Monday, December 01, 2008

James 2:8-13- The Sin of Partiality: Part 2

James 2:8-13- The Sin of Partiality: Part 2- Loving God More Than Men Leads to True Fruit

I.                   True love does not show partiality (v. 8-9).

A.    The royal law according to The Scripture:  James is equating the commands of Christ as a command of authority or kingly law

1.      Love = agape

2.      Partiality = schism, division, favor

a.       In the Jewish mind, the highest authority was the king: in this case the one who had the right to rule the Davidic throne.

b.      James plays off of this and even though Jesus isn’t yet ruling on that throne (He is, however, seated at the right hand of God), he claims Jesus’ teachings are from the highest authority: The Holy Anointed One (Messiah) who has the right to rule on the Davidic throne.

B.     The command itself does not show partiality.

1.      If we love others AS ourselves, we do not show partiality even to ourselves, let alone to others around us.

2.      It’s all about motivation.  Why do we “love” those around us (speaking of love as an action, not a feeling)?

C.     When we fail to follow this law (which is the second greatest commandment in all of Scripture), we are guilty of sin.

 II.                True love exalts and obeys Christ (v. 10-13).

A.    Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point

1.      This was to show them that though they weren’t stealing, lying, or perhaps even murdering, they were still in sin because they failed to keep the overlying principle that resulted in those parts of The Ten Commandments: Love one another as God loves you (v. 10-11).

2.      The point here is this: if you can’t keep part of the second greatest commandment, then how is it that we can claim that we’re keeping the first: To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds?

B.     We are no longer judged by The Law of Sin, but by The Law of Liberty, or freedom (v. 12).  Though we do have the liberty in Christ to sin, why would we want to sin against each other when we know:

1.      The pain it caused Christ to suffer it for us?

2.      That we are bringing ourselves back as a slave to The Law that Christ freed us from?

C.     If we truly believe and love, then we will obey and do (v. 12-13)

D.    Consider this thought: if it was truly best for us to judge one another based upon appearance, then why doesn’t Christ do the same to us based upon our spiritual appearance?  Why is it that He shows mercy if condemnation is the best answer?  That’s because in God’s Plan, though condemnation is the correct answer, mercy and grace are better answers.  Like the verse says, “Mercy triumphs over (or boasts against) judgment.”

 Application- 

1)      Are we loving each other as God would want us to?

2)      Are we so caught in our own legalism that we’ve forgotten who we really are?

3)      Does mercy triumph over judgment in our lives?

Monday, November 17, 2008

James 2:1-7-The Sin of Partiality: Part 1

James 2:1-7-The Sin of Partiality: Part 1- Loving Men More Than God Leads to Disastrous Results

 

I.                   Partiality does not exist with God. (vv. 1-4)

A.    God sees right to the heart of a person.

1.      Fine clothes- Greek: “bright”- Idea here is that someone who had bright clothing was rich because they could afford to pay for the expensive dyes that were put into that clothing.

2.      Gold ring- in almost any culture, including our current culture, jewelry of one sort or another is used as a status symbol.  Now, instead of gold rings (anyone can get a 10k gold ring for a decent price) it’s a Rolex or a Mercedes, or some other possession that has a way of showing monetary status in this world. At our age, class rings, varsity jackets, medals, trophies, and even diplomas are often tokens of status for us.

3.      Reality check: Though appearance can reflect some things about the heart, does appearance always accurately do so?

B.     All man sees is the appearance

1.      Notice the adjectives here used to describe the two different types of people:

a.       gold rings, fine or bright clothes

b.      poor, dirty clothes

2.      Notice how each is treated, though each has the same sin nature and (hopefully) the same heart of repentance towards God that saves them through faith:

a.       The rich man is told, “Sit here in a good place,” or, “Sit here by my side.”

1)      If you were the host, you would be at the head of the table, and the honored place of the guest was at the side, “seated by his bosom” as the Jewish custom was called of giving the seat of honor to the guest (See Upper Room Discourse in John 12 for more details).

2)      He is treated as if he has somehow earned the right to sit here because of his appearance or social status.  The question that must be asked is would he be treated the same way if he were the same person but with different clothing and such?

b.      The poor man is told, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool.”

1)      If you were the host, often your slaves would be seated at the foot of the table (Hence, the argument amongst the disciples of who would be the greatest and least in Jesus’ kingdom, and his great analogy of the servant being made greatest as He washes their feet, as ONLY a servant would be required to do). 

2)      In other words, you’re treating the poor person as if he was your slave or hired servant.

C.     The desire to be a man pleaser based upon someone’s status or appearance is a grievous sin that can often become a stumbling block between the people that you are treating differently, as you have just created a division between them based upon on their status or materialistic wealth.

 

 

 

II.                God wants us to be rich in faith, not rich in materials. (vv. 5-7)

A.     “...the poor of this world...” = not our material possessions, but our spiritual possessions.  We were incredibly poor before we had Christ because of our sin debt, but now we are rich in Christ because of our faith.

B.     In treating people based upon appearance and status, we blaspheme God who “...commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”  So, is our motive to get respect, or to show the love of God?

C.     Often times, the people we respect based upon appearances, we do because we’re afraid.  James points out in verses 6 and 7 that often times, those we are trying to please could care less about what we’re doing to please them as long as it benefits them.  In other words, to please them, we will often have to compromise.

D.    The ultimate result, as is seen fully in verse 8, is that we fail to please God because we are not doing what God has commanded of us.

 

Application-

1)      Are you judging people based on appearance, or based on their attitudes/actions?

2)      Have you given in to the Fear of Man by allowing your desire to please people around you to cause you to compromise on your faith in Jesus Christ and His Word?

3)      What is your motive when you show respect to people around you?  Is it to bring glory to God or glory to yourself?

