The Way of Christ Ministries

Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the work spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:1-3NKJV)

This is an earnest plea to reason.  God has spoken to us by His Son.  Jesus is the Son of God and as such has a direct line to the Father, like no other person in heaven or on earth.  He sits beside the Father and all the kingdoms of the earth and all authority has been given Him, by the Father.  The message he has given us is such an important message that we should take extra care to listen to what He said.  Here in Hebrews Paul is saying PAY ATTENTION!  God is doing something in our lives, in the lives of men.  God Himself directly intervened in the lives of everyone here!

Paul warns us, “Hey, if what the angels, and the Son of God Himself told us about EVERY thing we do or say will be held accountable then we need this salvation that is offered.  If even the very motivation of our actions, whether they be good or bad, is recorded for examination in court, then we need an attorney.  You know why, because the same ones who said these things also said that there is none good!  The cost for your salvation was so enormous, how can you not pay attention to the suffering endured.

Paul also gives credence to the fact that we should pray and study earnestly, “lest we drift away”.  There are false teachers that are in the “Church” today that try to tell us that “times have changed” and that the statutes that the Lord established in his Word are no longer relevant.  There are even some pastors who will water down the scriptures and tell you their own private interpretations so that they can justify sin in their own lives.  I know that some of you will not hear the things I am going to say.  But living in sin disrupts your fellowship with God.  Paul said being forgiven is not a license to sin.

If we become superficial in out prayer life, or in out scriptural studies we put ourselves in jeopardy of drifting away from our first love.  Even as Jesus said in the Book of Revelation, “Never the less I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2.4)  Jude also wrote that he found it necessary to encourage us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1.3).

Folks the saints are us, we are the saints, saved by grace and set apart for the kingdom of God.  We are to fight for our faith!  Keep it and hold it close!  Strive with all our hearts!  Now I’m not saying be rude and stiff-necked.  I am saying study and be prepared to have an answer in love, for when you are confronted concerning your faith.  Stay away from TV and radio shows that encourage immoral behavior.  Society itself is drifting away from the One true God, because too many saints are keeping salvation a secret.  We have become, in large, ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  We have conformed to the world. Do the work you are called to do.  Be salt!  Now may peace and mercy and love be multiplied to you.  Amen

Signs of Character

2 Timothy 3.5 states’ “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:” Paul here is saying that these people, who he discussed previously in the chapter (2 Timothy 3.1-4), would consider themselves religious people.  They would say to themselves that they were “Christians” and may even appear to be Christian in outward appearances.  However; they are not true Christians, for they have never experienced the power of God in their lives.  They would have a false religion, a false Christianity. While they said that they were “saved” they would not have the appreciation of salvation demonstrated in their lives.  Going to church once or twice a year, or some may even go every Sunday, but there is no ministry showing in their lives.  No love for the brotherhood of the church.  No compassion for the poor or the widows.

Like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked in Mathew 23:27 when he said “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye ae full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  They are just acting a part and not really living in the Spirit of God.  Jesus further explained the root of the problem in Matthew 15:8 when he said that people draw close to God and worship Him with their lips, but there is no real love there for Him, they worship in vain because they have no substance in believing or honoring God for who He is.  The way they live their private lives is a testimony against them. 

Their language and attitude would be a big indicator of their spiritual walk. These are the signs listed in 2 Timothy: covetousness, boasters, proud, disobedient to parents, unthankful, without natural affection, incontinent, fierce, despisers of good, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, and unholy.  Now there is a time period where change has to happen, where the mind has to be renewed, and the Spirit of the Lord chastises and reproves.  So we dare not put ourselves in place of God and judge any man.  For who knows the hearts of men, except God.  Paul is just warning us, that there are those who are out there and we should be aware.

Paul warns us from these people, even if they call themselves Christians, TURN AWAY from them.  Do not associate with them, they are false brethren.   The issue with these people who profess to be Christians and do not live a Christian lifestyle is that they will cause divisions and draw away others from the central focus of Christ.  We do not live GOOD lives to gain salvation from Christ, rather we do “good” because we are being changed from the inside outward, from the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the true believer.  It is the Spirit of God that enables us to love one another.

