“It’s complicated.” Modern man, who has largely discarded God’s standards in all things, often describes his relationships in this manner. The Christian’s relationship with the world is not complicated, that is, it is not difficult to discern, but it does have several facets that deserve attention.
I. Destruction of the world
Christians must always remember that the physical, material world will be destroyed, when Christ comes again. If we are merely cursory Bible readers, chapter 3 of 2 Peter, among other passages, still reminds us powerfully. Continue reading “The world and the Christian”
When we only emphasise certain aspects of Jesus’ teaching, we often find something he said that does not agree with the conclusions we have reached. We often tell people about the peace that Jesus came to bring – in fact, was it not announced at his birth? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” the angels proclaimed to the shepherds (Luke 2:14 NET). Jesus came to bring peace and he wants his people to be characterised by peace (James 3:13-18). But then we find something that doesn’t sound quite right. Continue reading “Loving Jesus”
As James looked out over the congregations of his day, did he perceive the need to address a particular problem? Commentators generally regard his original readers as being largely poor Jewish Christians. However, might there be more? Continue reading “A background for James?”
Some scriptures tend to be more popular than others. Often these verses are memorized and are characterized by offering us hope and relief. Among these popular texts, Paul’s letter from prison to the Philippians contains a number of texts that stand tall offering comfort and inspiration.
“In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12,13).
Paul’s secret can be ours. A deep satisfying contentment can be ours. Real freedom from crushing situational distress exists. They need not rule our lives nor how we evaluate our lives. However, all of this comes at a price. Continue reading “Whether through difficulty or ease”
My wife and I are foster parents. I recently realized that after raising our own daughters and serving as a preacher for twenty years, I might have a chance of handling one of the most challenging aspects of such a position.
How can we help blend a group of unrelated young girls into a family? Girls are constantly shifting, building and destroying alliances. Hurts simmer and perceived slights rage. The battlefield can be very complicated. Continue reading “Adults do fight just like children”
The hummingbirds gave me quite a show one morning with their quarrel over the cardinal vine on my garden arch.
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3, NASB).
I watched these female ruby-throated hummingbirds and admired the incredible design that allowed them such skill in flight. All the while I felt a little dismayed that these pretty little birds were so greedy. No wonder I stay away from Black Friday sales!
People are not so different from these tiny birds, who were fighting over two vines in the garden about fifteen feet apart, with a filled hummingbird feeder between them! They flitted from one vine to another, and even went for the feeder – chirping, fighting, wings humming loudly as they performed their amazing acrobatics.
It seems sometimes that when people are not quarreling with one another, or flitting around in the pursuit of an elusive happiness, we seem to be asking God for things for our pleasure, as the scripture warns against.
There has been a lot of attention lately on the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. For the life of me, I see little difference between them and my little feathered garden occupants. Whether or not there are some legitimate complaints, it saddens me to see so much emphasis on covetousness of other people’s money or good fortune. “You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”
The reason why we “cannot obtain” is irrelevant; whether by unfairness or by circumstances or by our own actions. We can and should address wrongs, but fighting and quarreling is not in the Christian’s game plan. Quarreling is condemned here by James without any regard to the reason for the inability to obtain, or why we can’t get ahead.
These birds would not have gone without sustenance. There was plenty of syrup in the feeder and flowers all around. In fact, hummingbirds do not live on nectar or sugar water for survival. They simply use the high-sugar nectar as quick energy to get their real nourishment, which is flying insects. These little birds spent more energy fighting than they would have taken in from the food!
Similarly, we crave things with the wrong motives, to spend it on our pleasures. Yes, we want the sweetness of the good life here on earth, the stuff that our neighbors and friends have, not the real food that is contained in God’s Word.
We ask for things, not for talents to use for God’s work.
We crave money, not opportunities for service. While we need money and possessions as a means to live and work for God, that’s not what is meant to sustain us. Jesus, in his answer to the disciples after talking to the woman at the well, revealed what really nourished him. “I have food that you do not know about” (John 4:32). Service to God nourished our Savior!
Getting our motives in line with God’s will would go a long way toward making us happy with our short journey on earth and will help us get our prayers answered.
God gives us everything we need. There is no need for greed.
by Barry Newton
How is a citizen of heaven supposed to act when confronted by antagonistic opponents? This is what the Philippian Christians needed to consider. Their answer appeared one Sunday during a worship service as the letter Epaphroditus had carried from Paul was read aloud to their beleaguered church.
Paul’s words likely provided a momentary reprieve from their own self-absorbed thoughts. For when opposition arises, people commonly focus upon their own well-being while mentally rehearsing recently suffered assaults. Grumbling replaces rejoicing. Tension and defensiveness displace love.
As the congregation listened to words from their friend, an amazing message unfolded. Their minds were transported to envision Paul in shackles far away. Although others were actively working for Paul’s demise by making sure that those in that distant city correctly understood the gospel he proclaimed, imprisoned Paul was rejoicing? The apostle explained his reasoning.
He was consumed with a focus which soared above his own circumstances. A singular goal shaped his drive and concerns. What mattered to him was whether the gospel was being preached and Christ was being served. Period.
As Paul dictated, his amanuensis’ pen plunged forward to reveal Paul had not always lived this way. In running the race of Judaism, Paul had garnered extensive laurels.
Nevertheless, all those sources of confidence in the flesh now lay abandoned and forgotten. He had been captivated by a new mindset, a mature perspective which also needed to penetrate the church at Philippi.
Paul’s concerns over matters of the flesh had given way to a new security, a new hope and a new way to live. Christ had seized upon him to enter the Christian marathon. In this race, since Christ had already provided the necessary righteousness as well as the hope for a future resurrection, Paul’s task involved reaching out for what lay ahead. To run in such a marathon, the Christian’s life involves living up to what has been provided, namely living as a citizen of heaven.
So how is a citizen of heaven supposed to act when confronted by antagonistic opponents?
Paul’s own imprisonment provided a flesh and blood example of the mature perspective he now proclaimed. While living engulfed among many who were antagonistic to the ways of Christ crucified, they should also forget about dwelling upon those things which were behind or focusing on earthly matters.
They too should not be mired down with pursuing a race built on the flesh, but plunge forward in living up to their heavenly citizenship in view of Christ’s coming transformative power.
How the apostle responded to his chains was amazing. It provided a lifestyle pattern to be imitated. Christ seeks to create an amazing story out of his followers’ lives.