4)      Do you trust God or riches?  What will satisfy you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Psalm 42- Trusting God

At about this point in the semester, just before Thanksgiving, many students are in a serious trial of their faith.  For some, it's as simple as finding the time to get that homework done a little earlier so they can get a little extra of much needed rest.  For others, they are seriously questioning right now whether or not they should be changing their major.  Students are wondering, "Lord, why am I doing this?"  "What's the point?"  "This is too hard, Lord.  I can't do everything that I need to do to pass, let alone get a halfway decent grade."  It used to be that this was the point in the semester where I would be crying- literally- my heart out to God in one of the practice rooms behind Burkart Hall, asking God, "Why am I doing this, Lord?  Why do You want me to be Music Ed?  This major is so much harder and longer than any other major; I'm expected to not have a social life of any sort outside of band and orchestra, and I just can't grow the way I need to in You without that!"  That may not have been my exact prayer every time mid-way through the semester, but you get the point.  Courtesy of Pastor Kurtz (my Sunday School teacher), we were discussing somewhat on this point of our neediness and how we need to be open and honest with one another as Christians, the way that David is open and honest in the Psalms.  That got me thinking about a message I preached earlier this summer on this very same topic about Trusting God.  Something that taught me how I need to be brutally honest with God about the way I feel so that, as I acknowledge my condition before God, I can put my trust in Him to do a work that cannot be done apart from Him in my life.  I'll just let the rest of the sermon speak for itself.

Psalm 42

Trusting God

Today, I’d like to examine Psalm 42.  As we come to this Psalm, I hope that we will walk away having seen God and His glory a little better.  But, before we begin, let us start- by way of question- examining what key components make up true worship.  This will help us to understand David’s point for this Psalm.  So, what is a key part of worship?  In other words, what attitudes and aspects of our lives make up worship?  What is that, if you don’t have this, you cannot have worship?

A right heart and a right life are both required for worship.  But, even for prayer and repentance to take place, whether it’s an unbeliever getting saved or a believer taking a step of faith, there is this one key component that is needed for worship: trust.  Trust, also known as faith, is the aspect of worship that we’re going to study tonight.  You see, prayer- which shows dependence on God- cannot truly take place if you don’t trust The One to whom you’re praying.  Sure, you can go through the motions of pretending to pray outwardly.  God is not fooled by this, though.  Trusting God is not always easy.  It requires that we break our normal sinful habits of trusting ourselves, or in trusting the things that we have grown accustomed to trusting- which aren’t God.  However, if we are- as Christians- going to be truly worshipful, we must trust God.

 Sidenote:  If you want to, I have been doing this for my personal devotions for a while and I’ll pass this blessing on to you, take the time, next time you read through the Psalms, to look for themes and promises relating to trust.  I know that I was greatly surprised to study this book of songs and find how much encouragement David and the other authors give to trust in and believe God’s promises.  Not only that, but they also show why we can trust God.  He is a great God who is so good to us, and the Psalms will help you in seeing that better.

 So, let’s go through the Psalm and see how David is going to encourage us to trust God.

 I.                   David expresses his need for God. (v. 1-4)

A.    Until I started studying this Psalm for this lesson, I had failed to put the first verse within its context.  When you isolate the first verse from the rest of the Psalm, there is a tendency to think of this verse as a verse that speaks to how we should desire for God and want to worship Him.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we should have that kind of desire for God.  However, this verse, within the context, helps us to understand the depth of David’s depression.  The next two verses go on to further elaborate on the state of David’s mind and emotions. 

B.     We see that- for whatever reason- David feels like God’s presence is very, very far away.  All three verses here illustrate for us his desire to be close to God.  Obviously, David was going through some trial in his life that caused David to recognize his utter need for and dependence on God.  However, and we’ve all experienced this at times, David felt that God was not near during this trial.

C.     His depression was so great that it affected his ability to worship, not just personally, but publicly.

1.      David shows a discrepancy between the way he used to feel and act while in worship at the temple, versus how he felt and acted now.

2.      Are we no different than David?  We have a balance that must be upheld.  We should not wear our feelings on our shirt sleeves, but we do the body of Christ a great disservice when we try to hide our problems and feelings from everyone.  Let us not forget, that just as some have the gift of teaching and preaching, there are those within the body who have the gifts of helps, service, encouragement, and hospitality (1 Cor. 12, Romans 12).  Don’t be so proud that you rob others within the body of the opportunity to be a blessing and encouragement to you.  When others ask you, “How are you doing,” I understand the feeling that if you tell them you’re not doing well or fine that they will ask why and you’ll feel obligated to tell them.  However, God’s Word never tells us that we must explain ourselves to everyone who asks.  It does tell us, however, that we should ask the body for prayer.  Perhaps you can’t or don’t want to give details, but you can request the prayer of the saints.  So often, our greatest weapon- prayer- is the least used weapon.  We are liars if we tell people that we are doing well spiritually when we’re not. I’m so thankful that David is honest with us in publicly sharing his feelings.

II.                David expresses the greatness of God. (v. 5-11)

A.    In verse 5, we begin to see why David continues to trust God, despite His feelings.

B.     David tells us that God is to be the central focus of his hope, not his circumstances.  David knows that there will be brighter, happier days.  He knows that- even should these days of sadness and trial last him the rest of his life- there will be a day when all will be well and God will never feel far away ever again.  The trials of this life are temporary compared to the blessings of heaven.  David states that he will continue to walk with God no matter how much it costs him.

C.     Matthew Henry puts it this way: “The best way to forget our miseries is to remember the God of our mercies.”

D.    How does verse 9 factor into this remembrance of the greatness of God?  David here shows us the duplicity of trust.  Though our feelings may tell us that God is not near, does not hear, and cannot work, we must always trust in fact over feeling, faith over sight, and God’s wisdom over our might.  No matter how strong our feelings may be, we must always trust in God’s Truth over our strongest feelings of experience.

