Christianity 201

August 21, 2015

For Those Who Serve, Preach, Teach…

This post was in our draft file for nearly two years and I discovered it last night. The link is to a blog called Justified and Sinner, which redirects to A Simple Christian. The author is not named. This will resonate with those of you have devoted time to helping people in their spiritual growth.

Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting…

 1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2  to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3  The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4  They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5  But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)

\573         Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behavior or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway. (1)

There is a point in ministry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.

An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.

Or someone who asks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.

It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome.   In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insane, but completely insane.

There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom.  Sometimes we even bounce between the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemma.

This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on investment” must result in a immediate result that is satisfactory dominates our churches.  We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”.  We are hurt because we get into these fields because we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives.  We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.

And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…

And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways.  Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.

The nearly identical advice is seen above, (I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else).  Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives.  It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either.  It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.

Days preaching and teaching and counseling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrifice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need.  Ministry and teaching and counseling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encouraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed.  We are going to have to suffer in this role.  Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ wept over Jerusalem.  We need to realize that this struggle is okay.

That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven.  They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different.  We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship.  And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us.  He doesn’t change… He never will… although the results can’t be seen by us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.

In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world thinks is insane.  So let us keep our eyes on Him, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

July 25, 2015

Scattering

Parable of the SowerMark 4:1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Last night I attended a Friday night Camp Meeting-style service in which the speaker talked about the idea of scattering. He made it clear that this was a message about quantity, and not about quality.

Often we speak of the latter, requiring people to take evangelism training courses and to have a sufficient knowledge of scriptures and apologetics before they can take their witness to the streets, and to their friends and neighbors. But the speaker emphasized that we’ve thereby overly complicated the evangelism process. Although he didn’t refer to it, the verse that came to mind was,

Matthew 10:8b … Freely you have received; freely give.

Texts he used included

Luke 14:23 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! (The Message)

and three repeated key verses in trilogy of “lost” parables in Luke 15

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

What I would call an imperative to share the gospel is found in not only an urgency based on a concern for each and every individual who is not yet part of God’s family, but an urgency based on the idea that time is limited.

John 4:35Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

which reminded me of another verse

Eph 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (KJV)
Eph 5:16 Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (Phillips)
Eph 5:16 Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days. (GW)
Eph 5:16 I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. (ICB)

He also spoke about working cooperatively with other ministries, churches, organizations and individuals, quoting
1 Corinthians 3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. (NLT)

That reminds me of a statement I have posted many times

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

In the notes I took, I want to end here with a scripture that he actually used to at the beginning of his message, taking some familiar words from Jesus in Luke 4:18 and then placing the responsibility on us.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on us,
    because he has anointed us
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I couldn’t also help but think of Bill Hybels’ guiding principle in the founding of his church:

“Lost people matter to God.”


Unless otherwise marked, texts used were NIV
I didn’t identify the speaker, the “he” in the story was Rev. Brent Cantelon who I can heartily recommend.
The image, inspired from Mark 4, is the logo for the Canadian Bible Society

July 24, 2015

Let Your Gentleness, Reasonableness Be Known to All

When Paul tells the Philippians in a verse we know by heart to “Rejoice in the Lord always…” the message is quite clear. But in the words that follows there is a lot more going on.

First the full context:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

At the website Verse by Verse Commentary, Dr. Grant Richison writes:

Philippians 4:5

“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”

Gentleness in our society means weakness or prissiness. This is not what Paul is asking here. This command relates to the running feud between Euodia and Syntyche. We must see “gentleness” here in the context of division in the local church. It deals with how we treat other people.

“Let your gentleness”

The Greek word is broader than our English word “gentleness.” There is no single English word which can translate this word adequately. The word conveys ideas such as graciousness and clemency. Probably the closest English word is “forbearance.” It is sweet reasonableness toward others. After all is said, the word involves the willingness to yield our personal rights. This word connotes the willingness to show consideration to others. This person is reasonable when they look at the facts of a case. It is the opposite of self-seeking and contention.

Euodia and Syntyche tried to remold each other. They were two different people. Each person wanted the other to be like them. They tried to put the round peg in a square hole. The issue was personal preference or personal taste, not principle. These two women were trying to remold each other into their own image. Each lady had a mold into which they were trying to pour other person. If the mold does not fit they try to force her into it. Euodia may have had a square mold. She was particular and punctilious. Syntyche had a round mold. She tried to make Euodia fit the round mold.

The word “gentleness” submits the need for flexibility, pliability. We are not married long before flexibility becomes an important mode of operation. We cannot always have our own way. When that little baby comes along, we develop yet more flexibility. It does not take long till we become very relaxed. That baby interrupts our program; we have to change our schedule frequently. Our time is not our own. We have to yield to the desires of someone else.

Are you sensitive? Touchy? Do you take things the wrong way? Are you always spoiling for a fight? People at your work are like that. They are quick to take offense. Soon you do not dare open your mouth to them because they take everything personally. They misinterpret everything. They cannot take a joke. You avoid them and they wonder why. We have to carry their feelings around on a pillow.

Principle: A forbearing person does not treat people on the basis of what they deserve.

