Tuesday, July 28, 2015

James 3:13-17

In 1 Kings 3, King Solomon talked to God in a dream. He called out to God saying that he was just a little child and did not know how to go out or come in as he ruled a people that were too many to be numbered. He asked God for one thing, “an understanding heart to judge [God’s] people to discern between good and evil.” It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord because Solomon asked for discernment and wisdom to understand justice when he could have asked for a long life or riches. God gave abundantly to King Solomon, giving him not only a wise and discerning heart but also riches and honor. King Solomon even used this wisdom to discern what was true when two woman came to him the next day arguing over whose child was living after one had rolled over on her’s, killing it and stealing the other woman’s. God’s wisdom was in Solomon as he decided to cut the child in half to determine it’s true mother.

James 1:5  says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James continues with this by saying one must ask in faith without doubting, as King Solomon did and as God clearly gave him.
Wisdom from the earth and wisdom from God are both shown by the behavior and actions of a person. Wisdom from God is demonstrated by gentleness of deeds which is first pure. Purity of wisdom comes from a person who is drawing near to God, who is being cleansed by the spirit continually. Wisdom from God is next peaceable, meaning there is peace coming from the truth. If the wisdom does not bring peace because it is not backed by the truths of God then it is not from God. This does not mean that wisdom coming from God will always be easy to hear or say, Wisdom that convicts of sin should rattle a person. But that the wisdom is still able to be gentle, reasonable and full of mercy because it flows from God. Wisdom should be full of Mercy and good fruits meaning the wisdom of God is productive and compassionate, bringing about a growth in people, even when it requires a hard change of direction.

Often in my life when torn between a decision I first seek the council of believers around me, and when I feel torn between the different pieces of advice I go to God asking for wisdom and discernment. God’s wisdom is not clouded by the ways of the world, and He promises to always give wisdom when I ask in faith without doubting. So often I come to God doubting I will ever get crystal clear discernment and therefore come to His feet doubtful and already discouraged.
Wisdom from the earth can be discerned because it is the opposite of gentleness of deeds. Jealousy and selfish ambition will allow lies to be warped and twisted against the truth. When the truth is stretched in this way it brings about arrogance because the wisdom is no longer from God but from man. Colossians 2:8 says “see to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  The words ‘take you captive’ show that wisdom of this world can somehow grab hold of us if we are not discerning and always searching to be sure it is not going against the truths of God.  James does not even say that we can be fooled into believing the empty deception according to the elementary principles of the world, but instead suggests that a heart of bitter jealously that is self centered will steer me against the truth. James makes this seem like an inward battle against the wisdom of God and the truths I may let myself believe because of a heart issue. I can see how this is possible in my life when I think about my perfectionist nature. I can tell myself any lie I want to because I am always looking to challenge myself, learn more, and honestly ‘do better next time.’ I so easily take something that could be used for good in my walk with Christ and warp it into a selfish ambition that feeds myself lies. Lies against the real truth. Just the few weeks here I can tell how my perfectionist nature can really wreck a servant heart because it is self focused and really distracts from the desires of God. This is not something that is going to be ‘fixed’ overnight because it was such a part of my life in school, college, and useful in some regards in the teaching profession. Meditating on this reality in my life by confessing it daily to God and being hold accountable by people around me are going to be some important first steps because when the heart has been feed lies for so long it is not easy for it to immediately discern the truths of God from those of selfish ambition.

