Christianity 201

October 2, 2018

Murder in the Early Church?

Honestly, in all the years I’ve studied the Book of James, I never really picked up on that word: Murder! (Yikes!)

Today we’re back with Peter Corak who we featured here in a Sunday Worship column a year ago and who has been very faithfully writing excellent devotionals at My Morning Meal since November, 2009. Click the title below to read this at source and then use his archives menu to find other material.

More Grace

His letter is written to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” So James’ epistle was penned for believers but with a particular Hebrew flavor. Maybe not surprising given that it’s thought this could be the first NT book written, and thus written to a church that was still largely Jewish.

So it’s for those who are born again. Those who are new creations in Christ. And maybe that’s what makes the opening verses of chapter 4 a bit disturbing.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

(James 4:1-4 ESV)

What? Quarrels? Fights? Murder? And all this among the believers?!? Say it ain’t so!

What happened to “and all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)? Or, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32)? Even if you understand that James isn’t referring to murder in the literal sense but in the Sermon on the Mount sense, that of intense anger towards someone (Mt. 5:21-22), you’re still asking yourself, what’s going on?

What could so corrupt the unity of the Spirit believers were born again into (1Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:1-3)? What could so mar the testimony of love for one another that Jesus said would mark His disciples (Jn. 13:35)?

Two things, apparently. Passions at war within us, and love for the world around us. Evidently a lethal combo for the church being the church.

The nature of the flesh is to want. To desire what it thinks it must have to be satisfied. What it feels it needs in order to experience pleasure. And when someone else has that something, there can be a tendency to turn on that person. Either out of jealousy, or of trying to compete for it. Cue a catalyst for conflict.

And what feeds the flesh? The world. The system of values, priorities, and prizes that man has built up for themselves in order to satisfy “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” (1Jn. 2:16). The world feeds the flesh. And flesh wars against others driven by flesh. And then you have quarrels, and fightings, and murders . . . oh my!!!

What’s the answer? Stop it!!!

It’s that simple, says James. Stop coveting and start praying, asking for what you think you need. And if you don’t get it, then know that you ask amiss.

What’s more, stop befriending the world (by the way, that’s not BFF type of befriending, that’s getting into bed with type of “friends” . . . you adulterous people). For to befriend the world is to set yourself up as an enemy of God. Why would believers hang the enemies flag in front of their homes? Oh yeah, the flesh!

Ugly mirror to be looking into this morning. Bitter food to be chewing on. But thank God for the word but.

But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

(James 4:6 ESV)

More grace. Greater grace. Larger grace. Stronger grace. That’s the grace our God dispenses . . . and dispenses freely and abundantly.

And it’s available to the humble. To those who look in the mirror of Scripture and see their own reflection in the twelve tribes of the dispersion. Who refuse to say, “Not me! That’s someone else,” but know the battle between the flesh and the Spirit is their daily reality. Who, by the Spirit’s enabling power, say, “No!” to the flesh, and “Forgive me” to God. Who preach the gospel to themselves — the blood’s power to forgive and cleanse, the empty tomb’s power to allow those once in bondage to the flesh to live in newness of life. To believe in, and avail themselves of, “but He gives more grace.”

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

(James 4:10 ESV)

Yes He will.

Because of more grace. And that for His glory.

Amen?

June 1, 2012

Two Great Analogies

a·nal·o·gy

   [uh-nal-uh-jee] 

noun, plural a·nal·o·gies.

1. a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based…

Click the title of each item to read at the original blogs.

First from Ralph Howe,

The Sea in the Ship
God tells us that we are in the world but not of it; that we are different – very different from the world. He states clearly that to be a friend of the ways of the world instantly makes us enemies of His (1 John). He is clear that we are in the world to influence it and to rescue as many as we can from the world so that they become part of His Kingdom. Thus, He states clearly that we are His ambassadors in the world (2 Corinthians 5). I believe we have a problem in the Church today – there is too much of the world and the ways of the world. We rely on the ways and wisdom of man instead of the power of God.

A simple illustration provides a deeper understanding of the problem. A ship in the sea is alright. The sea in the ship is all wrong. In the same way, the Church in the world is all right; the world in the Church is all wrong. If there is too much of the sea in the ship it will sink. I believe the ship of today’s Church is so near sinking that every individual who becomes a believer and accepts Christianity is set to bailing water with everyone else to keep the Church afloat – thus, no one is focused on winning the lost and building new boats to sail the seas and rescue those who are drowning.

Many of us come to church with needs. If we focus merely on our needs, we will never come to the end of them; rather, we will live with them forever. Something must release us from a myopic focus on our own needs, drawing us beyond the realm of “I need, I want, help me, pray for me, bless me.” As long as we dwell on such things.we remain enslaved by them. We need to press past a self-centered focus to acquire the wisdom of God and begin to see things from His perspective.

