Monday, December 31, 2012

Praying for Patience

Patience and long suffering is not usually one of our strong suits, but they are important aspects of the Christian life. God warned us that there would be suffering (James 1:2; Hebrews 11:6; 1Peter1:6, 4:12). But he also promises to be with us and to give us what we need to remain faithful to him and his principles (Matthew 28:20; Hebrew 13:5; Philippians 4:11-13; 2 Peter 1:3).

Most of us can be patient for a short while, but when the end of our trial seems a long way off, or we cannot imagine a release, we need divine strength to remain steadfast (Galatians 5:22).

Some say do not pray for patients because God will send trials. But that advice is in direct opposition to the Word of God. Our Lord may be preparing you for what is coming into your life by prompting you to pray for this fruit of the Spirit. The trail will come whether you pray for patients or not. The disciples in the garden with Jesus is proof of that (Mark chapter 14).

Friday, December 28, 2012

According to His Glorious Power

Paul prays that the Colossians will be "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power" (Colossians 1:11). It is strange that we humans tend to read this as though we must strengthen ourselves, as though we must make the effort to have our behavior equal to his glory. That is just as impossible now as it was before we knew God.

I am certainly not saying we do not exude effort, but the effort is not based on our own strength. If it is we fail.

Whatever we need to do, we can ask God for the knowledge, wisdom and strength to allow God to work through us to bring himself glory. He is our source of power. Then, resting in the confidence of his power at work in us, we accomplish the task.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Increasing in the Knowledge of God

Increasing in the knowledge of God is an interesting concept (Colossians 1:10). When we first come to Christ, we are overwhelmed by his goodness and kindness toward us. We can barely take it all in. The grass is greener. The sky is bluer. It is much like being in love.

Unfortunately some stop there. They do not continue to seek out God. They spend little or no time learning his word. Talking to God is limited to meal time. Naturally their hearts lose the luster of first love. It is not long until the cares of this world have blocked their view of God; their knowledge of God becomes their religion, not their life focus (Mark 4:13-20).

Increasing in the knowledge of God comes through many channels. It is much like a great river that begins as a small but happy creak bubbling up out from under a rock in the high mountains. It gains strength and size as it is joined by hundreds to thousands of other creaks and rivers. Eventually the waters pour into an ocean.

Our spiritual river is made up of knowledge of the Word, discussion with others, prayer, spending our life being aware of God, his Holy Spirit teaching us, our obedience, our love for him, our recognition of our need for him and thousands of unnamed workings of God in our lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Memory as a Weapon

Paul writes that we should increase in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10). Many of us immediately think of studying God's word as a way of increasing our knowledge of God. We are correct but God also uses experience to teach us his ways. Romans 5:1-3 explains that difficulties teach us the Love of God, increases our perseverance and improves our character. Peter wrote that virtue, knowledge, self control, brotherly love and godly behavior increases our knowledge of God (1Peter 1:5-8).

When we remain faithful to godly principles during trials we experience the strength and faithfulness of God. We learn God is faithful to sustain us by our experience. As a result we have a new tool against our spiritual enemy, Satan. The memory of God's faithfulness to us during previous trials can sustain us during our present test.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

This is one of the most holy days of the year. This is the day we have chosen to celebrate the coming of our savior into the world. Jesus' birth was the physical beginning of our salvation because he came to take the punishment of our sins upon himself. But his birth and our salvation was planned before the foundations of the earth were built (Isaiah 40; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4:3).

Today we rejoice in the great mercy and grace of God our Father, Jesus our brother and the Holy Spirit our helper, comforter, teacher and guide (Ephesians 1:3-9; John 2Corinthians 1:2-4; John14:26-27, 16:13).

Ip for these reasons it is a great day!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fully Pleasing Him

It is not enough to know the truth. We need wisdom and understanding to know how to please God. Many things have been done in the name of The Lord that were destructive and not of God. Selfishness, political ambition, and many other evil motives have hidden under the cloak of righteousness.

Paul says that spiritual understanding leads to walking in a manner worthy of God, "fully pleasing him" (Colossians 1:9-10). What pleases The Lord?

Doing every good work (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 2:10). Blessing the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). Giving and doing more than what is required of us (Matthew 5:40-41). Praying for our enemies and doing good to those who speak evil against us falsely (Matthew 5:43-44) and many other things that do not come naturally to fallen man.

How can any of us do what God asks? We can only do them as God does them through us.

Friday, December 21, 2012


There are situations in which we need to remain silent (Isaiah 53:7; John 19:8-10), and there are times to speak, (John 19:11). But how can we discern when it is time for silence and time to speak?

Paul prays that the Colossians will be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom

and understanding.

If we want to learn how to be an engineer, we study engineering for several years . If we want to be a psychologist, we study psychology for at least 8 years. But if we want to be a Christian we spend 15 minutes a day with God and call it good.

Learning to understand God's ways requires a life focused on being with God continually, reading what he has to say, and talking o him. He is focused on loving us and teaching us (II Chronicles 16:9a). We need to listen and obey.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hot Cup of Coffee

Paul's prayer for the believers at Colossi contain many insights into the Christian life. He prays that they might be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9).

If a glass is filled with water, water spills out when you bump it. If it is filled with vinaigrette, vinaigrette spills out when you bump it. If you are carrying a hot cup of coffee and you stumble, the hot liquid will burn your hand. If your cup is empty, nothing comes out.

What we are filled with will manifest in difficult times. Either our responses will reflect God or they will be of no value to us or those around us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grace of God in Truth

Paul uses the phrase, "knew the Grace of God in truth." What does this mean? Can one know the grace of God falsely? Yes.

Recently a woman said to me, "I do not believe in God at all, but even if your God is real, I am safe because I do not believe a good God would harm me."

She has heard of the grace of God, but clearly does not understand his judgment is married to his grace. God must judge sin. He either counts it judged in Jesus for us or if we reject Jesus, we must receive the judgement on ourselves.

It is when we recognize how unworthy we are that we see God's grace in truth. It is the fear of his judgement that produces the joy of his grace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Paul reminds his readers that the truth is good news and understanding that there is hope laid up for us in heaven produces fruit in us.

"...because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,"(Colossians 1:3-6).

John writes when Jesus returns we shall be like him; "And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1John 3:1-3).

There is a spiritual response to believing in God's promises that translates to a purification of our actions. There is a direct correspondence between believing and a changed person.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roman Citizenship

Citizenship could be purchased, but a naturally born citizen carried a higher honor. There were specific rules as to what magistrates could or could not do to natural born Roman citizens and Paul claimed those rights (Acts 21:39, 23:27, 34). For this reason he was allowed visitors and was able to send and receive letters. Timothy supported Paul while the latter was imprisoned by the Romans, thus Paul's opening remarks include Timothy.

Paul and Timothy pray for the saints at Colossi though they have never met them. We also need to pray for people we have never met who are God's children. Fellow brothers and sisters in other countries who are suffering need our prayers. Christians in disaster areas who have lost their homes because of storms, fires or the poor economy. Missionaries, pastors and their families need us to pray.

Ask God right now for strength and comfort for someone you have heard is in need. Pray that their faith be increased and that they may be keenly aware of God's presence and faithfulness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Letter From a Stranger

We now turn to Paul's letter to the Christians who live in a town called Colosse. we call his letter the book of Colossians. Two near by towns are Laodices and Hieroplis. The town no longer exists except in ruins. Most of what we know about the town is contained in Paul's letter.

Paul writes his letter while in prison for preaching the Gospel. He had never met the Christians Hrpell was writing to. It was Paul's friend Epaphras who had established the church and told Paul about his friends.

For the congregation who received this letter, it was like us receiving a personal letter from Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, or a well known missionary in your denomination. His life and sacrifice were Paul's credentials. The Colossians would have paid attention to what Paul had to say.

I knew a young woman in her twenties that declared she would not read books anyone had written about God or the Bible because she wanted to hear directly from God. The problem with that theory is that it ignores both the principle of body ministry laid out in 1Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The person limits in their mind God's ability to speak to you through others or make you aware when someone is teaching false doctrine. If my friend had lived during Paul's time she would have missed the entire New Testament.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Confronting and Judging

There is a time to confront another person's sin in order to save his or her soul (James 5:19-20). We are not judging when we recognize and deal with sin in another person's life. Judging involves deciding someone is not worthy of saving, that they have no value. In a sense one could say that not confronting sin is judging the sinner because our lack of action says the person is not worth the effort.

But when we confront a person, we are to guard against comparing ourselves with them. We are to keep in mind that put in the exact same circumstance and history, we would likely make the same decision (2 Timothy 2:24-26; James 4:6; Galatians 6:1-5). Remember to say to yourself, "but for the grace of God, that would be me."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rain Drops

"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Fervent is defines as full of feeling. One might say a fervent prayers is an honest prayer. There is no ulterior motive but sincere need for the thing asked.

Have you ever heard someone say, "so and so knows how to pray." It is as though praying is a talent or special process that one is either good at or fails miserably. People "who know how to pray" are held in high esteem. They are thought to be a kind of lucky charm for getting prayers answered.

But when James draws attention to Elijah's prayer, he makes a point that the prophet was an ordinary person who received answer to his prayer, not because he was a lucky charm in things pertaining to prayer, but because he was sincere.

