, Naomi is telling these girls to count the cost of giving up everything, and at the same time telling them what they will have to endure.  To come with her means conversion to Jewish tradition, laws, and religion.  There is an undeniable cost to that situation.  How often are we then this honest with people about the cost of following Christ.  Christ himself was very clear that it was a hard road.  Do we tell people what to expect and what will be expected, or do we try to hide the details until we think they are ready?  What is amazing is that as Naomi describes the struggles we see the very two reactions that come from honesty about the cost of A life with Christ.

Orpah (The Realistic World)  Orpah gives us a picture of, if the scripture is to be believed, is the majority of our worlds response to the Gospel.  She is in no way an evil person she loves Naomi, weeps over her leaving, and kisses her goodby in a genuine way.  Orpah’s problem is the same as many of our friends in the world they may “believe” in God and even think his way of life is best, but when the cost is laid out for them they find that they love there life in the world much more than they love God.  If only they didn’t have to give up their pleasure, their power, or there free will to follow Christ.  If only the cost was not so high.  Instead they leave like the rich young ruler,  “But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” Mark 10:17-27

Ruth (The Blessed Believers)  Ruth is the beautiful opposite to Orpah.  Orpah took the easy way out and went home.  Ruth throughs all her previous life at Naomi’s feet and tells her that all she ever was or had know was now her past and her future is all with Naomi.  What Ruth did was brave, and also scandalous.  Just like that we as believers were once presented with the truth and had to count the cost.  It was laid out in Mat 10, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  To follow Jesus is to abandon anything we once had and any family who does not believe and take up our cross and follow Him.

That is it then as we go through our lives we have been presented with an honest choice, and are obligated to give others the same honesty.  Go back to the world and live in peace till judgement, or take up your cross and follow Christ.  The second is infinitely harder, but also infinitely better.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Ruth, Through the Bible

 

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An Ordinary Beginning

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

Ruth is one of the most amazing books in the Bible.  In just four short chapters it discusses the themes of distrust, pain, redemption, blessing, providence, and many many more that would take too long to name.  It is hard to believe sometimes that the story of two widows struggle to survive could so explain the effect of Gods providential grace.

The awe of how amazingly ordinary this story is cannot be accurately described until we understand that it was set “in the days when judges ruled…”.  To compare, the time of Judges was marked by amazing wars, and even more amazing victory’s. It is the time of Gideon, Ehud, Samson, and Debora, and yet during all of this chaos going on in the world we are treated to the tale of a young widow, her mother, and there struggles. There is no flash. No amazing miracles. Just two women doing what they know is right and reaping the blessings and favor of God.

The story opens during a famine brought with the oppression of Moab as a punishment for Israel’s sin and distrust of God. We are then introduced to Elimelech who while the entire country is being punished by God decided that the wisest course of action was to abandon his home and everything he knew, further distrusting God, and go to settle in the land of Moab.  He sided with his nations enemy rather than trust that God would provide.  There is no exact time frame of how long they lived in Moab as a family, but the next thing the verses reveal is that Elimelech dies and leaves his family to continue as strangers in a strange land.

The sons Mahlon and Chilion rather than return to there homeland decide to double down on there rebellion and marry two women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah. Fast forward ten years. Both sons have died with no children to carry on there family name.  They leave behind nothing but there wives and mother Naomi.

It is important to note that even in these times of trouble God is still moving and working.  He uses all of the bad decisions made by this family to ultimately bring His plan of salvation into the world.  That doesn’t mean that what Elimelech did had to happen and so it was right, but that God worked even Elimelech’s sin and distrust into ultimate good.

It is in verse 6, however, that we start seeing what will become one of the major themes of Ruth.  Naomi rises from Moab and heads home, because she heard the LORD had returned.  Without any discussion or, from what we can see, forethought, Naomi does what she knows is right and heads home to Bethlehem.

