James: A Portrait of Faith*

JAMES - A PORTRAIT OF FAITH

It is one of the most beloved books in the Bible. Although it was not accepted by some in the earliest days of gathering the canon of Scripture, James is one of the most sacred and practical books on how to live the Christian life. It is written in the Hebraic mindset as the books of Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude. To truly understand James, one needs to know the difference between Hebraic thought and Greek thought. In this introduction, we will see the difference between these two thoughts and how to better understand James’ writing.

First, according to the Greek mindset, life is sacred and secular while in the Hebraic mindset life is simply sacred. This means that the Greek mindset sees life as something sacred in its humanness. Humanity is the ultimate and it is sacred for this reason. According to the Hebraic mindset, life is sacred because there is One who has given us life, namely the God of the Bible.

Next, mother earth and nature are god in the Greek mindset while the God of the Bible is the Creator and is separate from creation. In the Greek mindset we are part of nature and therefore are tied only to this world or universe and it is mother earth or nature that rules us. Ultimately, man is god in his own right and determines all that he thinks, says, and does. In the Hebraic mindset, while being transcendent, God is also near to His creation. He is something other than creation because He created all things. In the Hebraic mindset, there is no such thing as “mother earth.” Moreover, God has called men to subdue the earth and all that is in it. Man is to rule the earth and have dominion. The Greek mindset says that the earth rules us.

Third, man is the measure of all things in the Greek mindset. Man determines his own destiny, determines who he is, what he wants to be, and how he wants to live life. His truth is his truth as it is man who establishes truth; relativism or subjectivism is the mantra. In the Hebraic mindset, truth is determined by God and His Word is the measure of all things. There is no error or falsity in God, therefore truth can only come from God and no where else. All things are measured according to the truth of God and His Word.

Fourth, the Greek mindset says that one ought to know himself. Whatever is in the inner self is of most importance. As Freud would say, we need to learn the id, the ego, and the superego to truly understand ourselves. On the other hand, Hebraic thought says that we need to know God. In knowing God we come to learn that we do not even understand ourselves because our hearts are deceitfully wicked, but God knows us perfectly well. We learn that God sees all while we only see in part. We learn in Hebraic thought it is God who udnerstands us and knows us perfectly well.

Next, in Greek thought manual labor is considered vulgar while in Hebraic thinking trades are honored. All rabbis would learn a trade as is exhibited in the life of Paul the apostle who was a rabbi as well as a tentmaker. Greek thought says that the elites deserved to be served by the servants while the Hebraic thought says that we are to serve one another no matter the station in life in which we find ourselves.

Finally, Greek thought teaches that education is for knowledge and for knowledge sake. Knowledge is king. the more you know the better off you will be because you will understand that man is the measure of all things, that life is secular, that mother earth or nature is god, and that you can learn to be served instead of serving. In the Hebraic mindset, education is for wisdom and character building. We learn what God says in His Word and we learn how to live our lives in such a way that we serve Him and others. We learn to love not only ourselves, but to love others and to serve them. We learn how to live a life that is lovely, honorable, noble, peaceable, reconciliatory, just, humble, and meek. We learn how  work is something that is good and it is good to serve others.

When we come to the Epistle of James, we discover that it is written not in the Greek mindset; rather, it is written in the Hebew mindset. It has sixty different imperatives teaching us how faith and obedience work hand in hand in our relationship with God and with others. James is truly a portrait of faith.

*Series on the Epistle of James

Continue reading “James: A Portrait of Faith*”

Pray for Help

Silhouette of Unrecognizable Man Praying Outside
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Psalm 79:1-13

Our Nation has been under attack for generations. However, the attacks have intensified as of late with a bloodthirst to destroy all things that have to do with the God of the Bible. From fighting for LGBTQ rights to tearing statues down of our history, there is a rebellion against God of likes that I have never seen in my lifetime. We have a movement called “Black Lives Matter.” Tis true! Black lives do matter as much as brown lives or yellow lives or white lives or any other color of lives. However, the movement “Black Lives Matter” is a movement that was started by two lesbians who are against things of God and His Word and seek to destroy the very foundation–the true fabric of any Nation–the family (you can see what they truly believe here: https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/). They want to see the pattern established by God in Genesis 2 for the institution of the family first and foremost.