Wisdom that is earthly natural and demonic are contrasted with the true wisdom that comes from above. Earthly speaks of truths that are from rulers and leaders of our time. 1 Corinthians 2:6 explains that these so called wisdom filled leaders I may look up to are “passing away.” What a great reminder that the one who holds truth also holds time, is the author of all things, and does not gain His wisdom from a particular time. God’s truths are true now and always. 1 Corinthians 3:10 talks about the wise builder. A good builder put’s his knowledge into action by beginning all buildings with a strong and trustworthy foundation. How much more important for me to check the foundation of knowledge from those I may gain knowledge. If it’s not supported and built on top of God’s truths then it will surly “pass away” with time.  James then goes on to explain another false or ungodly wisdom that is natural or unspiritual. When Jude writes about divisions in the church he warns of worldly-minded people, devoid of the spirit. Again, this is a reminder that if the knowledge is not rooted in God and His truths then it is dangerous and causing divisions among believers.  The final type of wisdom that James lists in verse 15 is that which is demonic or evil. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 reminds that the activity of Satan may contain signs and false wonders. 1 Timothy writes that the Spirit warns that some believers have fallen away from the faith by the deceit of spirits and doctrines of demons. The teachings of Satan are even described as “deep things” in Revelation 2. Our God is greater and is the holder of all true wisdom, yet it is made clear how easy some can fall into false teachings and how they can take captive of the hearts. After studying this passing and the three types of wisdom that don’t come from above I realize how important it is that I constantly discern the material I am feed in this world. It’s important to always go back to scripture to have scripture reveal other scripture not the other way around. It is so easy to take what a pastor or a suggested book says as truth, but if it truly is wisdom from above then it will check out as I dig deeper. My application is to actually go back through sermon notes and dig deeper into some of their cross references. As we would all hope, the information will probably check out to be true, but this is still a great practice to develop as a student of the bible. To dig deeper into sermons and teachings as a life practice.

V16. James adds on to the problems with earthly wisdom when he writes “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist there is disorder and every evil thing.” The word disorder in this verse stands out to me. Our God is a God of order and perfect design. He created the heavens and earth, took what he made that was formless and void, making it into what he called “good.” Each day, God brought something new to what was once formless and void, from light, to man, taking it day by day when He was fully capable of creating all things in one instance. It is only when sin is brought into this world that disorder begins. The serpent is not cursed to eat dust, there is no bruising, pain in childbirth, desire for rule over the husband, no nakedness, no toil, until sin enters God’s perfect –orderly- design. James 3:16 says that where jealousy and selfish ambition are, disorder and evil things are. Even when I look in my own life, where I was more focused on friends, work, and school, putting God to the backburner of my life I can clearly remember times where disorder began. Focusing on myself and ‘living my life,’ making God smaller than He is just led to more heartache, stress and disorganization. Jeremiah is shown a message from God in Jeremiah 24 about two baskets, one of Good ripe Figs and one of Bad rotten Figs. God is speaking to Jeremiah explaining what will happen to King Zedekiah and the remnant of Jerusalem. God told Jeremiah that He would set his eyes on the good figs, giving them a heart to know Him and that He would be their God and they would be His people. But the bad figs that are rotten will be made a terror, a taunt, a curse and that He would scatter them. For me this is a great picture of what will happen when jealousy, selfish desires, and things of the flesh keep me from following God. God brings or allows disorder because I bring disorder on all things God has for me by disobeying. Sin ruins the perfect structure in which God created, and Romans 2:8 is another reminder of what is to be expected by those who choose to obey themselves, not God. It says “that those who obey unrighteousness and go against truth will face tribulation and distress.” When I see stress and disorder in my life, which is common because I’m an extremely disorganized person, I need to re-evaluate where my priorities are. Is this disorder coming from my disobedience to God? Is this disorder coming from my mis-prioritization of my time with God? Often I find I can identify a connection between my walk with God and disorder, I need to become keen to addressing it rather than continuing in the same way. I need to learn to take two steps back, which is hard when in the midst of stress, and ask myself if God is being placed in the center of my life and if He is the motivation for all that I’m doing.


James 3:17 - “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

In verse 17 James describes the wisdom from above, God's holy wisdom, as first pure. When we seek wisdom from the Lord rather than the chaos of the world, the effect will be to purify our souls, making us peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Paul speaks of this wisdom in 1 Cor 2:6-7, “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” This wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit, and with it comes the fruits of the spirit as laid out in Galatians 5:22. As a believer, my goal is always to become more Christ-like, which is the Lord's will for my life as evidenced by John 12:26 where Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” This is the wisdom of the Lord, to follow after Christ. The world calls it foolish, but “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19). I will pray for wisdom from God in how to best serve Him and how to best follow after Him in my life. In this I believe the Lord will speak to me and give me direction for the coming years, and my intention is to continue praying until the Lord does speak to me, whether He gives a clear answer or just tells me to wait.