Elijah was focused on the glory of God both when he prayed for the absence of rain and for its return. If you are sincere and fervently ask the Father, he will answer you

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Team Mates

James admonishes us to confess our faults to one another and to pray for one another so that we may be healed. Our tendency is to confess someone else's faults to others, commonly called gossip. But our own faults we keep to our bosom like a precious child. That habit is deadly.

There is strength in pairs. We lift one another up. If we know someone is going to ask us how we are resisting a certain temptation, we are more apt to overcome it (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11). AA and other overcoming addiction associations are founded on this principle.

I find it best to follow certain guidelines when confessing faults. 1) Confess to the one you hurt (Mt 5:23-24). 2) be careful that you chose someone trust worthy to confess to. Not all people are safe (Proverbs 13:20; Matthew 10:16; Ephesians 5:15; 1 John 4:1). 3) Examine your motives on a regular basis (Matthew 7:3; I Corinthians 11:28-30) 4) above all as a team look to God.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worse Things

There are numerous causes of sickness, many of which we have no control over. However, some sickness is a direct result of our choices, I.e. lung cancer from smoking, HIV from unprotected sex in promiscuous life style, clogged arteries from eating unhealthy foods.

James says when a person asks the elders to pray for him to be healed, "if he has committed sins he will be forgiven" (James 5:15).

Our sin does not have to keep us from being healed. We must leave our sin behind us so that worse things do not affect us (John 5:14).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Remedy for Illness

Epaphroditus was a faithful believer from Philippi who did much work in the body of Christ including ministering to Paul. He became so ill that he nearly died (Philippians 2:26). Trophimus was another faithful worker who became so ill that Paul had to leave him behind as he traveled on in his missionary journey (2 Timothy 4:20). Tabitha, a wonderful woman in the New Testament church died from an illness, but Peter prayed for her and God raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36-40).

We get sick because we live in a world filled with disease. But James reminds us that we have a God who can heal sickness and disease.

When we are ill, we are to go to the elders of the church for prayer. The leaders of the church are to pray for us, anointing us with oil (symbolic of dedication to God and symbolic of the Holy Spirit). We are to pray with faith and The Lord will raise us up (James 5:14-15).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Unique Melodies

If you are cheerful, go ahead and sing. It does not matter if you can carry a tune. God loves to hear his children singing whether the melody comes out clearly or is a kind of wobble similarity to the original notes (James 5:13).

I Imagine our Heavenly Father chuckling with delight as we offer our unique melody of praise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray."

Job's comforters blame the sufferer for the pain. There are even those who say we should never have to suffer. But James does neither of these. He simply says when you experience suffering, pray.

God is the great comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; James 5:13).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Swear

Have you ever had someone try to persuade you of their sincerity by saying "I swear"? Or, I love this one, "To be honest..." How about, "I am telling you the truth such and such happened." Or there is, "Honest to God..." These are common expressions of trying to persuade someone that the speaker is speaking the truth.

When someone says to me, "To be honest," or something similar I think, aren't you always honest? James tells us that we should never use these kinds of idioms but simply speak truth all the time. Our yes should always mean yes and our no should always mean no (James 5:12).

When we always speak truth, we do not need to convince someone. They will know we are speaking truth because that is our habit.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Temptation to Grumble

James already told us not to speak evil of one another (James 4:11-12). He has shown us that our arguing and fighting can signify an evil,heart of self focus (James 4:1-1). Now, immediately after admonishing us to patiently wait for God when we suffer at the hands of others, he warns us not to grumble against one another (James 5:9). If we do, we are in danger of being condemned by God.

Why would we be judged for grumbling when we suffer at the hands of others? Perhaps it is because, as James points out, others have suffered much worse things than we are experiencing and they remained true to their calling. The prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed the need for repentance and were thrown into prison, pits, beaten and some were murdered (James 5:9-10). Job lost all his possessions and children yet continued to trust God.

James reminds us that our suffering is temporary as he points out the end of Job's life. If God has chosen to allow our current suffering, it is only a chapter in a book with a glorious ending (Romans 8:18). We are instructed not to dwell on our suffering but to refocus on God working in and through our suffering.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Talk

Small talk usually means a brief conversation about the weather, but for farmers the subject of weather is extremely important. Figs need lots of weeks of heat. Corn, wheat and barley need early and later rain. Orchards need frost free nights and warm days. Food farmers are always examining the weather patterns. They can irrigate but they cannot control the rain, frost or heat.

James reminds us of the farmer's patients waiting for the early and later rains. We can experience frustration and anger when we are unjustly treated and it seems it is not coming to an end any time soon. But God is aware of what is going on. He will teach us humility through our suffering, but he will eventually deal with the unjust.

However, It is wiser to focus on our attitudes as we wait on the Lord's justice (James 5:7-8).

Thursday, November 29, 2012


There are warnings in the Bible about being wealthy (Jeremiah 9:23; Matthew 19:34-24; 1 Timothy 6:10). Some men gain wealth by cheating others from their pay or fair wages (James 5:1-6). God pays attention to the misery of the poor. Those who cheat employees or servants will answer to God, either now or eternally. Hell is not worth any amount of wealth.

Mind you, it is not sinful to be wealthy, nor does poverty make one righteous. God placed Daniel and the three Hebrew boys in positions of wealth. Joseph, the son of Jacob was wealthy. Abraham became exceedingly wealthy. David and Solomon were among the wealthiest men in history. The wiseman from the East were rich.

Mary and Joseph were poor. Jesus had no permanent home. His disciples were poor. The widow women lived in poverty (Mark 12:38-33).

The point is not the wealth, but that wealth exposes the heart.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time to Respond

One of my husband's favorite sayings is "Life's too short to carry grudges." He is right..

When my brother feels attacked, he takes a moment or two before responding so that he can give himself time to think and pray. He wants his behavior to reflect God. He recognizes his need for divine intervention in his thinking processes. As a result he is able to make wiser decisions. He does not allow other people's actions to control his.

James says because our lives are so quickly passing, we need to make sure our deeds and words are good. Not to take time to do the right thing, is sin (James 4:17).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Christmas Vapor

Every year Christmas comes faster. The older we get the faster the year passes. James likens our lives to a vapor (James 4:14). It feels like we are born one minute and die the next. But that vapor is a gift from God. It has a divine purpose from our first breath to our last.

We cannot see the spiritual world. Our physical limitations prevent us from grasping what is going on around us (2 Kings 6:17). We are in a battle (Ephesians 6:12) but the victory is predetermined(Hebrews 4:1-4). There is no day, as ordinary as it may seem, that God is not working in us, through us and for us.

This is the day The Lord has made for you (Psalm 118:24).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making plans

There are believers who make financial plans and carry them out without so much as asking God if the plans are ordained of him. James tells us this is a grave mistake. We are always to ask God for his will, then make plans. It is The Lord who decides whether our plans will make a profit or not, or whether we will live long enough to make a profit.

Our life and the length of it are in God's control (James 4:13-16).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

In America this is Thanksgiving Day. It is traditionally a day of eating turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, corn, stuffing, casseroles, pumpkin pie and many other desserts. For some it is a day of watching sports on television while others work endlessly in the kitchen. For others this is the big deer hunting weekend of the year.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving, honor the name of the Holiday by being especially thankful today. We have a savior who rescued us from endless bondage and brought us into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fruit Inspectors

What does it mean to judge someone? A person recently told me that Christians are to be fruit inspectors. They were undoubtedly referring to Matthew 7:20. When Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them.

Looking at the context of Jesus's comment we learn he is talking about doing God's will. If someone says they belong to God but do not live out God's will, the person does not belong to God (Romans 6:6-7; 1 John 3:6).

But we get into trouble when we base our fruit inspection on our own persuasions and opinions, and not on God's direct commandments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Judge and Jury

The most popular verse in the Bible is probably John three sixteen. The most well know verse is Psalms 23:1, but the most quoted verse in the Bible by sinners is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not lest ye be judged". Unfortunately the verse is often quoted to excuse sins.

James approaches the subject from another angle. He tells us not to say evil against our brother or sister in Christ. Doing so puts us behind the judges desk that only belongs to God.

I saw one of the worst displays of this immediately after the election in America as brothers and sisters in Christ deemed members of the opposing party as unbelievers. It is important that we remember we cannot see into someone else's heart.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Ultimate Cover up

We are not left in a continual state of mourning over our sin. God graciously lifts us up. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up" (James 4:10).

If we sincerely ask to be forgiven, he forgives us completely. He removes the sin and unrighteousness from us (proverbs 28:13; Romans 10:10; 1John 1:9).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kettle on the Stove

James describes repentance as weeping, lamenting, and mourning. This all sounds extreme until we get a glimpse into the holiness of God.

Imagine the most beautiful location you have ever seen in person, a place your thoroughly enjoyed. Then later finding out that somehow your actions destroyed the entire area. Or imagine your home burning to the ground while you were away and finding out the fire started by you leaving a kettle burning on the stove. Or imagine the emotional pain you would feel if somehow you were responsible for your child's death.

That is the kind of grieving James speaks of when he tells us to lament over our sinful ways (James 4:9).