Contrary to what Paul described as signs of false believers, if we walk in the Spirit and it dwells within us then there are certain things that should be evident in our lives.  These signs are referred to as fruits of the Spirit.  We find these things should be evident in our lives if we are walking in the Spirit of God, who comes to dwell within us once we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  We should see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  With believers whom we see these signs, we should have fellowship.  But above all, pray for one another.

Survey of Jude

Survey of Jude

Jude is especially important to the modern Christian as it pertains to the dangers that we face as the end times draw near. Jude expressed a severe opposition of the Roman Church’s idea of Docetism.  Docetism is a heretical doctrine that denies the real humanity of Christ.  Of importance is the urgency of Jude in proclaiming that the original doctrines of the Apostles are being perverted by false teachers that have already infiltrated the church.  Jude further warns that the great apostasy prophesied, for a sign of the end of times, has already begun. Jude warns us that we must contend for our faith!

Key Verse

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3 (KJV)

Authorship

The letter itself designates the author as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,” (v1).  During the time of writing, the name Jude (Judas) was very popular. There is Judas Maccabaeus who was one of the heroes of postexilic Judaism; Judas the son of James (disciple); Judas Iscariot (disciple and traitor); Judas the Galilean (acts 5:37); Judas of Damascus (Acts 9:11); Judas called Barsabbas (Acts 15:22); and Jude the brother of James.  In 230 AD Clement believed the author to be Jude, the brother of Jesus.  Jerome in AD 392 also wrote that the author was indeed Jude, the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus in writings for the early Catholic Church.  It is safe to assume that the author is the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of James mentioned in Matthew 13:55. (Acts 15)

Historical Settings

Jude is closely related to the book of 2 Peter, as allot of the contents are the same.  It appears that either 2 Peter was used as a source for some of Jude or vice versa.  The book of Jude is believed to have been written between 60 and 80 A.D.

Major Themes

Jude first exposes false teachers in the church v5-16, then denounces their spirituality and describes their character v8-16. The author also gives examples from Israel’s and mankind’s past on how the Lord deals with rebellion and immorality. The examples used show how a few false teachers and nay-sayers lead many into judgement from the Lord. (Gen 19:24; Duet 29:23-29) Jude then exhorts believers to living holy lives in true faith and prayer in the Holy Ghost. v17-23.  In his benediction Jude reassures the believers that they are safe in their salvation through Jesus.

Doctrine

The main point of doctrine in Jude is that all revelation has been given, there is no other doctrine of salvation, other then what has already been delivered by the Apostles.  They should guard their faith against anyone who tries to change what they already know to be true.  Note every believer is equipped or mature enough in their faith to deal with false teachers.  In order to protect the flock, false teachers should be guarded against, identified, and confronted. True believers are preserved, yet if we do not want to stumble then we need to firmly rely on Jesus and walk correctly not for salvation, but to avoid chastisement and to express our love and gratitude towards our savior.

Short Outline

I.  Introduction (Jude1-4)

II. False Faith (Jude 5-9)

  1. Examples
    1. Israel (v5)
    2. Fallen Angels (v6)

3.  Sodom and Gamorrah (v7)

4.  Cain, Balaam, Korah (v11)

      3. Character of False Teachers (v8-10)

4.  Results of False Faith (v12,16,19)

III. True Faith (Jude 20-25)

  1. How to contend for the faith (v20,21)
  2. How to respond to false teachers and their followers (v22,23)
  3. Encouragement (v24,25)

 

 

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 12. New York: Abingdon, 1982. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 2. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Print. Ephesians-Revelations.

Survey of Genesis

Survey of Genesis

Genesis means “origin”, and as such is a fitting name for the book.  It is the history of all humanity.  Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch.  This portion of scripture covers the beginning of creation, sin, civilization, and Israel.  Genesis is comprised of a series of short stories that cover a time period prior to Adam to the death of Joshua in Egypt.

Authorship

Genesis is commonly referred to as the first book of Moses.  Moses is accepted as the author of the five books of the Pentateuch.  There are several scriptural references in both the old and the new testaments that refer to Moses as the author even though the book itself is anonymous in origin.  It is believed that Moses wrote the book drawing on oral traditions and historic writings of his time, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Major Themes

The book of Genesis can be divided into two general parts.  The first portion describes the early history of mankind and his relationship with God.  The second portion gives specific examples of individuals whom God chose to reveal himself to.  Both sections show the divine grace God has shown to man both as individuals called and as a whole as His creation.  Genesis shows how God has always had a plan for mankind and that man was created with a specific purpose for God.