James 3:16 - “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

In verse 16 James explains that disorder, or chaos, is the result of jealousy and selfish ambition in the church. Furthermore, he says that there will be “every vile practice”, suggesting that jealousy and selfishness are at the heart of every evil that could befall a church. This makes sense in light of verse 15 where James describes them as demonic, suggesting that they're origin is in the powers of darkness. However, the things of God are inherently in order, as it is one of God's unchanging characteristics. Jeremiah 31:35 says, “Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name...” The Lord wants His church to have order also, Paul exhorts the Corinthian church in 1 Cor 14:40, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” And he commends the church at Colossae in Col 2:5, “For though I am absent in the body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” I do not believe it is a coincidence that the Colossians are both in good order and firm in their faith in Christ. Yet James is warning the church about the weak faith, shown in their selfishness, that will result in disorder. I believe this serves as a warning to keep Christ at the center of our ambitions. When I am distracted by the world I am prone to jealousy, wanting more than what the Lord has provided. This leads to me following my own selfish ambitions in trying to obtain worthless possessions, or positions, rather than focusing my efforts on glorifying God. I should humbly seek the Lord by writing down a list of areas in my life where I am selfishly motivated, and then take them before the Lord for forgiveness.

James 3:15 - “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

In verse 15 James contrasts wisdom that comes from God with the jealousy and selfish ambition mentioned earlier in verse 14, calling it “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” I believe James is using the progression from bad to worse to describe that which is not wisdom from God, similar to how he describes the tongue in verses 5-6, as “...the tongue is a fire...setting on fire the entire course of life...set on fire by hell”. This fits well since the worldly tongue, or ungodly speech, is usually the manifestation of jealousy and selfish ambition. In contrast, “wisdom that comes down from above” is a great example of a gift from God, about which James says in 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” If God has no variation in his character then we can be sure His gifts will not be prone to change either. Therefore wisdom that comes from God will always be true and constant in nature, while the jealous ambitions of man are of the world (at best) and doomed to failure. The application I draw from this is actually found later in James, where is verse 6 he cites proverbs 3:34, saying, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I must always humble myself before the Lord and ask for wisdom, as anything I try to accomplish on my own will surely fail, even if it succeeds. I want to commit to going before the Lord in prayer before making decisions, and not even necessarily big decisions, just decisions that will impact my service to Him.

James 3:14 - “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

James contrasts the “meekness of wisdom” in verse 13 with “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” in verse 14. The problems with slanderous speech described in the previous verses of chapter 3 were causing division among the body of believers, and James pins this problem on jealousy and selfishness in the church. Such actions were named by Paul with the “desires of the flesh” that are against the spirit in Galatians 5:20, where he goes on to say “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Such is the serious nature of these sins, and James even goes on to say in verse 15 that this selfishness is outright demonic. I think this is still often a problem today in the church, as we now have another 2000 years of theological interpretations to disagree on, which will readily cause dissension. Keeping egos in check is never easy, and selfish ambition is still a plague to every church, but proverbs 3:34 speaks about God that, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” It is my duty to the body of Christ to be humble and follow the example laid out by Christ. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

James 3:13-17 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James begins this passage with a question, “who is wise and understanding among you?” This sets the stage for an explanation on how to prove you are wise, and builds a contrast with jealousy and selfish ambition. A wise man will show meekness in his works, while the unwise will boast and be false to the truth. Moreover he shows that wisdom is from God, where selfish ambition is worldly, and even of the devil. Jealousy and selfish ambition promote chaos and get worse from there, but wisdom from God will be blameless, and because of this purity it will promote peace, gentleness, reason, mercy, good fruits, impartiality and sincerity. The verses previous to and following this passage deal mainly with the dissension caused by slanderous speech and selfishness, so this passage serves to contrast that reality with the meekness that they should be showing towards one another. I think it will be easy to find application for this teaching in my life, since I (like most people) am prone to selfishness and often lack wisdom. I should pray for wisdom, but often I do not, or otherwise I pray for wisdom on how to fix some terrible mistake that I should have prayed for wisdom before making.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Romans 3:25-26

