Monday, May 28, 2018

Take Pride

Take Pride
May 28, 2018
James 1:9  "Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position."

Pride is not recognized as a good thing or a desirable trait. Every time pride is discussed in the Bible it carries a negative connotation. But is pride an actual sin? Is it sinful to be proud and glad about something. Everyone has felt pride at one time in their lives. We know when it is with benign intent like when a parent sees their child walk across the room for the first time as a toddler or ride a bike for the first time. Their heart is full of satisfaction and they say phrases like, "I'm so proud of you." The Bible even makes mention of the difference between earthly pride and heavenly pride. The subtlety of good pride and bad pride is likely outside our full understanding since our nature is sinful and the Lord's is not. Nonetheless, James told his readers to be prideful about their situation. 

James said, if you are in humble circumstances, take pride in it. But if you are in rich circumstances, take pride in that also. But are the reasons for being prideful about your situation the same? He said if you are rich you should be glad and go ahead and revel in your riches because it is actually a low position. Live it up while you can and get every ounce of enjoyment out of your wealth because it won't last forever. And when that wealth is gone, the rich person (suggestive of Godless) will then be brought low into eternal separation from God. But the person in lowly circumstances, he should also have pride in his heart. Why? Why both scenarios?

When reading it, James is making an analogy of perfect opposites. You can read into the text a little and see the opposite of rich and poor, being made high and being made low, and understanding which side of the coin heaven thinks is the correct one. Taking pride in humble circumstances is a almost an oxymoron. There is nothing to be prideful about, in the eyes of man, when your bank account shows a very low balance. Nonetheless, the Bible recommends being prideful about it. The Bible isn't really saying to boast about have a bank account with a low balance, the Bible is saying to be glad that your riches are in heaven, if that is how you chose to live. No one likes being poor, but living humbly without the pursuit of great gain or lavishness is actually wisdom. The Bible says to be glad for this type of humble worldly situation, because it actually shows spiritual maturity and demonstrates to the Lord your wisdom through your chosen lifestyle. But the Bible really isn't saying to be prideful about it, simply glad in your heart that you made the right choice. 

Most of the time, pride is discussed in the context of it leading to sin and there are plenty  of people who actually think they are better than someone else because of their secret wealth. This too, is the lowly situation, because the humble circumstance is not Godliness either. The Bible said it is OK to take pride in humble circumstances, because pride and humility cannot coexist as you and I understand it. If you actually chose a humble circumstance, and maintained a sinless attitude about it, then be glad because your reward is in Heaven. That is a delicate balance to keep in check, not an easy scenario because it can lead to a proud heart. But thankfully, that was not the point James was trying to make. His readership were Jewish Christians, who were scattered about, due to the intense persecution of Christianity at the time. His readers were already Christians, not the Godless that James mentions were living a wealthy lifestyle and destined to hell. James was warning them not to pursue after worldly wealthy, leaving God behind, because of where it could lead. The pursuit of worldly wealthy, with the goal of living lavishly and lasciviously, will not be of any benefit except for the instant gratification in which it is lived. Go ahead and live it up, in that chosen lifestyle, because that is all there is. You might as well enjoy it for a moment, because eternity in hell follows.

Be glad that you know the side of wisdom, in choosing how you live. Be glad if you actually chose to live that way, knowing there is reward in Heaven for it. Heaven knows this is the better situation and you should, too. Living humbly is the better choice.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 10:4, Prov 8:13, Dan 5:20, Rom 11:13, 2 Cor 5:12, 2 Cor 7:4, Gal 6:4, James 1:9-11, 1 John 2:6 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Practicing Christian

Practicing Christian
May 21, 2018
Hebrews 5:14  "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves. . . ."

It has been said that doctors, in the fulfillment of their duties, are practicing medicine. That phrase, practicing medicine, can be scary if you truly believe a physician is using you as a test subject. It is called "practicing" because there is never a final knowledge set to draw upon for each specific case or patient. New information comes to light, new discoveries, new symptoms, and an infinite number of unique scenarios for patient application of the current knowledge base. In short, each patient is a new and unique case, as unique as the hairs on their head. The physician has never applied the medical knowledge to the patient being seen tomorrow, what if there is a new symptom, never before studied? Surprises come all too often in the practice of medicine, surprises the physician needs to be prepared to handled if this time is different. Practicing medicine is the exercise of medical knowledge for patient application. It is not exact, as each case is different. Though many are similar, treating each the exact same could prove fatal. Hopefully, your physician continues to improve in his knowledge set and from his own historical application of that medical knowledge. He is further honed in his skill, through practicing it, through using it.