Doctrine

Important theological themes of the book of Genesis include the following doctrines:

  • A living, personal God
  • Man being made in the image of God
  • The fall of Mankind and Original Sin
  • The anticipation of the redeemer
  • The covenant promises with Israel

The reoccurring pattern in shown in Genesis is one of (1) Sin; (2) Judgement; (3) Grace of God; and (4) the consequences of sin.  Of importance to note is that God always provides mercy and grace even in judgement.

People

Genesis covers a long time period in history and begins with the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind.  Then moves through the stories of Cain and Able, Noah, and on up to the patriarchs of Israel.  These include Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the covenants God made with them to secure a people devoted to Yahweh.  Genesis warns us of the dangers of sexual immorality and the evilness that can lurk in men’s hearts. Genesis concludes with the provisions God made for the growth of Israel from a tribe to a nation under Joseph and the Egyptians.

Short Outline

  1. The Beginnings (1-11)
  2. The Story of Abraham (12-25)
  • The Story of Isaac (25:19-26;35)
  1. The Story of Jacob (27:1-37:1
  2. The Story of Joseph (37-50)

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Longman, Tremper. “The Book of Genesis.” Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. N. pag. Print.

A New Year : Keep Your Focus!

Philippians 3:13-15

I remember when I was in the Basic Non-Commissioned Officer’s Coarse while stationed in the U.S. Army, at Hawaii. We had a 12 Mile forced march that we had to complete under 3 hours. Now this doesn’t seem to difficult at first mention. Especially if you consider that we were all Infantry soldiers, and this was a small distance for us. We got up early, as usual, and drew our weapons, and load bearing equipment. Now the load bearing equipment is what we wear that allows us to carry a bayonet, ammunition, and water on our person. This equipment with the Kevlar helmet on average is about 35 lbs. Then we add on our weapon and ruck sack (backpack).

The recommended weight allowance for an Infantry soldier is 60 lbs in total. However, as a leader we are expected to go farther, carry more and do it faster. So I was required to carry a 95 lbs rucksack. Now you begin to see, that even seasoned soldiers can be put to the test with such requirements, and as Sgt and a Infantry Squad Leader, I was very seasoned. The walk I will tell you is not hard, the pace is not hard. The weight, although common, is a burden.

12 miles can get to feeling very long, and 3 hours, gets to feel like forever, and yet doesn’t seem long enough time. Your mind can start to talk to you. But by keeping the end in mind, you step-by-step get through the hills and the valleys along the way to the finish line. Your heart sometimes feels like its will burst, the breeze sometimes feels like God is cheering you on. Focus is what gets you through. You walk, and you focus on the goal. You focus on your pace. You focus on your distance left to go.

Philippians tells us that Paul kept his focus. He focused on the goal. He said I forget those things which are behind, and I reach forward to the things that are before. Paul pressed toward the mark. He kept Jesus in front of his eyes the whole way! Throughout Paul’s ministry he was beaten, stoned, hungered, homeless, betrayed, thrown in prison, mocked, ridiculed, and attempts were made on his life ; all for Christ’s sake.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ, just as you are. The scriptures tell us that Paul focused on one thing, “Christ Crucified”. We must remember that in all things that Jesus was crucified for us, and for all those around us. We must keep in mind that Jesus was not only Crucified and was buried, but that He arose from the grave. The resurrection of Christ is our sign of acceptance. In Romans chapter 6 the scriptures tell us that we shall also be resurrected in the likeness of his resurrection! Brothers and sisters, death has no hold on us! We do not need to fear what man can do to us. He cannot touch our soul!

We can rest in the knowledge of what the Lord has brought us through this past year, and let it be an encouragement that He will see us through this year also. Yes there are some things that will happen that we may not understand or that we wont want to go through. Right about now, you’re going to expect me to say that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, but I’m not going to say that. I will say that He said he will always be with you, even until the end of the age. I will remind you that He told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage”, more than once. I will remind you that the scriptures tell us that we should encourage one another, and that we should pray for one another, and that we should love one another. I will remind you that Jesus’ intercedes on your behalf!