Application: Some husbands try to remake their wives. Some wives try to remake their husbands. They have tried it for thirty years and they still have not succeeded yet. We cannot make everyone comply with our pattern of life. We set up the pattern. If everyone does not fit into that pattern we conflict with them. Everyone has preferences. We have rights about which car to buy, style of dress. That is a matter of personal taste. Some women wear ghastly hats. That is their choice. We have to learn to keep a poker face in these things! Keep neutral. Make allowances.

July 23, 2015

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

Today we pay a return visit to Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog. He is working his way through 2 Corinthians; there are a large number of articles which precede this one, and no doubt several to follow in this particular passage. This is actually two posts from two different days. If you click the links and then click the banner, you can bookmark the site to return as he continues through these verses. (That’s okay, we’ll be here in a week when you get back!)

The first time someone handed me a Bible that was open to this passage was at a very pivotal time in my life. I have never forgotten what it was like to read these words in those circumstances.

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 2 Corinthians 4:8

There is a lot going on in these few words as Paul’s ideas were printed onto the parchment. The previous verse began with “But we have…” The verb was present-indicative. Now this verse has all of the clauses in a present-participle form. Thus, they are in apposition – “we have/we are.” Each of the articles in this verse respects inward conflicts, whereas each in the next verse will deal with external conflicts.

Also, in each of these clauses the idea is building upon the previous verse which noted first the “treasure in earthen vessels” and then “the excellence of the power…of God.” The first deals with the fragility of the created, the second with the power of the Creator. He is showing the superiority of the contents in the vessel despite the weakness of the vessel itself.

His first words “hard-pressed on every side” show their seeming inability to break away from that which is troubling them. And yet because of God’s power, they were “not crushed.” Despite the pressures, they were able to bear up.

Further, he says they were “perplexed.” The word indicates an inability to find a way out of something. And yet, at the same time, they were “not in despair.” In these last two words a paronomasia results. They are aporoumenoi and exaporoumenoi. It is as if Paul was temporarily tempted by a tasty treat of targeted tones in order to tantalize the ears of his readers. In an attempt to reproduce the original, one translator says “pressed, but not oppressed.”

Paul is showing that by living through the power of God, they were (and thus we are) able to bear up under the turmoil and trouble that constantly came their way. If we rely on our own physical make-up, we will surely see only defeat. But when we rely on the strength that is given by God, we will be able to bear up as the attacks come our way. As Paul says it elsewhere, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Life application: It is easy to read words such as Philippians 4:13 and say, “I will hold to this and trust in it.” However, it is much harder to continue to trust those words when the difficulties come. This is why we must memorize them and repeat them to ourselves again and again. We do this so that when the difficulties arrive, we will be prepared mentally to allow the strength of the Lord to take the lead.

Heavenly Father, help me to not just memorize catchy verses from the Bible, but to sincerely take them to heart in order to prepare me for the day of battle. When the trials arrive, grant me that sure confidence that what Your word says really does apply, even in the most difficult or darkest moments. Help me in this Lord. Grant me the surest confidence in Your wonderful word at all times. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:9

…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—  2 Corinthians 4:9

Paul continues with his contrasts which began in the previous verse. Those previous contrasts were from internal struggles; these are from external ones. His imagery is as if a soldier in combat who is first “persecuted, but not forsaken.” The words have the intent of “pursued, but not abandoned” (Ellicott). As if they were soldiers being pursued by an enemy, Paul says that even in such a state the Lord is with them. This follows along with the wording of Hebrews –

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say:
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5, 6

And surely this imagery is appropriate because the state which Christians find themselves in is a true battle. Paul discusses this in detail in Ephesians 6. His description includes this thought –

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

The second contrast is that they are “struck down, but not destroyed.” This again is the imagery of a soldier whose life is spared despite being wounded. It could even be of wrestlers in a bout of mortal combat. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord in Genesis 32, the match continued without either letting up, and so in order to end the match, we read these words –

“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” Genesis 32:25

Jacob was struck down, but he was not destroyed in the process. The Lord could have done so, but instead He humbled him and yet spared him. Paul shows that this is the state of the apostles as they strived to share the message of Christ. With their many struggles, both internal and external, they were able to press on because the Lord was there with them to ensure they would never falter or fail.

Life application: The Bible sys that the Lord will never leave His people and He will never forsake them. Paul was eventually martyred for his faith, as were almost every one of the apostles. Did the Lord break His promise? No! They have something that those who persecuted and killed them don’t have. They have the assurance of eternal life because of their trust in Christ. Truly, what can man do to one who is saved by the blood of Christ!

Heavenly Father, You have promised to never leave nor forsake Your people, and yet millions of faithful Christians have been martyred over the ages. Should we lose hope? Should we despair? No! We should rejoice that they were saved by You and they are saved by You. As followers of Christ, we have the absolute assurance that the blood has saved us. No fear here! Whatever happens to this earthly body is temporary, but an eternal glory awaits. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

July 22, 2015

Ushered into The New

Today’s thoughts mark a second time appearance from Harvest House author Bob Christopher at the blog Basic Gospel. Click the title below to read at source.