In Hebrews, the author suggests that you and I are practicing Christians, in similar fashion to a physician practicing medicine. Being called a Christian, means Christ-like. Are you fully Christ-like, or are you simply applying your Biblical knowledge base of Christ into each new and unique scenario of your life? I would suggest it is the latter, that you will never fully be Christ-like in complete perfection, but can be a Christian in the pursuit of implementing your faith into every tomorrow. Physicians with experience, are considered more practiced than those just fresh from studying. If your health was failing and your symptoms stumped many medical professionals, I'm sure you might seek out one who was respected from his vast experienced, for the best chances of success. So, too, with Christianity, from much experience, from much practice, comes maturity and higher acumen. For the trickiest health scenarios, I'm sure you'd consult the expert physician, but he or she cannot be an expert physician without many years of practice.

The author of Hebrews says you are trained by the practice of your faith, by implementing into your life, using it day in and day out. Those who are considered more Christ-like, likely have had more practice, more opportunity to apply their Biblical understanding of Jesus and the instructions for being Christ-like. Faith, without applying it, isn't faith. Having opportunity to apply it, though not always pleasant, is actually a gift from the Lord. But it takes Biblical understanding and intent to apply the knowledge of your faith in each unique scenario. Are you a practiced Christian or are you failing to practice your Christianity? We are trained, by using our faith, by applying it right here and right now, by applying it to the new scenario every tomorrow.

The medical student, fresh from learning but with no application of his knowledge yet, do you want him operating on you? New Christians have a long way to go, but older Christians should be demonstrating their maturity by now. Whichever one you are, though, you cannot put knowledge into practice without having any knowledge. This takes time studying the Word. Unless you can quote the Bible from cover to cover, studying the Word daily will help you with the new and unique faith-patient of tomorrow, the unique situation you've never seen before.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 14:1,Eph 4:13, 1 Tim 4:7, Heb 5:11-14, Heb 6:1

Monday, May 14, 2018

Need More Seed

Need More Seed
May 14, 2018
2 Corinthians 9:10  "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness."

Paul, on his missionary journeys needed support. He went out, planting churches, and maintained discipleship efforts over those churches and Christians. They were his support system, more often then not, as the years progressed. While Paul attempted to provide and sustain himself, those churches still sent him support. Specifically, they were financially supporting him. In his letters back to them, he made sure to thank and encourage them; it wasn't without importance or heavenly significance. Their gifts mattered, as it supported not just Paul, but enabled converts to Christianity. Their contributions were a sacrifice at times, from the giver, and Paul wanted to make clear they understood their sacrifice was worth it.

Paul made something else clear, regarding their sacrifice. He was sure to explain how things work in the Kingdom. The principle of sowing and reaping is prevalent throughout Scripture. Paul said their efforts of giving, no matter who small, were still a sown into the Kingdom. Paul said the Lord makes sure to give seed to the sower, for that specific purpose. So often we look at the seed, realizing it is just that, a small portion with the intent it will be used to impact the Kingdom. But Paul's gratitude was expressed to the sower, not to the seed. Paul didn't thank the seed, he thanked the person. The seed could not have done anything without the sower deliberately choosing to sow the seed. Paul said it is the Lord who gives seed to the sower. Paul never said the Lord gives seed to the selfish, or the glutton, or the hoarder. The Lord gives seed to those who are known to sow seed. Are you known as a sower?

Without getting into the nuances of the different types of seed, Paul was thanking the Corinthians for their financial support. They sowed monetary support into the Kingdom. The Lord gave money to the Christians in Corinth, specifically so they could sow it. He does not give seed for purposes of hoarding, and Paul made clear to them they would be receiving more seed because of their willingness to sow it. If you don't have seed to sow, then maybe it is because your intent is to hoard it. The Lord gives seed to the sower. He knows your heart and what you are willing to do with the gifts He has given you. If you have intent to keep it all to yourself, no matter what it is, the Lord is not willing to give you more.

The Lord knows you have your own needs; He does not require you to give it all, sowing every last drop. Some grain is kept to eat, while a portion is kept aside for seed. You are not required to give it all, but you are required to have a spirit of generosity with what you have, being willing to sow a portion of anything and everything the Lord gives you. If  you find yourself lacking, maybe it is because you have turned from a sower into a hoarder. He gives generously to the sower, because the Lord knows the seed will be utilized for the Kingdom. Use it for selfish gains and you're more likely to find yourself getting less and less. If you need more seed, it is because you've sown the seed you had or you spent all your seed on yourself. If you find yourself needing seed, evaluate yourself and figure out which is the reason you don't have any seed right now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 6:1-24, 2 Cor 9:6-15, Phil 4:10-19 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Patience and Standing

Patience and Standing
May 7, 2018
James 5:8  "You, too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."