P.S. : It is funny to note that Hebrew names were often spot on or ironic in there meanings, I will discuss it more as I get into Ruth but to give you some here Elimelech means “to whom God is King” even though he abandoned God and his Homeland, Mahlon means “sickly or weak” good name for a child who dies young, and Chillion means “deathly”…just saying if you want your kid to survive adulthood long maybe don’t name them “sick dead guy”.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Ruth, Through the Bible

 

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From There to Here

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”  Matt 1:1

“Be very careful what you do, because it not only reflects on you but on your mother and I”

This was a phrase I heard over and over again as a young boy growing up.  Usually it was after some big fiasco that I am certain to this day was someone else’s fault, but the point got across loud and clear, anything I did people were going to judge my parents by it.

The reverse of this is true as well, we are judged so much in our early lives by who are parents and relatives are or what they did in life.  If they were paragons of the church then you are expected to be the same and often given more leeway.  If they were somehow less than perfect, however, then often not much is expected of us or we are watched more closely to see how we are going to mess up.

The Lord of Lords and King of Kings who caused the words of scripture to be written knew this simple fact as well, and He chose to start the very first book about His Son with a listing of where He came from, so the whole world would know.

Why is this so important to scripture?  Why would we “waist” our time going over these names?

   1. Fulfillment of Prophesy 

 “Clearly, Jesus was the one true Messiah who came to save our world from our own sin. (Isaiah 37:31) However, because we as people find it hard to truly take things on faith, God inspired Matthew to record an entire account of Christ linage so that there could be no doubt as to where he came from, and who He would grow to be.”

   2. Reminder of Heroic Past

“People, in general, find it harder to believe something to which they cannot relate. Knowing this our God put in Matthew the credentials of Christ.  An entire listing of all the history that was not just related to Jesus, but also spoke to his very coming.  Seventeen whole verses dedicated to reminding the Jews and us alike why we as people could never be enough to save ourselves.”

   3. Example of Generations of Faith

“Each one of the people in the genealogy of Christ have a unique story to tell about the faith of the Jewish people.  From Rahab, to Boaz, to David, and Hezekiah, a listing of foreigners, workers, kings, and shepherds all brought into the family of God most High.  These people show the greatest example of faith imaginable by following the prodding of there God to live a life waiting for Him.  Never being able to see the end result, but having faith that through there lives He might be made known.”

As we come to know Christ in our personal lives, we have something that this list of people never did, the fulfillment of our faith.  When we come to a saving knowledge of faith we join this group of men and women as a part of Christ family.

“Be careful what we do, because it not only reflects on us, but on our Father and Brother (Jesus) as well!”

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Matthew, Through the Bible

 

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Radical vs Realist – Elijah & Obediah

We need revival!  We need a new work!  We need a radical change! 

Many a conversation among church leaders seem to center around these statements.  I myself have had many discussions with people both my own age and much older who are desperate to see a radical change in our churches.  In fact there has been a book published by David Platt called Radical, that is all about how we need to get back to the “radical” life to which Christ has called his church.  However, is the radical approach the only way to change the church?  Is there room for realists in the body of Christ?

To truly understand this we need to define what the difference is between a “radical” and a “realist”.

“A radical is one who holds or follows strong convictions and extreme principles, usually in an uncompromising and direct method.”

“A realist is one who is aware of and understands things as they are, and seeks to work within a system to enact change.”

Perhaps putting it more simply we should say that a radical would be more likely to tear the system apart and start fresh and new.  A realist, however, would be more likely to stay within the system to enact a change.

How does the Bible showcase these two different viewpoints, and how can they work together to further His kingdom?

Elijah

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Elijah was a radical!  From calling down fire to prove God’s power to calling the priests of God to eradicate the priests of Baal, Elijah was always making what most people of Israel would call controversial decisions, yet there can be no doubt that he was used by God to move the people of Israel back to God.  In all of Elijah’s activities though it is his challenging of the king on which we should focus.

The radicals among us can identify with Elijah’s confronting of the king (Kings 18).  Isn’t that what we are called to anyway?  Confronting the problems in our government and church from the front and taking a stand.  To be the person standing in the breach, drawing a line and saying “You Shall Not Pass”*.  The heads of our churches are saying that this is what God calls us all to do.  That we are called to be standing between the armies of the world and the people of God with our only options being corruption or death.

