Monday, April 06, 2009

New Blog Site is Open


I have finally gotten a grip on the new website (I think). Statrting tomorrow, I will be posting the "Take Two" material as well as other stuff to my new blogsite. The address is Please look for new posts, etc. at that location. Eventually, I will shut down this site completely.

Why? Because the new site is a bit more functional for my needs and it includes spell check....a much needed feature before 7AM.

Simply add the new address to your favorites and start using that site...PLEASE :-)

See you soon!
Grace and Peace,

Take Two: James 2, Proverbs 6

James 2 opens with an admonition against partiality. In James 2:1-7, he addresses the different treatments of the rich man and the poor man. He is speaking a principle here that uses a hypothetical example. As God's people, we are not to judge and LIMIT access to God based on a standard seen in our culture. We should show no special favor to a rich man simply because he is rich. Both the rich and poor have the same access to salvation by God's grace. At the same time, we are not to show favoritism toward the poor man (class envy). Worldly wealth is not a barometer of holiness or an indicator of God's favor. Men are to be treated according to their possession of Jesus as Lord and Savior...not according to their wealth.

Some may have begun to argue (at least in their minds) that if they were guilty, it was only of a "small sin"...and was no big deal in God's eyes. James 2:8-13 reminds us that to be guilty of one sin makes us guilty. To obey one aspect of God's law and not another...still makes us guilty under the Law. NOTE: For those who may say..."Whew! We are under grace and not the this doesn't apply to us." NOT SO! Remember real religion is the life of holiness. We are called to live holy lives (James 1:27).

Some may begin to object...saying that our relationship with God is not dependent on our works...but by faith alone. This is true...but what kind of faith? Are we speaking of mental ascent (an intellectual agreement with a set of facts); Or, are we speaking of a saving faith? James explores the distinction in the remainder of the chapter.

"Faith" without corresponding action based on that faith is not really least not the "saving kind" (James 2:14-17). Even the demons (who are obviously not in the "saved" category) know and accept/believe the facts about God (James 2:18-20). The faith that saves always manifests itself with corresponding works (James 2:20-26).

Works do not save us. God saves us when we respond to Him by faith. Our response to Him is evident in our actions. Our "confession" of belief in a set of facts is no more effective in "saving" us than anything in the world. Our response to the God the facts speak one of faith and is evident by our actions. As someone said, "what you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say."

Proverbs 6:30-31 is the takeaway today. There is understanding when a man sins because he is overwhelmed by his need. This is not an excuse...but an explanation. Still, the man must repay/make restitution for his sin. He is not absolved from responsibility simply because he was overwhelmed.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Take Two: James 1, Proverbs 5

The Book of James is one of my favorites in the New Testament. It is penned, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by James, the half-brother of Jesus. The time of writing is prior to AD 67 and many believe a decade before.

James was a prominent figure in the early church...seen as the leader of the Jerusalem church. His teachings are similar in many respects to those of the gospels...and certainly indicate his close affinity and familiarity with the manner and teachings of Jesus Himself. Much like Paul, James gives us a picture of what is NORMAL Christianity as it is understood by those who were not among the 12 disciples but had first hand knowledge of Christ's teachings.

Throughout the years, some controversy has arisen about the focus on "works" in James' letter. Some (influenced by Reformation teaching) have read from the Letter that James is presenting a view that is contrary to a "Salvation by Grace through Faith" message as presented by Paul. Luther quipped often that he could not reconcile the teachings of James and Paul...and called the Letter a "bit strawy epistle," indicating his limited respect for it. He even noted that he would have preferred to remove the letter from the Canon were it up to him.

A better approach is to understand the teachings in their context. James does not write (prominently) about "how" to be saved; rather, he presumes salvation upon his audience. He speaks more prominently about the outworking of salvation by those who name the Name of Christ. There is a definite "eschatological" theme apparent in the letter. In other words, James has constantly in mind...the Day of the Lord. In light of the coming reunion with Jesus, one should conduct Himself in a certain manner.

