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Archive for March, 2011

March 17.11 ethot

Galatians 1:11 (11-24) “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

With this verse Paul offers a defense of himself and the gospel. What Paul was preaching didn’t come from an interpretation of scripture or a commentary he read (the Talmud). In spite of what the Judaizaers were saying about him and his message, every one in Jerusalem knew about Paul, vs. 22-24.

In contrast to the Judaizers, who received their knowledge by studying what would later be called the Talmud (that body of commentaries and interpretations that had grown up around the Law) Paul got his info directly from Jesus, the same way the eleven apostles got their info, v. 12. The advantage Paul had over those apostles was that he had studied the Talmud and was considered an expert in it, v. 14; Acts 22:3.

What I find interesting here is that Paul is not afraid of anyone investigating any area of his life. Paul lived wide open for all to see. When he persecuted the church and now that he was planting churches he had not changed (maybe one of the reasons God chose him). The question for us is how open to scrutiny are our lives? What are we hiding?

Sincerity involves being more concerned for the reputation of God than my own.

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March 16.11 ethot

Galatians 1:8 (1-10) “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

Paul is so emphatic about what he states in this verse, that he says it again in the next, v. 9.

The letter was written because certain individuals (Judiazers, Jesus called them scribes and Pharisees) had crept into the churches Paul, Barnabas and Luke had founded, after they left the region, to impose Jewish tradition on the congregations. Jewish tradition was a body of commentaries and interpretations that had grown up around the law, that had developed from the time after the Babylonian captivity until Paul’s time.

In contrast the message Paul and his travel partners brought was that God had been merciful and now was being gracious by providing the way to avoid ultimate judgment. The Jews all knew that God was going to judge all men. But they thought that they had a special in with God and if they practiced their traditions they could earn their way out of judgment.

See when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we effectively eliminate the need for earning salvation, because He is providing it (grace). Any laws or traditions I observe after that don’t save me, but they may help me to become the person God needs me to be.

Faith involves resting all my hopes for tomorrow on God’s proven promises rather than on man’s faltering word.

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James 5:19 (19-20) “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,

The question that popped into my mind first was, who is this person doing the turning? James tells us that anyone in the church can do this. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that it is those who think of themselves as spiritual (mature) who are responsible and suggests how it’s to be done, 6:1-5.

Throughout the history of the church there have been believers who go off into an old sin pattern or develop a new one, it’s not anything new, and Paul says that it can happen to any one of us in spite of what we think our spiritual condition is. See, it’s in that moment when we think that we’re spiritual, that Satan helps us think we’ve earned the privilege to sin a little without consequence. Everything we do has consequences.

So James, as Paul, encourages each one of us to be alert to each other. This would be a way in which we would be obeying the command to love one another, because none of us wants to be left unattended in the error of our way.

Love involves seeing the basic need of another and meet it, as I would want another to meet mine.

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March 14.11 ethot

James 5:17 (13-18) “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

I don’t remember the last time any of us prayed for no rain and it stopped for three and half years. So, I’m thinking that that is not how we are similar to Elijah. But, when you go back and read about Elijah and the conversations he had with God, then you can see how he was just like us.

Elijah wasn’t always sure of what God was doing and at times it felt like God was trying to hurt him on purpose. He was not a spiritual giant with radio programs, TV and published books. But, Elijah understood that Jehovah was the only God that existed and the things He could do were amazing, so he trusted Him. And, he knew that sometimes representing God would cause him trouble, in that sense we’re all like Elijah.

I’m not expecting us to perform any wonders, but remember that everything Elijah did was with the purpose of showing people that God, Jehovah was the one and only God and He is the only one that should be praised, honored and obeyed. The Lord, our Lord has left us hear with that same task.

Obedience involves acting on the light that God has shown you.

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March 11.11 ethot

James 5:13 (13-18) “Is anyone among you suffering? The he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.

At the beginning of this chapter as in the beginning of the letter James was talking about the difficulties we face and how we respond to them. Sometimes we respond well and at other we react shamefully. James is not commanding us in this verse to pray or sing depending on our circumstances these were rhetorical questions, we should know this, its obvious.

So if you’re sick, whether physically or spiritually, then the best thing is to pray. The best way to pray is to contact fellow believers and have them pray for you as well, v. 14. Sometimes these believers can help us better get through our situation because they have experienced it already, whether it’s a physical condition needing medical attention (oil) or a spiritual one needing confession, vs. 14, 16.

When we get better information to help us understand what we’re experiencing we can pray more effectively. Then God understands by our behavior that we’re serious about seeking His guidance and that of His representatives (at this time elders were essentially pastors).

Humility involves not letting your emotions and pride dictate your decisions.

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March 10.11 ethot

James 5:9 (7-11) “Do not complain,

It’s always been a wonder to me how it is that all of us hate to have to listen to someone complaining, yet, we are oblivious when we’re the ones complaining.

