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.