Sunday, May 27, 2007

Are you a modern-day Gnostic? Maybe you know one?

As I was studying 1 John this morning I was recalling the historical context behind John’s writing of this letter. The main issue of the day which he was addressing was Gnosticism: the belief that the spirit is entirely good and the flesh (matter) is entirely evil. One of the results of this heresy is licentiousness. That is, that since the flesh is evil, anything done in the flesh is of no eternal consequence. It is only what we believe in our minds and in the “spirit” that has eternal ramifications. Therefore, the sin of the flesh is not really that bad and isn’t an indication of one’s salvation.

While I am sure the following parallel has already been made, it just jumped out at me and I had to write. I submit that there is a prevalence of Gnosticism today in the modern church and in the emerging church. That is, the belief that the sins we commit in the flesh are not really that considerable and do not significantly negatively impact our relationship with God or our eternity. The thought that while the sins of the flesh are not optimal, they are not eternally momentous, is supported with the idea that what really matters is what we “believe” in our minds and “feel” in our hearts.

What are the signs that the modern church and emerging church embrace aspects of Gnosticism? Principally, many churches teach that salvation is really only about belief (the mind & spirit) and not about our lives in totality (including the actions of the flesh). “It would be nice if your lifestyle changed, but it is not really that important”. Also, many modern churches only teach justification and collapse sanctification into justification, and thus effectively remove a biblical element of our salvation. And finally, many modern churches disregard the predominant teaching of the New Testament that faith is not just in the mind (a thought); rather it is an entire life lived for God which produces “good works”. No, the good works don’t save us. Only Christ saves us. However, the good works are an indication that we have in fact given our lives to Christ and that he truly lives in us. We were created, in Christ, for good works.

While what we believe is very important, what we do is also extremely important (and is actually the truest measure of what we truly believe). For instance, do we repent or do we continue sinning (in the flesh)? John discusses this in chapter 3, verse 6 when he writes that “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” In other words, when you are convicted of sin in your life by the Holy Spirit, you will repent and fight with the power given us by Christ to put this sin to death. You must repent – turn from the old, sinful ways and turn to God. John says that it is like we never knew Jesus as our savior if we continue to sin (or don’t battle/resist it) after we have been convicted of its presence in our lives. What we do in the flesh matters that much. It is an indication of our heart and whether we have ever truly submitted our lives to Christ and actually died to self.

John continues in verse 9 with “No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because God’s seed remains in him”. Is John talking about immediate sinlessness? I submit that he is talking about a life that is not characterized by sin. He is talking about, in Christ, doing serious battle against sin so that it is no longer a normal aspect of your life. In a nutshell, it is no longer “when” you sin, but “if” you sin. If we are comfortable allowing sin to remain in our lives after being made aware of its presence, then we are basically remaining in the sin rather than remaining in him (Christ).

Gnostics do not think this is possible – put sin to death and repent of sin as it is revealed in our lives. They are forgetting that when we are in Christ it is as though we died with him and were raised with him in newness of life having victory over sin and death. This newness of life starts immediately and the victory over sin is immediately available and should begin to produce results. This is what John is talking about. What we do in the flesh, in and with our bodies, matters. It displays our hearts and is a gauge of whether we have truly submitted to Christ, accepted him as savior, and remain only in him.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What happened to Demas?

In Philemon Paul speaks highly of Demas as he included him in his list of fellow workers. He is also mentioned in Colossians in a favorable (neutral) light. However, in 2 Timothy, at the end of Paul's life, he seriously rebuked Demas as one who had deserted him and categorized him as someone who was in the love with this world. Ouch - that is a significant change of events - from confidant to deserter. What happened? I guess it is pretty obvious. Demas' love for Christ and his church was surpassed by his love for the world and probably himself. Being a follower of Christ demands our everything. We must be sold out. We must truly, from the depths of our being, die to self. Jesus said we must be willing to leave our families, or jobs, our very lives if we are to follow him. We cannot be disciples of Christ only when it feels good; only when everything is exciting; only when it is easy. We must forsake all others, including ourselves and this world, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Are you sure that's OK? - Titus 1:15-16

Scripture:
15To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. - Titus 1:15-16

Insight:
Is this verse giving license to the Christian? In one sense – yes. To Christians who have purified themselves with the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s blood “all things are pure”. If someone has truly died to self and is living in sincere newness of life, surrendered to the will of God and obedient to the commands of Jesus, then everything that God created is good and nothing should be rejected when received with pure thanksgiving. In other words, the heart motivation and also actions are pure when directed by Christ. This is true freedom.