As He speaks of the Law, his reference is more to the decalogue (the 10 Commandments) than to the Jewish ceremonial Law; however, he does refer to the royal law as in the Kingdom of context.

James 1:1 addresses the letter to the dispersed Jews of the 12 tribes. It seems that the audience is under persecution of sorts for their alignment with Christianity. The focus on the twelve tribes is an allusion to the Old Testament imagery of God's people.

James 1:2-4 gives a perspective on how to view our circumstances/trials/pressures. We are to "consider" them joy, knowing that God uses the trials of life to perfect our faith. This is not a reference to making us perfect (as if sinless perfection were even possible; rather, it means developing a maturity as we examine the circumstances of life.)

James 1:5-9 speaks to the fact that God gives wisdom to all who seek after it in faith and without doubting. The implication is that if a person claims to seek the wisdom of God but doubts...he is unstable. He vacillates between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. This man should expect to gain nothing from the wisdom of God.

The trials that God uses to perfect us are not temptations (James 1:13-15). God does not desire our failure, but our perfection. To look at the trial and the temptation at face value...there is little distinction; however, it is important to know that God never desires our demise...but our victory.

James "focuses" on the assertion that there should be a corresponding action to our stated beliefs. We should be "doers" and not "hearers" only (James 1:22-25). It is not enough for us to have a confessional faith...we must have a faith that reveals itself in application. This is very clear in James 1:26-27. If anyone claims to be a Christian but does not seek to care for those in need...who are most vulnerable in society (widows and orphans), then his faith is worthless. The second characteristic of genuine faith is that the Christian seeks to be holy (unstained by the world). Any professing believer who is comfortable participating in the world's rebellion against God...has an empty and ineffectual faith in God. ALL CHRISTIANS who understand what it is to name the NAME of Jesus...are uncomfortable with their own propensity to sin and bemoan their sinful actions.

Proverbs 5:3 is the takeaway today. The enticement to sin is attractive to us. It is always presented as sweet and pleasant...smooth and wonderful. BEWARE. It's end is bitter and results in death. FLEE from sin and avoid the conversation with that which seeks to detour you from the path of righteousness.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Take Two: Amos 9, Proverbs 4

Amos 9 is the final chapter. As has been the case to this point, the prophet, speaking for God, states that God will destroy the sinful people among the Kingdom (Amos 9:10). God is Sovereign and is responsible for all that is coming their way. He will use every nation and every circumstance as an instrument of His will and His root out the sinful independence and arrogance of His people.

Amos 9:1-4 gives a number of scenarios where the people might seem out of reach of God's wrath. In each case, God deals with them where they are. He is to be feared because the people, to this point, have spurned Him and rejected His leadership in their lives. Amos 9:5-6 speaks to God's ultimate power and the enormity of His sovereignty. Nothing is beyond Him or exceeds Him.

Amos 9:7-10 restates that the people, because of their actions, have estranged themselves from God...not the other way around. Their sin has caused/prompted God to treat them as a people that are not His own.

I find it interesting that even in the midst of the rebellion of the people, God does not forsake them. He judges them and punishes them...but He never loses track of them. He never forgets them or takes His eye off of them. is a dangerous thing to sin under the watchful eye of God; however, it is a comforting thing to know that no circumstance occurs that is beyond the watchful eye of God. Nothing that happens in your life escapes His notice...for good or bad.

Amos 9:11-15 gives the prophesy of restoration. After the judgment...the people will be restored...not by their own efforts but by God. They will again possess honor, dignity, provision, and blessing. God is not opposed to blesing His people. God is opposed to His people trusting in the BLESSING rather than the One who BLESSES! When they are established again...this time by God...they will never be rooted out or lose their status. It seems that this is a reference to the Millenial Kingdom of Christ (Amos 9:15).

Proverbs 4:18 is the takeaway today. As I read this, I saw (for the first time now) that the path of righteousness does not always appear so in the beginning. In fact, it is only as one continues on the path of the righteous that it is illuminated to full day. When we choose God's path and continue on it, it becomes very clear that it is a wise and good path. Even if we cannot fully appreciate this in the beginning...the full day reveals the wisdom of our choice.