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Imagine having someone tell everyone he or she is dating you, but they never call, never come by to see you, and if you run into them on the street they act as if they have no idea who you are, they ignore you. Are you dating? Does their declaration that they are dating you make it true?

Drawing near to God will be reflected in how we interact with God (James 4:8).

James puts it this way, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded."

We cannot save ourselves, but when God saves us there is a corresponding change in our actions (Ephesians 2:9-10; James 4:8).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Draw Near

One of the most wonderful sentences ever written is found in the book of James. "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8).

If you pause, right this second, and focus on God, his love, his mercy, his power, his creation, you will sense his presence immediately.

We live in God's presence (Acts 17:28). We need to take time to notice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Formula for Sucess

Wouldn't you like to have the formula for getting along with everyone? Or how about the formula for making lots of money? How about a formula to persuade people to do what you want? Maybe you want the formula to have peace in your family, or the formula for loosing weight, or the formula to get the job you have always wanted. As simple people, we would like to have a formula for everything.

James gives us a formula that is far more important than any other we could wish for. He gives us the formula for overcoming Satan. "Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

The order of actions is top priority. Submit to God comes first. We are far too weak to fight Satan on our own. We need the power of our Creator to defeat the enemy of our soul. Submitting to God means yielding to all his ways, commands and principles.

This is quickly followed by resisting the devil. The word resist denotes action on our part, things like running in the opposite direction from the temptation. Peter puts it this way, "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Peter 2:22).

Then Satan will flee (run away as fast as he can) from you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Draw Near

There is more to drawing near to God than simply thinking about him. Drawing near means getting to know him. He has written us many books which we call the Bible. It tells us about his character, his ways of doing things, what he hates, and what he loves.

He has promised if we do not hide sin in our hearts (refuse to leave it) he will respond to our prayers (Luke 6:45; Ps 119:2-3; Psalm 38:18; Psalm 51:2; Psalm 66:18).

Living in his presence means living through his Word. It guides our decisions. It gives us hope. It strengthens us.

Talking to him, listening to him, draws us near to God, not because we have earned it, but because he has chosen to draw near.

Angel of Light

Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. False prophets and deceitful workers mimic Satan by making themselves out to be Apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:14). The devil's name used to be lucifer, which means light. He weakens nations and creates havoc (Isaiah 14:12-19). He tempts God's children to sin (Matthew chapter 4 and 1Peter 5:8).

If this powerful enemy can disguise himself as an angel of light, how are we mere humans going to tell when we are being deceived?

God has given us litmus tests, two of which are in the book of James. 1) Satanic actions are filled with envy, selfish ambition and pride (James 3:13-16). 2) Satanic motives are to gather things for ourselves at the cost of others (James 4:1-5). 3) Satanic motives are to place ourselves or others before God (1 John 4:1-3).

James also tells us how to overcome Satan. "Submit yourselves to God, resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:6).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Jealous God

James quotes "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously" (James 4:5). Exodus 34:14 says "...for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God..." Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 4:19; Ezekiel 39:15 and Nahum 1:2 all say God is a jealous God.

I have heard some bizarre teaching based on God being jealous. The will known interviewer and actress Oprah Winfrey said when she learned from her pastor that God was jealous of her, she decided this could not be true so she rejected Christianity.

But we dare not use our twenty-first definition of the word Jealous to interpret ancient text. When scripture says God is jealous over you, it does not mean he wishes he could be like you (what blaspheme). It means he guards and protects his relationship with you.

He will not tolerate his children worshiping of other gods.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Thank You

American culture emphasis self confidence, self assurance and self focus. Advertisements and slogans reinforce our narcissism; "If it feels good, do it. If you want it, buy it. If it advances you, move forward regardless of the affect on others. Life is about feeling good."

James warns that this attitude puts us in a position of conflict with God (James 4:4-6). God resists the proud.

Do we honestly want God to be as a brick wall toward our prayers? Do we want God working against us? Do we want to face life without God intervening?

No, thank you!

Murder and Christians

James is writing to believers, so why does he accuse his readers of committing murder (James 4:2)?

He is most likely not speaking of physical murder, though many times envoy is a motive for taking someone else's life. But there is a kind of spiritual murder. Envy leads to resentment and results in a focus on the wealthy person's faults.

We comfort ourselves by saying money cannot buy peace, or wealthy people are miserable, or we pronounce any other generalization that makes us feel comforted that we do not possess as much wealth as we would like to have.

James makes it clear that possessions are not to be our focus. God may give us jobs that produce much wealth, or he may give us jobs that do not do much more than put food on the table. In all cases we are to be thankful and use our wealth for God's glory, not for our own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Earth Bound Prayers

"If God is real, why doesn't he answer my prayer?" Many Christians respond, "He answers every prayer by saying, yes, no, or not now". However when James was asked this question he came out swinging.

" Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?"(James 4:1-4).

Prayers focused on earthly values reflect earth bound hearts.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sewing Righteousness

"Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18).

Both righteousness and peace come through living out the Word in personal trials and temptations (chapter one). In chapter two righteousness and peace are directly associated with our interactions with the body of Christ and again, the living out God's Word. And in chapter three he points out the direct connection between our tongues and our hearts for making or breaking peace.

In the sentence we are considering, James says righteousness is a fruit. That means it is a result of healthy growth. The lack of nutrients and water kill a tree and its fruit. So our self focus kills any fruit of righteousness. If our hearts are not at peace our actions will not produce either peace or righteousness.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is, Is Not

There is man's wisdom and God's wisdom. They are naturally opposed to one another (Galatians 5:17; Isaiah 55:8). James gives us guidelines to be able to tell the difference between the way God does things and our own inclinations.

Godly wisdom is pure. It has no ulterior motives. It does not appear to be one thing and is another. It is straight forward and honest.

Godly wisdom also is peaceable. It does not stir up trouble for the sake of advancement (Romans 12:18). That does not mean a wise decision will not meet with resistance. It means that is not our purpose.

Godly wisdom is willing to yield. This does not mean willing to compromise the truth. It does mean we are ready to examine our decision in the light of new information and to admit when we are wrong.

Godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. We are careful of other's feelings, desires and ready to forgive offenses.

Godly wisdom is without partiality and hypocrisy. Our decision would be the same, given the same circumstances, regardless of whether we are dealing with someone we like or someone we dislike; someone who can help us advance or has no influence over our advancement.

Not an easy requirement. We need God (James 3:17).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Hand Envy

Most scholars believe the author of the book of James was Jesus' brother (Galatians 1:19). James remembered what it was like before he believed that his older brother was the Messiah, the promised one. He could remember the time he and his other brothers wanted to put Jesus away for losing his mind and moments when they had taunted and made fun of him (Mark 3:21; John 7:5).

Jesus was popular. They were not.

He and his brothers went to the temple to worship God. They were devout Jews. But their hearts were not yet changed. It was not until after the resurrection that James finally understood who Jesus was. It was then he recognized his envy of his brother's fame had blinded his eyes to the truth. He knew first hand how demonic envy, strife and bitterness can damn a person, so he warns us.

If we find our tongues impossible to restrain, we must ask God to change our hearts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kick Them Out

I grew up in a pastor's home. The churches tended to be small congregations in remote towns of Northern California. Life was often interesting as a daughter of a minister, but one incident particularly sticks out in my mind.

The deacons in the church called a special meeting to make a demand of m dad. In their opinion there were too many of a particular ethnic group in our church. They wanted my father to tell these people to not come back. I cannot tell you how shocked I was at these professed men of God, or how proud I was of my father when he said to them, "Then here is my resignation".

Scripture tells us that Christ has made one people and one flock out of many nations. Salvation is not for one ethnic group, nor are his people to be seclusive from one another (Ephesians 2:14-18; John 10:16). If God decides where people of nations live, why do we think he has not sent a people from a different culture to live among us? James makes it clear we are not to reject a people (James 3:9; Acts 17:24-26).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Try?

James writes, "No one can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison" (James 3:8). If it is impossible to control our tongue, why try?

The tongue is not the issue. The tongue is only a symptom of what is in the heart. We need God to cleanse our hearts.

We need him to remove the hidden envy, selfish ambition and anger from us. If we do not trust that God is in fact directing our lives, we fall prey to the temptation of comparing ourselves to one one another. We praise God with our mouths and rip his children apart with our tongues. Our words may sound righteous to our ears but they are bitter in the mouth.

Just as it is impossible or a fig tree to produce olives, so a bitter heart cannot produce pure praise (James 3:8-14).

Friday, October 26, 2012

California Forests

In the fall the hillsides of the California forest become ablaze with color. The cypress, oak and dogwood trees present shades of gold and orange leaves. The green needles of the pine trees create a beautiful frame for the brilliant colors.

Squirrels are busy hiding nuts for the winter. The grizzly and black bear are getting ready to hibernate. The mountain lions with their sleek yellow coats continue to roam the mountains and the giant mule deer graze at higher elevations. The smaller deer roam near green yards and golden fields in rural areas. The raccoons hunt during evening hours and the scrub blue jays hide food for winter and steals food from neighboring woodpeckers.

The streams are alive with salmon, trout, bass, sunfish and carp. Trickling streams giggle across pebbles and through the tall grasses as they seep into creaks and river beds. The Sacramento River begins as a babbling brook bubbling up out from under small boulders in a quiet little park at the foot of mount Shasta, but quickly becomes a rushing river with dangerous undertows as it is joined by thousands of other babbling brooks and creeks.