I think that complaining can be and usually is just a waste of time. Rather than subject others to your ranting about the injustice of others, usually towards you (self-pity), ask better how you can use what is happening to the advantage of the Gospel. I’m not suggesting that we somehow be holier than others, just that we include in our ranting what this is doing to our testimony before the world.

Job didn’t understand what God was doing to Him (or at least that is the way he saw it). We know now that God wasn’t doing anything to Job, but was actually using Job (who was at that time the best man for the job) to teach us something about humility and gratitude that otherwise we might never learn. It’s unfortunate that we tend not to learn until we’re in the extreme.

James is pointing out that we don’t have time for self-pity. God has left us here because we have value in His efforts to win souls for Christ, don’t let Satan distract you this way.

Joyfulness involves looking past present difficulties to what God might be doing.

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March 9.11 ethot

James 5:9 (7-11) “Do not complain,

It’s always been a wonder to me how it is that all of us hate to have to listen to someone complaining, yet, we are oblivious when we’re the ones complaining.

I think that complaining can be and usually is just a waste of time. Rather than subject others to your ranting about the injustice of others, usually towards you (self-pity), ask better how you can use what is happening to the advantage of the Gospel. I’m not suggesting that we somehow be holier than others, just that we include in our ranting what this is doing to our testimony before the world.

Job didn’t understand what God was doing to Him (or at least that is the way he saw it). We know now that God wasn’t doing anything to Job, but was actually using Job (who was at that time the best man for the job) to teach us something about humility and gratitude that otherwise we might never learn. It’s unfortunate that we tend not to learn until we’re in the extreme.

James is pointing out that we don’t have time for self-pity. God has left us here because we have value in His efforts to win souls for Christ, don’t let Satan distract you this way.

Joyfulness involves looking past present difficulties to what God might be doing.

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March 8.11 ethot

James 5:8 (7-11) “You to be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

A good farmer knows that every year he can count on certain things being pretty much the same. Every year he has to prepare the soil, plant, water and weed before he can harvest a crop. Sometimes the work is made harder because of bad weather and sometimes because of a lack of affordable supplies. But, every year has the same basic routine… it can get boring or frustrating if you loose sight of the goal.

Every year since those first days of the early church we’ve heard that the Lord is coming, maybe even in our day. Lots of time has pasted and still we see nothing, no end. So, we loose patience and begin to ignore that warning and live differently, as if He’s not coming. If He’s not coming, nothing He said is true.

When He comes it will be at the right time. I like to look at His coming like His judgment after the 7 Years of Tribulation. In Revelation 6:10&11 it says that He would return when the number of the martyrs was fulfilled. In our case it is the number of souls brought into the church that we are waiting for. This is why we’re to be busy about doing our jobs to live out our faith and share when we can our testimony (even if it costs us our lives) until He returns.

Just like with the farmer, it seems like just a lot of work, but the harvest will come… don’t loose sight of the goal!

Patience involves letting God do what he does while you focus on what you should be doing.

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James 5:2 (1-7a) “Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.

This verse reminded me of a man who had worked hard to save his money so he would be able to provide for his family. He was careful not to waste money. Rather than buying the latest car, which he could afford, he made the one he had last longer. But there is a fine line between being frugal and being cheap. Fortunately his son learned not to be cheap, like his dad had become, but unfortunately the idea that how much money you have defines you and your success stuck.

You remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? Here was a believing couple who didn’t believe that God knew what He was doing with the church and took out a little insurance for them selves. When James talks about the rich in the early church, it was in response to that kind of attitude. Money has a way of consuming a persons’ life and is probably better to get rid of it as soon as possible, before it consumes you.

The man I started talking about eventually died and when his family came to move his old furniture out they had to take some of it apart because it was too big. As they were taking it apart money fell out of it, lots of money. One should never allow money to define them. It is how you use (invest) money that helps defines you, not how you let it use you.

Availability involves getting and staying busy with God given priorities and getting rid of those things that would get in the way.

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March 4.11 ethot

James 4:15 (11-17) “Instead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.

James here points out that the only reason we put down the Law, to ignore it is because we want our freedom to decide what we will do and when. We want to hear only the advice that will let us fulfill our own desires. Now, as believers didn’t we reject the rule of the world (1 John 2:15-17) over us already for an alternate life style in Jesus?

So, when James says we should ask or seek the will of God for how to live and what and when to do anything, where will we find that information? Of course many will say we’ll pray and start doing something and see if God blesses it while we wait for an answer. But is that waiting?

The will of God has already been expressed to us in the Word of God, the Bible. Jesus called it the Law and the Prophets, Luke 16:15-17. We don’t have to wait to discover the will of God for our lives. We have to research. Just like we check around before we buy a car, a house or a refrigerator we need to become more familiar with that Bible we have at home sitting on a shelf collecting dust, you know, the one we only use on Sunday.

Obedience involves acting on the light that God has shown you.

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