 Application-  When your soul is cast down and God feels far away, remember that the God you need is the God who promised, regardless of your feelings, He will never leave you nor take his eyes off of you.  Trust Him.  Only trust Him.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

James 1:26-27 A Pure and Undefiled Heart of Fruit


 I.  Appearance of Worthless Fruit (v. 26)

A.    Looks good on the oustide, but bad on the inside.

1.      Religion/ religious = heart, lifestyle, relationship with God

2.      Christ told us that out of the abundance of our heart, we speak (Matt 12:11, 17-20).  Bridle = control

3.      We have deceived ourselves, because we have not applied God’s Word in regards to humility if we think we are great, when our mouth shows just how filthy we really are on the inside.

B.     Though men may see the facades that we put up, God always knows our hearts.

C.     Men will, however, notice our inconsistencies because we cannot keep up a perfect lie over a lengthy period of time with everyone, especially those who are close and personal to us.  As Jesus said, eventually, our heart will show itself through our speech in one way or another.

II.                Appearance of True Fruit (v. 27)

A.    Sometimes, our mindset becomes, “Well, if I can make everyone think I have good fruit, then I’m okay.”  What we forget is that the fruit is supposed to be a result of our love for God, not the fruit resulting in us loving God.

B.     James uses the phrase, “In the sight of God”- yet another way of saying God’s standard of holiness, or according to God.

C.     If we go back to Zechariah 7:8-14, we see a passage where the people of Israel were told what would happen if they stopped loving God, how they would oppress the poor and orphaned, they would not dispense true justice, peace, loving kindness and compassion, and go the way of the world around them.  Here James, tells us in a slightly different way the same warning that God gave to the Israelites:

1.      If we truly love God, we will show it in our service towards one another

2.      If we truly love God, we will do all that we can to stand up for what is right, and to make a difference in the world around us.

D.    “Unstained” = set apart, made holy, sanctified; (present active tense) This has the idea that the object which has been sanctified for God will continue to be sanctified for Him.  It’s the idea that this sanctification is a continuing action (until glory, that is, when we shall receive our perfect sanctification by being made into the very likeness of Christ’s holiness)

E.     Though we have been sanctified and made holy positionally, we have not been made holy practically.  Though all of our sins have been washed by The Blood of Christ, we will spend the rest of our lives fighting against our old sin nature even though we now have the new nature of The Holy Spirit indwelling within us.

 Application-

1)      Are you focused on self or God?  Do people just see a façade with inconsistencies, or do they see that you are who you claim to be spiritually?

2)      Are you doing things because you have a heart for God, or because you’re trying to make people think that you do?

3)      Are you living as if you’ve been set apart for God?

4)      Where’s the fight?  Are you even struggling against sin and trying to bear fruit for Him?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

James 1:19-25 Comparing Your Fruit to God's Mirror




I. Setting Ourselves Apart for God (vv. 19-21)
A. If we are God’s Unique, Sanctified Fruit, then we must respond rather than react. (vv. 19-20)
  1. Verse 19- James states the obvious here, and I don’t think I can really expound on it anymore than he already has other than to say:
    • We all know how a soft answer turns away wrath, but the question is do we really practice that soft answer not only in what we say, but in what we do when we get into a situation that irritates or frustrates us? 
    • Sin nature does the exact opposite of this.
  2. Verse 20- James’ reasoning behind this: Our sin of anger and not showing love (I’m not talking about righteous wrath where we get angry because of sin, but where we get angry because of how that sin hurts us and we react rather out of our flesh, say by losing our temper or getting impatient, rather than responding). Speaking the truth IN LOVE.
  3. Notice, in my example, in both instances, one can confront that individual with the truth, but as the verse says, the first will not accomplish what God intended to be accomplished with that truth because the motive was wrong (lose your temper, motive = strike back; speak truth in love, motive = addressing the situation of that person’s relationship with Christ).
B.  Putting aside our sin and taking in God’s Holiness (Verse 21)
    1. He says to put aside all filthiness (literally-all the dirt of our sin nature, the guilt and shame of following down the path of sin laid out in verses 14-15) and all that remains of wickedness (literally-all that is contrary to God’s nature to do).
    2. As we put off, we must put on. James tells us to lay aside, and so we must also take up. But, the key here is that we do not put aside so that we can take it up. We take it up so that we will put it aside (2 Timothy 2:22 and Luke 9:23, follow- Greek: to intensely pursue or hunger after).
    3. Put on what, take up what? The Word of God. Ephesians 6 tells us to, “Put on the whole armor of God” and every “piece of armor” given in that passage is a specific part of God’s Revelation to us through His Word. So, as James tells us to receive the ingrafted Word of God, he is telling us in a different way to put on the Armor of God.
    4. However, the process of grafting is about more than just “putting on armor.” It’s about making the Word of God a part of every fiber of our being. The grafting process takes something outside of the object (like say a skin graft, or tree grafting) and makes it a part of the object. The grafting actually changes the object (skin grafts for example change surrounding tissue so they look more presentable; tree grafts can actually affect the fruit that is produced). The Word of God is supposed to be changing us as we “graft” it into our lives.
    5. Notice, he says that we are to do this in humility, recognizing that we are weak and solely dependant upon God and His Word to help us as we face sin day in and day out.
    6. “...which is able to save your souls.” This has the idea of deliverance, but not quite the same deliverance as salvation, though it would appear at first glance that that’s what is being referred to here. The word translated salvation can also be translated, “sanctification.” When we put this in context, we notice that he’s talking about trials and temptations, and that the deliverance he must be referring to, based on context, is the deliverance from that temptation or trial. He is telling us in other words to depend on God’s Word because it has God’s Power to help us in our time of need so that we will be more like Christ.
II. God is our Standard of Holiness (vv. 22-25)
A. True Faith = Obedience
    1. If all we do is hear/read God’s Word and we don’t put it into practice, we aren’t truly grafting God’s Word into our lives, because it DEMANDS application and obedience.
    2. The Illustration: James compares the hearing/reading of God’s Word to a man looking in a mirror and seeing what he truly looks like
    • The mirror reveals to us our true appearance, not just our self-concept of what we think we look like.
    • The person who does not apply God’s Word, has totally forgotten what his appearance in God’s Mirror really was. He has deceived himself into thinking everything is okay and he doesn’t need to change anything.
    • The mirror of God’s Word is an even sharper image than a real life mirror, because this mirror doesn’t just tell us what’s wrong with the outside (consequences of sin problems) but what’s wrong on the inside, too (the root of our sin problems).
B. God blesses those who obey
    1. When we obey God’s Word and we continue in that obedience, we can be used by Him. As Jerry Sivntsky says, “Obedience + Faithfulness = Usefulness.”
    2. Intently = seriously and deeply
    3. He blesses in several ways:
    • We have the blessing of seeing Him work in us and through us as we obey.
    • We have the blessing of being free from our sin as a result of our continued obedience to God’s Grace (“...The law of liberty, and ABIDES by it....”).
    • We have the greatest blessing of having a close, personal, intimate relationship with Him and becomBulleted Listing more like Jesus as a result of our continued obedience.
Application-
    1) Have you set yourself apart from sin and set yourself apart for God?
    2) What kind of fruit are you bearing before God’s Mirror? Do you just hear God’s Word, or do you obey?
    3) Do you have the joy of walking with Christ in obedience, and seeing Him allow more God-like fruit to be a part of your life each and every day?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Unofficial Review of Fireproof

