Saturday, June 29, 2013

Important Info on Bikinis

Dear Christian sisters and mothers,

I love you all dearly and want you to be treated like ladies, to be treated like the precious jewels you are. I also want you to be able to showcase the glorious crafting that God has given you in a positive and edifying way. I also want you to display the lasting beauty of Christian virtues in all areas of your life. And since Christians, by definition, care about reflecting the glory of God in their lives, I'm sure you do too.

How you and I live and act and even what we wear has an impact on how others see us. In general, it is my understanding that ladies don't like being told what they should and shouldn't wear by a man. So, instead of me explaining why I don't think bikinis are godly swimming attire, I thought I would pass along this video that has a brief history of ladies' swimming attire and some findings of a study done at Princeton University related to bikinis. The info is presented by a woman and she has some sensitivity to what it is like for you.

The Godly Truth About Bikini's - FINALLY Someone Gets It! from sharethemessage on GodTube.

I hope you found this video helpful in understanding a little bit why there is wisdom in modesty. To put it bluntly, I hate it when men see women as objects and not as people. Any honest man can tell you that a bikini is not going to help him think of you as a person. I want all people to treat like a person. And yes, it is not right for the men to objectify you regardless of what you're wearing or not wearing. But while men are not exempted from their foolish misassociations of near naked women and objects, it doesn't seem appropriate to consider yourselves exempt from applying wisdom to what you wear in general. After all, to some extent men and women already do apply some amount of wisdom to what we wear all the time. If I'm going to a wedding, I apply wisdom to know that I will receive negative attention if I dress down and look like a slob. You know if you are going to a job interview to dress professionally, because if you don't they will think you are not really interested in the job or are not very professional. They may be wrong to think that, but they will and so we accommodate. That's wisdom. And I am urging the exercise of wisdom for all Christians in what we wear to the pool or the beach (i.e. male bikinis aren't any more modest).

More could be said about the sacredness of your bodies, which requires them to be treated as sacred not just by men, but by yourselves, but I think this will suffice for now.

With Much Brotherly Love in Christ,
Pastor Anthony

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Devotional Help: 1 John 2.3-11

1 John 2.3-11
3And by this we know that we know Him: if we would keep His commands. 4The person saying that “I know Him” and not keeping His commands is a liar and the truth is not in this person. 5But whoever keeps His word, truly in this person the love for God is completed, by this we know that we are in Him. 6The person who claims to stay in Him, just as That One walked, also this person ought to walk in that way.

7Loved ones, I’m not writing a new command to you, but an old command, which you’ve had from the beginning. The old command is the message, which you’ve heard. 8Moreover, I’m writing a new command to you, what is true in Him and in you, that the darkness is passing away and the True Light is already shining! 9The person claiming to be in the Light and hating his brother is still in the darkness now. 10The person loving his brother stays in the Light and there is nothing in him causing him to trip up. 11But the person who hates his brother is in the darkness and in the darkness he’s walking around and he doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness blinds his eyes.


1. All us, myself perhaps even more than most, have wondered. Do I know Jesus, or do I just know a bunch of stuff about Jesus. Is our relationship with Jesus real. John tells us how we can know if we don't really know Jesus. If we say we know Him, but don't do what He has commanded. We don't know Him. We are lying, first and foremost to ourselves, and then to those around us. "The Truth" (which is a way of saying a real relationship with the Truth, Jesus, based on faith and complete with correct doctrine) isn't in us if we say we know Jesus but act like we don't. The Truth refers to the Gospel message that we hold on to inside ourselves by faith, but the message also has commands in it, so that if we really hold onto the Truth, it changes the way we live, because we follow what it says. This shows that we really love God, which really shows us that we really know God. 

2. Loving God means doing what He says. If our love for God is complete, it compels us to obey His message by trusting in Christ our Eternal Life and following His lifestyle. The benefit of a love for God that spurs us to obey is that it shows us that we really know Him, that we are really deeply connected to Christ, that we are with Him. 

3. What should our lives look like if we have stayed with Jesus and not strayed from a close relationship with Him? Verse 6 tells us that our lives should look like Jesus' life. People should look at our lifestyles and look at Jesus' and see that we are living our lives just like He lived His, only in a different time period. 

4. There are two commands for John: the old one that we should already know was the message which we have already heard, which probably refers to the Gospel message, the Truth about Jesus and the command to follow Him. And the New One. Actually, I'm not sure what the new one is exactly. It is either "that the darkness is passing away and the True Light is already shining" in v.8 or "don't love the world or the things in the world" in v.15. The latter sounds way more like a command, but the explanation of the command in v.17 uses the same word for the word and its desires as  it does for the darkness in v.8. So perhaps the command  in v.15 and the statement in v.8 are connected somehow. In v.8, the statement surely has implications on how we live, but in v.15 perhaps John spells out the command behind the statement. I'm not quite sure, I'll have to keep thinking and praying about that. 

5. What is clear is that darkness is connected with hatred and shining light with love. Hating a fellow Christian shows that we are not really in the Light, because in fact it is the darkness that despises the light, the world that despises the Light, despises believers. 