Where Freedom Rings

Spiritual birth ushers us into the new. Paul made this point clearly:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ready or not, the new is here.

• A new life – Romans 6:4.
• A new identity – John 1:12.
• A new self – Ephesians 4:24.
• A new heart – Ezekiel 36:26.
• A new covenant – Hebrews 9:15.
• A new command – John 13:34.
• A new way – Romans 7:6.

You might not know what this new life in Christ will look or feel like. And at first, it may feel a little awkward or strange. Like the Israelites, you may look back to your old life, especially when you feel down or blue, or when you are going through a tough circumstance. At those times, Satan will do his best to make you think your old life was pretty good. “Remember all the fun you had when you…?”

But as Peter wrote, “you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do, living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). It is time to let go of the old, to stop looking back, and to embrace the new.

There is nothing to fear. Jesus Christ is with you. He will never leave you. This means freedom for you, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The “new” that Christ has for you is better than anything you could ever dream or imagine. And besides, you can’t go back. Once you are in the light, you can’t go back to darkness. Once you have been set free, you will never be a slave to sin and death again. Once you cross over from death to life, the only way is forward in the newness of life.

This is where freedom rings.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace; Harvest House Publishers

July 21, 2015

His Love is Steadfast

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Lamentations 3:22 (emphasis added)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end  (ESV)

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. (NASB). 

Because of the Lord’s gracious love we are not consumed,
since his compassions never end.  (ISV)
 
The Lord’s kindness never fails!
If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed.  (CEB)

 

Today we continue introducing you to new sources for devotional reading. This one is from the blog Prayerful Pondering and the author is Pat Luffman Rowland. Click the title to read at source.

Happiness Versus Joy

In the English Standard Version of the Bible, “steadfast love” is mentioned 196 times in the Old Testament, 127 times in the Psalms alone. One of my favorite verses using steadfast love is Psalms 6:4:

“Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.”

These words of the psalmist David can be turned into a prayer of petition for healing by personalizing it with the individual’s name. It is also an appropriate prayer for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, deliver (our nation); save (us) for the sake of your steadfast love.”

“Steadfast love” is a translation from the Hebrew word chesed, found approximately 250 times in the Hebrew Bible according to many research sites, Ken Emilio of RemnantReport.com being one. Norman H. Snaith in A Theological Word Book of the Bible says that in English versions of the Bible, chesed has also been translated as loving-kindness, mercy, and loyalty. I think it is very safe to say God wants us to know we can rely on His love. That His is a faithful and committed love. Why else would He tell us so many times?

Just as His love for us is steadfast, He asks that our love be the same. In the New Testament, scripture turns it around from how God loves us and uses chesed as how we are to love God and others. Christ came to demonstrate the Father’s steadfast love by showing us how to take what we have been given and give it to others. Chesed is found six times in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:10, Titus 2:2, and James 1:12. One of those references, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, says it like this: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Beautiful songs of praise continue to be written about God’s steadfast love. Don Moen sings praise to God with his song “Your Steadfast Love” and Hillsong sings “The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases”.

As we sing our own praises to God, may we thank Him for a love that is steadfast and faithful. Man’s love may fail us, but God’s love never will. He has told us that emphatically.

 

July 20, 2015

Happy is not always Joyful, and Joyful isn’t necessarily Happy

Today, as yesterday, we’re highlighting a multiple-writer devotional blog featuring women authors for the first time here at C201. This one is called Putting on the New, and the particular devotion we’ve chosen today is by Tina Dorward. Click the title below to read this at source, and then look around the rest of the blog.

Happiness Versus Joy

For quite a while, that song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams was extremely popular to the point that people were making their own videos lip syncing to the song. It is a catchy song and I think everyone wants to be happy right? We do stuff we enjoy, spend time with people we like, and get a job where we hope to make a difference all with the intention of helping us feel happy. All of these activities are things we do; they are external things we to some extent feel we can control. Yet in life, there are so many things that happen to us that are sometimes of our doing and sometimes completely out of our control that aren’t good. How are we supposed to be happy then?

In Scripture, the word most often used isn’t happiness but “joy”.  I began to consider why this is and I’ve come to learn that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is often dependent upon our circumstances. When life is going well, we feel happy. But when life isn’t going well, when circumstances around us are not good, we aren’t happy and yet as Christians, we are encouraged throughout Scripture to be joyful in spite of our circumstances. James reminds us in chapter 1, verse 2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

How do we do this?

While happiness is often more externally dependent, joy on the other hand is internal, it comes from within our spirits and can be present in spite of the circumstances we might find ourselves in. I’m not speaking of a polly-anna fake happiness but a joy that allows us to continue to shine Christ’s light to others, to exude a warmth and a contentment regardless of what curve balls might be coming our way. It’s easy to get caught up in our circumstances; let’s face it, life can be really tough at times.