All of this breathtaking beauty lives in danger of one careless smoker throwing a lit cigarette butt out the window. Hundreds of thousands of acres of beauty destroyed in a matter of days. Charred corpses of wildlife lie beneath gutted stumps and black arms of once vibrant trees. Sadly some men's life's are lost during the fight to put out the flames. All because of one person who does not care.

So it is with one careless word we damage our neighbor's world (James 3:5-6).

Thursday, October 25, 2012


An aircraft carrier ship is a large city that travels on the ocean. They are world wide command and control centers. The NIMITZ class carrier is a floating airport. The flight deck alone is 4.5 acres. The four aircraft elevators are each the size of two city blocks. "Powerful steam catapults (affectionately known as "Fat Cats") can accelerate 37-ton jets from zero to a safe flight speed of up to 180 miles per hour in about 300 feet and in less than three seconds". The electrical system can furnish enough electricity to support a city of 100,000 people.

These ships carry missiles, guns and electric warfare. They have distilling units that can make 400,000 gallons of fresh water from seawater every day. "NIMITZ-class carriers boast all the amenities that would be found in any American city with a comparable population, including a post office with its own ZIP code, TV and radio stations, a newspaper, a fire department, a library, a hospital, a general store, two barbershops and much more"

Yet this traveling city turns direction by a rudder "wherever the pilot desires" (James 3:4). So our tongue controls much of the outcomes in our lives. With it we give grace to others or harm others (Colossians 4:6).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Mother Tongue

When I was a young mother, I knew a person who was gentle and kind. She did not speak evil of anyone. She made each person feel as though he or she was important. You had the sense that she paid attention to every word you spoke.

I asked her once how she learned to control her anger. She said one morning as she was yelling at her children, the thought came to her, yelling does not accomplish anything. She decided on that day never to yell at her children again. Though she disciplined them, her words were firm yet loving.

The mother's tongue can destroy a child's conception of God's love so that the child struggles with it the rest of his or her life. Our tongues can not only harm ourselves, they can harm those we love (James 3:2).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dangers of Being a Teacher

This next verse makes me sit up and take notice. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement" (James 3:3).

Whether we are a teacher of five or a teacher of thousands, we will receive a stricter judgement. Does this mean teachers should be held to a higher standard of behavior and students are excused? Does this mean God does not expect those who are hearers and not teachers to be less committed to following God's word? Does it mean if you feel called to teach that you should avoid the opportunity in order to avoid judgement?


It does mean when we teach, we need to make sure what we are teaching is an accurate dividing of God's word. If we say God said, or God says, and he did not, we will be, misrepresenting God and leading people away from God. For that, we will have to answer to God. (Ps 50:16; Jeremiah 14:14-16, 23:32; 2 Corinthians 12:12-15; 2 Peter 2:1-2)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dead Bodies

The last verse in chapter two is one of the clearest illustrations of faith without works. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.

A dead body has no life in the eyes. It cannot move on its own. It does not accomplish tasks. It does not think. It cannot solve problems. It cannot taste food. It does not recognize people. And most significantly, in a matter of days it will become the permanent home of parasites and maggots. Not a pretty sight, and the stench is unbearable. That is why we burry dead bodies.

So faith without works appears to God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Abraham and Rahab

If Abraham had refused to take Isaac up the mountain and followed God's instructions, his refusal would be an outward display of inward rebellion. If Rahab had turned away the spies, her actions would have been a clear statement of trust in her own government to rescue the city.

Humans are destined to act on their beliefs. If we honestly believe God is actively involved in our lives, we will make our decisions based on his word to us. If God is an idea to us, but we do not truly believe that he cares about us as individuals we will naturally be guided by our desires.

The outcome of either belief is eternally significant (James 2:21-26).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Six Year Olds

What does James mean when he says works perfect our faith (James 2:21-22)? Can faith be perfected? Can it be improved? What is the connection between works and improving our faith?

Let's look at it from a different angle. I may study about having a baby, but there are things I learn about parenting that can only be learned through experience. I may read about being a teacher in a grade school and have the degrees necessary to obtain the job, but controlling and teaching a room full of six year olds is an entirely different kind of teacher.

We only learn what faith is when we live through something that forces us to completely rely on God and not on our own understanding. Obedience in those kinds of circumstances strengthens our hope and faith in God, because we experience him as faithful (Romans 5:1-3; James 1:1-3; Hebrews 5:7-9).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apparent Contradiction?

Paul writes in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus, "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:9). In His letter to the Romans he writes, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1).

Yet James writes, "what dies it profit, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but dies not have works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:14). Do these letters reveal an argument between Paul and James? Do they expose a contradiction in the Bible? It seems like Paul is clearly stating that we are saved by faith only and James is saying we are saved by works.

But that is not the case. James and Paul are both teaching that faith in The Lord Jesus Christ changes you from the inside out. True faith comes first and is immediately followed by works as a natural outcome of faith.

Saying I am a butterfly does not make me one. Mouthing faith does not mean I have faith. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, not to excuse them (1John 3:8).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Driving on a hot day, water appears in the distance across the pavement. But when you arrive the small pond has moved further ahead. You will never reach the water because it is a mirage. The water can never fill your radiator, it can never cool you down, you can never get a drink from it.

Faith without action is as helpful and as real as that mirage. If we say we have faith but do not live, breath and make our decisions based on God's word, our faith is simply empty words (James 2:14-17).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Drinking Glass

Can you imagine being a guest in someone's home and your host serving you a coke from a drinking glass with a sharp jagged edge on one side? Imagine your host saying, "we didn't want to throw it away because the lip on the other side is not broken". You would think there was something seriously wrong with the person, and you would be right.

We understand that if any part of a drinking glass is broken, the entire glass is broken. Why do we have such a difficult time grasping the fact that if we break one command of God we are as guilty as though we had broken them all (James 2:8-13)?

It is not a break in thought when James immediately says, "for judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement" (James 2:13). When I recognize my need for God's mercy, I am ready to approach others with mercy. I will love based on God's love for me, not on a misconstrued idea that I am better than someone else.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Strange Idols

James warns us that showing partiality or favoritism toward the wealthy makes us transgressors of the law of liberty (James 2:8-9). Making your decision on how to treat someone based on their income is self focused, rather than God and people focused. We are to treat other people the way we would like to be treated, "love your neighbor as yourself". This clearly places both the poor and rich as our neighbor. If we honor the wealthy, we must honor the poor.

Our provision comes from our Father (Mt 6:11, 25). To be envious or to covet what someone else has is to despise God's decision for us (Ephesians 5:5). James calls it breaking God's law and Paul calls it idolatry.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Famous Trials

Many of us can remember the Simpson trial. He was a wealthy former sports star accused of murdering his ex wife and a man who was returning her eye glasses that she had left at a restaurant. A great number of the public associated the none guilty verdict with his ability to hire the best attorneys.

Some of us have vivid memories of President Clinton's scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Many members of the public were persuaded that President Clinton escaped impeachment because of his wealth and power.

If we find ourselves in court opposing the wealthy, chances are we are going to loose simply because we cannot afford the expensive litigation process. So why would we value the wealthy person above the poor? Perhaps it comes from our hoping to obtain enough favor to eat from the crumbs of their wealth.

Knowing a wealthy person may reveal our sinful heart (James 2:5-7).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pig Farm

Three men worked on a pig farm. Not wanting to be late to church, they would come straight from their work to worship. The stench from their clothing made your eyes water. The smell was so overpowering that the pastor eventually talked to them about taking a shower before attending service. He assured them that God would not be upset if they were a couple of minutes late coming to his house. The brothers were happy to comply and we all rejoiced in the Lord together.

James is not encouraging us not to bathe. He is not telling us to use our filthy clothes to test people's tolerance. He is reminding us that possessions are no indicator of God's favoritism.

God has blessed his children who are poor with an abundance of faith. They are aware that they literally rely on him for food and shelter. Those of us who have extra tend to forget we are in the same position.

If we disdain the poor, we would have disdained Jesus when he walked the earth (James 2:1-7).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Puppy Tails

Our tongues can be like puppies tails. They wag incessantly.

James says if we do not control our tongues our religion (our display of worship) is useless. Meeting the needs of widows and orphans and keeping oneself unspotted by the world are true acts of worship (James 1:26-27).

Note the way James puts it, keeping oneself "unspotted" by the world. It is like putting on your white wedding dress or tuxedo and finding a faded brown spot on your lapel or just below your neckline. Imagine you are the guest speaker at a large gathering and you glance in the mirror just before going on stage and see a bright red pimple on the tip of your nose. It is like coming home from the grocery store to find your pants have been unzipped the entire shopping trip.

James reminds us that actions speak louder than words.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Time in the mirror

On those days when we take a little extra time to make ourselves presentable to the world, when we take time to look in the mirror and adjust what needs to be adjusted, we are far more ready to face situations that may arise throughout the day.

But the blessing that comes through "looking into the perfect law" and making the necessary adjustments is more than simply making us feel better. In fact sometimes the adjustment required may make us miserable, for the moment (Hebrews 12:11).