If you'd like to see a review of Fireproof from a Christian who watched it (especially MBBC students, as you decide whether or not it should be purchased on DVD since you weren't able to go to the theaters to see it), check out this link.

James 1:12-18- Striving for Fruit

James 1:12-18- Striving for Fruit

I. A restatement of the Blessings in the Thorns (v. 12)
A. One of the reasons for being able to have joy in the midst of trials is that we know God will work it out to His glory. (Romans 8:28)
B. Another reason for being able to have joy is that the ultimate end result will be us being made more like Christ, until that day when we get to heaven, and we are just like Him. (“...And when you have been approved, you shall receive the crown of life.”)
  1. “...been approved...” – the idea: Passed the test- when we have endured all that God has asked of us to endure for this life
  2. The crown of life: when we shall see Christ with our own eyes and shall see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life and fellowship with Him.

II. Where do the trials and temptations come from? (v.13-15)
A. In this context, James is not talking about chastisement from God because of sin. God has specifically said that in those moments, He will try us and that we will know it is of Him, so if, as James tells us, God will not send temptation and trials, he must be using the words to mean something different. Consider the holiness of God and whether or not this would go against His nature to actually put that trial or temptation there Himself (vs. allowing it to happen).
B. These trials and temptations come from either within us (lust of the flesh) or from the world (the lust of the eyes and the pride of life).
C. It is not the temptation that is wrong, but what we choose to do when the temptation is before us.
  1. “...When he is carried away of his own lusts....” This is the part where we allow temptation to gain a ground hold and a solid foundation within our hearts, allowing for the beginning of going down that path towards sin. This is the part where we generally think to ourselves, “A little bit can’t hurt” or “I can control this” or “This shouldn’t be a problem since I know I can walk away whenever I want.” These are lies of our own hearts and the devil to ensnare us.
  2. “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin”-this is where we actually begin to act out those thoughts of, “A little bit can’t hurt” and we find ourselves doing the things that we promised to God we would never do.
  3. The result of that choice of sin: “...and when sin is finished, sin brings forth death.” Whether it is our relationship with God, or our relationships with others (which is effected by our relationship with God), when we sin, we kill those relationships. Often times, those sins will in a small way physically kill us over time (smoking, drinking, drugs, stress from the guilt of what we’ve done or the stress from the bitterness, anger, hate, depression, etc.). According to God, if man had not sinned in the garden, he would not have to physically die. It is because of sin that we age and die. Some sins speed up the process faster than others do.
III. Transition (v. 16)
A. James uses this verse as a transition into his next thought.
B. First, he says, “Do not be deceived” in that we should not be deceived by sin.
C. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”-James is pleading that we would not fall back into the deception that sin once had over us before we were Christians; He is pleading that we not fall back into the snare of the devil.
D. He also uses deceive to tell us how we can know what truth really is as he goes into verse 17. (hence the phrase, “My beloved brethren”- agape)

IV. What is truth then and how will it help us to see the blessings in the midst of the trials of our faith? (v. 17-18)
A. First, variation or shifting of shadow = God’s Immutability-He cannot change his nature, which plays into the context of this along with God’s Holiness from v. 13
B. This verse is the “Why?” to what James says in v. 16.
C. “Every good gift is from above....” We can know what is truth and what is not based upon its comparison to Scripture. We have to take each moment of our lives as we are living it and filter it through the Biblical Grid.

V. The Gift of God (v. 18)
A. The exercise of His Will
  1. “He brought us forth....”- We are only who we are because of Christ. “But for the grace of God, go I....”
  2. “...By the Word of Truth....”-It is God’s Word that is this gift to us, for without His Word, we could not have salvation (John 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:16).
B. The result of His Will being exercised in our lives (“...so that we might be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”)
  1. First fruits = unique, set apart, sanctified, made holy and pure
  2. God gave us the gift of His truth so that we would be unique in that as we have fellowship with Him we can withstand the trials of life as they come. We can, through that gift of His truth, trust and depend on Him for strength and have something to stand on when those trials and temptations come.