6. The saddest thing is that the if we hate a fellow believer it means that we are in the darkness, that is, we are not with Jesus the Light. That means that just like people stumble around in the darkness not knowing where they are going, so too are those who hate their fellow believers. They are blinded by their own condition of being in the darkness. The saddest thing is that the person who is in the darkness doesn't even know. The person walking on the path of darkness doesn't even realize where that path leads. This is a strong and serious warning to us, we need to check our hearts for hate to see if we have been blinded. But if we have been, we can always come into the Light by faith in Christ and live His lifestyle. 


Abba, forgive me for not trusting you better and obeying completely! I know I've blown it, so please forgive me, because I haven't kept Your Word, Your Message perfectly. But I want to obey. I want to love You completely! I want to show You that I love You by obeying what Jesus has commanded! Abba, I am not sure what the second command is for sure, but I want to do it, so can you give me wisdom to understand what it is and how I can do it? Lord, I want my lifestyle to match Jesus' lifestyle, but I can't do it alone, so please help me! I want to walk in the True Light, and shine the True Light out of me. Take me further away from the darkness and unblind my eyes if they are blind! I confess that my hatred is more sinister, is more hidden, is more deep rooted. I hate people not with an active hatred, but usually with a passive hatred. A hatred that seeks to lift myself up, instead of lifting them up. I hate people I think usually by passing them by or by a cruel or prideful word. Lord, I know that my jokes are often perversely filled with pride and cruelty! Please forgive me! Lord, help me love my brothers and sisters in Jesus! Help me love You! In Jesus' Name, by Your Holy Spirit, I pray, for Your glory, Amen!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Devotional Help: 1 John 2.1-2

1 John 2.1-2

2.1My little children, I’m writing these things to you, so that you don’t sin. And if someone does sin, we have an Advocate to the Father, Jesus the Messiah, the Righteous One! 2And This Man is the propitiation for our sins, but not only for ours, but also for the whole world. 


1. It's simple, but John doesn't want us to sin. And that concern seems tied to his fatherly role in the lives of the believers he is writing too. He is writing out of love and concern for people that he thinks of as his children. He calls them little children, which probably sounded more endearing when he said it in Greek, than it does in English, much like in Spanish when endearing emotions can be communicated by saying "Mis hijitos" or "mis ninitos" instead of "mis hijos" or "mis ninos." The point is that he loves them and cares about them as a father. For me personally, this reminds me how much I need to love my spiritual children, and how important it is that I really communicate to them that I love them--so, any youth group student that reads this, know that I love you and care about you, and that is why I teach you.

2. Although the whole point is that John doesn't want us to sin, he still knows that Christians aren't perfect and need some amount of hope when they see all the failure and sin in their lives. I need that comfort as much as anyone else, and I am really thankful to God that I do have hope and comfort in my failure and sin. That comfort is that Jesus is backing me up. When I fail, He picks up the slack. He is the One to tells my Abba Father in Heaven that He has already taken my punishment and that I am clean and pure and holy because of His death and Resurrection! That He is my Righteousness! That my righteousness doesn't come from me! This is really important, because I always feel tempted to have to deserve my relationship with God or the grace He gives me, but because of Jesus I don't have to try to deserve it by not sinning, because I already deserve it in Jesus--because of all Who Jesus is and because of all He has already done, I am righteous, I do deserve my relationship with God. The most awesome thing is that I don't deserve my deservedness, but I have been given a right relationship with God based on Jesus' deservedness! Jesus ROCKS!!!

3. Propitiation means that Jesus took away all of God's anger against me and my sin and put it on Himself, but because He was so good and righteous and never did anything wrong, Jesus got rid of that anger. But it also means that He cleaned out the sin and evil in me, by His death on the Cross. Jesus dealt with my sin and now I can have a good relationship with God!

4. Advocate means that Jesus right now is with God the Father arguing on my behalf that God would forgive me, bless me, and use me, not because of what I am or have done, but because of Him and all that He has done! I don't have to worry about whether God likes me, because I know Jesus is convincing Him that He does and that because of what Jesus did, I am connected to His likability, which makes me likable! Awesome!

5. Now, that last part about Jesus being the propitiation for the whole world is weird. What does that mean? Because if Jesus is the propitiation for my sins, that makes me right with God, but is the whole world right with God because of Jesus' death? No, I don't think so. But it is interesting, because John doesn't say Jesus was the propitiation "for the sins of the whole world," but "for the whole world." That might not make that much difference, but it seems to point us away from thinking that everyone in the whole world is saved because of Jesus. It seems to mean that Jesus' death did something for the whole world, even if it didn't exactly get rid of the sin of the whole world. What is that something? Well, I think it is talking about how Jesus' death enables God to bless the whole world and not just blow it to smithereens. This is called the Doctrine of Common Grace, which is about how God can given good things to the whole world, even the people who don't trust in Jesus for eternal life. Common Grace means that God gives non-Christians a good life, happiness, children, hope, safety, and other blessings, as well as Christians, but this grace is only for this life. So Jesus' death is how God can give people good things now, even if He will send them to hell later, because they refused to trust in Christ for eternal life. It is awesome. I am so thankful for common grace. It is the reason why food tastes good, why people aren't as bad as they could be, why even non-Christians are able to love people, why clothes aren't always scratchy and ugly, and why people are able to invent cool things that improve the lives of others. Really all those things are because Jesus's death on the cross took away God's anger enough to allow Him the whole world, even those it doesn't love or obey or trust in Jesus.