Tomorrow we return to a NT study. See you in the book of James.....

Friday, April 03, 2009

Take Two: Amos 8, Proverbs 3

In the midst of the funeral arrangements this week, there was a pretty common thread among many of us who were caught off-guard by the cicumstances of Mom's death. Many kept saying, "I can't believe it. I hoped that when I woke up this morning, I would discover it wasn't true."

In many ways, some people look at God's judgment and justice similarly. We know what God says...but in many ways, we hope we will wake up to discover it isn't true. The remaining chapters of Amos continue the theme and drive home the point, God will not relent. He has pronounced judgment on the people and will carry it out...not because He is bad or vengeful, but because He is good and just.

The first vision of the chapter (Amos 8:1-3) serves to tie together chapter 7 and 8. The picture is one of harvest time. When farmers plant, they look forward to th harvest. It always comes. It may yield good or bad or plenteous or sparse fruit...but the time of harvest always comes.

Amos 8:4-14 is really a taunt (of sorts) to the people to keep going with their immoral and unethical...ungodly deeds. Judgment is coming because God never forgets anything. Every deed will be reconciled (Amos 8:7).

No one in Amos' audience should look forward to the day because it is characteristically apocalyptic (Amos 8:9). This day of judgment will be more than the people can bear.

As a NT Christian, looking back on history from the completed side of the cross...I am fully aware and sensitive to the fact that all sin (just as listed here) is paid for individually and amazingly. Either each person will give account and bear the weight of his own sin (choosing to bear it alone as an independent and autonomous being), or it will be born by Christ at the Cross (Romans 5:8, 1 John 2:2, John 3:16, Romans 6:23). Nevertheless, all sin is judged.

Proverbs 3:27 is the takeaway. Sometimes, we are tempted to make rational decisions about resources. We may see needs around us and look into the pantry. We realize that we can meet the need, but the uncertainty of tomorrow prompts us to consider holding back. The proverb instructs us to step forward and meet the need. We are instruments of God's provision for someone else...and God will always provide for us...just as He does for them through us.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Take Two: Amos 7, Proverbs 2

I apologize for the sporadic nature of posting. Those who know what is going on...can understand. If you don't know...then please forgive me for my inconsistency and pick up with me now.

Amos 7 begins the next section of the book. The first part dealt with the "words" of Amos and the balance of the book deals with the "visions" of Amos. In the first two visions, God reveals an instrument of destruction. The prophet intercedes for the people and God relents from His intended judgment (Amos 7:1-6). Both visions are similar...with the exception of the fact that the instrument of judgment shifts from locusts to fire.

Amos 7:7-9 gives a vision fo the plumb line. A plumb line is used in constructing walls to insure that the walls are straight and will continue to stand. If a wall was not built straight (plumb), it would be destroyed by the builder or it would fail under the test of time. God revealed the significance of the plumb line to Amos and told him that He would examine and judge Israel...but the means of judgment is not revealed. Two reasons for the judgment are implied.

First, there is the mention of the high places and sanctuaries (Amos 7:9). This is an indictment against the religious structures. Second is due to the government of the nation which is symbolized by the King's mention.

Amos 7:10-17 details the resistance of the culture to Amos' words. The high priest of Bethel accuses Amos of sedition and treason to the king (Amos 7:10). The priest's loyalty was to the king and not to God. Amaziah discounts the vision of Amos and orders him gone...declaring that the worship center at Bethel was of the King (Amos 7:12-13). Amos declared that the visions and the impetus to prophesy were not his own...but were of God. He then prophesied against the high priest declaring that he and his children would die by the sword. Further, all of his holdings would be lost and his wife would become a prostitute to support herself. Also, Israel would still come under judgment.

Should you read this and think it harsh...remember that Israel had come to depend on their own prosperity rather than God. Therefore, the judgment was against that which took the place of God.

