Monday, September 22, 2014

The Beginning of Wisdom

For those of you who have teenagers, you know that parenting takes on a whole new level. This is mainly due to the fact that teenagers know everything. I do mean EVERYTHING and they no longer need you. My teenagers will politely listen to me and nod their heads but I know they are not listening. How do I know? Simply by observing the results of their actions. At this point it is too late to change the outcome and I can't help but think to myself, "if only you had listen to me".......

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7
What is fear? 
It is the emotional foreboding or dread of impending distress or misfortune. I personally do not want to live in this kind of fear. I would end up stuck in my house for days on end! Thank fully this is not what the Bible refers to. The fear of the Lord refers to an awe-inspiring reverence. I have to confess that most days, I do not live with an awe-inspiring reference for God. I get up and drink my coffee and get the kids ready for school and start tackling that never-ending to-do list. On those days that God is not at the top of my to-do list, I often feel frustrated, exhausted, defeated, angry, desperate, etc... I am more than likely acting like a brat and God is looking down, saying "if only you had listen to me."


The Beginning of Knowledge
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

I believe that we will never fully know God until we are complete in heaven. Even the psalmist cried out, "such knowledge is too wonderful for me" (Psalm 139:6). Yet the fear of the Lord, this awe-inspiring reference IS the beginning of knowledge. Every journey has a starting point, every story has a beginning. Our journey with God starts with full reference for who He is. There is nothing greater, better, bigger than our God. NOTHING. He alone is worthy of all our praises. Wisdom has its origin in God, and whoever fears him receives it if he prays in faith (James 1:5). 

Fools
but fools despise wisdom and instructions...... Jeremiah 4:22 talks about those who are unwilling to know God and they are referred to as "stupid children". I do not want to be a brat and called stupid. I feel pretty confident that neither do you. Here is my challenge to you and me this week. Let's practice greeting each day with an awe-inspiring reference for God. Let's greet each day with a praise and a song. Let us pray "God grant me wisdom today".

Download the study for free here

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hearing with the Heart

For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:3

An American missionary in Africa wanted to translate the English word faith into the local dialect. He could not find its equivalent. So he went to an old sage, who was himself a fine Christian, for help in rendering the needed word into understandable language. The guru studied it, and finally said, “Does it not mean to hear with the heart?”

What does faith mean to you?
How would you explain it to someone who does not speak English? How do you explain it to yourself?
In order to fully understand what James mean by the testing of our faith, we need to fully be honest with ourselves about what faith means. Does it mean going to Church on Sunday? Does it mean putting more in the offering plate? Does it mean reading your Bible every day?

Most Bible translation will render James 1:3 as "testing of your faith". The KJV translates this verse as "the trying of your faith." Have you ever been tried? I know my kids have tried me on many occasions growing up. Fortunately I never had had to go to a trial and stand before a judge. I never had to live through a series of witnesses telling about me. I never had a group of jurors declaring me guilty or not guilty, when they never met me. I never had to see the gavel go down on my verdict. 

What would it look like today, if my faith was put on trial? Would I be found guilty or not guilty? Would I pass or would I fail? Would I fail and persevere or would I give up?

How about you? How is your faith? How is it when all is well? How is it when nothing makes sense and God's presence is a distant memory?

Adolf Hitler could not silence pastor Martin Niemöller, and kept him imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years. His ministry during and after incarceration was courageous and constructive. Having read many of his books and heard him during frequent trips to America, I was pleased that he granted me an interview in the Ecumenical Center in Frankfurt. He was warm and outgoing, repeating frequently, “We are responsible for mankind.”
Toward the end of our visit he said: “Christianity is not an ethic, nor is it a system of dogmatics, but a living thing. One cannot deal with God in solitude or in remoteness only, but in the struggles of life.”

How is your study of James coming along? Will you be joining us? Let us know if you do, we would love to pray for you.

You can download the James Study right here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Consider it pure joy James 1:2

"Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds." James 1:2


There is a song that always makes me bob my head when it comes on the radio. Here are the beginning lyrics and I am sure that you will be singing along...


Here's a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don't worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy now

I was curious one day and did some research about the inspiration for that song. Here is what Wikipedia taught me: 


The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when cabling his followers in the West. However, Meher Baba communicated variations of the sentiment; fuller versions of the quote – such as, "Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you"— which incorporate responsibility with detachment, as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship.



I do like the concept of responsibility with detachment and master/disciple spiritual relationship. However I am not convinced that being "happy" is what God intends for my life.

We, Americans have this engrained in our brains that
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Those words penned on July 4, 1776 are echoed in the Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens, penned by a revolutionary French assembly in 1789, with the exception of the word happy.

Those two countries at the time were going through some major turmoils and faced many trials of many kinds. Yet when making a declaration the concept of freedom and happiness was there. How can this be? I do not know about you but I never had to face the kind of trials that those men and women faced. The few that I faced rarely made me consider pure joy. 

James here uses the word joy not happiness. The word happy in the Hebrew language is esher, and is mainly translated as blessed. It is only used a few times, Job 5:17; Psalms 1:1; 2:12; 144:15; Proverbs 8:32; Daniel 12:12.

ʾEsher, the word translated “happy” (kjv, nlt), can also be translated as “blessed.” These two felicitous states of human beings are intimately laced together. They are at times impossible to differentiate in some biblical passages; by definition, the Lord blesses the happy person and the person blessed by the Lord is happy. Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words
Happiness is a secondary emotion to joy, an overflow of joy.
A quality or attitude of delight and happiness, which is ultimately grounded in the work of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the many situations in which joy is experienced, Scripture recognises as supreme being accepted in the presence of God. Dictionary of Bible Theme
The question remains, how I can consider it pure joy to face trials? If God loves me, why isn't He taking those trials away? If God is all powerful, why does He let me suffer?