Abba, protect me from the lie that I have to deserve anything on my own. Help me to depend of Jesus to deserve everything for me! Jesus, please convince our Father to bless me, forgive my sins, and use me, because You know that I've sinned big time and I deserve only endless punishment and pain! But Lord Jesus, I praise You, because in You I deserve the opposite of everything I otherwise would deserve! In You I deserve love, forgiveness, blessing, and joy! Thanks for dying on the cross and working on my behalf even now! Abba, thanks for common grace! Thanks so much that the world is not as bad as it could be! Thanks that Jesus' death was enough to allow for You to bless the whole world! Help me love my spiritual children and communicate to them that I love them, just like John did. Help me know how much my spiritual leaders love me and help me to be easy to love. And, Abba, You know that I don't want to sin, but I do. I sin I a lot! PLEASE FORGIVE ME BECAUSE JESUS IS MY PROPITIATION! Because of all He did, all that I've done has already been punished! So, Look at Jesus, and give me His blessings! Use me for Your glory and work, not because I deserve it, but because Jesus deserves it! Keep me from sin! Abba, I sin so much, and I don't even know what I am doing is sin, so make my sin clear to me and keep from the sins that I find so tempting! I don't want to sin against You, and John wrote this whole section so I wouldn't, so keep me from sin and empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live for You! In Jesus' Name I ask all these things, by Your Holy Spirit, Amen!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Devotional Help: 1 John 1.5-10

1 John 1.5-10

5And this is the message, which we’ve heard from Him and reported to you, namely that God is Light and not any darkness is in Him. 6If we would say that we have a share with Him, and we walk around in the darkness, we’re lying and don’t act out the truth. 7But if we would be walking around in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have a share with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleans us from all sin. 8If we would say that we don’t have sin, we’re fooling ourselves and the truth isn’t in us. 9But if we confess our sins, He is Faithful and Righteous, so that He would forgive the sins for us and would clean us from all unrighteousness. 10If we would say that we don’t sin, we’re making Him a liar, and His Message is not in us.


1. The main issue seems to be the Character of God and whether or not we reflect it in our lives. God is said to be Light, which means that Christians need to be characterized by Light. The antithesis of Light is darkness, so if a person is reflecting darkness, that suggests he/she is not connected to the Light. It's like if you put a mirror in a dark room with no light in it, it doesn't reflect anything but darkness, but if you put a mirror in the sun it reflects a brilliant beam of light. God being Light seems to be connected to His Character qualities. John mentions a few: Truth, Faithfulness, Righteousness, Cleanness, and Forgiveness. The question is am I reflecting those qualities, if not then I am reflecting darkness not God's Light. 

2. The interesting thing is that at the same time that John tells us to look at how we are living and make sure it is sin free, he tells us that if we claim it is sin free, then we are not in agreement with the truth of the matter, and reject God's character as True, and in effect call Him a liar. So, it looks like what John means is that real Christians are generally Godly people, who are constantly being cleaned out by God of all the sin in their lives, who when they find sin confess it and receive God's forgiveness and cleansing, but who are still NOT the kind of people who are more characterized by darkness and sin than Light. Real Christians are people who live like Jesus and live a life close to God, who's failures to live up to that standard are both cleaned away and humbly confessed and forgiven. Conversely, it is the arrogant person who refuses to either live a life in close fellowship with God in terms of his/her actions or admit the obvious and clear sin in their lives. I suppose this is the two sides of the sinful coin: a non-Christian can either live a sinful life and think that has no bearing on revealing whether they are with Jesus or not, or a non-Christian can arrogantly deny that he/she has any sin of his/her own. Non-Christians are really just in two different forms of self-deception. 

3. Interestingly, a deep connection with the Light that manifests itself in our lives, not only enables our relationship with God to flourish because of His constant cleansing, but it enables our relationship with others to flourish too. So I guess the question is when our relationships with other Christians aren't flourishing, is the problem that we are not a Christian, or are not living like a Christian should live? Are we deeply connected to Christ?


Abba, You and I both know how much of a horrible sinner I am. I sin everyday in more ways than I know! I don't always get along with others perfectly, forgive me! But thank You so much that You are faithful when I am not, and that You are righteous when I am not, and that You are True when I am not, and that You are Light that shines into my darkness! Thank You for cleaning out all the sin in my life and forgiving me! O Abba, how I long not just for Your forgiveness, but Your cleansing! Clean out my life and wipe the grime of the mirror of my life, so that it receives Your Light and beams it out to the other's around me! Oh, Abba, You know that I am always in danger of self-deception, so have mercy on me and protect me from it! Engrave truth into my being and don't let the horror of my sin keep me from confessing it to You and getting Your cleaning! I worship You, because You are the God of Light! and You Lord Jesus, are the One Whose blood was shed to cover my sins and clean me deep down! O that darkness would be far from me, and that I would be able to say without fear "I have a share with You!" In Jesus' Name, by the Holy Spirit, I pray for Your glory, Abba, Amen!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Devotional Help: 1 John 1.1-4

John 1.1-4
1What was from the beginning, what we’ve heard, what we’ve seen with our eyes, what we’ve looked and our hands have touched about the message of the life—2and the life was revealed, and we’ve seen it and we’re affirming and announcing to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us—3what we’ve see and heard, we’re announcing also to you, so that you also can have a share with us. But also our sharing with the Father and with His Son Jesus the Messiah. 4And we’re writing these things, so that our happiness would be filled up.