Application
1) Do you see the blessings in the thorns? Are you allowing the temptations and trials of this life to help you become more like Christ?
2) When the temptations come, are you fighting against sin, or are you simply giving place to it? Are you deceiving yourself or are you trusting in God’s Immutable Truth to help you in times of struggle?
3) Are you living the separated life from sin and allowing yourself to be set apart for God? Are you that unique fruit that He wants you to be?

Friday, October 24, 2008

James 1:9-11 Keeping Your Focus

James 1:9-11 Keeping Your Focus

I. Our High Calling
A. Sometimes, as Christians, we get so focused on our circumstances, that we forget what God has called us to do; to ultimately bring Glory to Him.
B. He says, “To glory in your high position….” James is telling us based on the teaching of Christ, how we are not to have pride in ourselves, but to remember that without Christ, we are nothing (John 15:5).
C. If we are nothing without Christ, than we are everything when we are with Him (“lacking in nothing” v. 4; “God, who gives generously and without reproach” v. 5).
D. This isn’t talking about glorying in ourselves and saying how much of a Super-Christian we are, but rather to “count it all joy when ye suffer divers temptations;” to count it worthy that God has called you to suffer and to be comforted through that suffering, for His name’s sake, that He will get the glory.

II. The Fall of the Temporal
A. The rich man is not to be boastful and prideful in his own riches (I believe this is speaking both of physical and spiritual riches), for eventually, those riches will pass away, including some of the spiritual ones.
B. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that of faith, hope, and love, all that will remain in the Day of the Lord, that final day of judgment, after God creates a new heaven and new earth, will be His Love.
  1. We won’t need faith anymore; since faith is the substance of things hoped for and not seen, when we see Christ with our own eyes, we won’t need faith.
  2. We won’t need hope because our hope will have been given to us: the eternal, perfect relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So, the spiritual riches of hope and faith will both be gone, just like this heaven and earth will one day be gone.
  3. If we boast in these spiritual riches as if they were somehow our own or of our own doing, then we have in effect said that we have made ourselves who we are without acknowledging the work that God has done in our lives.

C. Physical riches are completely temporal. Not a shred of them will outlast this physical life.
D. Even circumstances are temporal.
  1. He compares the circumstances of life to the rising and falling of the sun and the changing of seasons.
  2. He likens how if the rich man pursues after the riches rather than the glory of rejoicing in the great things that God is doing and has done, then he will fall into ruin just like the flower in Fall.

Application-
1) Is your focus on the pursuit of either physical or spiritual riches that a relationship with God can offer, or is it on the relationship itself?
2) Is your focus on the circumstances, or what God will bring out of them?

Monday, October 13, 2008

James 1:5-8- Trust and Obey

We must trust God during the trials of life.
A. Often times, it is the trials that help us to remember just how dependent we are upon God for strength and wisdom.
  1. God gives liberally (Greek- generously)
  2. God gives without reproach; in other words, he gives freely based on the grace that He has shown to us, not on favoritism.
  3. James tells us that if we will seek after God and His wisdom, we are promised to receive that wisdom.
B. Not doubting God
  1. Two kinds of doubt:
    • Doubting that the wisdom God gives us is correct
        1. In other words, we believe that we know what God should really be doing, not what He is doing. 
        2. Illustration of this: God is making it perfectly clear to you that you ought to be in preaching, and so you ask for God to give you wisdom in making this decision because you are afraid and do not want to become a preacher. What you might ask is, “Lord, please give me wisdom in finding something other than being a preacher that You would want me to do.” Pathetic illustration? Probably, but I think that example helps us to realize that this is often how we behave in many areas of life.
    • Doubting that God will even give you the wisdom to make the right choice.
        1. If God has promised it, how then can we doubt that He will not give it?
        2. Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to do is to wait upon the Lord. But, God has promised us that if we wait upon Him, “We shall walk and not faint, we shall run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).”
  2. The consequences of doubt:
    •  If you can’t trust God, what or who can you trust?
    • How can you pray to God, when prayer is all about recognizing your dependence (or trust) in Him?
    • It is the waiting for the answer that makes it so we must ask in faith, knowing that God has fulfilled His promises before, and He will always continue to do so.
    • Often when we doubt, even though we do get the wisdom that we asked for, because we have doubted on God giving us the answer, we either have given up and miss knowing the answer to our prayer, or we decide that we don’t care about what God has to say. That is what is meant here when it says, “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea (NASB)....” Without God as our Solid Rock upon which we can trust, we have nothing to stand on if we doubt Him and don’t listen to what He wants us to do.
    • In verse 8, James flat out says that it is because of that doubt (double-minded man) that we have become unstable if we ask of God without faith in His providing the right answer, in the right time.

      II.Application-
      1) Do you trust God to answer your prayers and to give you the wisdom that you need from His Word? Do you truly trust Him to lead you each and every day?
      2) How stable is your walk?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

James 1:1-4- A Foundation of Trust

You'll have noticed that the most recent posts have been sporadic and the material more just personal in nature (though the last post was more just a relating of things heard by other students in an attempt to get some dialogue going), rather than biblical. However, part of the reason for the sporadicness of posting is that I've been preparing for a barrage of posts. I've been working on a series of posts that I hope will truly be a spiritual blessing to all who read, that will encourage and strengthen your faith.

James 1:1-4-Fully Prepared

I. Who wrote this and who it’s written to (v. 1):
A. James, the half-brother of Jesus
  1. He calls himself a bond-servant, even though he is Jesus’ brother.
  2. We see already that James is an incredibly humble servant of God, as he would rather call himself a slave of Christ, then to claim the title of being Christ’s half brother.
B. Written to the 12 tribes of the Jews, who had been scattered abroad, who are Christians.