A year and a half ago, I was going through some rather difficult circumstances. I went to help my Dad take care of my mom who had advanced emphysema and was just starting home hospice. What the hospice workers thought would be a few short weeks turned into 8 weeks, all but 11 days of which I was there, four and a half hours away from my husband and kids helping take care of my dying mother and trying to be a comfort to my father. They were some really special times with both my mom and dad that I will treasure forever and yet they were some of the most horrible days of my life as I watched my mom cling to life here and her body waste away. Many days, although I was incredibly sad, I continued to feel joyful as I thought about how my mom would no longer be suffering, how her breathing would return to normal and how she would soon be praising God in person! I played Christian songs for her that spoke of the hope we have in Christ. I knew she was a believer and where she was going after she died and that some day I would see her again.

The promise of Christ, His saving grace, the encouragement and truth of Scripture, all of these things enabled me and enable all of us to feel joy in spite of what we face here on Earth. The key is we need to remember to allow those truths to be forefront in our minds and to keep our focus on Christ and Christ alone so we don’t succumb to the temptations that try to draw us away.

 

July 19, 2015

It’s Not a Vacation if You Take Everything with You

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Maybe it’s the pace of life increasing generally, but more and more devotional writers are turning to the theme of rest. Today’s thoughts are from the blog Inspire a Fire, appearing here for the first time. The author of this post is freelance writer Cathy Baker. Click the link below to read at source.

Why Soul Rest Begins With Leaving Our Laptops At Home

 “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

What marks the beginning of your vacation? Is it the moment you fill your gas tank and begin merging with fellow vacationers onto the highway? Or maybe the sound of satisfaction that comes as you slam your car trunk for one last time before heading out?

For me, vacation actually begins a week prior to the filled tank and loaded trunk. If you’re a list-lover you know the release that’s felt while listing out all the needs for the trip, followed by the sense of accomplishment as each one is checked off before packing it away. Books, magazines, laptop and reading glasses always top off my list. Last year, however, I felt the tinge of a holy adjustment coming my way every time I glanced at the word laptop.

Granted, with three grandchildren in tow there wouldn’t be a desire nor the time to peruse the internet, check and respond to email, or write blog posts during the day hours. I do, however, admit that skimming the internet before bedtime is one way I relax so taking the laptop has always been a no-brainer.

Then I came across Emily Freeman’s post Why Rest Takes Courage. Her final paragraph clung to my soul like a child refusing to leave her mother:

The details of soul rest may look different for each of us, but probably includes some combination of silence, solitude, nature, your people, and the willingness to come into the presence of Christ and simply be ourselves.

The Holy Spirit spoke tenderly and clearly—I was to leave the laptop at home. And I did, which resulted in a few unexpected discoveries along the way:

  • I felt ambushed by the uneasiness that crept up on my holy adjustment as our departure day drew near. What did I think I’d really miss in 7 days?
  • A new-found freedom emerged as I carried out my beach days with little to no thought of the laptop. I felt no obligation to check Facebook or email. I tried to rest in the fact that if someone didn’t receive an immediate response from me, all would still be well in the end.
  • I lost nothing by leaving my lap top behind but I did gain a type of rest that was both soothing and energizing, leaving me with a renewed appreciation for God’s promptings as well as His people.

I’m not suggesting everyone should leave their laptop behind, but I don’t see it reappearing on my family beach trip list again. Ever. The soul rest Emily eluded to in the above quote was mine for the taking in the combination of silence, solitude, nature, my peeps, and most of all, in trusting that the presence of Christ was enough. More than enough.

So, how about you? Have you left your laptop or other device behind while on vacation, and if so, what’s one thing you learned as a result?

 

Taking time off is not a punishment or a dare or a rule. It is a gift.

– Emily P. Freeman

It’s taking a day to open your hands toward heaven and acknowledging that you don’t make the world go around.

-Emily P. Freeman

July 18, 2015

The Church Attendance Crisis

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming. – Hebrews 10:25 GW

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had...They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. – Acts 2: 42, 44, 46 NLT

I was gladdened when they said to me, “We are going to the house of Lord Jehovah”!  – Psalm 122:1 Aramaic Bible in Plain English

We are in the middle of a church attendance crisis. What was always a weekly occurrence for individuals and families is often, at very best, only twice a month. Some are skipping entire months at a time. Others have simply discontinued the church habit, with no return in sight.

While some continue the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study, others are more certain to have their absence from weekend worship signal a drift away. Twice in 1 Timothy 6:10 and 6:21, Paul uses the phrase “wandered from the faith.” The micro-context is “the love of money” and worldly influences; but clearly a faith that was more anchored would not drift.

We could look at all the factors that are in play right now causing many to give up a lifetime of church participation, but I would rather focus on the positives; the things we gain by gathering together.

FellowshipFellowship – There is so much to be gained from community. The small group movement has made this even more meaningful. As Andy Stanley says, “It’s harder to fall out of a circle than it is to fall out of a row.” When we worship in a larger body, we’re also observing other people at worship, hearing their testimonies, and witnessing the spiritual growth taking place in their lives. We’re also putting ourselves in a place to minister to others.

Corporate Prayer – It’s hard to participate in “If two of you will agree as touching anything on earth” prayers by yourself. There is something to be said for coming into God’s presence en masse and then interceding on behalf of individuals facing great needs, our spiritual leaders, the local and national government, and the work of God around the world.