1. There is such a focus on the physical dimension of what John is reporting. He uses words for seeing 4x, words for hearing 2x, a word for touching the message 1 time. He seems to be trying to tell us and remind that he and the other apostles really did see and hear and even touch Jesus while He was here on earth. I think for myself, that it is so easy to forget how really real and physical Jesus was and is. Jesus is a man today, and has been one ever since He became a baby boy. Sometimes, I think of Jesus in a way that is too much like how I think about an idea. Sometimes we talk about Him like He is some ethereal being without a body, just some abstract floating soul we kind of know. But John is telling us that He is more than that. He is a man, I one point in human history you and I could see him, we could listen to His audible voice, his vocal cords would rattle the air and send the vibrations to our ears. If we had lived when John had lived in Israel, maybe we could have even touched Him, hugged Him, shook His hand, even rough housed with Him. Jesus is more than an idea, He is a Man, a Person with skin and bones! Ultimately, this message from is key to the Gospel message (v.2) and key to having a sharing of life with God the Father and Jesus the Messiah, the Father's Son. Our eternal life is bound up with knowing and believing that Jesus is really real, that He is Human, with a real body! Ultimately, this helps us interact with Him as a true person and not explicitly or implicitly deny what made us possible to have a relationship with God the Father, Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection! But since He is still physical, but not now on earth, there is a hope implied that one day we will see, hear, and touch Him again! 

2. Theologically, John makes a profound association in vv.1-2, and then again in vv.2-3. The first is that the life that is in the message of life is the life revealed by God, and it is life that was seen. This means that John is not talking about life as some abstract concept, but about a living being that can be see, and this life is called eternal life. It is eternal because this life I think is in view when John writes "what was from the beginning [of time]," i.e. Jesus. Jesus is Life, and He is Eternal Life, because He lives forever. That is to say, that the eternal life that John is affirming and announcing to us is not something abstract, but actually Jesus the Messiah Who lives forever, Who is Eternal Life. This is made even clearer, because John says This Life was with the Father, which is a way of affirming that Jesus is God, that He is in relationship with God, that is that This Life has to be a person.  But that means that in v.3 just as in v.1 and v.2 the thing that is being seen and heard and reported is not the message about how to live forever, per se, but Jesus Himself, and that if we have Jesus and believe the message about Him, we get have a share of Jesus, and Jesus is the Life, which means that we live forever, because we have Eternal Life, which we have because we are with THE ETERNAL LIFE, JESUS THE MESSIAH! Dude, it's epic! Our eternal life cannot be thought about as something abstract that we can have apart from Jesus, but is another way of saying that we have Jesus Himself and share in all that He is, which is Life, which means that we can live forever. In a way, to overstate it, eternal life is not something we have, its something we share, because really all we have is Jesus, but having Him enables us to share in all that He is! My mind is so blown by how much our life is connect to Jesus! Jesus is ETERNAL LIFE! And since Jesus is with the Father, our sharing in Jesus gives us a share of the Father! That is what we share! We don't just have a share in a message, but a share in God the Holy Trinity as a whole via the Person of Jesus the Messiah! 

3. Lastly, this message, John wrote so that the apostles could be happy. This means, and I can say it's true as a pastor, that seeing fellow Christians truly enjoying all that Jesus the Messiah is and connects them to, that is truly enjoying their new life, is a huge blessing that makes us happy. This means one way I can give joy to others is by being a more mature Christian that embraces more and more of the Life that Jesus is for us! But I can also combat discouragement or sorrow by thinking of how my brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing Eternal Life in Jesus, and how that Eternal Life is growing into their lives! I can also be fueled to be happy by seeing people trusting in Christ Jesus for eternal life, but that probably means I will need to be actively trying to bring the message of Eternal Life, i.e. Jesus to people who don't yet have Him. 

Abba, thanks for refreshing my soul with Your Word today. It was great! You blew my mind! The reality of Jesus and His being human is so much fresher and sharper in my soul! Forgive me for thinking too conceptually and not honoring all that Christ is in my heart all the time! The theological insight into the true nature of Eternal Life, which in some ways I already knew, You made come alive to me! It rocks! What is eternal life, it is not an abstract reality or a state of being, rather it is Jesus the Messiah and all that He is and having a share in Him! O Lord, make my happiness complete both by using me to reach unbelievers with the Message of Life, but also by helping my fellow believers to grow up in their relationship with You through Christ! Finally, Abba, please grow me up, so that my Eternal Life in Jesus can give joy to my brothers and sisters in Christ! In Jesus' Name, by Your Spirit I pray for Your glory, Amen. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Devotional Help, Part 2: Pointers

But let's assume you and I are already working on having the desire and making the time already (for pointers on making time check out Part 1), but that now we need to know what to do once we are having devotions. Basically at the heart of devotions is our relationship with Yahweh (God's first Name), the Holy Trinity. Relationships are based on interactions between people; and healthy relationships are based on honest and natural interactions between people. But like any relationship there is a "getting to know the other person" period, and during that time we figure out how we interact with that person's personality and interests. Well, it is not really different when we come to God. And just like it may feel a bit awkward during that "get to know you" stage, when we first start interacting with God, it can feel bit weird, because we are still trying to figure out how we hang out with Him most naturally. So, if it feels a little odd at first, don't freak out, just keep hanging out with God, and sooner or later the conversation will not just be smooth and natural, but the most brutally honest and refreshing conversation ever. Prayer and Scripture study can become things that take time, but just like when you're chill'n with your best friend, the time flies by.