The questions are hard. The answer is simple.

Think of Job. Job was a good, godly, god-fearing. Yet Job had trials after trials after trials. Yet he NEVER cursed God. Job loses everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Yet he never curses God. His wife tells him to, his friends tell him to. He holds his ground and NEVER curses God. He just makes appeal after appeal. Finally in chapter 31 Job makes his last appeal. Here is his claim:

In my innocence, I cry out for a hearing before God (31:1–40).
1. I have not looked with lust on a maiden (31:1–4).
2. I am not guilty of lying or deceit (31:5–8).
3. I have not committed adultery (31:9–12).
4. I have treated my servants fairly (31:13–15).
5. I have been generous and kind to the poor and the disadvantaged (31:16–23).
6. I have neither worshiped gold nor celestial bodies (31:24–28).
7. I have not rejoiced in others’ ruin (31:29–30).
8. I have not refused hospitality to anyone (31:31–32).
9. I have nothing to hide, but I wish God would give me a written statement of charges (31:33–37).
10. I have not withheld payment for the laborers on my land (31:38–40).

Job is saying, I am a righteous man yet I am suffering. None of this makes sense and he feels that he would be better off, if he was sinning. He quickly finds out that he is speaking without knowledge. Bottom-line God is just.  And God answers.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 

Dress for action like a man; 
I will question you, and you make it known to me. 
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Job 48:2-4

Then suddenly Job understands and cries out

“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? 
I lay my hand on my mouth. 
I have spoken once, and I will not answer; 

twice, but I will proceed no further.” Job 40:4-5

God's answer is like a slap in the face

Dress for action like a man Job 40:7

Ouch...... Then God keeps on talking and reminds Job of the things that only He can do. Even though Job had proclaimed in chapter 19 that His redeemer lives, he did not get it. Then God revealed all of His power and glory to him. Then Job knew without the shadow of a doubt that His redeemer lives and concludes with those words:

“I know that you can do all things, 
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ 
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, 
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 42:2-3

Job prayed and God accepted his prayer and restored his fortunes. 

So why rejoice when we face trials of many kinds? Because only then can we get to see the glory and power and majesty of God. Only then can we grow in our faith. Only then can we know Him and know without ANY doubt that Our Redeemer lives.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why do we study the Bible?


The Bible is above all a book that talks about God and His relationship to the world. What is God like? What is His relationship to His creation? What is His intended purpose for creation? (From the Holman Bible Illustrated Dictionary)
When I was in school and a book was studied in class, we would invariably always cover those basic questions:

  • Who are the main characters;
  • What is the setting;
  • What is the climax of the story;
  • What is it about.
If we apply those same basic questions to the Bible, I think that we can all agree that the main characters are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Sub-characters would be Adam and Eve, Noah, 
Abraham,  Moses, David etc.... The setting is creation. I think it is fair to say that the climax is the cross. The story is about God's love for the world. 

Sadly though too often we turn a Bible Study into a study about us and for our particular needs. The Bible is for us not necessarily about us. Now before you call me a heretic, let me explain.


Imagine that just like any good books the Bible is made into a movie. If the Bible was about you then you would have a part in the movie. The truth is that the only part you would have (if you are lucky) is the one of an extra whose head or hands are seen for a second. So first and foremost let's read the Bible to know God better. 


To know him is to recognize him for what he is, the sovereign Lord who makes a demand on man’s obedience and especially upon the obedience of his people Israel, with whom he has made a covenant. He is the God whose holiness and loving-kindness are ‘known’ in the experience of nation and individual. The criterion of this knowledge is obedience, and its opposite is not simply ignorance but rebellious, wilful turning away from God (cf. 1 Sa. 2:12; 3:7; 2 Ch. 33:13; Is. 1:3; Je. 8:7; 24:7; 31:34). (taken from the New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition)

The beautiful thing is that the more we get to know Him, the more we get to know ourselves. Our heritage is with God and we are called His children (Romans 8:14). That lofty knowledge comes with some instructions too. Like any parent God wants us to follow some rules and make the family look good:

  • we are to be peacemakers Matthew 5:9
  • we are to love our enemies Matthew 5:44-45
  •  we are to believe Him and receive Him John 1:12
  • we are not exempt from suffering Romans 8:17
  • we are to be blameless and innocent Philippians 2:15
  • we are to know Him and recognize Him 1 John 3:1-2
You have all heard that couples that have been together for a long time tend to look alike. University of Michigan psychologist Robert Zajonc conducted an experiment to test this phenomenon. Here is one of his findings; "Zajonc suggested that older couples looked more alike because people in close contact mimic each other’s facial expressions. In other words, if your partner has a good sense of humor and laughs a lot, he or she will probably develop laugh lines around their mouth — and so will you." (http://www.livescience.com/8384-couples-start.html)

We are called to be imitators of God Ephesians 5:1. Imitate means "to follow as a pattern, model or example" (Webster). The word imitator from Ephesians 5:1 is also translated as followers in the KJV. We cannot imitate what we do not know, therefore we need to know God and the only way to know God is by spending time with Him through His word. The more the better. Do not treat the Bible as a self help book. It is so much more than that. 

Open your Faithbook more than your Facebook.

This semester PWOC Fort Drum will offer a study on the Book of James. I hope that you can join us either physically or online. The study and teaching will be posted here weekly.


I cannot wait to start this journey with you!