The Christian life is one of faith, no questions. It takes faith to believe that the Lord is in Heaven and created the universe.  It takes faith to believe Jesus was the Son of God, born in human form to die as a sacrifice for our sins. It takes faith to believe that Jesus will stand on your behalf, to cover your sins and allow you to one day enter the Lord's presence. While many Christians take these truths to be fact, it still takes faith, as none of it can be proven by human measurements. Nonetheless, Christians accept these faith articles as facts. The Bible is filled with stories that take faith to believe as fact, like Noah and the Ark, Moses and burning bush, Jonah and the big fish, this list could go on. The Lord says that taking these faith articles as fact is commendable. But most Christians stop there, they stop with the old stories in the past, failing to look at the faith-story they are living out today.

In James, the author tells us to consider the farmer, who plants his crop and waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. In like manner, the author continues, we are to stand firm and be patient in our faith. The analogy suggests the farmer stands firm, after planting, for the rains and the yield that will come. It takes great faith to be a farmer, as it is weeks and months before he might see anything. I imagine in those weeks of waiting, he gets stressed and starts to worry about the rain or lack thereof. I imagine he tends to worry about a late frost after planting or too much heat in the summer. But the point the author makes in James is that the farmer stands firm. Firm. He doesn't dig up his seed and take it back. He doesn't quit after a few weeks and sell his fields, looking for other work. He doesn't try to sow a different seed over the top of the previous. He stands firm and waits, patiently, with faith.

Your life, whether you realize it or not, is like this farmer. You planted a seed of faith in your walk of life, when you came to the understanding of Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And now, just like the stories in the Bible that require faith to believe, you now need faith to believe your story is being written and lived out right now. Only, right now you are having to wait patiently, like the farmer who is anticipating his yield. Your harvest may not come for a while, your patience may be required for quite some time in this present life and specific situation. You are to stand.

You are to stand firm and stay in the story, your story of faith. You are not to dig up the seed. You are not to sell your field. You are not to find alternate means. You are not to worry and doubt and fret and fear. You are to stand. Stand firm. Your life, though seemingly faith, is fact when viewed in hindsight. You, unfortunately, do not have the luxury of hind sight yet. You, unfortunately, do not have the freedom to measure your life with human means, to evaluate the faith required for the outcome the Lord is anticipating. or the outcome anticipated. Just as the farmer must sow seed in faith, and wait for the Lord, standing firm, you are to wait. Doing something, while you are supposed to be standing firm, looks a lot like doubt.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Eph 6:13, Hebrews 11, James 5:7-11

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Public Disgrace

Public Disgrace
May 1, 2018
Hebrews 6:6  ". . . To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrews who were becoming Christians, or early Christians, after living a life of strict Mosaic law. These were devout Jews that were used to studying Scripture, living out their faith, who had now come to faith in Jesus as the savior. Their theology needed adjusting, however, since they were used to looking at things only according to how they had always seen them. They needed perspective, not a new perspective, but an enlightened perspective. They were accustomed to living with rules and regulations. They had an existing relationship with the God of their fathers and were now being brought into their own relationship with the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. It was a shock to their system, just as much as Christianity can be a shock to any new believer.

The author of Hebrews, not actually known, makes it clear the reading audience understood a priest, priestly duties, and of sacrifices. The author warns the Jewish Christians about abusing the system though, like some people (and many today) get accustomed to doing. It is easy to accept salvation, then sin, then accept salvation again, then sin, then accept salvation again and again. The Jews under the Mosaic law simply had to go to the priest, present a sacrifice for sins, then all would be right again with God. Under the enlightened scenario of their new faith in Jesus, this was warned against as an option. The author of Hebrews said they have to work hard not to fall away in their faith. They are allowed to sin, but not fall away in that sin and its life. The difference was, and is, a lifestyle. The Hebrews were cautioned about living the new lifestyle of Christianity, accepting its teachings, even promoting its teachings, then reversing in that lifestyle. Once you move forward there is limited, in any option, of turning back. He makes the consequences well known.

The  Bible is very clear that once we know and understand the lifestyle of the Christian, and implement that lifestyle, deviating from it is not an option. Deliberate, habitual, and perpetual deviation from the Christian life, after salvation is grounds for dismissal. The Bible says we would be subjected Jesus to public disgrace. If Jesus is in Heaven, how then can we subject Him to public disgrace? Well, once a Christian lives a Christian lifestyle, promoting its virtues, it becomes known to the public that Christ is the center of that life. It is like wearing the name of Jesus on your forehead for the world to see. No matter where you go or what you do, you become associated with the name of Christ. But after that, after becoming associated with Christ, being known as His follower, then consequences become severe. 

The point the author was trying to make was a mental picture each Christian should put in his mind when presented with the opportunity to sin. In the old understanding, according to the Mosaic law, they had to picture themselves presenting a sin offering, a cost they may have been prepared to take. Under the new imagery, prior to sinning, you are to envision yourself humiliating Jesus and being burned in Hell, a cost that should be too grave to consider worth it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Hebrews 5 & 6