Romans 3:25-26 “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

God sent His son to die for us on the cross and bear the full weight of His divine judgment against our sin, and it is by faith that we receive this gift from God. This sacrifice not only satisfied our present sins, but all of our past sins for which God so graciously delayed judgment, and all of the future sins that we will commit on this earth. All of our sins must be atoned for if God is to remain righteous and just. What a wonderful reality this truth is to my heart, that despite all of my sin, I am still righteous is the eyes of God by the blood of the Lamb. Ephesians 2:13 tells me “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Praise God. He had every right to destroy me for my sin before I was in Christ, but God knew that I would one day believe, and in His divine forbearance He spared me from judgment until the time had come that I could respond in faith to the saving work of Christ. This is a message I need to share with the world, and it is grace that compels me to share God's love.


A covenant is a binding agreement or promise. This promise was made public and official when it involved the breaking of flesh and the pouring out of blood. In a covenant, the agreeing partners would bring an animal sacrifice, and then walk between the torn animal and it’s blood to finalize the everlasting pledge. Today, the closest thing we have to this is a hand shake, but we can all recall times when it was acceptable for a hand shake promise to be broken, but a blood covenant was never to be broken. 

Hebrews 10:16-23English Standard Version (ESV)

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The Full Assurance of Faith

19 Therefore, brothers,[a] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Jesus became my lamb and our new covenant- giving me life as I passed through the pieces that are Christ upon accepting in faith his death and resurrection. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, being our mediator and ultimate sacrifice I can come straight to God. The old covenant of animal bloodshed could not make one perfect, yet Jesus’ blood makes one white as snow. Jesus is the testifier of the one who has faith in him, as his death formed the new covenant and God’s eternal and public agreement with us that His blood is the propitiation and atonement for all sins for all who have faith. In God’s righteousness, He promises to forgive all my sins and pass over them. There is no greater love than this. No greater promise than this. No One greater to keep a promise throughout all eternity. I want to reflect on this daily- in thanksgiving every morning-but in the very least I want to read though Christ’s death and resurrection meditating on it’s truth more deeply at least once a month.

Matthew 6:33-34

Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

If we first follow after the righteousness of God and work for the sake of His kingdom then He will surely provide for our earthly needs. We should not be worried about future since the Lord will provide, so instead focus on what God has called us to do for the day, which is further the work of His kingdom. How often have I made plans for my life to the exclusion of the Lord, and how often have I forgotten the work that I should be doing for the kingdom of God so that I could focus on my own pursuits? More often than I can remember. James 4:13-14 tells me “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” This speaks to the momentary nature of my life, so instead I should be saying “If the Lord wills, tomorrow I will have breath to praise Him for the day He has given me, then maybe I can accomplish some of my other goals.” My main pursuit should always be God's will, and His will for my life is that I be righteous as He is righteous. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” I know that life on earth is, as Solomon said, just dust in the wind. So I will dedicate my time here to the praise and glory of God through the building of His kingdom. I think the most practical expression of this for me will be learning Spanish, since it will help me to communicate the Gospel to the people I am serving here in Guatemala.


Matthew 6 goes on to explain the actoin I am to take as I chose not to wrry about all things that God has in control. I am to first seek His kingdom and His righeousness. The word 'seek' shows it is a continual proces in which  Ikeep my gaze on Him while seeking to know more about Him. As I seek Him and not myself I will be under a deeper understanding of who God is, His power, His character, His Love and the fact that His promises are true.

In Galatians 1:10, Paul asks in his letter to Galatia "for am I seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?" Paul explains that if he were seeking the favor of men then he would not be a bond servant of Christ. In life, we are always seeking and serving something. Are my eyes on Him completely or do I stray trying to serve both my wants and His commands?