Is this radical path the only way?

Obadiah

While Elijah may be a well know radical of our Christian history, there is in this same story (Kings 18) the tale of a much lesser known man Obadiah.  Of this man’s life we have little to know knowledge, he may be the same Obadiah from the prophets, more than likely he is just another man with the same name.  The only thing we are told of this Obadiah is this:

“Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water”   – 1Kings 18:3b-4

So the entirety of this man’s legacy is that he feared the LORD so much that he would take the prophets of God  to hide and shelter them from an evil queen.  Notice, however, what these verses do not say.  They do not say that Obadiah confronted the queen about her evil.  They do not say that Obadiah quit his position to live in the wild with Elijah.  In fact, we find out in later verses that he was still a trusted servant of the king who was causing all of Israel’s problems, yet this man “Feared the LORD“.

So which path is the one God wants?  How should these very different ideas deal with each other?

The answer to these questions is shown in the next segment of these verses. (Kings 18:7-16) As Obadiah is on a mission for the king, he finds himself confronted by the Elijah himself.  When Obadiah sees him he bows in homage to this man who has put himself on the line for God.  These two men then converse about there different “ministries” and discuss a mission Elijah has for Obadiah.  They meet as equals, neither one condemning or challenging the others methods.

We as a group of Christians need to continually be taught this truth, “There is no wrong way”.  Christians get caught up in saying that radical life is better, or an organic (realistic) life is better; when the honest answer to these struggles is both are valid avenues to change.  Instead of trying to undercut other styles of change we should be building up our fellow Christians in there unique situations and agree that as long as we are moving toward change in Christ that we are on the right path.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Radical vs Realist, Uncategorized

 

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Under Pressure…(bum bum bum ba-dum bada bum bum)

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself”    – 2 Cor 1:8

Its funny, how many things in this world can be both good and bad for us depending on the context. Fire can bring heat and also burn buildings, water can bring floods but also sustain life, and spiders kill mosquitoes but also are scary (and of the devil), but the most intriguing of these dualitys is pressure!

Pressure is one of the greatest things that are involved in our lives.  With enough pressure and time (and coal) you can get diamonds. With correct pressure and students you can get leaders.  However, even though pressure can make great things it can also (as a recent event in my life can attest) be a crushing unbearable burden.

Pressure, in Christ, can come in many forms.  It comes in wise council and instruction, in discipline and punishment, in encouragement and fellowship, and in faith and prayer. However, like most things there is a very fine line between too little and too much. There is a fine line between just the right amount of council and not enough, between discipline and encouragement, and between safety and faith.

How do we appropriately apply pressure?

1.  Pressure is Best Applied Differently

“Even in my short ministry life I have learned that what will turn one person into a diamond will crush another into dust.  There was a old preacher who said ‘good leaders play checkers…great leaders play chess’.  The idea is that everyone in this life needs pressure in different ways and when you learn to “play” everyone according to there needs you are approaching great leadership.”

2.  Pressure is Best Applied Evenly

“Diamonds, as we all know, are made over long periods of time due to constant and even pressure.  Likewise, when we put pressure on others ,even in Christ, we need to apply that pressure evenly over time.  In fact going from no pressure to massive pressure is like taking a red hot skillet from a red hot stove to a cold water tub…much more likely to crack than clean.”

3.  Pressure is Best Applied Singularly

“Some may not agree on this point, but it is one that I believe in with my whole heart.  The best ratio of people applying pressure is one to one.  Through my entire life the time where I have seen people be cracked and burdened by pressure the most is when every acquaintance decides they should be the one to apply pressure. This causes the pressure in that persons life to increase to the point where they are “smooshed” by all the advice.

In the end all that can be said about pressure is that it is very important, and very dangerous.  It should be handled with care and concern for the person “under pressure”.  If our goal is to produce diamonds then we need to allow for time and not rush the process with more pressure.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Theology of Faith

 

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