"Ok, great, but what am I supposed to do during devotions/quiet time?" That's a good question. Well, at the core I think there seems to be two parts: 1) prayer and 2) Bible study. However, sometimes other things can be added, and not all of them are very quiet, which is why I think I prefer the term "devotions." Sometimes while I'm talking with God or chill'n in His Presence, I sing, other times I almost preach to myself, Other times I dance (and thankfully God is not a harsh critic when it comes to my pathetic dancing ability). Sometimes I will compose poetry, sometimes I write music. Other times I just play the guitar. Sometimes I think through or study important issues, doctrines, or application (although usually this takes place more in the context of a dialogue with God, but sometimes to talk to Him intelligently about it, I need to study up a bit first). Other times I'll clap my hands. Sometimes I will go without food or water. Sometimes I'll draw. Sometimes I'll listen to sermons. Just like when we hang out with our friends from school or work or our family, we do different things at different times, but at the core of what we do is that we have a relationship with the other person/people and that we are listening to them and communicating with them. In the same way, the core parts of devotions/quiet times are prayer and Bible study, to which we can add some other enjoyable acts of worship.

"Great, but I still don't know how to pray or study the Bible." You're right, so here are some pointers to get you started in the right direction.

     1. Be honest with God, don't try to fancy up the words and make it sound you're speaking super-formal English. God already knows what you're thinking and feeling anyways, so lying isn't going to work, and making your words sound like their not coming from your heart is not really what God is after. It would be hard to make friends with someone if they only spoke in the most formal English. If you're sad, it's not going to do much good to pretend to be happy while you're talking with God, since God knows you're miserable and wants to talk with you about it. Just like when your friend has a problem and they pretend like they don't and they won't talk about--doesn't that drive you crazy? Well, God already knows your problem(s), and like a good friend He wants to talk about them with you and help you with them.

    2. Trying to talk about what God has done and how Awesome He is can be a good place to start, because whenever we really are thankful for something or are really impressed by someone, we talk pretty freely and naturally. If you can talk for 15 minutes about how awesome that one movie was, or how awesome a dress you found for prom, or how awesome that basketball game was, or how cute your kids are, you can probably talk for 10+ minutes about how awesome the Holy Trinity to the Holy Trinity, God doesn't feel awkward when praise Him, and neither do we if we are truly impressed with Him (of course if you're not really impressed by Who He is and what He's done, that's a much bigger problem).

     3. Ask for what you need, ask a lot, ask for crazy things. Pretty much all the recorded prayers we have in the New Testament involve some kind of asking, and the one's that don't have it are usually directed at God for having answered prayer or having done something awesome that is worthy of celebrating and praising. It's not selfish to ask, because God is not limited in how much He can give you and He has asked you to ask.

Bible Study
     1. Pray!!! Ask God to reveal Himself and His will to you as you read His Word. He always will. This is the first and most important step, because I Corinthians makes it clear that we can't understand Spiritual things without the Holy Spirit working in us to make us understand it. Also, confess your sins, chose to obey instead, and receive God's forgiveness,  because sins often cloud what God is saying to us. Repentance will open the door more widely for the message of God to take root in our souls.

     2. Take your time!!! The number one reason people often don't get anything out of their Bible study is that they don't take the time to chew and digest what they've read. Someone may ask, "I read it once, it took five minutes, but I didn't get anything out of it." To which I say, since when have you ever read something just  once, or spent only five minutes on anything and then reaped life-changing benefit and refreshment from that one read or those five minutes? I'm sure you might suggest a couple times, but I think we will all agree that usually that is not how we are impacted by what we read or by how we spent those 5 minutes. And to be sure, the Bible is not like other things, other books, so because it is alive and active it is not too uncommon to be impacted drastically by one read through or five minutes of study. But I might suggest that the true richness of the word takes more time. Reading the Bible is more like marinating some meat than adding salt to potatoes. Sure adding some salt to the meat has a drastic effect sometimes on taste, but it never comes close to the impact that a good amount of time in some marinade can have on a piece of meat. If you want really tasty and satisfying devotions, give yourself the time to take it in and let it marinate your soul. Sure a quick dash of salt will help and make a difference, but if you want to taste like Jesus, it's better to have some Jesus salt and a long bath in Jesus marinade.

     3. Read it, think about it, and pray about it over and over and over again, until the Holy Spirit makes something click. This is more just telling you more specifically a possible process for achieving #1. When I was in high school, and really to this day, I would read a passage over and over and over until the Holy Spirit spoke to me or opened my mind to something in the passage, sometimes that took longer, other times it was shorter. But I just kept on reading it, thinking about, praying through it over and over, until the Holy Spirit did His work. To some degree, this is even how I figure out what to preach in my sermons. I study the passage deeply, till something clicks and the Holy Spirit gives me insight into what my audience needs to hear from the passage.

     4. Trust God to speak to you through the Word. Sometimes we forget how much our attitude and heart is important to our pursuit of God. Some people probably don't get anything out of their Bible study, mainly because they don't think God will really speak to them, and to some degree or another all of us are guilty of this. So trust that God will speak to you by His Spirit through the Word because of Jesus.