I do know that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it. I have the utmost expectations for this New Year, that it will be better than the last. Not because of who is president, but because my God is the God who appoints the kings of the earth. I know that even though there is going to be persecution, that the Lord’s message will be spread as a result. I do know that the Lord has stirred up the Spirit in Christians all over the world, and that He is soon to return. So I encourage you, when your rucksack gets too heavy, or when your feet are sore and want to stop, or when your weapon is to hard to raise, to keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If you share anything this year about your faith, share Christ Crucified. Share the hope that is within you. Let someone know what you know… the Truth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and have a great new year!

Survey of Jonah

Survey of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is one of the few books of the Bible that is actually written about a prophet, with the prophet being the center of the story.  In the story, Jonah received a commandment from God to go to Nineveh and preach what the Lord would tell him to preach.  Jonah, however; did not immediately do what the Lord had required him to do.  Instead Jonah went the opposite direction.  Jonah rebelled from God out of prejudice and selfishness.  Jonah knew that if the people of Nineveh were to hear the message of the Lord that they might repent.  Jonah also knew the Lord, and that He is merciful.  Jonah knew that God would have mercy on the people of Nineveh if they repented.  In his rebellion, Jonah has to be chastised severely.  Jonah then repents and cries out to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord, in His mercy, gives Jonah a second chance to go to Nineveh and deliver the message the Lord tells him.  The story of Johan is referred to by Jesus himself as a sign that the story of Jonah is a revelation from God concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah.

Authorship

Jonah is accepted to have been written by the prophet himself, although there is no direct evidence of this.  The story itself is anonymous, as the story does not identify the writer or when it was written.  It is believed that the story took place around 760 B.C. In 2nd Kings 14:27 Jonah is connected with the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753 B.C.). There was a plague in 765, an eclipse in 763, and then a second plague in 759 that may have made the Ninevites prepared to receive the preaching of Jonah.  The theory for this is that the signs of the plagues and the eclipse would have been seen as judgements of God and would have prepared the hearts of the Ninevites.  The king calls for fasting and repentance and the Lord hears their cries and shows mercy, even though, none was promised in the preaching of Jonah.

Historical Settings

Nineveh is probably the most famous of the capitals of Assyria.  Nineveh became the capital of Assyria during the reign of King Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.).  During his rule the empire expanded and became prosperous.  Nineveh was strategically located east of the Tigris River and 250 miles north of Babylon, in a very fertile region.  Nineveh was the center of worship of Ishtar, the fertility goddess.  The size of Nineveh as revealed in the bible (Jonah 3.3 and 4.11) was over 120,000 people and took approximately 3 days to walk across.  Scholars believe the circumference to have been from 55-60 miles.  Some of the inventions we use today that come from Nineveh during this time period are, locks for doors, a time system that kept track of time in a 360 degree circle, paved roads, the first postal system, and flush toilets and aqueducts.  Military leaders were known for being exceptionally brutal, and used terror to keep areas under control.

There are a number of miracles in the story of Jonah that are also reflective in the gospels. That include the calming of the sea, Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days, and the grace shown by God to his servant Jonah. These also include the following by chapter and verse:

  • Calming of the sea (1.15)
  • Preparing of the great fish (1.17)
  • Throwing up of Jonah on dry land 3 days latter (2.10)
  • Preparing of the gourd (4.6)
  • Preparing of the worm (4.7)
  • Preparing of the wind (4.8)
  • Salvation of the people of Nineveh

Doctrine

There are twelve doctrinal issues that can be drawn from the story of Jonah.  James in the epistle of James 1:15 tells that sin in its ultimate form brings death. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1.15) Sin comes from our own selfish desires.  This is then the root that sin has in our lives, that we only seek what is in our own interest.  This is the problem that Jonah had.  Even though he wanted to rid the world of the wickedness of Nineveh and therefore remove a threat to Israel, God had other plans.  Quite possible, God chose the Nineveh, because He knew they were among the most evil people on the earth at that time.  In showing them mercy to the people of Nineveh, He lets us know that it is not by our own works that we deserve mercy, but by his grace. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;  which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3.5-7) Even as this is a direct show of the mercies of God towards us, no matter what the condition of our life, the portion of Johan being in the belly of the whale was given to us as a testimony of the resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew 12:38-45 tells us that Jesus confirmed the importance of this story.  Jesus told the scribes that the sign of his being the Christ was the sign of Jonah being in the belly of the whale.  Jesus used this story as a fact that Jonah’s plight in the big fish was accurate and true, and as it was, so would his death, burial, and resurrection.  Even more so, if you look at this, Jonah then went and preached and the people were saved.  Well the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension, went and preached, and people were saved.  “How then shall they call on him in which they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10.14 KJV).