Proverbs 2:9 is the takeaway today. By acquiring wisdom, we gain the ability to discern in any given circumstance, that which is righteous, just, fair, and proper. It is not that God gives us some secret knowledge or some special dispensation necessarily; however, He does give us, through applying His Word, the ability to find the "God aspect" of a circumstance and act appropriately.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Take Two: Amos 6, Proverbs 31

Amos 6 continues the picture of judgment of God that is coming against Israel. In chapter 5, the indictment came against the "cows of bashan." the wives who demanded fine things which were secured by exacting interest and excessive charges against the poor. In chapter 6, we observe the addressee to be those who are living the life of luxury and security without God (Amos 6:1).

The addressee is told to "live it up." By doing so, they do not negate the judgment that is coming (Amos 6:7).

The final section (Amos 6:8-14) pictures the certainty of the judgment. Some may have come to question whether God had changed. Perhaps, they thought, God was no longer offended at the arrogant and luxurious lifestyle and the means by which it was secured. The prophet's response is simply that God has sworn by Himself (Amos 6:8) God has not changed.

A curious phrase occurs in Amos 6:10. To mention the Name of the Lord...or as one commentator put call on God for help...would not bring relief but destruction...since God was responsible for the calamity that was upon them anyway.

Proverbs 31:31 is the takeaway. In speaking of the "excellent wife" or as some call her, the "P31" woman, the proverb ends with give her the product of her hands and let her works praise her. She is not known for her philosophy or good intentions. She is known for how she lived. She gains credibility based on the fruits of her labor. There are many people who are quick to espouse good ideas and good intentions. The P31 woman...says look at the results. Let them, and them alone, be the standard for which my life is measured.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Take Two: Amos 5, Proverbs 29

The plot or theme becomes more clear in this chapter. Remember that Amos began by asserting God's Sovereignty over His Creation...and His people. All of the calamity to come upon the nations and upon Israel was because God caused it. The people were religious in their actions; however, they had become dependent on their prosperity and addicted to pleasures.

Part of the religious "buzz" of the era was to speak of the "Day of the Lord." For those speaking it, it was supposed to be a day of triumph and blessing and honor. They spoke of it as if they were excited and anticipating it. Amos gives them another perspective.

The Day of the Lord is coming...but you should hide because He is not pleased with your conduct! It is a day of victory and glory and honor...but He will display these things by punishing the! (Amos 5:18).

The solution is to forsake their practices and seek the Lord! (Amos 5:4, Amos 5:6, Amos 5:14). They thought that they were seeking God...after all they had many altars and practiced religion all of the time. God's response was that their worship was empty and He hated it (Amos 5:21-23). What God desired was justice and mercy...a lifestyle consistent with their religious confession...not a religious confession alone (Amos 5:24).

Because they were hypocritical...they had made a mockery of God; therefore, they would lose everything (Amos 5:11), and only a remnant would survive His judgment (Amos 5:3). Instead of making a "fuss" claiming to be looking forward to the Day of the Lord...they should have kept silent...since they were unprepared (Amos 5:12-13).

Some of them may have desired to argue with Amos...that he was a fundamentalist and had no basis for his claims. He closes the chapter by reminding them that their ancestors were punished for idolatry as well...a fate they could look forward to if they did not repent (Amos 5:25-27).

Sometimes it is difficult to think that we are idolatrous in our actions when we come together on Sunday to worship God. We sing songs of His faithfulness, His power, His justice...and then we rely upon other things...including our own wisdom as if they were powerful to provide and care for us. This is bad...but becomes worse when we think that no one else sees through our charade...including God. Either He is...and He is worthy of our lives...or He is not...and we should choose our alternatives. We cannot continue, though, to claim that He is our hope AND pursue other hopes as if God is not offended at our duplicity.

Proverbs 29:16 is the takeaway today. As wickedness increases, it seems as though there is no hope for righteousness...but the Day of the Lord is coming...and Righteousness will prevail.