    5. Don't get stuck because you don't understand. To be sure, we need to read and wrestle with understanding the really hard passages in the Bible (and there are some), but sometimes, especially if we haven't read all the way through the Bible ever or recently, we need to just keep reading and not get too hung up on it, trusting that God will help us get it sooner or later. The truth is that the Bible is really good at answering our questions anyways, so the chances are if we really read and study enough of it, our question will get answered sooner or later any way. But it is a good idea to write those questions down so you can keep thinking about them as you continue to read and study the Bible.

     6. Read the WHOLE context. We are very likely to drastically misunderstand what God is trying to tell us in His Word, if we only read one verse here and another over there, or if we only read part of the story or part of the argument. Try to read the whole section, because it will help it make more sense and it less likely that you will misunderstand.

     7. Always be asking questions about what you are studying like "what reasons does the passage give for what it is arguing?" or "who is the main character in this story" or "what would this look like if it happened today?"

     8. Always be looking for applications or implications of what you have studied and prayed through in you're everyday life. Ask yourself, "How does this change how I think, feel, or act?" or "What would this look like in x situation?"

There are more tips that could be given, but this should be enough to get us started.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Devotional Help, Part 1: Making the Time

Sometimes having good Quiet Times or Devotions can be a challenge. Of course the half the challenge is the desire and making the time. I feel like my you and I both have some desire to have devotions and have some ideas on making the time, so tomorrow I will focus most of my comments on what to do once we've finally relied on the Holy Spirit and applied some self-control to how we manage our time and schedules. I will be the first to admit that I have wasted hours either gaming or watching TV or youtube when I could taken at least some of that time and put it to good use by pursing God in prayer and Bible Study. But at any rate here are a couple of tips on making sure you have devotions:
     1. Pick a consistent time (it doesn't have to be at 9am sharp, because that is probably not realistic, but it can be something like, before I have breakfast, or right after dinner, [right before bed is usually not a good idea, but it is better than nothing if you've had a busy day, or if you're a night owl]). 
     2. Pick something to make contingent on having had devotions (for a few years I tried not to eat until after I had had my devotions [for me at least, hunger is a good motivator, but if you struggle with anorexia or bulemia or similar temptations I strongly suggest that you DON'T MAKE EATING CONTINGENT ON DEVOTIONS], but it could something like facebook or a shower or gaming or putting on makeup or whatever). 
     3. Pick a lifestyle or typical schedule that has time for devotions built in (so if you want to have them in the morning, that may mean going to bed earlier or making breakfast shorter, or if you want to have them in the evening it may mean working on homework, chores, or other household duties when you get home right away). 
    4. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, ask the Holy Spirit to help you in faith, and He will!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Faith that Works Doesn't Discriminate (James 2.1-13)

Scripture: James 2.1-13
Translation: 2.1My brothers, don’t hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partialities. 2For if a man with gold fingers would come into your synagogue in shining-white clothes, but also a poor man would come in filthy clothes, 3And you would look on the one wearing the shining-white clothes and would say, “You, sit here in a good spot” and to the poor man you would say “You stand or sit there under my footrest.” 4Then aren’t you being discriminated among yourselves and haven’t you become judges of with wicked thought-processes? 5Listen up, my loved brothers, didn’t God pick for Himself the poor in/with regard to the world as rich in faith and inheritors of the kingdom, which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you yourselves dishonor the poor person! Aren’t the rich people exploiting you and aren’t they themselves dragging you into court? 7Aren’t they blaspheming the Good Name that was called on us? 8If, however, you fulfill royal law according to the Scripture: “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” you act in a good way. 9But if you act with partiality, you commit sin, being exposed by the Law as violators, 10because whoever would keep the whole law, but would trip up on one part, he is in a state of having become guilty of all of them! 11For the one who says, “You will not commit adultery” also said “You will not murder.” And if you don’t commit adultery, but you do murder, you are in the state of having become a violator of the Law. 12So speak in this way and act in this way: as those who are about to be judged through the law of freedom! 13For the judgment was merciless against the one not showing mercy! Mercy boasts against judgment!

The Point I’m Stressing: We need to love absolutely everyone else so much that we don’t show favoritism to some and/or discriminate against others, if we truly have living faith that works!