12 Lessons from Jonah

  • Sin always has consequences (Jonah 1:4)
  • Sin always affects others eventually (Jonah 1:5,8)
  • It is a sin to serve God in the wrong place (Jonah 1:3)
  • God’s chastening can be unusually strong (Jonah 2)
  • Pay your vows (Jonah 2:9)
  • Our God is the God of a 2nd chance (Jonah 3:1)
  • God is more merciful than some of us expect him to be (Jonah 3:9-10)
  • God blesses the city whose king orders them to turn to God (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • It is possible for an entire city to get right with the Lord (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • Suicide is nearly always a selfish act (Jonah 4:3)
  • We should be merciful to others as God has been merciful towards us (Jonah 4:10-11)
  • If you don’t believe the story of Jonah then you don’t believe the Gospel (Matthew 12:38-45)

God’s mercies with Assyria did not end with this story.  Even though, later in time he still had to judge Nineveh, when they were finally conquered their people were not wiped off the face of the earth.  Instead they were ruled by other nations, like Babylon.  Assyrians were among the first converts listed by the early church.  Assyria became a thriving Christian community that still exists today.

Short Outline

  1. Jonah Fleeing, 1.1-17
  2. Johan Praying, 2.1-10
  • Jonah Preaching, 3.1-10
  1. Jonah’s Lesson, 4.1-11

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Longman, Tremper. “The Book of Jonah.” Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. N. pag. Print.

“Ancient Nineveh – Background Bible Study (Bible History Online).” Ancient Nineveh – Background Bible Study (Bible History Online). N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Immanuel

I remember one night, when I was very young that I had a terrible nightmare.  I had dreamed that my dad passed away.  I was in such turmoil, I woke from my nightmare, tears streaming down my face.  My heart was in such pain and agony.  I laid there looking into the darkness.  The dream was so real, that I didn’t know if it had actually happened or if it was just a dream.  I laid there and cried.  I wanted to get up and go to my dad’s room, but I was afraid he wouldn’t be there.  Even remembering the dream now, brings tears.

Finally I got up and walked to my parent’s door.  There room was right next to mine, but it seemed forever as I slowly crept into the hallway.  I stood there for a long time, wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. Gently I grabbed the handle and twisted the knob.  If he was there I dared not wake him up.  Quietly I opened the door, there was my mom lying asleep, she slept closest to the door.  I looked over for my dad.  My heart fell, he was not there.  I stood there frozen.

Then I heard him whispering from the kitchen, “Hey little buddy, what’s wrong?”  Man! I turned and saw him standing in the entrance to the dining area, and ran and put my arms around him and cried.  He picked me up and held me tight.  I told him about my dream.  He took me and laid me back in bed, and told me, “You don’t need to worry, I am with you, right here.”  Then he laid beside me until I fell asleep.  When I awoke the next morning, he was still there.  He was late to work, just to let me know he was with me.

I never miss the point in that.  It may seem silly, but every time I read in Matthew 1:23 where the angel tells Joseph that Mary is having a baby sent by the Lord and that he will be called Immanuel (God with us), I can remember the security of the feeling of my dad saying that he is with me and his big arms holding me, and how good it felt to wake up and know that he loved me enough to stay with me through the night.

This is the same love that our heavenly father has for us.  This year when you read the Christmas story and read through the verses, remember that God not only came here to be with us while Jesus was incarnate , but that he is risen from the grave, and that He is still with us.  When your done reading about the wise men and the shepherds, and the little baby in the manger turn over and read Matthew 28:20 where Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Kiss your loved ones, and tell the Lord, thanks for always being there, even when He didn’t need to be.

Merry Christmas,-Harvey

 

Exposition James 2: 1-13 (Why partiality at all levels is wrong)

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Exposition James 2: 1-13 (Why partiality at all levels is wrong)

When I read this passage in James I am reminded of an old Johnny Paycheck song that my dad use to listen to.  The song is called the Outlaw’s Prayer.  It talks about how he was held over in a town and decided to take a walk.  He heard the sound of a church choir and decided to go into the church.  When he entered, a man met him and asked him to leave because he wasn’t dressed appropriately for the church.