In Acts 5 God was using the apostles to do great signs and wonders, bringing many people to believe. The High Priest  became jealous and threw them into jail. During the night, an angel came, unlocked the doors and confirmed for them to continue to speak the truth in the temple. When the high priest and council discovered the gates locked and knew of the teaching in the temple they were fearful to act too violently or the people might stone them when the apostles were questioned saying 'we gave you strict orders.' Peter and the apostles simply answered "we serve God rather than man." Although not the end of the story, the apostles simple reply of -we serve God not man- in a very real and dangerous situation, needs to be my answer to situations of worry. I need to make that my first thought when worry creeps in. By letting worry over come me I am saying I am serving myself instead of seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

When I worry, am anxious, or stressed it is because I am feeling inadequate, not strong enough for the task ahead. These feelings come only when I am serving myself, thinking it is MY job to handle the load and push on. Instead I need to serve the Lord in all I do. He is adequate. He is strong enough. He is the source of my strength. I must serve Him, not myself.


Matthew 6:30-32

Matthew 6:30-32 "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."

God is sovereign over all creation, and it is by His hand that the world itself keeps spinning, so there is never a need to be worried about His sovereign provision for our lives.  It is the unbelievers that worry about material things, and God knows that we need them in this world, but exhorts us to be heavenly minded and let Him take care of our earthly needs.  I have often been guilty of worrying about money in the past, and I believe that is what this boils down to in modern times, since we have a standardized method for acquiring food, drink, and clothing.  It was during the financial crash in early 2008 that I was most worried about money, since I had $1.26 in my bank account and no chance of making any money that month, but God provided.  God has always provided, just as He provided a ram to Abraham in place of his son Isaac (Gen 22:13), and Abraham then called that mountain "Jehovah-Jireh" or "The Lord will provide."  The Lord later provided a Lamb in our place on the cross, and I believe that is the major point of this passage.  Why should I ever worry about the material things of this world, when I know the Lord has provided for my eternity?  I will not worry about money, or where He has called me to serve, or what He has called me to do, since I know in all things God will provide.


This passage truly speaks to many of the sins in my life. I struggle with worrying about what will come next and obsessing over plans A, B, and C. Matthew writes explaining how God, the ruler, creator, and author of all things clothes the grass- will he not also know what things I need?
I need not worry if He will provide or if He knows what I need. He just will. He knew upon my creation because He is the author of all things. Romans 8:28 says “…that God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.” The key is that I learn to understand the way God provides for me is for His good – and ultimately my good because I serve a God of love.
Last August Jeremy and I had plans to serve in the Philippines. These plans changed once we visited Antigua in August. I was made aware of some sins of selfishness in my life that were keeping this from being a good idea. I remember pouring my heart of to Karole in Antigua saying I knew God’s calling was for missions, but when, where, and how? Me of little faith. God has shown us repeatedly how futile worry is as we prepared for the IGNITE program.

1 Peter 1:22

1 Peter 1:22 - "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brothely love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,"

Our souls have been cleansed by our obedience to the truth of the gospel, for the sake of truely loving one another, and it is the truth of the Gospel of Christ that gives us this pure heart with which to love one another.  Just as Romans 12:9 exhorts us to "let love be genuine," we should always look back to the cross as our measure of the sincerity with which we love our fellow believers.  I think this is especially evident to me as I step out of my comfortable life back in the United States and walk into the mission field.  Back home, "loving one another" was simply the ommission of sin, and by not doing anything that was "unloving" you would, by default, be loving one another...or at least this was my mindset.  In reality, our missionary mandate extends to all aspects of our lives, no matter the location.  In the field that mandate is clearly seen and has definite purpose, "Go and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matt 28:19), however "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:3)  Love, and earnest love with a pure heart, is the central focus of missions.  We are sharing the great love of God, who sent his son to die for us, bear the full weight of our sin and the full fury of the wrath of judgment against that sin, so that we might inherit that which we had no right to even long for, eternal life in the presence of God's glory.  This is the truth that has purified my soul for the sake of love, and this is the truth I must be obedient to, not just in Guatemala, not just back home, but to the ends of the earth.