II. Blessings in the Thorns (vv. 2-4)
A. Some Observations:
  1. Divers-“diverse” or “various”; has the idea of something that can bring you down
  2. Temptations- also can mean “trials,” (and does) so this has applications in other areas besides those temptations that cause us to fall into sin (which is normally what we think of when we see this word in the KJV), including the trials of our faith.
  3. Patience-“endurance” or “steadfastness.” Similar to the idea of a rock, something that can be depended on; Consider the tree with deep roots in Psalm 1 how the wind can blow and buffet it, and yet it still stays strong because it is planted in the streams of living water.
  4. Testing-the verb form of the Greek word where we get the words “trials” and “temptations”.
  5. Perfect work-the idea of a result or completed task; sanctification is the idea here, which means to be set apart from sin AND set apart for God.
  6. “...That you may be made perfect and complete....”-the Greek word for perfect here has the idea of being spiritually mature, complete here means “to be made whole”; there are some verses where it means “finished.”
B. Purpose of the Thorn is to give us a Blessing.
  1. We can have joy because of the patience, endurance, or steadfastness we will have as a result of that trial. To use a modern day cliche, what James is saying is, “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.”
  2. We can have joy because the patience that we will gain will help us to be sanctified, set apart from sin and set apart for God, or made holy, in Christ. It will help us to be more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
  3. As the perfect result of God is made in our lives through these trials, temptations, and testings of our faith, we are able to love and serve God more.
  4. We can have joy because as we are made perfect in Christ, or grow, or mature in our walk with Him, we will have everything that Christ wants us to have each and every moment of each and every day (“...lacking in nothing.”).
  5. We can trust God because He is faithful and knows what’s best for us (He desires that all trials in life be used for His glory, as well as our growth).

Applications-
1) Do you trust God?
2) Are you allowing the trials, temptations, and testings of your faith to work patience or endurance in you as you trust in God?
3) Are you being more and more sanctified, or set apart, or made holy, like Christ each and every day as a result of the trials, temptations, and testings of your faith?
4) Are you trusting God to give you what you need each and every moment of each and every day?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dorm Societies- Pros and Cons

As I've come back to MBBC, a lot of things have changed. Not going to lie- a lot of it has been good. I think that the new MBBC dorm societies is part of that good change taking place. However, I thought that, given a lot of the talk around campus ranges in everything from "I think a dorm society is the best idea, ever!" to "This is just the dumbest thing I've seen done at MBBC, yet", it would be fair to show both sides of the equation in my evaluation of it. So, consider this your non-Fox news "Fair and Balanced" approach to Dorm Societies. :-) I will start with the negatives, so as not to end this on a negative note.

Cons of Dorm Societies-
1)Limited number of societies- Since the ministries are related to each of the dorms, this therefore essentially only allows for the number of ministries that MBBC is involved in to be limited to the number of dorms (currently that makes for 10 ministries if each dorm gets its own ministry). Under the old system, we could essentially have an infinite number of societies. I understand that for some, this meant that few were doing much of the work, as all students were required to be a member of a society, but not all were required to join. Admittedly, under the new system, some of this should be dispelled as the dorm atmosphere will create a positive peer pressure to get involved (I will deal with that later under the pros). However, in the meantime, societies like KIKS, Bible Printing, Sports Ministry, Hospitality Society, and many other societies have suddenly been lost.

2)Society leadership- Under the old system, the Office of Student Ministries (OSM) would talk with current society officers and- via a system of checks with the Deans and Academic Advisors- hand pick society officers who- if willing- would serve for a full year. Under the new system, leadership is chosen every semester. This could result in "helter skelter" organization, if not careful. Also, now the leadership has a much greater possibility of being based on popularity, rather than on actual leadership qualities. This could potentially cause our dorm society ministries to be a bad testimony, if we as students are not careful in who we vote to lead our dorm societies.

3)Organization- Depending on how things work out (as seen in my pros section under organziation), this could potentially be disastrous. For example, this Friday the students are being asked to participate in Dorm Soccer, Dorm Golf, and Capture the Flag. The golf and soccer outings are actually scheduled on top of each other. The dorm outings were organized by the dorm societies, while the Capture the Flag was planned by the Student Body Cabinet. Hence, the lack of communication which resulted in the double stacking of events on the same night. Understandably, this is the first year, so hopefully as communication lines and organizational methods are established, these kinds of things won't happen in the future. However, with societal leadership possibly changing every semester (the guys can vote for the same people if they want, but they don't have to), communication lines may not ever be able to be firmly established in order to curb such happenings.

Pros of Dorm Societies-
1) Ministry involvement- since each ministry belongs to a particular dorm, there is a lot more positive pressure to be involved in the societal ministry. Also, where before the money for societies came from Casual Days (which, I do miss) along with some budgeting within the school budget, now the money for the societies comes from money given by the students. This means that if your dorm has a ministry society that you can't be involved in the ministry due to work conflicts, you can still participate in that ministry by giving towards it. Which leads me to my next point.

2) Funding- The money given by each of the dorms stays within the dorm society fund and goes directly towards each minstry. The old system had it set up this way: As mentioned above, the funding came from Casual Days. This meant that, approximately $400 was raised each time a Casual Day was offered (which was typically about every other week). However, not all the Casual Days counted towards the OSM. Some of these helped fund Softball and Baseball, as well as other groups. The money being earned was pooled into all of the societies. Some of the societies (like State Street, in Madison for example) use a lot more money than other societies (like Golden Living Center Nursing Home in Watertown). So, the money wasn't necessarily evenly distributed. However, with the new system, the students are in control of how much money their ministry has to use. This is an excellent opportunity for students to not only participate in the ministry via their giving, but to see in a real world setting how most church ministries financially operate (though this isn't done through the local church, it gives the experience that can easily transfer over to other future ministry experiences). It will also force us students to take some steps of faith as we will need to give money that- for all intents and purposes- we don't have in order for our societies to actually function.

3)Organization- This first year is going to be a stretch in that area, in the way that any ministry often is somewhat disorganized when first begun. Once the tweaking begins, I hope we will see a much more organized fashion of things taking place. Communication will be the key to this. As those in charge communicate with the elected dorm society officers, things should shape into place.