The problem is, the song is based on a common sentiment shared by allot of people who wonder into churches.  They are met with condescending looks, sneers, and even people who move away from them.  Sometimes this is because of their uncleanliness, sometimes their race, and sometimes because of their obvious financial or social condition.

Unfortunately, this problem seems to have been around since the 1st Century church.  James takes a good amount of time to let us know, that not only is this unacceptable, but it is sinful and is detrimental to the unity of the church and the cause of Christ.

(v1) My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

James warns us that we should have no partiality in who we accept into the local church, with respect to the person based on anything, other than the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Anyone who enters the assembly seeking the Lord should be treated as unique and important as they are seen in the eyes of Christ.  Christ after all died for all.  The Spirit said in Revelation 22:17 “And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”  Salvation is not just for the rich or the socially important.

 (v2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

The word assemble literally means the synagogue, though not indicating a Jewish synagogue, but the meeting place of the church.  The reference to the gold ring was a common symbol of status at the time, it was common place for influential people to wear several rings to show their wealth and importance.  James is drawing an example of one of the ways people receive favor and places of honor based on appearances or social status.  The same way that if a nicely dressed man or woman entered a restaurant and receives the attention of the host, and the wait staff, so that they can gain a better tip.

(v3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool.

Leviticus 19.15 commands us, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor. “  We are not to look at the outward appearances of one another, but at Christ’s righteousness in us all, those who believe.  This is unjust judgement based on false motives and assumes that earthly statues determines certain privileges.

Galatians 3.28 tells us “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  God is not respecter or persons. (Deut 10.17; ) “For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2.11)  God does not care how important you think you are, nor how important you think someone else is.  Giving someone an honored place in worship and ignoring someone else because of their appearance is ungodly behavior.

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and by such all need to have his grace.  He is not impressed with how nice we dress, or how many cars we have.  We should not care either.  Skin color, financial or social status should not matter, those who are believers are family and should be treated that way. Those who are not are in danger of hell fire and need to be earnestly sought after no matter what their status or condition.  It is a matter or life and death. Drawing such distinctions in the church causes divisions in the church, and causes some to stumble.

(v4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

When we judge others based on their wealth, race, or social status we put ourselves in danger of judgment.  Only God can judge the true motives of a man, or his stature.  We bring ourselves into condemnation, assuming the role of God to judge who is right with God or who is not.  Showing partiality to the rich, or the color of skin is wrong in many ways and shows a flawed value system, thus meaning your judgements are based on evil thoughts.

(v5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

Jesus opened his ministry in Luke 4.18 by quoting the prophet Isaiah in saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set them at liberty them that are bruised,”  It the lowly in the earth were who Jesus himself said He came for, why would we as His disciples minister to anyone, but who needed to hear the gospel?

(v6) But ye have despised the poor.  Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgement seats?

In showing favoritism to the rich and oppressing the poor we miss the mark.  We embolden those who oppress us, and neglect those who need our assistance the most.  This is sin, James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  Neglecting the widows, or the orphans, or the poor… is SIN.

(v7) Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

The rich and the prideful and well educated, mock believers in Jesus, and talk ill of the church.  They work to get laws passed and sue churches and Christian employees because their deeds are evil and to not want them brought to light.  I am not saying everyone who has money is inherently worse than someone who does not.  I am saying that it is wise not to place to much importance on the fact that someone has money, and assume that they are more important than someone else because they are financially endowed.

(v8) If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:

Here James is referring to the second of the two great commandments given by Jesus in Matthew 22.39 where Jesus says the 2nd greatest commandment is similar to the 1st. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  We should love our neighbors “selfishly”.  When we want something, nothing stops us from doing whatever is necessary for us to get it.  That is the same way we should love others, so that we put their needs above our own.

(v9) But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

By failing to obey the love of Christ, we put ourselves in sin.  Our motivation to others should be from our hearts, to share the love of Christ.  From out of the heart comes sins, and blasphemies, and all manner of evil doings.  So by showing partiality or racism, we are living in sin, and forgetting the grace in Jesus Christ.