If we are a doer of the law, we will avoid unnecessary difficulties because we recognize the wise choices in circumstances. When we do not understand, our trust in God gives us the strength to do what is right regardless of choices made by family and friends. We will benefit from acting on God's principles, both in this life and in the life to come.

God's perfect law is for his glory and our benefit (James 1:5).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Which Law?

James says "he who looks onto the perfect law of liberty and continues in it " will be blessed in what he does. What is the law of liberty? Why would James tell us to follow the law? Aren't we supposed to be free from the laws of Old Testament?

It is true that we are no longer required to bring animal sacrifices for worship and sanctification. Those laws have been made complete, or finished, when Jesus literally became the lamb slain for our sin. But scripture talks of the law of liberty (James 2:12, 4:11), the law of the wise ( Proverbs 13:14), law of justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23), and the law written in our hearts (Romans 2:13-15).

God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), neither his character nor his pleasures. Therefore what he hated in the Old Testament, he hates in the New. What he loved in the Old Testament, he loves in the New.

Jesus put it this way, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Public Displays of Self Deception

We are experts at deceiving ourselves. Every morning I say to myself, "I am going to eat healthy today. When I get home tonight, I will not eat after six PM so that I can loose wait." 8 PM finds me in the kitchen either making toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ( my favorite) eating a piece of chocolate. I am telling myself, this one time won't make a difference. For thirty years I have been intending to lose 15 to 20 pounds. But my self deception keeps getting in my way.

We have all seen the man or woman who goes to the store in pajama bottoms and slippers. Some women wear tight fitting polyester pants that show not only their panty line but every roll of skin. Some men wear pants below their bottoms. They have to walk awkwardly to keep them from falling to their feet.

Like the public display of physical imperfections, our lives display our spiritual depravity when we read the Bible but do not practice what we read (James 1:26-27).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making Things Worse

Because we know that God choose us and we did not choose him, because we know that he alone is wise, because we know that all righteousness comes from him, we put away from us any semblance of sin. We turn away from our wisdom and seek God's word which will save our souls.

Our ways will always make things worse. His ways will always save us from ourselves (James 1:21).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Piece of My Mind

There is a saying that makes me chuckle, "I'd give you a piece of my mind but I can't spare any."

Sometimes the apparent foolishness of others gets under our skin. We want to point out a thing or two to the person who is irritating us. When we realize someone is taking advantage of us, or has pulled the wool over our eyes, or has done something to which feelings of anger arise, we want to set them straight in no uncertain terms.

But James makes it clear. "The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Therefore, when we need to confront someone with wrong doing, we must first make sure our hearts are prepared with a spirit of humility, recognizing that we too are capable of similar sin (Galatians 6:1-5).

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Fruit

In the Old Testament the first of every produce and animal belonged to God (Exodus 23:16; Lev 19:23; Leviticus 27:30. The first born child also belonged to God ( Numbers 3:13).

James brings this to our attention when he says God has brought us forth by his own will that we might be a kind of first fruits of his creatures (James 1:18).

All of God's creation belongs to him, but he has chosen to call certain of his creatures to be closer to him. None of the animals, plants or minerals have the ability to have a close relationship with God. Our creator has only blessed humans with this capability. We did not will this to happen. We did not manipulate God into inviting us into his presence. He choose to invite us of his own will.

God could have just as well only allowed angels to know him and not humans. Knowing that without God speaking to us we would have no wisdom or spiritual insight, it makes sense to be slow to anger, slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:18-19).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Starry Nights

On nights when the electricity goes off, I make sure to step out into the darkness and look up. The stars are amazing. My heart is filled with wonder. The universe is a physical picture of the abundance of his grace, mercy and love toward his children. Just as there are more stars than we can see, no less count, there is an over abundance of grace and mercy that we need so desperately.

James uses that same analogy. "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow" ( James 1:17).

Remember to praise him all day today.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Forgiving Ourselves

Many people say they can forgive others but have difficulty forgiving themselves. They say, "I never thought I was the type of person who would do such a thing". The truth is given the right circumstances we are all capable of every sin that has been committed. Without Christ we are inherently evil.

If we think we are "better than that" we are deluding ourselves. We obviously do not understand the depth of our own depravity, therefore we are incapable of understanding the marvelous grace and mercy of God. That is why Christ came, to deliver us from evil that is part of who we are.

Someone asks, but what about the evil I did after I became a Christian? Why am I still tempted to sin? First of all, it is not a sin to be tempted. We know this because the writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in like manner as we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:14-16). Secondly, if you give into temptation and sin, you only need to confess your sin, turn away from it and God will forgive and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Having a Baby

We may be critical of young men and women who are intimate outside of marriage and conceive a child. We click our tongues and make comments about their ignorance. We say they have no concept of what it will cost them emotionally, physically and financially to raise a child.

In our grieving over other people' folly we need to remember James parable of sin being like conceiving a child. Once we are obsessed with a sin, we will eventually act on it, and as James puts it, the desire gives birth to sin.

Eventually that "baby sin" becomes a full blown rebellion against God and will lead to spiritual death (James 1:13-15). James says, "Don't deceive yourself". This will happen every time you dwell on sin."

The secret to avoid sin is to become intimate with the one who is the giver of righteousness, God. Do not keep thinking about the temptation. Bring your every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Focus on God and his overwhelming grace to provide all you need to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Having trouble with web site. The last couple of days it will not allow me to post. I will continue to try and resolve the issue. Hopefully Google will resolve it soon. Perhaps the fact that I am able to post this means someone has recognized there is an issue and solved it.


There are great mysteries in the Bible. The book of James talks about one of these. James tells us that God never tempts anyone to sin. Yet Luke wrote in the book of Acts, "For truly against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontious Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 5:27).

Wasn't it a sin to put to death the Son of God? And didn't Luke say God planned it all? How can James say God never temps people to sin? How can both James and Luke be speaking the truth? Don't they contradict one another?

The answer lies in understanding the nature of man and the knowledge of God. God knows man and what is in man (John 2:23-24). He knows all that has happened, all that is happening and all that will happen. He knew about the process of crucifixion before he created the world. He knew that man would turn away from him and hate truth. Knowing all of this, he sent his son at exactly the time when evil men would do exactly what they did to Jesus.

He did not tempt the people to torture Jesus, but he sent Jesus to be tortured that we might be saved.

Crown Of Life

James has told us that trials produce patience which in turn gives us all we need and makes us complete (James 1:1-2). But there is more. Those who remain faithful during temptations will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him ( James 1:12). The Bible only mentions the crown of life in one other place, Revelation 2:10. There God promises those who suffer persecution, are thrown into prison and are tested will receive the crown of life.

The context of James comments relates this reward with being tempted to sin while John in the book of Revelation relates it to persecution for the sake of Christ. We tend to think of the latter as the more holy calling, worthy of such a reward. But God rewards all who remain faithful to him regardless of the source of the temptation to turn away.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Two Sides of the Same Coin

James gives opposing advice to the poor and rich man because the challenges of each circumstances vary drastically.

The man who struggles to feed his family, who lives paycheck to paycheck tends toward worry and complaining. He wonders why God has not given him more. He may be tempted to envy the wealth of others. James tells the poor man to glory in the fact that God has exalted him by calling him his child. His poverty beacons his faith because his relationship with God is a daily position of trust. He truly is exalted because his relationship with God is intimate (James 1:9).

The rich man tends toward self confidence. It may be more difficult for him to recognize his need for God because all his money provides his desires. God can become to him an idea rather than his very breath. James puts a greater emphasis on the rich man because the rich man is in greater danger of forgetting God. While he is preoccupied, the wealthy man's health continues to fade until he faces death. James reminds him, not to glory in his wealth, but to rejoice in the fact that in his spiritually depravity God has shown him mercy by calling him to be his child (James 1:9-11).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stormy Waves

Many of us are quick to condemn ourselves. We live on the edge of discouragement feeling like every decision we make is somehow the wrong decision. We always feel like we could have done better.

That level of insecurity causes us to read James' next words as a statement of condemnation. "Let him ask in faith, with no doubting: for he who doubts is like the waves of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double minded man unstable in all his ways" (James 1:518).

He is not saying God will be so angry with our doubting that he will not give us wisdom. We know this because James just finished telling us that God gives wisdom without reproach (James 1:5). He is telling us if we doubt that God gives us wisdom, we will become so confused in our self doubting that we will continually change our minds. The entire situation we are facing will overwhelm us to the point of complete confusion and an inability to make a sound decision.

After you have sought God for wisdom, rest in his ability to guide you, and make the choice that seems best. It is not our ability to understand what God is saying that is the point. It is trust in God's ability to make his way clear to us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obvious Shortcomings

What is it about patience that makes us complete and lacking in nothing? Is it because we learn to trust God? Is it because we learn not to trust in ourselves? Is it because trials bring out the worst in us so that our failures and shortcomings are made obvious which hopefully produces repentance and a change? Is it because trials make us long for heaven and remind us that this world is not our home?

Perhaps it is all of these and more. However one thing becomes painfully apparent during trials. We need divine wisdom. James tells us when we become aware of that need, we are to ask God for wisdom and he will give it to us (James 1:1-3).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiritual Significance

We tend to think the only trials that have spiritual significance are those directly related to spiritual topics, I.e. persecution for our faith. But James did not say, count it all joy when you encounter spiritual trials, but "count it all joy when you fall into various trials". Trials can be as simple as our baby waking us up in the middle of the night or having a flat tire on the way to work to facing cancer treatments.