Personal Prayer – The obvious consequence of corporate prayer is that there are people available to pray with you when it’s your need that is uppermost.

Corporate Worship – Even if you don’t like the song, or don’t prefer the style, there are many intangible blessings of being part of a local assembly lifting their voices in praise that simply can’t be duplicated at home. I know those “worship moments” in nature are meaningful, and singing in the car with a worship CD turned up loud can be inspiring, but in my life, many corporate worship occasions have been life highlights.

Giving – You can give online, of course, but many people don’t. In the offering, we participate together in financing God’s work in the local church and are made aware of the needs of missions operating throughout the world.

Confession – Many services offer a call to go forward or stand or raise a hand and through a physical action affirm that God is speaking to us about a particular aspect of the day’s teaching. Even a short time of silence gives us an opportunity to respond to God in ways that might never come about through watching a sermon on a computer or television, where ‘dead air’ isn’t desirable.

Communion – This is last, but certainly not least. The modern “breaking of bread” service, or Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist has a direct connection to the Passover meal. As we receive the bread and wine in community we do so in humility and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us.

These are just a few of the benefits that occur when we don’t give up meeting together.


Christianity:

Coming under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ and being joined to a company of imperfect people who are trying to live a new life in a new way.
 ~ Larry Tomczak (circa 1976)

 

 

 

 

July 17, 2015

Proverbs on Poverty…

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dollar sign…and Riches

Today we pay a return visit to the daily devotional blog Christian Blessings. This post is from Dr. Bob Dellinger. Click the title below to read at source.

Proverbs 22-23 – Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s reading: Proverbs 22-23.

Don’t jump to conclusions about riches and poverty. The Bible doesn’t present a simple black-and-white picture, but a full canvas of colorful details. Both conditions have their dangers and opportunities. Read carefully to understand God’s wisdom about wealth.

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

God is the creator of all people and he shows no favoritism. All of them are sinners and need forgiveness. Each one, rich and poor, will live one life and then face judgment, but Jesus died for each one so that they could have eternal life.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Wealth is not the most important possession. Many things are more valuable, including the esteem of a good name. Such esteem is the result of a life lived wisely and righteously. God isn’t condemning riches, however. He’s just pointing out that they aren’t the ultimate goal in life and you shouldn’t let a desire for wealth interfere with a godly life.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Economic facts are as real and unavoidable as gravity. Wealth gives power and influence that inevitably lead to domination of the disadvantaged. A godly and wealthy people could use their power to help the poor, but unfortunately the opposite often happens. As an obstacle to wealth and a cause of further loss of power, nothing stands out like debt.

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Poverty is a fact of life in every generation. I’ve spoken previously about Bryant Myers’ description of how broken relationships cause poverty. The spiritual poverty of separation from God, the economic distress of oppression by other men, the personal destruction of abusing one’s own mind or body, the hazards of living in a dangerous environment – all these contribute to or cause poverty. God cautions us that there will always be poverty, but also exhorts us to show mercy to the poor.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

I said earlier that God didn’t show favoritism to the rich or poor, but he repeatedly states that he will stand up for those who are treated unjustly. That usually means the poor or disadvantaged. The wealthy who oppress are warned that their day in court is coming, and God will be sure to mete out justice.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Money and possessions are temporary. We may lose them due to the ups and downs of life, but it’s certain that we will lose them when life ends. Even so, money tempts us to do things that we shouldn’t. We work too many hours to the detriment of our family life. We hoard money or else spend it selfishly on ourselves rather than sharing it with the needy. We fail to give back to God. We deal dishonestly in order to get richer. In all these ways and others we lack the wisdom to restrain our interest in money. But, as Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? The love of money can blind a person to the spiritual or eternal truths of life.


After formatting and posting this, I discovered that just as we do, Christian Blessings borrows material from other sites. The original post for this was found at Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog.

 

July 16, 2015

Perhaps Today’s Devotional Is One Too Many

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.  – Matthew 18:3b

Do you ever feel spiritually stuffed? Like someone at an all-you-can-eat banquet table who just wants to try one or two more entrées? Consider today’s thoughts.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”   -Luke 18:17

One thing the internet has brought us is so much more knowledge. But it can’t, by itself, bring us more grace. You need both, as Peter reminds us.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  – 2 Peter 3:18

Common Sense Not NeededToday I had to go to our local equivalent of Home Depot. I am always completely intimidated in that environment. I think I’m going in with a fair bit of confidence, but then they ask, “These are the outside measurements, what are the inside measurements?” The what?

And then someone asked me, “Are you sure this isn’t your own insecurities?” Well, yes maybe.

But the point is that in all this I really felt God saying to me, “You know, you do this to people in your environment.” Maybe you know what I mean. You work in a local church. Or you’re a Christian counselor. Or you’re leading a midweek Bible study in your home. Or you work at a Christian bookstore.

Someone asks you for something, and you’ve got so much knowledge that it just comes spilling out. It’s part of the overflow of your life. But it’s too much for the person you’re dealing with.

And Christianity has done that. Especially in certain circles, trusting God has increasing become an intellectual exercise. Make sure you buy this book. Make sure you listen to that sermon podcast. Make sure you understand that doctrine fully. Make sure you can articulate the basics of this systematic theology.