(10) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

It does not matter how small a sin you thing you commit, all sin is punishable by death.  You can keep all the laws of the land that you want, but if you speed, you are still in violation of the law and will be punished.  It is the same precept, it only takes one broken law to become a criminal, it doesn’t matter if it is a felony or a misdemeanor, you are still a criminal.  So with spiritual law, if you keep every statute, every dot, and every line, if you miss one letter, you still violated the law.  So by showing partiality, you have broken the whole commandment of God.

(v11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also , Do not kill.  Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou are become a transgressor of the law.

(v12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

As disobedience to the law brings death, so can obedience to God’s grace bring liberty from the law.  We should live in the grace that has been afforded to us.  By living in the grace that has been freely given to us without regard to our race, riches, social status, or even our nationality, we are free to treat other in the same manner.  We are responsible to treat others with the grace that has been shown to us out of gratitude.

(v13) For he shall have judgement without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgement.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 18 about a servant who had been forgiven a lot of debt by his master.  However, the servant did not show compassion to another servant that owed him money.  The master then hearing of this cast the 1st servant into prison and demanded he pay all that he owed, because he was unforgiving of the 2nd servant.  We should do well to read this scripture closely, and examine our hearts.

Jesus also told his disciples, that when you come to the altar and if you have a grudge against your brother, to leave your gift at the altar and go and make amends with your brother.  Once you have made things right with your brother, then come back and offer your gift at the altar.

It seems clear that there is a cause and effect here in relation to how we judge others and how we show our love and gratitude towards Jesus for saving us from the meaningless lives we had before we know him, and the importance of knowing that we did not deserve His love and grace.  Take a look around the next time you are in church.

Make an effort to see who is visiting.  Show a genuine interest in them, they might be there just to meet Jesus for the first time, or to ask Him for forgiveness for being away so long.  They may be looking for an excuse to just point a finger and walk back out… don’t give them the excuse.  You just might be the harvester the Lord uses to bless their life.

Exposition: Joshua 24

Exposition: Joshua 24

1And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

 Joshua gathered all the people of the Lord together so that they could present themselves to the Lord and he could speak to them, so that everyone could hear first-hand what he had to tell them.  What he was going to say would be extremely important for their survival and he did not want it misunderstood.  We all know how things can get misinterpreted through the grape vine.

2And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods. 3And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. 4And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.

 At the time that God called Abraham, the whole world was in apostasy from God. This is after God broke the language of the people and scattered them all about the face of the earth.  But there was one man who the Lord heard.  Abraham wanted to know the one true God, to God searched his heart and found him to be genuine.  He called Abraham out of a land of idolatry to be separated unto Himself, so He could teach Abraham and eventually call a nation out of him that the messiah would come through.  Much like when we are saved the Lord calls us out of the bondage of sin and to be sanctified to Him, so that we may learn of His grace and mercy.

 5I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 6And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea. 7And when they cried unto the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.

 Joshua reminds the Israelis how God has always cared for them, even when they were in Egypt and how he used the bondage to make them grow strong and then delivered them in due time. Even when Israel disobeyed God, he did not abandon them, He instead provided their daily needs, reassured them, and guided them back to a place where they were willing to hear Him again, and obey.  They learned from their mistakes through Gods loving kindness and chastisement.

8And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. 9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: 10But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.

 God reminds the children of Israel that he continued to care for them and delivered them from all of their enemies, and out of every circumstance.

 11And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. 12And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. 13And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat. 14Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.

 Of major importance is that now that they occupied then land, they did not rid the land of all of its previous occupants as the Lord had demanded. This meant that they were surrounded and even had in their midst people who followed false gods.  Joshua instructed them that they needed to settle in their hearts to serve only the One True God of their ancestors, who had delivered them through all the events that he previously mentioned.  They were not to forget what God had done for them, and neither should we.  We cannot forget what Jesus has done for us, the bondages of sin and addictions that He delivered us from.

 15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 Joshua again let them know, that they were free to choose whether they were going to continue to serve the Lord God, or if they wanted they could choose to serve another god. God is not going to force Himself on us, we all have a choice.  Joshua does show the importance of making a choice and staying with it.  He leads by example and declares that He and his family will serve the Lord.  We as parents and community leaders and employers and peers to others should lead by example.  Showing boldly that we choose to serve the Lord, not out of fear, but out of remembrance of what He has done for us.

 16And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;

 The people following Joshua’s example choose wisely to serve the One True God.

 17For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.