We want trials to be over as quickly as possible, but trials seem to have a mind of their own. The nature of trials is that they are out of our control. We did not chose them to start and we cannot force them to stop. We may be tempted to apply a shortcut or resolve them in direct opposition to God's instruction, but that will only exasperate the problem.

Patience is waiting for God's resolution, however long that may take. While we wait, we place our trust in God and ask him for the wisdom we need to live victoriously through the circumstance (James 1:1-3). That trust in God makes all trials spiritually significant.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A letter from James

James wrote an open letter to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad". They were not scattered abroad because they had gone on a vacation. They were scattered abroad because they had fled for their lives.

Imagine being forced to leave our homes, our friends, our local markets, our favorite places and all we have known. Imagine the culture shock. It is no wonder James immediately opens his letter with the subject of trials.

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials..."

James is not being sadistic. He is not encouraging believers to seek out trials. He is simply telling us we will encounter various kinds of trials and when we do, we need to remember each trial tests our faith. As we remain trusting God through each difficult circumstance we learn patience.

Patience teaches us to trust God. It completes produces in us all we need to remain faithful to God (James 1:1-2).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lesson of the Book

We have come to the end of the book of John. We saw Jesus' ministry increase to the point of speaking to 5,000 people at one time. Then we saw his ministry shrink to the 12 disciples and a few others. Finally we saw everyone forsake him. Yet every moment of his life and every word he spoke was orchestrated by the Father.

Our lives will have strange twists and turns. People will come and go. But the Jesus' life has taught us not to trust in circumstances, but to trust is God.

Next we will look at the book of James.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Day of Our Death

The disciples thought John was going to remain alive until Jesus physically returned to earth to set up his kingdom (John 21:22-23). At first it appeared they were right when John was dunked in boiling oil and survived. He was eventually exiled to the Greek Island of Patmos for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The rest of the disciples were martyred.

Peter was crucified upside down. James was beheaded. Andrew was crucified on a diagonal cross. Philip was Crucified. Bartholomew was tortured then beheaded. Matthew was killed by an ax and Thomas by a sword. James of Alphaeus was stoned at age 90 then clubbed to death. Jude was clubbed to death then beheaded. Simon the zealot was sawn in half, and Matthias, the disciple chosen by the eleven to take Judas' place was stoned and beheaded. Only John, the brother of James died of natural causes after a life of persecution, torture and exile.

We neither know the day of our death nor what life holds for us. But we know God, and he knows all the days of our life, from our first draw of breath till our last. He will choose our death for us (John 21:22; Psalm 139:15-16; Hebrew 9:27; Psalm 23:4, 116:15, Proverbs 14:32; Romans 14:8; Revelation 14:13; John 8:51).

We need not be afraid.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What About the Other Guy?

Jesus has just told Peter that he will be a martyr for the gospel. Peter turns and sees John standing next to Jesus and does not resist asking, "What about him?" In other words, what s going to happen to John?

Was Peter jealous of John's relationship with Jesus? Was he anxious for John? I
his motive for asking Jesus about John's future is not clear. But Jesus' answer by passes the motive and goes directly to the point. "If I want him to remain until i come, what is that to you? Follow me" (John 21:18-22).

We are not to concern ourselves with what God may or may not be doing through or with someone else. Our focus is to follow God's direction for us, not to compare ourselves with his plan for others.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finite Love

Remember the word Peter used for love is phileo. It carries with it the meaning of mutual friendship based on interests, but can be alienated by an unworthy or ungrateful response. In other words, I love you as long as you do not hurt me.

It is no accident that Jesus chooses this time to tell Peter that he will indeed be hurt. "Truly I say to you, when you were young you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wished, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another shall dress you and bring you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18).

John wanted to make sure we knew what Jesus meant so he adds, "This he said signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God" ( John 21:19).

Peter has openly admitted the weakness of his love but, Jesus knows what he will accomplish through Peter. It will not be based on Peter's finite ability to stand under pressure, but by God's grace working in and through Peter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Denial and Affirmation

It does not escape our attention that Peter had denied Jesus three times and now Jesus asks him if he loves him three times. Peter has learned that he cannot pretend with Jesus, so he answers honestly. Each time Jesus asks, Peter is grieved in his spirit (John 21:15-17).

Jesus tells Peter. "tend my lambs", "tend my sheep", and finally "feed my sheep". Jesus is calling Peter out of his self condemnation into a purposeful ministry and a focus on others.

Self condemnation cripples us. We must receive God's forgiveness and refocus away from our failures toward meeting the needs of others. There is no time to wallow in the mire of our self flagellation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Questions

The disciples head just finished eating a hardy breakfast with Jesus, when Jesus repeats those now famous questions, "Simon, Son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15-17).

There are three separate words for love in Greek. Jesus uses two of these. The two times he asks Peter about his love, he uses agape. It means a unselfish outgoing affection and tenderness for another without necessarily expecting anything in return (RSV glossary).

When Peter answers Jesus, he uses the word for love that denotes a mutual interest or kindly drawing toward another, Phileo. This kind of love can be alienated by an ungracious or unworthy response. It is almost like saying, "I love you if you do not hurt me."

The third time Jesus asks the question, "do you love me?" he uses Peter's word for love that means kindly affection. Jesus calls us to a higher plane of love, but he is willing to meet us where we are.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Physical Body

John takes his time telling the story do Jesus by the sea. Why does he give us details like the number and size of the fish, Peter throwing on his clothes to swim, and the fact that Jesus made them breakfast of bread and fish? He even tells us what kind if fire Jesus cooked the fish over (John 21:1-10).

John wants the reader to know that the resurrection was a rising of the physical body of Jesus, not a spiritual manifestation. Jesus had scars on his hands and in his side that the disciples could touch (John 20:27). Jesus could build a fire of coals and make a meal for his friends. He made a point of eating a meal with them (Luke 24:36-43; John 21:36-43).

We also will one day rise with a new body (1Corinthians 15). We will eat and drink (Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:10; 22:2). We will experience the joy of his presence in a physical resurrected but new and glorious body (Matthew 25:21).

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The disciples had no idea it was Jesus who had called out to them from the shore asking if they had food (John 21:4). As far as they were concerned it was just another fisherman checking out the prospects for the day. To their response of no, Jesus calls out, "Cast your nets on the right side and you will find some" (John 21:6). What made them listen to a stranger on the shore isn't clear, but they did exactly that and suddenly their nets were overflowing with fish. John tells us they counted 153 big fish among the hundreds of medium size and small ones.

The fish are so large and so plentiful that John remarks surprise that the nets did not tear with the weight of them.

It is John who recognizes Jesus first. The physical features are not the clues for recognizing him. It is the realization the miracle of fish; Great swarms of fish do not usually come close to shore (about a hundred yards). John is in awe as he exclaims to Peter, "It' the Lord!"

Peter doesn't wait. In seconds he has thrown on his outer garments and swims to shore. Most of us think of removing layers of clothing to swim, not adding layers. But Peter isn't thinking about anything except getting to the Master.

May our devotion run as deep.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


We know that Jesus appeared to his disciples immediately following his resurrection and again one week later. His appearance had stirred their hearts and released much of their fear. Since no one seemed to be coming after them, and they had become weary of hiding, Peter announces,"I am going fishing" (John 21:1-3).

Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and two other disciples that had been sitting around with Peter decided that was a great idea. They promptly went down to the sea, got into their boats and began what would turn out yo be a long night of fruitless endeavor. There were no fish.

The waves are splashing the side of the boat, the moon is setting in the west and the son is peaking over the horizon as they are silently rowing back to shore. A voice comes floating over the cool water, "Children, do you have any food?" The disciples had no idea it was Jesus who had called out to them (John 21:4).

You can almost hear the frustration, disappointment and irritation as they simply call back, "No".

Our fleshly efforts will always produce this level of harvest...absolutely nothing, zero.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sign Posts

We have at last reached John's statement of the theme of his book. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presents of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31).

John focused on the following signs: 1) turning water into wine 2) telling the woman at the well her past 3) healing the man by the pool of Bethesda 4) healing the nobleman's son from a distance 5) feeding 5,000 men with three barley loaves and two small fish 6) giving sight to a man who was born blind 7) walking on water.

How do these particular signs point to Jesus as the Christ? 1) power over the elements 2) intimate knowledge of our lives 3) power over the ravages of sin (remember in this case Jesus warned him not to sin lest a worse thing comes upon him) 4) Power to heal without being physically present 5) power to provide 6) power to create what is not there 7) power over the laws of nature.

Only God has this kind of authority.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Superior Faith?

Immediately upon recognizing Jesus, Thomas responded, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:24-28). This is the first time any of the disciples dared to call Jesus! God. It was an amazing declaration that Satan wants us to miss, so he suggests we focus on Thomas' doubts and not on his revelation.

Jesus said, "blessed are those who have not seen but believe" (John 20:29). Is this a pronouncement that we who believe without seeing Jesus' physical body are better than Thomas? Do we have a right to feel spiritually superior to Thomas?