1.      Structure
a.       Section One: NO Partialities/Discrimination (vv.1-4)
                                                              i.      Instruction: Don’t show partiality/discriminate
                                                            ii.      Example: giving the rich man a good seat and the poor man no seat
                                                          iii.      Implication: You’re discriminating and judging with wicked reasoning
b.      Section Two: Rhetorical Questions to Show the Foolishness of Partiality/Discrimination (vv.5-7)
                                                              i.      Question: God picked poor people to have faith and inheritance in the Kingdom
                                                            ii.      Exclamation: You dishonor the poor person
                                                          iii.      Question: The rich people are the ones cause you trouble?
                                                          iv.      Question: The rich people are the ones blaspheming the name given to us
c.       Section Three: Partiality/Discrimination in Light of Scripture, Answering the Objection “We don’t do the really bad stuff, or other bad stuff, just this, so it’s no big deal” (vv.8-13)
                                                              i.      Positive Statement of the Thesis: If you do what the Bible says, you do what’s good.
                                                            ii.      Negative Statement of the Thesis: If you don’t do what the Bible says, you’ve broken the Scriptural Law
                                                          iii.      Explanation: You can keep part of a law and say I’ve kept the law: the Law is a whole
                                                          iv.      Example: You can’t say “I keep the law, I don’t commit adultery,” if you’ve killed someone, because that’s part of the law too
                                                            v.      Resolution: Act like you are about to be judged by the Law of Freedom (that is, our new relationship to the Scriptural Law in Christ), i.e. quit discriminating
                                                          vi.      Motivation: You’ll get no mercy if you don’t give any, but mercy is better and beats judgment (so don’t fear judgment if God has shown you mercy, which means you will be showing mercy to others)
2.      Themes
a.       Partiality/Discrimination
                                                              i.      This is the main theme of the passage.
                                                            ii.      Key words
1.      προσωπολημψια = partiality, favoritism, (v.1)
2.      προσωπολψμπτεω = to play favorites, show partiality (v.9)
3.      διακρινω = to discriminate, make distinctions (v.4)
                                                          iii.      the issue here in showing partiality is treating one group of people or one person better than others, giving them especially better treatment, but often to the detriment of or at the expense of the other group(s).
                                                          iv.      this is something that can creep into our faith, and it is possible to be a Christian and slip into this, but we must seek not to let it creep in. in fact, we cannot hold on tightly to our faith and hold on to partiality, in part because that partiality is conferred most often out of a lack of faith in God. In the example James uses, the reason that one would suck up to the rich guy and give him extra respect is in part due to his likely high status in the society, but often also out of a fear of what he could do or a need of his financial support. Thus, at the heart, we would be pulled away from equality and love towards one another mainly because we don’t trust God to either protect or provide for us or give us what is best for us.
                                                            v.      At the heart of discrimination, is judging one person or group to be different or distinct from the others, even more it is judging one person or group or class of people as better than others, and thus also one group as worse or unimportant
                                                          vi.      So while partiality focuses on the increased status and honor given to one group, discrimination looks more at how the groups are treated differently, but really they are talking about the same thing
                                                        vii.      The author calls partiality/discrimination sin that violates the command to love our neighbor like we love ourselves, so really at the heart of partiality and discrimination is not just a lack of faith, but a lack of love, a failure to love others as much as we love ourselves. And since that principle applies to every other person equally, we can’t be extra loving to one guy and unloving to another guy
b.      Rich vs. poor
                                                              i.      This is a theme that runs through the book, it was introduced in chapter 1, and here it pops back up as the main area in which the partiality and discrimination was taking place, people in the churches James is writing to seem to have been favoring the rich people and dishonoring the poor people.
                                                            ii.      This may have been just in how they were treating them when gathering for worship, but it also may have been happening when they were gathering to adjudicate disputes (it seems that there is a lot of evidence on both sides, but in both cases it would be a gathering of the church, which I think is the core issue: how are Christians treating each other when they gather)
                                                          iii.      The author explains that God has picked the poor to be rich in faith but poor as far as the world is concerned. But He picked them not just to be rich in faith (which seems to mean that He picked them to be the people who would be forced to, or more practiced at, or more given to trusting Him more and more, so that they would be the people who have LOTS of faith), but to be rich in the future, which is the implication of inheritors of the kingdom, because inheriting the kingdom will mean inheriting eternal life, but also all the riches that come with that kingdom, and those riches will never end. The end result is that the poor are actually the people who are the most rich, because they are rich now in faith, and will be rich later in the kingdom.
                                                          iv.      The characterization of the wicked however is that they are exploitive, litigious, and blasphemous. Whether the rich in view are Christians or not is debatable, but perhaps not, it may be that the churches who were so poor were trying to suck up to the rich people, so they might convert and the Christians be better off, but it may also be that they are rich Christians that they are trying to convince to finance something, and they may be doing this by the way they are treating them in these adjudication meetings
c.       Wisdom
                                                              i.      While the word wisdom is not used here, the argumentation style in vv.5-7, especially 6-7, is very similar to something you would see in the Book of Proverbs or other wisdom books. The point is that it is not very wise to favor the rich and dishonor the poor, because God actually favors the poor, and the rich often dishonor the poor and God, because God values and chose the poor
                                                            ii.      Also, favoring the rich doesn’t make much sense, especially at adjudication meetings, because it is the rich who are the ones usually making trouble for people and Christians, it is usually the rich who exploit people, not the poor, and it is usually the rich who drag people to court, not the poor, and it is usually the rich who mock Christ and Christians
                                                          iii.      It’s just stupid to favor the rich people if they are usually the source of your problems
d.      Law
                                                              i.      James says the heart of the problem of partiality/discrimination is that it violates the command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
                                                            ii.      James also makes the point that it is not valid to defend one’s violation of the Law of Moses by saying that you’ve kept another part. He really argues on the basis that the Law in the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy) is a whole. His argument only works if all the sections are connected. So if you break one part, you’ve become guilty of breaking the whole thing. it’s like if you break link on the bike chain, you’ve broke the bike chain as a whole, not just one link. Since you’ve violated the thing as a whole, it’s almost like you violated all of the commands
e.       Judging
                                                              i.      The idea comes in key words διακρινω (v.4), κριτηρια (v.6), κρινω (v.12), and κρισις (v.13[2x])
                                                            ii.      Discrimination is one form of judging, and it may be form of withholding mercy from people
                                                          iii.      And it may be in the judicial realm that some of the discriminating judging takes place.
                                                          iv.      The judging will also come at the end of time when God will evaluate our actions
                                                            v.      judging is powerful, but it is not as good as mercy
                                                          vi.      judging in the sense of evaluating the true nature of things also seems to occur now, we are right now able to be evaluated by the Scripture, and the rest of chapter two indicates that we can be evaluated now on how alive our faith is bases on how full it is with the works that Scripture requires
f.       Actions
                                                              i.      Faith and actions go hand in hand
                                                            ii.      This theme is sort like the glue that holds a lot of this section together, or more accurately the understanding that what we do actually matters is the foundation that a lot of this is built off of
                                                          iii.      How we treat people matters
                                                          iv.      We will be evaluated one day based off what we do and have done and what we don’t do and haven’t done
                                                            v.      We can also evaluate ourselves based off how we are acting and what our actions are saying, and these can give us an indication of how alive our faith really is.
                                                          vi.      This theme of actions is related to faith in 2.14-26
3.      Doctrines
a.       The Final Judgment: One Day God will evaluate us on what we have done and not done to determine the amount of rewards we will get if we have trusted in Christ
b.      Salvation by Faith alone, but faith that flows out to the appropriate actions, trying to hold faith in Christ Jesus together with ungodly actions should be done and doesn’t work
c.       The Church is not a place of favoritism/partiality or discrimination, but of genuine love for absolutely everyone, and a love for everyone that even goes beyond other Christians to other people in general
d.      God Absolutely Sovereign, in total control of absolutely everything, including how much faith people have and how they get that faith and the general circumstances of our lives
e.       The Law is One Complete Entity, it is not divisible, so it must be obeyed in full, but our relationship to the Law is one of freedom, where Jesus has done all the Law wants for us and has empowered us by His Holy Spirit to naturally and more easily live out the core message of the Law, so that it can be for us not a Law of slavery to rules, but a Law of Freedom to live for God
4.      Notes
a.       How can God be the God of Antidiscrimination/Favoritism and save by Grace, which is at the core of things, Him favoring some people and not others?
                                                              i.      God doesn’t discriminate or show favoritism, which is actually why Jesus had to die for our sins, because otherwise God would have to give us what we deserve,
                                                            ii.      but He also shows that He is not the God of Discrimination or favoritism in that the access we have to Him in Christ by the Holy Spirit is not by means of any superior value in us or what we do, but by faith in Christ by the Spirit according to His Will.
                                                          iii.      Of course, the irony is that God doesn’t play favorites based on our works or discrepancy of value, precisely so that He can play favorites for the people He loves without Discrimination, the people He loves because He loves them and not because they are better than others or can do more for God than others.
                                                          iv.      How direct is His Grace! He loved us because He loved us
                                                            v.      because He created us, each person could be whatever He wanted them to be, He chose our destinies, so there can be no discrimination, only Grace, only pure and loving favoritism (because God made some people to love and some to not love as much, but the decision was made by Him and His Love, not on any distinction in persons, because we didn’t yet exist, and He could make each person for whatever purpose He wanted)
                                                          vi.      also, note when God plays favorites it is different from when we do it. We do it based on outside criteria, and what people can do to us or for us. We think this person is better or worse, but God says, “This person isn’t better than another, but I do love him/her!”
                                                        vii.      also, if God had discriminated against us, He wouldn’t have sent His son, because none of us would have been good enough to deserve to have Jesus die for us!