On the contrary, to those who do not believe and do not live their lives in Christ, all things are corrupt and nothing is pure. Why is this? Because they are living for themselves instead of God. Their hearts are not turned toward God, but instead turned toward themselves. This is a life lived not for God.

God wants our hearts. And when he truly has our hearts we will live our lives according to his will. When we live according to his will everything we do will be good and pure. We will not be able to do anything accept what is good. This is true freedom. This is the result of a life lived in Christ for God. Does this mean instant perfection? No, but it does mean instant submission and a repentant heart toward almighty God.

Paul also addresses this topic in his first letter to Timothy in chapter 4:3-5.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the freedom that is found in a life lived for you. I daily submit my will to yours. I daily acknowledge that I no longer live accept in you. I choose this day to take up my cross and follow you. I declare that I have died with Christ and have risen in newness of life having victory of sin and death in Christ. My will is submitted to your will. Continue to sanctify me and help me live out this truth in every aspect of my being.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Becoming the Spiritual leader of your family in two months

Nearly every Christian man longs to be the spiritual leader of his family. Being the spiritual leader is the reality for some men. However for many, and I suggest most, it is only a dream. So, why does it seem impossible to take this biblical role in your family within a two month timeframe? God could actually do it overnight. I am here to tell you that it is not only possible, it actually happened in my life. Over a two month period of time, by God’s grace, I became the spiritual leader of my family.

Here’s my story:
It will be my 16th wedding anniversary on June 8th of this year. For over 13 years of my marriage I was not the spiritual leader of my family. By failing to step up and accept my spiritual role, I delegated this role to my wife who did not want this responsibility that God had actually given to me. Why? Why didn’t I jump at the opportunity to be “THE LEADER”? Don’t we all want to be leaders, the one in charge, the one who makes the decisions, the head honcho? In every other area of our marriage I gladly took the leadership role. However, when it came to being the spiritual leader I sheepishly bowed out.

As I look back I can identify why. The primary issue involved my relationship with God. The secondary issue involved my wife’s relationship with God. Bottom line, my wife had a passionate and vibrant relationship with Christ that was lived out in real intimacy: she sought God in prayer and time in his word while I did not. My wife is an incredible woman of God. She loves the Lord immensely and has been drawn to his word in study, prayer and mediation ever since Christ entered her life as a child. She has always taken her relationship with God seriously.

In contrast, after receiving Christ at age 11, I went into spiritual autopilot. In other wards, I just kinda went with the flow. I attended church, joined a small group or two, and even was a member of our church worship team. However, I was what I call an ornamental orange Christian - I looked great on the outside, but when the shiny peel was removed it uncovered a spiritually dry and bitter inside. I did not passionately seek God’s face in sincere prayer and meditation on his Word. I was actually living for myself and not for God.

So, the primary issue was my relationship with God. In addition to this, I was intimidated by my wife’s intense relationship with God. I felt I could never spend that kind of time in the word; not enough to catch up to her. I thought I could never be the spiritual leader of our family. I believed I could never really be my wife’s spiritual covering because the bar was set way too high. I later found out that this was a lie from the enemy.

A little over 2 years ago, God got hold of my heart and my life in a big way. I finally woke up, surrendered, began to die to self, and started seeking God with a new found passion. Prayer and time in his Word became a significant, no the significant, focus of each day. God started to speak to me through his Word. I began to daily share with my wife the incredible truth that God was revealing to me. Within a two-month period of time I had become the spiritual leader of my family. By God’s grace the impossible happened. In a short two months, God had corrected over 13 years of my negligence. He didn’t make me study his word for 13 years before doing this miracle. No, he mercifully righted the roles in our marriage and in our family nearly overnight.

This was the prayer of my wife’s heart for over 13 years. I had finally taken on the leadership role that God had always intended for me. My wife finally has her spiritual covering. Let’s never forget that God is in the business of miracles; he is in the business of restoration; he is in the business of transformation.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Where do you find your joy?