If we do, we have forgotten Ephesians 2:10. "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast". Jesus' words mean exactly what he said. We are blessed who believe and have not seen because God has blessed us with the gift of belief. Without that, we would be lost forever.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joining Thomas

The bible says Thomas was called the twin (John 11:16; 20:24). We call him doubting Thomas because he did not believe the other disciples that they had been with Jesus. We forget that the everyone doubted at first and that we also have doubted.

The only difference between most of us and Thomas, is that Thomas expressed his doubts to his friends (John 20:24-25). Our tendency is to struggle alone in the darkness of doubt. We do not allow others to minister to us.

Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his struggle to believe. He simply showed him his scars and said, " not be unbelieving, but believe" (John 20:26-27). When we find ourselves struggling to believe God is involved in our lives, we need to remember his scars. Ask God to reveal himself to you, then watch and wait. He always meets us where we are.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Enabling or Judging

When we allow people to continue to violate us, we are prolonging their behavior. Psychologist call this enabling. We need to do what is best for those we love. Jesus told us to love our enemies. That means we do what is best not only for those who are easy to love but for those who we find more difficult to love. Confronting poor behavior or allowing consequences to play out is often necessary to rescue someone from destructive choices (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

When we don't particularly like someone, we find it easy to confront them out of our anger, but far more difficult to confront in love and a spirit of humility (Galatians 6:1). We find it harder still to resist pronouncing judgement on them (Romans 14:4; James 4:12).

Recognizing sinful behavior is not forbidden, but encouraged, nor is it judging a person (1Corinthians 6:1-6). But to say someone is beyond God's ability to rescue or to say someone has no value, that is wrongful judging. There is only One who sees into the heart.

Both enabling and condemning are wrong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discerning Forgiveness

If we have the responsibility to offer or withhold forgiveness, shouldn't we know what forgiveness looks like (John 20:22-23)? The best example of forgiveness comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. While he was on the cross, he spoke the words, Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Clearly he was not speaking of those who completely understood what they had connived to do (John 8:42-47). But he speaks to people like Saul, later named Paul, who thought he was serving God when he put Christians into prison (Acts 9: 1; Philippians 3:6).

God clearly sees within the heart; we cannot. So how can we tell if someone knows full well what they are doing, and those who believe they are doing right but are mistaken? John the Baptist taught us, our forgiveness is offered at the time of the offense, but not played out until the fruit of repentance has time to be manifest (Matthew 3:7-12).

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Return Policy

"...He breathed on them, and said to them, 'receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (John 20:22-23).

These are powerful words. Is he telling his followers that they have power within themselves to save people from hell or send them there? We know this cannot be the meaning because there is only one who has the power to save and to destroy (James 4:12).

The only person who can forgive an offense is the one who has been offended. Unbelief is an offense against God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. But when someone harms or offends us, we have the choice to forgive or retain un-forgiveness. This responsibility is set against the backdrop of God forgiving us.

Jesus also told the disciples, "“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

The choice is clear.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Same Calling

When Jesus appears to his disciples the first time after he has raised from the dead he tells them, "Peace be to you; as the Father sent me, I also am sending you" (John 20:21).

Jesus came as a vulnerable baby of a poor family, though he had the wealth of his heavenly father at his fingertips. Jesus walked among men without lording it over them, though he held their breath in his hands. Jesus submitted to the governing authority of his day, though he had the power to raise up rulers or tear them down at will. Jesus was the Lord of the universe, yet he washed men's feet. Jesus could have called tens of thousands of angels to destroy every person who opposed him, yet he submitted to the cross for our sake. He literally had life and death in his power yet he only spoke what the father told him to speak.

Jesus did not focus on his power while he was on earth, but humbly and clearly relayed his Father's message. We are called to do the same.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

His Hands and Feet

The ten disciples and their closest friends were scared to death of the Jews (John 20:19). Who can blame them! They had seen the deadly results of the political power the leaders of their synagogues had successfully used against Jesus. There was no reason to think they were not the next targets.

Knowing the terror in their hearts, Jesus' first words to them we're, "Peace to you" (John 20:19). Then Jesus shows them his hands and his feet.

Proving that it was him was not the only reason for showing them his hands and his feet. His scars were proof that he loved them enough to die for them and powerful enough to raise from the dead.

Jesus also speaks to us. "“Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. (Luke 24:38-39; Ephesians 1:16-21). Let us not be afraid of what we are facing. Let us trust him who has asked us to face it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surprise Visits

We are focused so much on the eleven remaining disciples that we forget the other disciples who followed Jesus. It is interesting that Jesus appears to the peripheral disciples before showing himself to the eleven. We have already read how he appeared to the group of women. Next he appears to two of his friends who were walking to Emmaus. We know they were not counted among the eleven because Luke writes "So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together." (Luke 14:33).

It was not until evening that Jesus appears to ten of the disciples closest to him. (Remember Thomas is not there.). When Mary comes back to Peter a second time to say she had spoken with Jesus, they did not believe her (Mark 16:9-14). Now two more friends come banging on the door to tell them Jesus is alive.

We only know one of the names of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas. We know several of the women's names, but not all of them (Luke 24:10). These people are not known for writing books. Their names do not show up in any of the apostles' letters. We would consider them the ordinary men and women in any congregation. In other words, they were like us. Yet Jesus came to them first.

God does not base his love for us on our potential. He simply loves us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A New Relationship

Jesus brought to us a new relationship to God. God is no longer a distant judge to whom we must bring animal sacrifices and follow a long list of washings, drinks and, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, "fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation (Hebrews 9:9-10). But God is our personal father.

Jesus told Mary Magdalene, "...go tell my brothers and say to them I am ascending to my father and your father, and to my God and your God" (John 20:17).

He made it clear that God was our father in equal position as God is Jesus' father. He called us his brothers (Hebrews 2:11; John 1:12). He is not only a father who wants the best for his children, but he is powerful enough to give what is best to his children. We can trust him to accomplish eternally significant things in us and through us.

"My God and your God" ... "My father and your father", meditate on that concept today. It will bring new light to every situation you face.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A New Door

Jesus tells Mary Magdalene in the garden to stop clinging to him because he has not yet ascended to his Father (John 20:17). Why was it important that he go to his Father before seeing the twelve disciples? We know he was to appear to many people over a period of forty days before his disciples would see him ascend to heaven, but John seems to indicate that Jesus would ascend to heaven even before his disciples watched him disappear in the clouds. Why?

The writer of Hebrews gives us an insight into the mystery. He writes, "..Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption...and for this reason he is the mediator of the new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:12,15).

Jesus presented the accomplished work of our salvation to his Father before spending the last instructive time with all those who knew him in the flesh. It is like he was closing the door of required animal sacrifices and opening the door to free entrance into the throne room of God.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Piecing It All Together

Mary Magdalen rose early before the sun came up. The stars were bright in the sky and the crickets were singing under the sliver of a white moon. The spices she carried in her basic wafted through the air as her long skirts brushed quickly and quietly over the damp grass. She would meet her friends at the tomb at sunrise, but she headed out early so that she could spend a few minutes alone.

As she rounded the corner passed the gnarled olive tree, she could see the tomb where she had watched Nicodemus and Joseph place Jesus' body, but something was dreadfully wrong. The stone was moved and the dark mouth of the cave stood gaping open. She ran to the tomb and looked inside. Jesus' body was gone!

Her breath came in short gasps as she raced to Peter's home where John had been staying along with Jesus' mother since the crucifixion. Her incessant banging woke everyone in house. John and Peter reached the door at the same time. "He's gone"! Mary was visibly shaking.

"Who's gone?" Peter demanded irritated at being woken so early and with such a racket.

"They have taken Jesus' body, and I don't know where they put it."

That was all the men needed to hear. Peter managed to get through the doorway first running toward the garden. But John, smaller and more in shape, out ran Peter arriving at the tomb first. Panting and out of breath, he looked inside and saw a pile of linen strips lying on the outcropping of rock where he had watched the two men lay Jesus' body just three days prior.

Seconds later Peter arrived and pushing past John who was catching his breath, he entered the tomb. There were the linen strips for the body, but the head piece was folded neatly in a corner by itself. John followed Peter into the mouth of the cave. They looked at each other, fear penetrating taking away what little breath they had left. Why would the Romans take his body? What were they planning to do with it? Would they display it on a wall like king Saul's body was displayed by the Philistines? Would they hang it on a spike near the entrance of Jerusalem like an enemy of the state?

In shock and renewed fear they headed back to Peter's home, forgetting about Mary Magdalene weeping by the stone.

The sun was just coming over the horizon when Mary's friends arrived. Each was carrying her own basket of spices. The birds were already singing and the dew sparkled in the early morning rays of sunlight, but none of the women noticed. Joanna saw the gapping mouth of the tomb first and quickened her steps. "What's going on?" she yelled at Mary when she saw the tomb was empty.

"I don't know. I think the Romans took his body," Mary sobbed.

"I don't believe it." Mary, the mother of James and John pushed past Mary into the cave. Mary Magdalene, still weeping bent over and looked inside. There were two men dressed in white sitting on the slab where Jesus' body had been. Her brow wrinkled, puzzled at how the two men had passed her without her seeing them.