 The children of Israel gave God recognition for the wondrous things He had done for them, how He had always had his hand in their lives. Many times we do not give God the recognition of the praise for what He has done for us.  Giving praise and recognition to God not only honors God, but it strengthens our faith, it reassures us of His presence in our lives, it reminds us that He is in charge and that He is not slacking of His promises to us.

 19And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.

 We often forget that God is not only a God of love and mercy, but that He is a just God and a God of judgment.

 21And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. 22And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 23Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. 24And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

 These events and the choices of the people of Israel were recorded as a reminder and a testimony against them and to all the other nations

27And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. 28So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance. 29And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath–serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. 31And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.

 This shows the importance of the godly influence Joshua’s leadership had on the nation. Strong godly leadership is a blessing to a nation.  We as Christians should be involved in our local, state, and federal governments at all levels.  Separation of church and state is not a biblical principle.  The governments of man are constructed by the will of God and are meant as a means to help us in our daily lives to have the freedom to serve God as God sees fit.

32And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

This serves as a reminder of Josephs faith in God, and that he understood that God would continue to have His hand on his descendants and that God would honor His covenant.

 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.

Come and Hear

Psalm 66:16-17

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.  I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. (ESV)

The psalmist said we should share, with the saints, all that the Lord has done for our soul, and how He has answered our heartfelt prayers. We should share what God has done in our hearts, in our way of life, in how we see life, and how we live life.  He is not talking about our material possessions.  We cannot take material things with us into the next world.  No, he means what has God done for you inside? Not as a measure of godliness on our own part, but rather to show the faithfulness of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  Sharing what the Lord has done for us has great positive reinforcements in our spiritual walk. Sharing what the Lord has done, brings remembrance of what we have been through.  We have been delivered from death, and bondage.  Do you remember what life was like before you came to life in Jesus?  Do you remember the uncertainty in life?  Were you inhibited by fear, depression, or feelings of quilt and fear? What sins beset you?  How were you tied up with the superficial?  How selfish were you?

Now the security of the sure foundation in Jesus Christ brings peace and joy that no matter what happens in life, God (Jesus) is in control.  Knowing that the Lord chose from the foundation of the world to provide a way for you to be with Him.  Knowing that you don’t need to be good enough to earn you way to please Him.  Your salvation was bought by the blood of the Lamb of God.  These are the things we should share.  No one really cares if you got a new car.  No what did God really DO for you?  How did Jesus change YOUR life?

The changes brought in our life encourages fellow believers.  Looking at the changes God has made in my life are important to me keeping my motivation to take up my cross. You know sometimes it feels like I haven’t made progress.  Sometimes I feel defeated when I see others who don’t believe in Christ doing so well.  However, listening to others who have already been where I am, or have been, and seeing where God has blessed them for being faithful and serving Him in their daily life and I receive encouragement.  Hearing where they once were and now seeing their spiritual maturity in the Lord reinforces my desire to seek the Lord daily.  Hearing how God has been faithful to another believer, reminds me that He is still in charge of my life also.

I have been through periods of rejection, and humiliation because I stood up for Jesus.  I have been abandoned by friends, I have been rejected by loved ones.  During those times, the Lord sent me another saint, someone who had been through the feelings of isolation.  They encouraged me and lifted me in prayer.  They gave me living examples of the Lords provisions I their life.  Why do you think that Paul says we are not to forsake the gathering of one another?

To extol is to praise something or someone very much.  Another way to understand this is to say that He (God) was greatly praised by me. Allot of times when someone gives a good reference to someone about someone who helped them they say, “I just couldn’t say enough good things about him.”  This is the same meaning.  As sharing the great things the Lord has done for us, we should vividly express our gratitude.  Genuine heartfelt gratitude is hard to hide.  The simple honesty in a gracious awareness of the sacrifice and love that God has shown towards your is what God wants from you.  He wants you to love and appreciate Him, as He loves and appreciates you.

Expressing that to someone else, another believer, should be as easy as bragging about your mom or your dad.  I remember when I was in grade school all the kids would boast about how their dads could beat up all the other dads.  Boy we were proud of our dads.  They made us feel secure.  We know nothing could hurt us along as dad was nearby.  Well now you have a Father that can literally move mountains, part the seas, command the stars, and appoint kings over nations!  Amen!  Get out there and tell somebody what God has done for YOU!