Scripture:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. - 3 John 4

Insight:
John is demonstrating the heart of a true pastor in this passage. A leader who cares for the healthy growth and spiritual well-being of his flock (congregation). Often church leaders will get wrapped up in meeting other benchmarks that have been established to measure success: attendance, the offering, public opinion, or the accolades of other religious leaders. Where do you find your joy? Is it in numbers or is it in the transformation of the saints? Jesus made it very clear in his great commission where church leaders need to focus. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We must remember that a disciple is not a “convert”. Rather a disciple is a follower of Christ who is living a life in obedience to the commands and teachings of Christ.

Is our ministry focused on making disciples or is it concerned with filling the pews? Is our ministry focused on the spiritual growth of our congregations or is it focused on the size of the weekly offering? Do we truly find our joy in the knowledge of our “children” walking in the truth or is our joy found in the praise we receive from other pastors and religious leaders? This important look into where John finds joy can help us right our thinking and motivation.

Prayer:
Lord, may I stay focused on what matters to you – making disciples. Protect me from pride and fear. May I serve your purposes and may my motivation always be to serve you and others; to love you and others. Keep my heart and actions pure as I serve you and your church.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Aftertaste of Sin

This analogy will really makes most sense with those of you who are NOT diet coke / soda drinkers.

Sin is like drinking an extra large Diet Coke. It really seems like the right thing to do because you think it will satisfy your thirst and your desire for something tasty. However, typically after only a few sips, and definitely after drinking the whole bottle, a nasty aftertaste emerges.

Likewise, sin doesn’t satisfy. It has the allure of pleasure and the illusion of gratification. However, the end result is always bitter, disgusting, and disappointing. Don’t drink the counterfeit; make sure it’s the real thing.

At first, diet drinks don’t taste right. Why, because the artificial flavor and sweeteners are easy to detect. However, if you drink it often enough, you get used to the taste and the fake stuff will begin to taste normal and even good. Likewise, sin is a slippery slope.

Studies have shown that too much artificial sweater like that found in diet drinks can cause cancer which can lead to death. Sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Examining the Sacrifice: a response to Malachi 1

I read the book of Malachi this morning and received conviction both from a corporate (church) perspective and a personal perspective. Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I offering to God? Is it a heart that is repentant and turned to him? Do I come as a life lived out in true faith? Do I live my life fully devoted and trusting in him or do I live a life blinded and crippled by the desires of my flesh and the allure of the world? Does God truly have my heart or am I really still living for myself? Do I show honor to God as a son honors his father and a servant honors his master or do I show contempt for the name of the Lord? Where does my treasure lie? Praise God for the perfect and pure sacrifice of Christ. However, do I, in true faith, respond to who I am in Christ or do I insult the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10)

Prayer:
Lord, may I daily respond to your grace; may I daily live my life as a son who honors you. Thank you for your saving grace and for your transforming grace. It starts with you and ends with you.

Twenty-Somethings: What does it take?

From my experience leading a discipleship group of "twenty-something" men, I have found at the core, they are really no different than any other person of any other generation. They have a proclivity to selfishness and immediate gratification of the senses. Look at the popular movies, television, video games, and music to see just what it takes to get, and keep, the attention of a young man. It takes increasingly more realism and shock. No more innuendoes and very little imagination. In a sense, it takes more fantasy because reality is so boring and fake.

So, sitting in a church service and singing some songs just isn’t going to do it anymore - even when the songs are the right style and volume. Lowering the lights and lighting candles isn’t the answer either.

With all of that said, twenty-somethings also have a strong desire for truth. However, just talking doesn’t impress the twenty-something. The twenty-something wants more than just talk and religious sounding ideals. They want to see that you walk the walk. Talk is very cheap to the Twenty-something. Why, because they feel they have seen and heard it all.

What does the twenty-something want to see? What will attract them? What will arouse their spiritual senses? I think the following four things are a good start.

1. Walk the walk – don’t just talk the talk. Talk is cheap. Do not be a hypocrite. If you say it, you need to live it and it needs to be very evident.
2. Change – they want to see the real change that Christ has made in your life. Allow God to truly transform you and you will get their attention. They want to know that Christ has really made a difference in your life in a real way. Has he delivered you from lust, pornography, drugs, alcohol, or depression? It doesn’t have to be this dramatic, but it does need to be tangible (real).
3. Power – They want to see the healthy and real power of God at work. The world is full of fake remedies, promises, and saviors. They want to see the real transforming and incomparable great power of Christ at work.
4. Love – without love all of these other important characteristics are worthless. There must be genuine care for the individual, personal touch, and a walking alongside. Essentially, true discipleship – Jesus style.