1.      Bluntly stated the main point of the passage is that for us who truly trust in Christ for eternal life, there must be no discrimination:
a.       No Ethnic/Racial Discrimination
b.      No Cultural Discrimination
c.       No Generational Discrimination
d.      No Lingual Discrimination
e.       No Intellectual Discrimination
f.       No Discrimination based on the kinds of sins people struggle with
g.      No Socio-Economic Discrimination
2.      Often times the people we favor are the ones who cause us the most trouble, not the people we devalue, disfavor, or dislike
3.      The end point is that we truly and fully love people
a.       This means that we can’t be arrogant or selfish with the Gospel, because keeping it to ourselves is actually a way of saying, they are not important enough to give it, they aren’t worth suffering for.
b.      This includes how we treat our parents, spouses, children, etc.
                                                              i.      We can discriminate against our parents by not showing love to our parents, which is in the same vein as discriminating against the poor, only worse because they are our parents
4.      The tendency in our personal relationships is to discriminate against the person, to say like that we are better than them with our actions. This is especially true with people we don’t know well, but also with our friends and family, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, but this often happens in ways that aren’t obvious
5.      Do we give justice to people?
a.       When there is an issue between people, do we side with the one we want to like us or the people that can help us do something?
b.      Are we fair to each other in general?
6.      Sometimes we discriminate inadvertently, no because we have the wrong attitude or aren’t pursuing to integrate people into our community and love people, but because we don't know ourselves well enough, and so we are blind to certain areas and impressions and barriers that could be there that we can’t see. So we must too at ourselves and know the impression we would give off and compensate, which doesn’t always mean changing those features (sometimes they can’t be changed), but it does mean working against their effects when necessary.

a.       For example, I know a church that is full of very smart people, who are loving and seek to integrate people in general, but what if someone came to that church who hadn’t finished high school. That person might feel very uncomfortable when surrounded by all those people who are in college or finished with college. The church wouldn’t mean to discriminate that person who didn’t finish high school, but they might do so in effect, because all the members will assume the person finished high school and they may not know what to talk about with that person. If they talk about all that they are learning or achieving academically, how do you think that will make that visitor feel?