We ought not be surprised by these extremes today. The Bible prophecies of how in the end times things in this wicked world will be tumultous and there will be much persecution in the last days before Jesus Christ returns to take His people home to be with Him. But these thoughts have been in the minds of believers for generations. Every generation has thought that the end days were present in their days. It is true! It has been the end times ever since Jesus ascended into heaven to take His rightful place on His throne next to God Almighty. However, we also understand that these are days of God’s lovingkindnesses being expressed with every Gospel presentation–every Gospel conversation that is had by believers for the lost, the unsaved. But it is harder and harder to share the faith we have because of the fears that envelope us because of the persecution from others. Dear ones, we ought not be frightened but encouraged for Jesus even said that because of His very name we would face trials, tribulations, and persecutions. We will be fulfilling His Word as we continue to speak His name!

So with all the destruction and chaos that appears to be reigning, we, like Asaph in Psalm 73, are seeking help from God. We are asking Him for help because we need help in the face of all these things that are happening. This is the twin to Psalm 74 where the Temple and the City of Jerusalem have been destroyed most likely by Nebuchadnezzar. Asaph is bringing to remembrance “God’s inheritance” that He has given His people. Here in Psalm 79 is the completion of the destruction found in Psalm 74. It is a national lament and it is a cry for help from Almighty God.

Like Asaph, we should ask God to take care of those who try to devour us. 79:1-7

The nations who have come against God’s people have defiled the holy temple of God in Jerusalem. They have laid waste the city where God has dwelt with His people. They have taken their hatchets and hammers and torn away the gold and the silver from the temple and they have torn down walls and buildings throughout. They have killed God’s people and left their bodies in the open for the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the fields to devour. Life is not their concern; only destruction, death, and dedication to their false beliefs and idolatries. They have made a mockery of God’s people and His people are now a reproach to the nations. They are scoffed and people are put off by His people.

Asaph asks an interesting questions: “How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?” His people are being judged for their own sins. They have committed sins against Holy God and God has used His enemies to bring chastisement to His own people. But then Asaph calls upon God to turn His anger toward His enemies–the very enemies that are being used by God. They don’t know Him nor do they call upon His name as His own people do even in the midst of destruction and chaos. The reason? Because they have devoured God’s people and laid waste the place where God has dwelt with them.

Like Asaph, we should ask God to help us in our times of distress. 79:1-7

Because God’s people have sinned, Asaph asks God to forgive the sins of their forefathers and to show His compassion on he and his companions. Humbly they come to the throne of grace seeking this compassion. And the cry for help goes forth to God because He is the God of their salvation. While the nations are saying to Asaph and his people, “Where is your God?”, vengeance is in the hand of the Lord! The servants of God who have humbly sought His compassion, those whose groanings have been heard by Him, will see the greatness of His power preserve those who are doomed to die at the hands of His enemies. Now this seems contradictory: to be preserved and yet doomed to die. The reality is that there will be those who belong to the God Almighty who will face martyrdom for their belief in Him. However, they will be preserved for eternity in Him. And God’s vengeance, God’s judgment, will be brought against His enemies sevenfold and they will become a reproach to the Lord for their reproach of Him.

These are distressed times in which we find ourselves. There is so much going on around us that we sometimes don’t really know where to turn. But like Asaph leading his people, we ought to turn to the Lord. And as he finishes this psalm, we should say: “So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise.” We will continually sing the praises of God and tell of His excellent grace and mercy which He has shown to us. We will continue to give thanks to Him forever for the compassion He has shown to His people by forgiving us of our sins. We will pray for God’s help and He will answer us.

Praise be to the God of the Bible! Praise be to the God that hears us when we ask Him for help!

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The Hiccups, Snapping Belt and Apple Sauce Incident

applesauce
Source: https://healthyafterschool.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/applesauce.png

So my two-year-old has had the hiccups this afternoon ever since I arrived at home. We tried everything to help get rid of them. My wife scared him at dinner time and they seemed to stop for a few minutes. Then, after hiccuping for several more minutes, I told my wife that I had shown my two sons a trick with my belt. That’s right — a trick with my belt. You know the trick: you fold your belt and with both your hands you snap the belt together.

Anyways…back to the hiccups. My son, after eating his plate of food, was asked by my wife if he’d like to have some apple sauce. That’s right — some apple sauce. I decided, in the most cunning way I could devise, to get my belt from my room, come up behind my two-year-old and snap my belt to scare the hiccups away.

Well, what transpired next was totally unexpected. That’s right — totally unexpected. Apparently, if you happen to come behind a two-year-old who has the hiccups while he is putting his spoon in his apple sauce and you happen to snap a belt behind him to scare said hiccups away he will inadvertently sling apple sauce all over the place! That’s right — all over his neck meat, his shirt, his booster seat and the floor.

Now the moral of the story is this: stepping in apple sauce that you thought you cleaned up off the floor feels really gross between your toes if you happen to be barefooted. That’s right — barefooted.

P.S. My wife is still rolling her eyes at me…

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