Here are some similar thoughts from Barna Group:
"It is important for churches to understand the natural skepticism of Busters (twenty-somethings) as well as their desire for spiritual and conversational depth. Young adults do not want to hear on-the-stage monologues about moral regulations. To earn access to their hearts and minds, you have to understand each person’s unique background, identity, and doubts, and must tangibly model a biblical lifestyle for them beyond the walls of the church." David Kinnaman, Barna Group

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

SmartChristian.com

I have been asked to be the first guest blogger on SmartChristian.com. This is an honor. I recommend making SmartChristian a daily read.

Take Inventory - Seven Churches Style

As my friend and ministry partner, Dr. Andy Jackson, leaves for Turkey, the Lost Land of the Bible where the seven churches of Revelation were located, I was reminded of the sober relevance of these messages.

I encourage every church leader to use these letters as a kind of scorecard. At least annually, take inventory of your church and/or ministry utilizing the warnings and encouragement in these letters. Have you stepped into the danger zones mentioned in these letters? What is the status of your lampstand? Is it in peril of being removed? These letters are from Jesus. Let’s proactively take them to heart.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

But, I just want everyone to love me.

Scripture:
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:18-19

Insight:
Why do so many Christians want to be loved by the world? Why is it the goal of many of us to be loved by everyone? Do we think that the world needs to like us in order for them to find Christ? Maybe we really want the world to like us because we actually like the world and enjoy what it has to offer? We are supposed to bring the love of Christ to the world, but not be part of the world. In fact, Jesus very clearly states that if the world loves you, then you probably belong to the world.

The world hated Jesus. Jesus was OK with that and he wants us to be OK with it too. In fact, it is our calling. We were called out of the world when we were chosen by Christ. We are even called peculiar people. Let's stop being concerned about whether the world likes us or hates us. Let’s focus on what God wants and live for him and him alone.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Love Without Obedience is Dead

Scripture:
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. - 2 John 6

Insight:
We don’t often equate love with obedience. For many Christians love is simply a feeling, a statement, or a comforting thought. Surely love doesn’t require obedience. James said that faith without deeds is dead. John is essentially saying that love without obedience is dead. In fact, Jesus very clearly said “if you love me, you will obey what I command”.

So what did Jesus command? Here is a sample of some of his commands:
Believe in me, repent, take up your cross, fear God, worship God, do not be angry, humble yourself, abide in me, do the will of the Father, love your enemies, love your neighbor, make disciples…

The great commission is all about teaching people to obey all Jesus commands. The great commission is a directive to teach others how to truly love. Do we really love God and others? To answer this question we can simply take inventory of our obedience to his commands.

Jesus was the example of love. He was obedient to the Father, even unto death on the cross. This is how he demonstrated his love for God and others. We too are called to be obedient and by doing so show our love for God and others.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Are you one of the few?

A Lesson from the story of Gideon:

Are we the likely or obvious choice to be church leaders and God’s soldiers – probably not. We are just ordinary men (and women). However, the question is, are we God’s choice? If we are God’s choice then no one, not even hell, can stand against us.

The experience of Gideon provides some very good examples of this reality. Gideon encountered a huge challenge; seemingly impossible. He is faced with fighting a massive army with his 32,000 troops. However, God says he has too many men and wants him to cut back. But wait, this is crazy. Does God want Gideon to be defeated? Is he looking to teach Gideon a lesson? He is definitely looking for this battle to be a lesson. What God is about to demonstrate is that he is not dependent on our numbers, our talents, or our abilities. God removes the overwhelming majority of Gideon’s troops to make it clear that the power and victory is his and not mans.

Church leaders and Christians in general have the tendency to think that the successes we experience are a result of ourselves, our hard work, our personalities, or our talents. However, this kind of thinking and these kinds of “victories” are useless to God. God is clear in the case of Gideon that the glory will unmistakably be the Lord’s. And he is willing to go to the extreme to make it so. We must all remember that we are indebted to God for the opportunity to serve him. God is not indebted to us for our willingness to serve. The simply amazing thing is that God would use us.