"Why are you weeping?". They asked. "Are you looking for someone?"

"Mary stepped forward. "Someone has taken Jesus' body and I don't know where they laid him."

Then one of the angels said to the women "“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

A great wave of emotions swept over the women. The strange words of the man in white sounded vaguely familiar. But they didn't make since. He couldn't be alive, not after all the torture the soldiers had put him through. They were standing right there when the centurion shoved his spear into Jesus' side and the blood and water gushed out. In silence and fear the small band of women turned to leave.

Then Mary saw whom she assumed was the gardener. Whatever the Romans were up to, they would not have bothered to involve a lowly gardner, she reasoned. Still weeping, she quickened her steps, her friends close behind her.

"Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?". The man asked her.

"Sir, if you have taken the body, tell me where you laid him so that I can take him and burry him elsewhere."

Then that precious, all consuming word pierced through Mary's overwhelming sorrow and confusion, "Mary". Oh how sweet the breath of her savior was to Mary's weary soul. Without hesitation she was at his feet in worship. Her friends arriving, also fell at his feet in worship.

"Stop clinging to me". Jesus said as he raised Mary to her feet. "but go tell the disciples the disciples to meet me in Galilee."

Mary Magdalene and the band of women rushed back to Peter's house to give them the unbelievably good news!

And so begins the new chapter in their lives and ours.

(Mt 27:61; 28:1-8; Mk 15:40,47; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-12; John 20:1-18).

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Some people struggle with the apparent contradictions in the story of Jesus' resurrection. Why does John and Luke mention two angels and Matthew mentions only one? Why does Matthew's story seem to indicate that the angel was sitting on the rock and John specifically states that two angels were sitting in the tomb? Why does Matthew and Luke say that the angels spoke to all the women and John tells only about Mary Magdalene? Why does Matthew say the group of women held Jesus' feet and worshiped him, but John only mentions Mary Magdalene?

First it is important to remember John's entire focus is "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you might have life in his name" (John 20:31). Through out his book he limits the stories to the bear minimum, leaving out many details so that the entire focus is on that message.

Secondly, a person can mention only the angel that spoke, ignoring the silent angel. Thus both people are telling a factual account. Thirdly Mary Magdalene most likely was the only one who spoke to the angels out of the group of women who were there. So John only mentions her. Fourthly, Matthew does not state that the angel was still sitting on the stone when the women arrived, only that when the soldiers were there the angel had sat on the stone. He and his partner could easily have moved into the tomb by the time the women arrived.

Fifthly Matthew says the women held him by the feet and worshiped him. John again focuses only on Mary Magdalene, the organizer and spokes person of the women.

Mark says the women did not tell anyone because they were afraid (Mark 16:7-8), yet Matthew says the women all ran to tell Peter (Matthew 28:1-8). Mark is pointing out that the women did not tell people as they ran, while Matthew focuses on the interaction with the disciples.

Next time we will look at John's varied story about the resurrection.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mary's Experience With Jesus

Mary Magdalene couldn't bear to go home. She stood by the empty tomb weeping after Peter and John each left for their separate homes (John 20:10-11). Her sorrow was so deep that she did not seem startled to see two men dressed in white sitting at the head and the foot of where Jesus' body had lain a few hours before. It did not seem to cross her mind that she had seen no one come or go since her all friends had left, yet these two men are suddenly sitting inside the tomb.

When they ask her why she is weeping she tells she is looking for Jesus' body. She sees what she assumes is the gardener and asks him where he has removed the body. Nothing is making since to her. She is overcome with her grief. Why would a gardener remove the linen cloths and take the body?

Then Jesus speaks her name, Mary.

Oh the delight that ran through every fiber of her being. She did not question. She did not hesitate. She simple worshiped (John 20:11-17).

When we recognize that God calls us by name, his love breaks through all our sorrow. We know he has not abandon us. Our sorrow is no longer unbearable.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Mary's

While it was still dark, early on a Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She met Salome and Mary, the mother of James and John there just as the sun was rising (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; John 20:1). Both Mary's had been there when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had wrapped Jesus' body in a hundred ponds of spices (Matthew 27:61). But the love they felt for Jesus compelled them to bring spices for his body, to honor him in his death.

They had no idea who would remove the great stone that blocked the entrance of the tomb. But when they got there, not only was the stone rolled away, but the tomb was empty. Mary Magdalene was in a panic and immediately ran to get Peter and John to tell them someone had stolen the body (John 20:1-2).

John out ran Peter in his haste to see what in the world Mary Magdalene was talking about. Both John and Peter went into the tomb, were stunned to see the burial linen lying there and the head clothe neatly wrapped and laid to one side. The two men went home in grief and Mary Magdalene was left at the tomb weeping uncontrollably. It was difficult enough to face his death, but to have his body stollen was unbearable.

But things are not as hopeless as our understanding make them out to be.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Rich and Poor of It

The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is a fascinating description of the cross given hundreds of years before Christ came in human form. The prophet wrote, "They made his grave with the wicked, but with the rich at his death" (Isaiah 53:9). He hung on the cross between two thieves, fulfilling the first part of that prophecy, and was buried in a rich man's tomb, fulfilling the second part of that prophecy (John 19:17, 40-41; Matthew 27:55-60).

The Jewish people taught that righteousness brought material wealth. Riches were a kind of proof of a person being blessed by God. So the prophecy in Isaiah must have been a kind of thorn in their theological side. How could the Christ be counted with the wicked and still be buried with the rich? But looking at it after the fulfillment, all the pieces of the puzzle fit nicely into place.

Some of what we read in scripture puzzles us in the same way the people before the cross were puzzled over the apparent contradictions concerning the glory and the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 1:11). The cross teaches us that all God has said will come to pass, will come to pass. Every seeming contradictory or confusing thing written about the second coming of Christ will piece together in perfect harmony with each detail God has given to us.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thread and Scissors

As an experiment, hold out your hands and have someone wrap your wrists with a thread. Then break the thread. Try it a second time with two wrappers of thread. It is a bit harder but still doable. Now try it with ten wraps of thread. Soon you will need scissors to get free.

Do not miss the significance of the hundred pounds of Myrrh (John 19:39). It was the Jewish tradition to wrap the dead body in linen strips soaked in spices. Can you imagine the weight of the body once it is wrapped with linen and one hundred pounds of spices? The dead weight of Jesus' body was at least a hundred pounds and more likely a hundred sixty pounds for a fit man of thirty. Add to that another minimum of a hundred fifty ponds counting for the spices and the linen strips.

If you have ever seen a picture of a mummified person, you can quickly deduce that no one buried in that manner could unwrap the weighty casing themselves. The hundred pounds of spices point to the truth of the resurrect of Jesus.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Two Men Changed

A very special thing happens at the foot of the cross after Jesus' death. Two men who have secretly begun to believe Jesus' teaching come out of hiding.

The first man John mentions is Joseph of Arimathea. The only place this man is mentioned is at the burial of Jesus. He is a rich council member who has kept his admiration of Jesus a secret until after the cross. He has been afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue. But now he exposes his faith by coming to Pilate and asking permission to take down Jesus' body.

The second man is Nicodemus. We read about him in the third chapter of John when he came to Jesus by the cover of night to ask questions. We have seen him gradually become bolder when we read about him confronting the council at the first plan to arrest Jesus at the end of chapter seven. Now Nicodemus is ready to publicly show his devotion by helping take Jesus down off the cross (John 19:38-42).

The cross has way of making our decision about Jesus public.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Applying Jesus' Last Words

If the meaning of Jesus' words "it is finished" means we are free from sin, why do we still struggle with things like food addictions, temper outbursts, gossip and other self disciplinary issues?

Perhaps because we are attempting to do it by our own strength we fail. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control (Galatians 5:22-24). Jesus gave us the secret to allowing this fruit to be manifest in our daily lives when he said "he who abides in me bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Paul writes about how to do this when he said, "those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their mind on the things of the spirit...for if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live (Romans 8:5,13). And in the letter to the Ephesians he writes, " those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires".

Christ has given us all we need to successfully battle the ungodly desires (2 Peter 1:3). We can be victor over any addictive behavior by first acknowledging the problem, secondly acknowledging we cannot stop it on our own, thirdly asking God in the moment of temptation for strength to overcome, fourthly walking away quickly and finally deliberately refocusing our mind on something spiritual like glorifying God.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It is Finished

"So when Jesus had tasted the sour wine, he said 'It is finished'" (John 19:20).

What did he mean, "it is finished"? Is he referring to the crucifixion (I am glad this is over)? His words convey so much more than that.

Is he referring to the fulfillment of prophecy? Yes, that is part of it. Every prophecy given in the Old Testament was fulfilled even to the last sip of sour wine (Psalm 69:21). That in itself is wonderful because the vast amount of detailed prophesies fulfilled point to his authenticity. But it is more than that.

"It is finished" speaks of the completed work of Christ for us. His words tell us our sins have been paid for, completely. There is nothing for us to do to remove our sin. We couldn't (Ephesians 2:9-10). It tells us we no longer have to live under the guilt and the deadly power of sin (Romans 8:34).

It s finished tells us all that needed to be done to give us victory in our lives was completed in that moment (Hebrews 4:1-12; 2 Peter 1:3).

It is indeed finished.