And Jesus is saying,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  – Matthew 19:14

All it takes to get ‘in’ is child-like faith. Yes, you will never end finding the intricacies and complexities of God’s word, but all you need, all the basics, you can grasp with the faith of a child, and the intellectual capacity of a child.

…We know her for working in her dad’s watch and jewelry shop, and for the Jewish people her family harbored in “The Hiding Place” on the top floor of their home; but in addition to all that Corrie Ten Boom worked with developmentally challenged people. In the wonderfully titled little book, Common Sense Not Needed, she explains that even these adults and children, despite limited mental abilities, can respond to God.

That should be ever be in our minds; we don’t have to teach people doctrines before they can experience the grace and love of God. Both the first and second testaments let us see the ways of God in narrative form and we can do the same. The theology stuff can wait.


Related (somewhat) is today’s book review of The First Time We Saw Him at Thinking Out Loud.


Image adapted from the cover of Corrie Ten Boom’s book mentioned in today’s devotional.

 

July 15, 2015

Prophets Without Honor

Wednesday contributor, Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon leaves us with a powerful message before heading off on three weeks holidays.

Unpopular Prophets

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos 7:12-13

The dedicated Christian may be able to relate to Amos. We might paraphrase: “O religious nut, go preach to someone who wants to listen. Stay where you were, preach to your own kind and do not ram your teaching down our throats.” “Preaching” was not welcome there in Amos’ day, for according to Amaziah that is the king’s land, and not here today, for this is Canada where we talk about the weather, hockey, and politics, usually in that order. But not religion. That is a private matter so don’t talk about it. Maybe we have never encountered this sentiment, but maybe that is because we have been too quiet to ever be shushed?

Last week we looked at engaging the minds of those who have already made up their minds. This week we ask what are we to do when we face not just apathy for, but hostility to, our message. Not just “we will never agree with what you are saying, but, we don’t even want to hear it.” What are we to do as Christians when our message has become unpopular? Let us turn to a prophet with an unpopular message for help.

Amos was sent from his homeland in Judah with a message for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. His message tended to be simple: “stop exploiting the poor and bring back justice.” But it was also unpopular, especially with the priest in Bethel:

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos 7:10-13

Amos was told to go back to Judah and keep his message there. The Christian today may be told to go back to church and keep their message there. So what do we learn from Amos?

Amos was not in Bethel for personal gain. In fact he is not even a “professional” prophet belonging to a guild or school of prophets:

14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Amos 7:14-15

We know Amos was not speaking up for self-gain, so why was he there? Chapter 7 begins with three visions, the first two ending with God relenting from judgement thanks to the intercession of Amos:

This is what the Lord GOD showed me: he was forming locusts at the time the latter growth began to sprout (it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings). 2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, “O Lord GOD, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 3 The LORD relented concerning this; “It shall not be,” said the LORD. 4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: the Lord GOD was calling for a shower of fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said, “O Lord GOD, cease, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 6 The LORD relented concerning this; “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD. Amos 7:1-6 (emphasis mine)

This is a man who is passionate about interceding on behalf of the people. He loves the people! From Amos we learn this important truth for when we face opposition: The motive for speaking up is not self-gain, but love. In the third vision God points out that His justice must finally overrule the compassion of Amos:

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Amos 7:7-9

But justice will not overrule compassion until opportunities are given to repent, thus Amos is sent to warn the people. God who loves the people! And a strong message is given precisely because of love. In fact any effort to silence a prophet of God is an effort to snuff out the loving activity of God. And to silence a Christian from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is to deny an opportunity to love.

Even the most dire prophecies of the prophet are spoken out of love. We might consider the last words of Amos to Amaziah:

“Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ 17 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’” Amos 7:16-17

We ought not to take this as a personal attack out of spite: “I don’t like how you have opposed me, so God is going to get you.” Rather this is a final plea, a pointing out of the natural consequences if Amaziah continues down the path he is on: “If you deny the nation the opportunity to repent God will not protect you when the enemy comes. Just think of the dire circumstance that will create for your family, for you, and for your nation!” Amos was not pointing to a “supernatural zapping” but a natural and sad outworking of events. Amos knew about exile and so could warn Amaziah about it. We know about hell. How often do we warn people that the natural consequence of a life lived with one’s back turned to God will be an eternity without God? Hell is not a “supernatural zapping” but a natural and sad outworking of events.

Amos has not been the only spokesperson from God that people have tried to silence. Nor has he been the only one to speak up. John the Baptist loved people too much to be silent about their need for repentance. Jesus loved people too much to be silent about the coming Kingdom. The apostles loved people too much to be silent about the good news that Jesus is risen, that He is Lord and Saviour, that in Jesus God has stepped into history to rescue humanity. This was an unpopular message back in the day: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). It still is unpopular.

How much do we really love Canada? How much do we really love the people all around us? Does fear silence us? Or does love loosen our lips?