Another interesting note is who God removes from Gideon’s army? Is it the slow, the old, the weak? No, it is the fearful. God tells Gideon to tell all those who are fearful and lack faith to leave. If you have fear, then go home. If you don’t have the faith, go home. God wants men of faith who know they can take it because of God. One huge reason for sending home those who are afraid or faint hearted is so that the others will not become disheartened too. Are there church leaders who need to be sent home because they are not up for the battle? Are they causing others in the church to be disheartened?

The story of the Israelite spies who reported back about taking the promised land has some similarities to the Gideon experience. Of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb came back and declared without fear that they could take the land. The other 10 were filled with fear and greatly lacking in faith. Does your church have people like that in leadership? Are your leaders up to the task of taking the land? Are you yourself one of the 10 or of the two? It might be time to get rid of the 10 and go forward with the 2. The 2 might not be the most experienced or likely leaders, but they have the faith. You may need to get rid of the fearful ones; those who think you should shut the thing down. Send them home so they will not negatively affect the others. You can actually build something with 2 men of faith where 10 men of fear will only pull it down.

So Gideon sent home over 2/3 of his army because of their fear and lack of faith. However, there were still too many. God wanted it to be a ridiculous number to ensure the victory is known to all to be his. He instructed Gideon to continue the reduction and he ended up with the infamous 300. So what happened? Did the 300 get destroyed by the mighty armies of the enemy? Come on, this is God at work. No, the victory was the Lord’s. How could this happen? That’s exactly the point. It could only happen with God. There was no doubt that this unconventional and unlikely victory was the Lord’s.

In summary, we must not fear, we must have unwavering faith, we must be willing to fight the battles, and we must give God the honor of success.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How often are we "in the Spirit"?

Scripture:
On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, - Revelation 1:10

Insight:
When is the last time you have been "in the Sprit"? Have you ever been "in the Spirit" in a manner similar to what John experienced? If not, why? Why isn't this a regular part of our Christian experience? I submit that it is not a regular part of our lives because we do not allow it. We do not intensely seek God and invite the Holy Spirit to come to us in this manner. We have enough problems disciplining ourselves enough to read God's Word and to pray; not to mention sitting still, meditating on his truth, and inviting him to speak into our lives. What has happened to the practice of listening? I fear it is nearly a lost discipline. How do we expect to hear from God and experience time in the Spirit if we never stop, quiet down, and listen?

I write this because I am personally convicted and challenged by it, not because I have it together; but how I desire that this intense communication with God be a more active part of my life. When John is said to be "in the Spirit," he hears a loud voice or is taken somewhere, whether to God's throne in heaven (v.4:2) or to a desert (v.17:3) or to a very high mountain (v.21:10), and is shown a vision. While I have had a few dreams, some small visions, and heard God’s voice (very clearly in my mind – not audibly), it is not nearly the norm for me. I desire that it become a more prevalent experience and that it grows into trips to the very high mountain, the desert, and definitely to God’s throne in heaven. Hey, you do not have because you do not ask. Well, let’s ask.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Revelation 1:5 --- Are you living like a free man?

Scripture:
To him (Jesus Christ) who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Insight:
What did John just say in his greeting? Well, at the beginning of a sort of doxology he makes the following statement about Jesus: “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”. Notice the tense of this statement. He didn’t us the future tense; “will free us”. No, he used the past tense; “has freed us”. This emphasizes the blessing as a present possession already enjoyed by the believer. When we are in Christ, we are already freed from our sins. However, that means different things to different people. Some say that this only means that our sins have simply already been forgiven or washed away. But John uses the Greek word “lysanti” in a way that actually denotes a freeing from. John’s interest at this point is not simply in a “washing away” of our sins, but actually in actually “freeing” us from the bondage and misery of that sin. He is praising God for the fact that in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin and are no longer controlled by it. John is praising God for the fact that, in Christ, we no longer live lives controlled by sin. We are freed to live apart from sin in a real sense. The blood of Christ not only washed us, but also freed us so that we can literally walk unshackled and free from the power, control, and lifestyle of sin. This freedom is ours right now because of Christ. Are you free? Are you living like a free man?