4)Communication/Meetings- Under the old system, a Society Chapel was held once a month for us to plan and talk about what the Lord was doing through our society. Unfortunately, since all students were required to join a society, but weren't required to go to a society function, this meant that many societies had people who would sit in on these society chapels who were never actually involved in the society ministry. However, as stated in the involvement section, the dorm aspect creates a more positive pressure (rather than a guilt trip) to be involved. Also, under the new system, dorm societies meet almost every Wednesday during the chapel time. This allows us to get together as a dorm to talk ministry, be preached to by our peers, and to talk about how we can be a better spiritual impact on one another.

5)Student body unity- once the organization and communication are in place, this new system will allow for a much more unified student body that is involved in each of their dorm society ministries for the purpose of glorifying God. As each student gets involved, as each student gives, and as we all try to disciple and be a positive impact on one another spiritually, I think we will see a big change at MBBC.

Overall, I believe, as long as communication and organization is taken care of, this new method of going about our societies has a greater potential than anything we've done before to see our student body unified in serving our Lord and Savior. However, we must be careful in who we vote for in our leadership. We must also make sure to keep communication lines open. Most importantly, regardless of the changes made, we must be open and willing to let God work in our lives and use these opportunities to not only see people changed for Christ, but let Christ change us.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Work, School, and Rock Climbing

Okay, so I completely failed in actually posting as often as I wanted to this summer. I do have a lot of things I would like to eventually write about, but priorities are priorities, as evidenced by my last post.

Work- I have been working quite a bit between my two jobs. Now that I'm back in school, it is still about 40 hours a week. Which leads me to my next subject.

School- I am taking 6 credits (plus orchestra; not counting that credit as it isn't counting towards my graduation requirements). I am taking Developmental Psychology and Educational Psychology. Both are more paper/project oriented classes, so this will allow me to continue working since I only need to study for tests and do my projects/papers (try to get some work on them done each day so it won't be quite so much later). Once completed, I will have 38 credits left (not counting student teaching).

Rock Climbing-
Me trying to climb a small rock face

Me with feet hanging over a ledge VERY HIGH UP

The whole gang at Devil's Lake

As you can see, we had a lot of fun at Devil's Lake. Unfortunately, this will be our last real get together now that the semester is fully on its way. Oh, well. There's always right after Project Due Date (afterall, it's not like you got anything better to do...except to study for finals....)!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Timewasters 101


Okay, so I compiled a list of some things that I do that waste the most amount of my time from doing other things that would be far more productive in my life. Sadly, they are actually the typical and most obvious things.

T.V.- I spend a lot of time watching T.V. I really love stuff like Law & Order (but only the seasons with Lennie and Green as the detectives; sad I've seen enough episodes I can say that, eh?), Stargate, and X-Files, not to mention just about anything shown on The History Channel. However, over the last year, I've really begun to view my T.V. habits through the philosophy (I don't know if I made this up, or heard it from elsewhere- latter is most likely), "Philosophy is not always entertainment, but entertainment is always the by-product of someone's philosophy." Problems with most of the shows I like watching (particularly, those that are sci-fi/paranormal related): They are extremely anti-God and do not promote the Bible as the source of Objective, Absolute Truth. So, much as I- in my flesh- may enjoy wasting time on these things, I think it's time to start watching a whole lot more sparingly, lest I fall victim to allowing my view of God to be influenced by my entertainment.

Video games- I used to waste a ton of time on these, but not nearly so much of late. However, in response to my internet fast, I have deleted what few games I actually had on my computer off, and have made the decision that games will be for when I have friends over. Fun party games like Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and others of the like (notice the Nintendo emphasis there, though I obviously enjoyed playing Team Halo with the entire Wass Family-Jon and I in MN, James in WI, and his dad in Canada- via X-Box Live :-) ). The violence in a lot of games has become more than simply a matter of "survival to complete the mission" to just flat out excessive (take games like Hit Man and Grand Theft Auto- Vice City, for example, and I haven't even gotten into other moral content within some of these games). Not saying that the games are the cause for the problems in our society or my own life for that matter, but like with T.V., if we as Christians don't spend more time in God's Word than on the compy (or HD T.V.) screen, we're going to be spiritually adrift from our moorings pretty quickly, due to the poor theological influences contained within the games.

Sidenote: just for the record, I've heard a lot of erroneous teaching over the years regarding certain video game elements and characters. For example, for those who see the pikachu in the picture and are thinking that Pokemon is Japanese for pocket monsters and I'm now evil for enjoying a game with Pokemon characters in it, get a grip. The word actually means.... nothing in Japanese. It means about as much as the word "blah" means in English. I know, cause I went to school with an MK from Japan and spoke with him about this. There isn't anything inherently evil with the Pikachu character. There may, however, be some poor theology/philosophy if one watches the cartoon (which I have not, given- outside of old school anime like Voltron- I don't care for anime cartoons; even that like is more out of childhood nostalgia, than actual liking; kind of like old school Super Mario for the NES). Our arguments against elements of our pop culture need to be fought with an open and well known Bible in hand, not off the cuff Bible-thumping reactions. If you choose to go with the latter rather than the former, please permit me to send you an "I Don't Read my Bible" T-shirt. :-D With that in mind, side note ended.

Facebook- Yep, sorry (especially given this blog post will most likely be seen by people on Facebook than those who actually read the blog), but it's true. Facebook and email are actually my worst time wasters. You're probably thinking, "I haven't heard from Noah in forever. And, he's only got like 5 applications that he actually uses. How can it be that he claims to waste so much time on Facebook?" You'd be surprised. The whole you haven't heard from me in forever thing is partly why I don't use the applications. I'd prefer to actually communicate with as many people as I can when I can, rather than send them spam mail inviting them to use some application that doesn't really have personal meaning. Not to say that all applications are that way, but most of them are, or so it would seem.