All scriptures are quoted from the NRSV

July 14, 2015

Prayer: Jesus Sets the Example

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repentance 2Today is our second of two days looking at prayer as part of a continuing Tuesday series at Scott McCown’s blog, The Morning Drive. Click the title below to read this article at source, or click this link to see all the various articles at Scott’s blog on this subject.

Jesus and Prayer

We continue our Tuesday study of prayer but looking to Jesus and His prayer life. John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14).  Jesus was NOT just a man! Jesus was NOT another prophet! Jesus was God in the flesh living on earth with man.

Jesus and prayerHe was “God with us”, the “Son of God”, Christ, yet He prayed to the Father – often – VERY often! Jesus did not talk about prayer partners, prayer warriors, and daily devotionals. Christ said nothing similar to “we should pray about it.”  He simply prayed. He did not promote prayer, he warned about vain repetitions. He called for persistence in prayer. At the very least we know He prayed for Peter by name (Luke 22:31-32).

The gospel accounts record over twenty (20) instances of Jesus praying:

Jesus prayed:

  • Mark 1:35 – He rose early to pray.
  • Luke 24:30-31 – He prayed before a meal.
  • Luke 9:28-30 – He prayed at His transfiguration.
  • Luke 22:43-44 – He prayed when He was weak.
  • John 11:41-43 – He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus.
  • Luke 6:12 – He spent the night in prayer.
  • Luke 9:18 – He prayed alone while in a crowd.

Jesus prayed because:

  • He was busy – Luke 5:15-16.
  • He had decisions to make –
    • Luke 3:21-22 – Before His immersion (baptism).
    • Luke 6:12-16 – Before choosing the 12.
    • Matthew 26:36-46 – Before facing the cross.
  • When He faced crisis – John 6:15.
  • When He faced death – Hebrews 5:7.

In John 17 we have a prayer of Jesus’ recorded for us. To me this is the Lord’s Prayer. in this prayer we hear Jesus:

  • Submitting to God – John 17:4, 6-8, 14.
  • Praying for His needs and desires – John 17:1-5.
  • Praying for the needs of the apostles – John 17:9-19.
  • Praying for the Church (you and me) – John 17:20-21.

If Jesus needed to pray, what does this mean for us?


Bonus article:  Here’s a link to one more from the series: Quality Prayer

July 13, 2015

Prayer: Uses and Abuses

The Heavens Declare 1Three times previously we’ve borrowed material from Alabama pastor Scott McCown’s blog, The Morning Drive. I can’t recommend his writing enough. Each Tuesday he’s been running insights on the subject of prayer. You can investigate all the articles at this link. We’re going to run one today, and then choose a second one for tomorrow. Click the title below to read this one at its source…

Using Prayer

How do you use prayer? Do you use prayer as an avenue for you or as a way to talk to God?  Before you answer think about these “uses” of prayer.

We disUSE prayer when we are:

  • Not praying for national, state, local, and Church leaders.
  • Not praying for strength for the Body of Christ
  • Not praying for spiritual growth in ourselves and in the Church.
  • Not praying.
  • In Acts 13:1-3 we read of the early church’s reliance on God through prayer, Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

We misUSE prayer when we see it as:

  • A tool for manipulation. Like the misbehaving child who’s parents sent him to his room to pray about his misbehavior.  He came back later and was still acting up. When asked if he prayed about his behavior, he said, “Yes, I prayed you would be more patient with me.” Sometimes we pray aloud with the intent of our words changing those that hear us pray and not a sincere prayer to God.
  • As a substitute for preparation / work. Someone said, “As long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school.”  Prayer-peration is not a substitute for preparation.  Prayer is inviting God to walk and work along-side us and to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, not what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. Maybe that is what James is warning about in Jas 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Don’t just pray that someone’s needs are taken care of if you are not willing to act to relieve those needs. Prayer is communication with the Father.

We abUSE prayer when

  • We make demands of God. To hear television preachers tell people to pray in a way that demands God act concerns me. God is sovereign, I am not.  God knows what is best for me, I do not.  I ask for God’s blessing, I do not demand it. Again James speaks to this, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas 4:15).
  • We pray to “look good” or pious. Jesus said, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Mat 6:5-7).

How do you use prayer?  Use it to open your life to God letting Him know your struggles, needs, and desires.  Trust that He will work what is TRULY best for you.


Go Deeper: Here’s a link to another article by Scott on a different subject that we considered running today, but it’s a bit longer. Check out Who Is Jesus? Really?

July 12, 2015

Turning a Sinner — Who is Among You — From Error

NIV James 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The last two verses in the book of James are not typical of the way an epistle usually ends. They have been the subject of much writing. After clicking through more than a dozen options which I rejected (too long, audio link to sermons, forcing the text to address another agenda, etc.) I settled on these.

To kick things off, two short answers from a Catholic forum (yes really!) starting with:

This verse is somewhat ambiguous in the way that it’s written; given the way it’s constructed, it’s a reasonable question to ask “whose soul is saved? whose sins are covered? The revert, or the person who brought him back?”