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for this freedom that is a reality of your work on the cross. Thank you for washing me and for literally freeing me so that I am no longer a slave to sin. May I take hold of and live out this freedom more each day. Thank you for the sanctifying work of the cross. Thank you for freeing me from the misery and bondage of sin. May I act more like a free man each day. Help me share the reality of this incredible gift with others.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 --- Respect & Peace

Scripture:
12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

Insight:
At times, we will have disagreement with others regarding the things of God. But we cannot allow these disagreements to create an environment of disrespect. We must handle these situations with care and love. This does not meen that we should compromise our convictions. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to present our deep convictions and things which we are convinced of. These passages admonish us to approach them with respect and in love. This will create an environment of peace. Not necessarily complete agreement, but peace nontheless.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for this word of encouragement to treat others with love and respect. Especially others in ministry with me who may have differing views. Help me to respect those who are over me and who are serving you in spirit and truth. May I be a man of peace and a man who holds others in high regard. Help me also to share my passion for you and heart-felt convictions in love.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The battle for Turkey's soul

I have spent time in Turkey and will spend more time there this year on a project with Ephesus Community Outreach of which I am a founding member. God has given me a heart for Turkey and a desire to help the small number of Turkish Christians living out their faith in this Muslim country.

The country is at a critical crossroads. Can Turkey reconcile Islam and democracy? The answer will hugely impact the country, the region, Europe, and the world. This article in The Economist provides some good insight into this important topic.

Jude 24-25 --- He is able!

Scripture:
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Insight:
God is awesome; he is loving; he is able! This morning I found myself simply meditating on this wonderful doxology. He is completely able to keep us from falling. He is able to both justify and sanctify those who accept him and respond to him in faith and trust.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your awesome redeeming love and power that cleanses me and changes me so that I may be with you forever. Thank you for opening my eyes to your love and truth. May I always intently keep my eyes fixed on you and may my faith remain with strength and confidence; not wavering; planted in truth.

Friday, May 04, 2007

James --- Faith, Righteousness & Prayer

Scripture:
(1:6-8) But when he asks, he must believe (have faith) and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

(2:20-21) You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

(5:16) The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Insight:
James has a message running throughout about the relationship between faith, righteousness, and prayer. In chapter 1 James states that when you pray you must have faith. A faith that does not doubt. In chapter 2 he defines what faith looks like and demonstrates using the example of Abraham that faith lived out brings forth the righteousness that God desires for us. In chapter 5 James completes the picture with the statement that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. So, do I desire that my prayers will be effective and powerful? Yes! Well, am I considered righteous? To answer that question James would have me look at my faith. My faith will be demonstrated in the way I live. It will be demonstrated by my actions. James is not saying that our actions, in and of themselves, make us righteous. Rather, he is saying that genuine faith in Christ alone will produce good deeds. He is saying that righteous actions are the fruit and evidence of true saving faith – not the cause of it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

James 4:1-3 --- What's Your Motivation?

Scripture:
1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Insight:
Why do we quarrel? Why do we fight? SELFISHNESS! We get into fights because of pleasures we desire for ourselves. We fight because we are not getting what we are coveting (wanting). An important self-examining question for Christians in conflict is "What personal desire am I trying to protect or to gain?” More than likely the quarrel is centered on a personal desire – not a pure Godly desire. Isn’t it interesting that, even when we win the battle, the pleasure of winning and getting our way is only momentary. It does not resolve the deep inner conflict of selfish desires that is battling within us. It reminds me of the title to the U2 song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

So, our fighting and quarrels among each other reveal a wrong relationship with God. A relationship that is driven by selfishness and not driven by a humble heart for God. This wrong relationship is made evident in our prayer lives. We either do not have the faith to pray for God to supply our needs. Or more than likely, we pray with the wrong motives for things that are not pure and Godly, but rather are simply for our own pleasure.

How then, do we know what we should pray for? By knowing God’s will. By having a heart and a mind that desires God and the things that God desires. How can we know God’s will and his desires? Read his Word – the Holy Bible. This is where we will find what God is truly looking for and thus what we are truly looking for.

Prayer:
Lord, change my heart and make your desires my desires. Put to death this flesh that is covetous and filled with wrong motives. I want to ask with a pure heart. I want to always pray with pure motives that are grounded in your truth. Continue to display your will to me in your Word. Continue this transformation and kill the selfishness within me.