Sidenote: if you received a notice that I blocked an application that you invited me to, please don't take it personally. The reality is, I decided it was time to start actually hitting the block button on those invites, since I only had 170 some invites that I hadn't hit ignore on, and it was logging up my Facebook activity, believe it or not.

Replacements- Not wanting to leave a vacuum of time that would then revert back or be worse, I have had to replace the time with some other valuable things. These include, but are not limited to:

Sleep- A lot of time wasted- particluarly on the internet side- resulted in sleep deprivation. Going to bed an hour or two earlier every night is helping to fix this problem.

Calling people- I actually prefer to call and talk to people, rather than emailing. Emailing just is not quite as personal. Granted, for some people, that is the only way I have available of keeping in touch (or Facebook). But, I do try to make it a habit to go through my contacts list in my phone from time to time and call people that I know I haven't talked to in a while. I like to stay as current as I can. Now that I have my phone plan, I can keep better track of my minutes used, too. With about two hours of driving every day, I have tons of time to talk, especially in the evening, when most people are available. I'm on ATT and my nights and weekends start at 7pm, so I have a lot of opportunities to talk to people in a way that (hopefully) doesn't cost them anything extra (except the time spent, of course), either.

Hanging out with friends- during the summer months, most of my friends are gone, but there are still a few who are around. I love roller blading and riding my bike, so what a better way to hang out with friends, especially if one of them has roller blades, also! It's great exercise, which is good for me and is needed- regardless of my waist size- and it's a great way to hang out. Video games are fun to play while hanging out with friends, also. Not to mention eating. That's always a good thing to do with friends. Board games are a fun diversion, also. Not to mention that- in most cases- the only philosophy and theology involved in such games is only those that you bring with you! Settlers of Catan was a great recent spend.

Writing- while coming up with ideas for writing on this blog (I have an interesting post I'm working on for next week, hopefully), working on my book (that I've been working on since summer 2005), coming up with ideas for future Sunday School/ Youth Group teaching curricula, I find that writing is rather enjoyable again. And, I have more time to do it (not to mention 10 more GB of hard drive space after deleting one game). One of these days I hope to afford Finale and start writing music again, too. Or perhaps take a bunch of the songs I've already written- but only have the music for them in my head- and actually put the words and music together in a readable (and playable/recordable) format.

More time in The Word- Last, but certainly not least, this is the most obvious choice, but not always the choice actually chosen by those of us who seek to use our time more wisely. It is very easy to forget in this age in which our god seems to be Entertainment rather than Jehovah (Someone told me recently that A.W. Tozer wrote an article to that effect; if you know where to find it, please do tell) that God should have first place and most place. I love how with some of my friends, I can be playing a game of Smash Bros. Brawl, Settlers, or just sitting down over dinner, and our conversation always comes back to topics of spirituality. Fellowship is all about encouraging one another spiritually to love God the way He loves us; doing everything within our power to help one another love God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our might.

I hope that we wish to spend more time with the King of kings and Lord of lords instead of Wii, Sony, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and HD. None of the things in this life that we use to entertain us are bad in and of themselves, but far too often, we allow the entertainment to control and influence us instead of letting God, His Word, and His people have the control and influence in our lives.

Your thoughts: How do you spend your time? What are your biggest time wasters? What do you do with your time that helps you to chase after God (so, instead of time wasters, perhaps God-chasers for short?)?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm baaaaaaaaack....

Yep, that's right; Internet fast is now over. It was good for me, too. I learned a lot about myself and how I choose to spend my time. Was able to accomplish a number of things I normally didn't, too. So, with that being said, I'm not making any promises here, but I am hoping to post decently regularly (like once a week or along those lines). God is doing some amazing things in my life (well, at least to me it seems amazing), and He's showing me a lot. I hope that such insights will bring Metamorpho back to its semi-original purpose: to stimulate spiritual growth through the discussion of God's Word and showing how God's Word applies to issues happening in our day (given that the ORIGINAL purpose was for Jon, myself, and some friends to go through a book together and use the blog as our way of staying in touch with one another throughout the study since we couldn't find a time to meet, you can understand that the blog's purpose has grown a bit).

Other than that, I'll reply to everyone as I can. Don't be surprised if some of you get phone calls, instead. Laters!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Internet Fast

So, I decided the other day- after I caught myself using the expression, "If I had more time, I would...."- that it was time to evauluate how I was using my time. Obviously, writing on this blog hasn't had much time spent to it, though I do have several posts that I've been meaning to finish up. Between keeping up on other people's blogs, Facebook (though I haven't been on it much the last few days due to spending more time sleeping while fighting off a sinus infection), my own blog, and even a couple of games I play online, I realized that I spend entirely way too much time online. Actually, three days ago, I put my computer to sleep, and it didn't go out of sleep mode until I sat down to write this post. Why? Because, though I now have the MacArthur Lifeworks Library 2.0 on my computer, a slew of books that I've been in the middle of reading for almost over a year now (Jon, that would include the book I bought while helping you move last year, MacArthur's The Truth War), not to mention a book I've been writing since summer of 2005 when I did my internship in Marshall, MN, I only get on my computer when it's time to browse the internet. So, by God's grace, I'm taking a break from the internet. I know that come July 1, I may regret this decision as I go through the 80 emails that will be sitting in my email box (most of it probably from Buy.com, Amazon, or Facebook), but I think it may be worth it. When I come back to the internet, I am going to have a more healthy approach to how I spend my time on it, as I will be spending part of my new free found time making such a plan to execute. Who knows? Perhaps I'll even get some practice time in on my instrument. :-)

If you want to get a hold of me, email will be out of touch for a while. If you have my phone number, you can call. See you in a month. :-)