Clearly, sacramental absolution — that is, ‘confession’ — is a necessary part of every Catholic’s life, and the letter to James isn’t suggesting an alternate path to forgiveness. With that in mind, and given some of the textual clues in the letter, it seems reasonable to suggest that a person who brings back a person to the faith is part of the process by which that person’s soul is saved, and is part of the dynamic by which that fallen-away Christian’s sins may be wiped away — none of which would have happened if that person didn’t bring the fallen-away Christian back into the fold!

And:

Scholars are divided to the exact meaning. What seems clear is the importance placed on the corporeal work of mercy of regaining a lost brother. “will save his soul from death” more likely refers to the lost brother’s not the re-gainer since the confession and apostasy seem to be chief concerns. “A multitude of sins”: some scholars say of the lost, some the re-gainer, some say both. The language is similar to 1 Pt 4:8 and Prov 10:12. These verses seem disconnected from the preceding ones. A practical thought might be that if your brother remained heretical, he may persuade others in his way, whereas due to your intervention, your brother returned and no longer persuaded others (that’s just a thought). But there is no question that the writers thought communally of both sin and benefit of fervent prayer.

Sorry, nothing definitive. Hope it helps.

Still with us?  Here’s a point-form outline from a local Church of Christ assembly that was simply immune to all attempts to copy and paste.

Finally, from the website Pure Unadulterated Grace, one more response. This is lengthier than I’ve reproduced here, so you’re encouraged to read it in context.

The word “save” in James 5:15 means exactly what it meant in verse 20.  Our opponents like to read, “save a soul” as meaning “saved from eternal damnation” but the context clearly does not allow for that rendering, as the “save the sick” in verse 15 clearly was not “saved from damnation.”  One can see that the “save” of verse 15 continued with the same meaning into verse 20.  The word “save” was already defined by the context (vs. 15), so if “save” in verse 20 referred to another type of saving then James would have made it clear.  The word “soul” had to do with the physical life of a person that flows consistently with the previous verses of one that was sick, and this was the saving in the context.  To read “saved or healed the sick” in verse 15, but “saved from eternal damnation” in verse 20 is simply being entirely dishonest with the context.

Verse 19 makes it clear that James was addressing “Brethren” who very well might “err from the truth.”  It would be another “brethren” (not God) to convert him from the “errors of his way” as it was not a “brethren” lost again being saved from eternal damnation.  This again flows with the context of restoration and not a person spared eternal damnation by hearing the gospel afresh.

People see the word “convert” and immediately assume that it refers to being saved by grace that is not in the context here, but rather it refers to the errors one has turned after.  It certainly can refer to one that is in darkness coming to see the light, but the context always determines that and never leaves us guessing.  Convert simply means to “turn back, to return.”  The brethren was to turn back to the truth and no longer the error he fell into, as this was not a “return back to eternal life.”  Nothing even states the loss of salvation.

Verse 20:  Who here is hiding a multitude of sins?  God?  No, He is not in the context here.  God forgives sins and not hides them.  Some try to say “hide” means forgiveness, but God does not merely veil our sins today but rather He takes them away.  You will find one parallel passage to what you read here in James 5:20 in 1st Peter 4:8:

8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

This paragraph is important: Was Peter saying that our love would cause God to forgive a multitude of sins of another believer?  No, so neither was James saying that our converting the “brethren” from error would cause God to forgive him of a multitude of sins, but that is what our opponents would like for us to think that James was saying.  This is not a brethren being forgiven again by God, but being restored by a fellow “brethren.”  This is not a believer being saved a second time from eternal damnation, but rather being restored by a fellow “brethren.”

…The person that erred was to be restored in love, and not with “turn or burn” type of nonsense.  This is a practice seldom seen in the church today, because the treatment a person receives for falling away can be quite abusive.  A person often is embarrassed to come back to the truth because of all the gossipers and the ill speech found in most religions today.  A person does not care to come back to the faith where they feel only judgment and glaring eyes await them.

I talk to people all the time that have been rejected by family and friends.  People do not want to stand before a large congregation and ask for forgiveness for whatever it was they did wrong, as religion abuses scripture and people.  These poor souls have no business confessing their sins before a large congregation, as they do not need reconciliation from Joe Smith that they do not know personally, and have not offended personally.  James 5:19-20 clearly was restoration and not preaching fear or guilt tactics.  The hiding a multitude of sins was the fellow brethren accepting the other brethren and their faults, and not God forgiving the person.

James 5:19-20 is not even remotely teaching eternal damnation, loss of salvation, the gospel, God forgiving the erring brethren, or saving him a second or third time from eternal damnation.  Once we stop adding words nowhere stated in the passage is when everything tends to clear up.  Our opponents focused on the words “saved from death…cover a multitude of sins” and have ran off with it ignoring the entire context.

It was the “brethren” that was doing the “converting,” it was the “brethren” that was doing the “saving,” and it was the “brethren” doing the hiding of a “multitude of sins” here.  Religion has allowed our eyes to see words and ideas nowhere presented in the context.  If this passage scared you before then read it again and notice that James preached no fear there at all, but loving restoration only.


I think that various commentaries can give us hints as to the meaning, but probably the framework through which you’re reading this may lead you to a more individual response. Like so many other scripture passages, I think this one is meant to challenge us to think! If you have any thoughts on this passage, be sure to leave a comment.

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