His perspective is that people matter to Him and that no cost is too great to keep them from going to Hell for all eternity. In fact, this is so important that He sent His Son to die for them so that there would be a way for them to enter into a relationship with Him and spend eternity with Him after they die. And, this is so important to Him that He then commissioned and empowered His people to go out and win the lost as well. However, with water in the boat we are not sea-worthy and so have lost the ability to do what the Church (the boat) was originally designed to do.

It is time to make some serious changes.

Second, from Cloudwatcher:

Let Go!
An old man and his grandson happily fed some doves on the window sill of his home. After feeding they flew and perched on a cable outside the window.

The grandfather told the boy, “You see that cable? It carries a heavy current of electricity. It is carefully insulated at every pole and is beyond the reach of humans. If I could reach out far enough to touch that wire, death would be as swift as a lightning strike.”

“You helped me to feed those doves on my window sill. Now you see them perched on that wire which would kill me instantly if I touched it, but they are safe and contented. How are they able to do that? Why doesn’t the cable kill them?”

He went on to explain to his grandson that when the doves touch that wire, THEY TOUCH NOTHING ELSE. If he could reach out far enough to touch the wire, he would still be touching the house and the house would act as an earth (U.S.=”ground”) and turn his body into a channel through which the electricity would flow with fatal results.

BECAUSE THE DOVES TOUCH NOTHING BUT THE WIRE, THEY ARE UNHARMED

What does that say to the Christian?

God would have us seek our safety in complete surrender to Him and His will.

We need to LET GO of EVERYTHING else and trust ONLY in the living God

It is when we reach ONE hand to Him while still holding on to some earthly pleasure with the OTHER hand that we are in danger of being ensnared and trapped by that thing.

1 John 2:15
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

Philippians 4:6
Let your requests be made known UNTO GOD

Let us trust Thee evermore;
Every moment on Thee call
For new life, new will, new power;
Let us trust Thee, Lord for ALL.
May we NOTHING know beside
Jesus and Him crucified!
~ Joseph Hart

July 2, 2011

How Vexed Are You?

This is a long weekend on both sides of the border, and as such, it will be an excuse for many types of “excess” in terms of eating and drinking and general partying. 

This morning I began the day with a Promise Keeper’s Canada devotional that was given out at my son’s church on Father’s Day.  It was a six-day study on the life of Abraham and the day’s reading was based in Genesis 24:3

…Abraham knew Isaac needed a wife.  Remember, Abraham is very rich, he could have chosen the prettiest, richest daughter from the heathens…

He would have nothing to do with the worldly ways around him.  He knew he was different and his legacy was to be different.  He ordered his servant to go to his father’s house for the bride of his legacy.

We all have to make decisions on how worldly we are going to be.  Most of don’t take the time to think how these decisions impact our generations.  Abraham did, and demanded that his son had a fighting chance at being a God follower.

As men, we have to decide how much of the world’s ideas we are going to watch and remember…

And then, suddenly in the middle of this devotional another scripture reference appeared; a reference to II Peter 2:7, which in the translation they used says that “Lot was vexed by hearing and seeing unrighteousness.”

This verse was the one that really got to me.

But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him.

(NLT)

…a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless …

(NIV)

…Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment…

(The Message)

I think it’s interesting that Lot lived in the middle of a decadent society that was in many ways different from ours but in many ways the same.  Peterson translates it that he was nearly driven out of his mind by it and was in constant torment.

How “vexed” am I by the society around me?  I can define myself by my non-participation in sinful things, but am I really all that concerned about what others are doing? 

The devotional ends with this passage from Ezekiel 14

 1-5Some of the leaders of Israel approached me and sat down with me. God’s Message came to me: “Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them. Why should I even bother with their prayers? Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of God, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, God, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’

 6-8 “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘God, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities. To every last person from the house of Israel, including any of the resident aliens who live in Israel—all who turn their backs on me and embrace idols, who install the wickedness that will ruin them at the center of their lives and then have the gall to go to the prophet to ask me questions—I, God, will step in and give the answer myself. I’ll oppose those people to their faces, make an example of them—a warning lesson—and get rid of them so you will realize that I am God.

 9-11 “‘If a prophet is deceived and tells these idolaters the lies they want to hear, I, God, get blamed for those lies. He won’t get by with it. I’ll grab him by the scruff of the neck and get him out of there. They’ll be equally guilty, the prophet and the one who goes to the prophet, so that the house of Israel will never again wander off my paths and make themselves filthy in their rebellions, but will rather be my people, just as I am their God. Decree of God, the Master.'”

(The Message)

December 18, 2010

When Worldliness Invades

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

Other than perhaps a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last 2-3 years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes taking place in language. So back a few years, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington advanced the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!” The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines. Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them. Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’ If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss. It means something else. (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude. It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it. You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place. The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments? If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude? (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude? And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world?

I think it is only a matter a time before OMG and WTF arrive at church. As programs like Extreme Makeover program becomes more entrenched, and other broadcasters follow the trends, it’s easy to predict OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship.

Another translator — it might have been the old Living Bible — put the verse I started out with this way…

Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold…