The Order James Gave

I recently studied through the book of James, filling up pages of notes. Obviously the general message of the book of James is to be not only hearers of the Word, but “doers” of the Word. James demands action from a comfortable, satisfied church.

Although this was the common theme, there was one concept – from the last two verses of the book – that struck me.

“Bretheren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” - James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

I would first like to stress that there is only one truth. This is easily proven through the fact that James here spoke of “the truth“, which is singular. If there is truth, there are many things that are not truth. 

We live in a time when the gospel has been perverted so many ways that it’s like picking your favorite candy at Candy Craze. What ever you like is what you can have. The problem here is that anyone who is looking for the flavor that is their favorite, or the flavor that they are comfortable with is dead wrong. This is not the approach to God that we are to take. We have to humbly approach the throne of grace. There are not “many” truths, or “many ways of making it to heaven”, as many would have us believe. You see, there is one God. And He has one plan. (Ephesians 4:4-6) Why would God throw fifteen different plans for salvation out to us? He wouldn’t make out different plans for us to follow. He wouldn’t make “The Easy Way”, “The Honorable Way”, “The Hard Way”, and “The Slip-on-a-banana-peel-into-heaven Way”, so that we could choose. No, there is one truth. One way. 

And although this is so very obvious, many have strayed from the truth. Whether it be trinitarianism, charismatic, etc., there are many false truths that people are falling into.

I have dear friends who have fallen into wrong doctrine. It saddens me. It brings tears to my eyes in prayer when I think about the fact that there is one truth, and they are not in it. 

But James has a message for people like you and I. Those people we know who are outside of the truth… they are as lost as the common sinner. Their soul is headed for death (James 5:20). And we can’t stand by, looking to witness to everyone else but them. We have to be ready to expose them again to this pure, wonderful, only truth. It is what they need. 

I thought for a while that this was an odd place to end the book of James. It seems like there should be a whole lot more content, and then an ending that is something like, “With love, brothers and sisters in Christ, James, servant of the Lord.” But it doesn’t end like that. This is a commission. It’s like saying, “Go do this! NOW!” 

We have to be reaching out to those who have walked outside of the safe walls of the truth. That person that you think about from time to time in prayer, praying that God will bring them back… the actions you take to witness to them are strides to save their soul from death. 

A Word Concerning “Life of Pi”

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I recently took the chance to sit and watch the highly-rated, award-winning film, Life of Pi. In fact, I watched it twice. There are some movies that take a second look to truly understand the meaning and point that is trying to be made. This was certainly one of them. 

What interested me the most about this movie (aside from the fact that it sounded like a very exciting epic story) was that I heard it dealt primarily with the concept of God. Being a very culturally influential film, I figured that it would be good for a minister to understand what message about God is being thickly spread across America.

So the first time I watched it, I saw the storyline as thrilling and spectacular. When I got to the end and tried to sort out the meaning of it (the main character lightly explaining his beliefs on God), I thought, “Hmm, this is a little confusing, but it seems that he is trying to convey that life is better with God in it. Well that’s good.” So I decided to watch a second time, paying attention to the most important parts so that I could get the best understanding of what was being said. And this time it became very clear to me. 

The ultimate point that Life of Pi attempts to make concerning God is this: the ultimate reason that people should believe in God is that it gives your life a kind of hope to an afterlife and positive days throughout your life. And for this reason, although I enjoyed the story, I do not endorse and in fact promote that you avoid this movie.

I completely disagree with this form of philosophy. You do not serve God because it makes your life better, because it gives you hope, or because you will live your life happier. Although theses are all great things, they are only icing on a greater cake. The fact that He is God, He is Sovereign King, and He is real is plenty enough to offer up your all to Him. It is my opinion that whoever made this movie relies more on philosophy than they do their relationship with God. Yes, logic is important. But what is more important is your experience with God. A lifetime of study, research, and writing to prove that God is real might help us a whole lot, but one Pentecostal experience with God is all any person on this planet will need to realize that God is very much alive and at work in this world.

Rooted

ImageGrowth - permanent growth – cannot come without roots. It is a simple and logically sound truth that this tree would very likely fall over if it did not have it’s roots to hold it up. The roots are not seen by the beholder, but provide the entire backbone and strength of the tree.

This frequently used concept applies to doctrine and how it must be held to and used. I am not one to complain about such things very often, but it has come to my attention here lately that there are young men – youth pastors, preachers, musicians, all sorts – who are chipping away at their roots. Pulling up a root here, one there, and so on. I have watched others on Facebook and Twitter who have slowly and then boldly began to declare that they are done with some of the clear teachings of the Bible. Subjects such as giving, holiness, the truth, witnessing, rebuking, strong preaching, and abortion have become issues of debate among these men.

I must say that I am sickened and saddened at this change. As I have seen the transition happen, I have also had something welling up inside me, pushing me to say something. And that is what I will do now.

I am not going to debate any of the listed issues with anyone. If you would like me to explain and show biblical evidence for any of them, hit the contact tab and let me know. I would be happy to explain. I can do it. These truths are established. That’s not the point. The point is that the same truths are being deliberately thrown away in favor of a watered-down, skimpy, sure-charismatic message that has absolutely no depth.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the LORD, so walk in Him, rooted and built up  in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  – Colossians 2:6-7, NKJV

When we received the gift of the Holy Ghost, we became a different person. We became willing to do whatever God asked if it would please Him. However, many have strayed from such feelings since that day, and have a new spirit about them. Something I like to call doctrinal innovation. People think that they can change God’s unchanging Word to make something new. As if it’s okay to throw away all that the Bible says. But this scripture basically says, “Remember how you felt when you got delivered? Yeah, you’re supposed to feel that way now, too.” And not only that, but get rooted and built up into this way, established in the faith, as you have been taught! And not only should you be rooted as taught, but also be thankful for it! A spirit that says, “Well that’s old-hat. We can get rid of that doctrine,” is not sound. And it will lead you straight into false doctrine, which is sin, which means hell. Yes, it matters. The little things matter! We need to be thankful for the teachings of our fathers. We need to be thankful for the strong preaching that our pastors have used. We need to be thankful for the biblical principles and doctrine that have been kept and taught to us. We don’t need a new revelation about God or His church. This thing is God-breathed, it’s worked for a long time, and it’s gonna work ’til He comes back! Instead of getting skeptical about what you’ve been taught, be thankful that God knows best!

The young people – and especially the youth pastors – need to be rooted. Rooted and grounded in the truth. It is true that your tree can still grow after throwing away some of those roots that have held you up for so long. But it won’t hold up very long. If you want to be stable, if you want to be faithful, if you want to be acceptable unto God, get roots! Feed them, don’t let them die. Because a tree without roots will fall.

“Buy the truth and sell it not.” Don’t sell off your roots. It’s not worth it. I encourage you today, it doesn’t matter who you are: get rooted, and stay sold out to the truth! The reward we are promised is too great to be sold away in an act of carelessness.

A Problem We Have

There have been a few times in my life where I have had an overwhelming thought or complete conviction. Today was such a day.

I was driving to work, trying to make it on time as I was running a bit behind schedule. I came to the stop light of a very busy intersection. To my right, on the sidewalk, was a man who held a cardboard sign reading, “HOMELESS – please help!” His hair was thin and quite messy. He wore a very normal-looking plaid shirt with a leather coat over it and blue jeans. His expression and body language was more than any person could overlook. But I watched as every single person in the stopped traffic ignored him. They definitely saw him. If I did, they did. But everyone looked forward as if he didn’t exist.

In my heart I truly wanted to help this man. I wanted to do something. But I must confess, my pride held me in, and I did nothing.

The entire time (which really wasn’t more than twenty seconds, although it felt much longer) I sat there, just hoping that someone else would do anything they could to help this man and help me, because I needed to feel better about it. And just a few seconds before the light turned green again, a middle-aged woman with a deep compassion in her eyes made her way through the thick traffic in front of me. There was a McDonald’s directly across the intersection from the man. She had come from there, bringing an entire meal to him. She walked unashamedly through the traffic and over to him. She handed him the food, and I watched her say, “For you.” The man sat down the sign and shook her hand excitedly. He began eating the food and she had a conversation with him as I drove away.

It was a true relief to see her cross the street with that food. I was ashamed at myself. I knew that I needed to do something, but I did not. And neither did any other person in any of those cars. Now, I’ll be very clear: I do not believe in giving money to every poor Joe Shmoe. I realize that many people like this will use it for liquor or drugs, in which giving money would not even be worth your time. But it’s not about the money, is it? What touched me when I saw this man was the fact that what he really needed was God.

There are thousands upon thousands of people right now in North Korea, and they all – including their leader – are reaching out. The people are all starving and oppressed. The leader is threatening every nation that he sees. Why? Some say because they get free money for doing it, which is true. But I believe that they are searching and reaching out for something that’s real. They’re looking for something stable that will uphold them. The simple fact is: They need God! And I believe that the man on the side of the road needs God too. Of course he needed a home and food, but God is the provider. We should be willing to give those things as well, but first we must be willing to give the message that will introduce them to the One who is the supplier of all our needs. If I had a Bible with at the time, I would have been late for work because I was giving it to him and pointing out the key verses he should look at.

But the simple truth is that I did not. The one woman who did do something made my heart break. And I was still ashamed as I drove on.

In the church, I think that we have somewhat of a problem. Jesus gave to the poor and shared this message with them, as well. However, there is an underlying attitude that has embedded itself into us. Perhaps we don’t witness to some people because we are of some sort of different level. As if, because we are saved, we have to reach out to other people and not them, because they… they just need to get a job!

Well, that is a false statement. We have to reach everyone. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that it’s okay to only witness to the middle and upper class. We are commissioned. And we cannot afford to witness to select social status groups. I think that The Lord would be disgusted at such thinking.

There are people everywhere, even people who are rich and well-off, who simply need God. It solves so many problems. It solves every problem. It’s time to step up.

I myself am going to have to do some serious improvement in this area, and I hope that others do as they read this, because it is truly and purely convicting. I’ll leave you with a song that I am thinking hard on in relation to this struggle:

Others
By Israel Houghton

I see the state of the world and it grieves me
I hear the cries of the broken of the rich and poor
Smell the fear of disease all around me now

I feel responsible now that I see
‘Cause we all approve to live for more than this
More than this

So I want to love like love
Love like you love
Want to love others
The way you love me

So I want to love like love
Love like you love
Want to love others
The way you love me

I’ve held the children unseen and they move me
I wonder what I can do to improve a thousand lives
I feel the absence of love and it scares me

I feel responsible now that I see
‘Cause we all were born to live for more than this
So much more than this

So I want love like you love
Love like you love,
Want to love others
The way you love me

I’ve was that lost so that have been rescued
I was the orphaned hat you adopted and brought into your home
I was the, the equated with the hopelessness
That was living in the streets, that was me

Now I’m gonna love like you love
Love like you love,
Help me love others
The way you love me

I’m gonna forgive, how you forgave
And rescue you have saved
Others, others, others, others, others
The way you love me, the way you love me

You first loved me, that’s why I love you
‘Cause you first loved me
Yeah, you first loved me

The King Deserves Our Best

 

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There is definitely something to be said for someone who has a respect for God. When I was six years old my parents would tell me, “Don’t you run and play in this church. Respect the House of God.” And I learned to do so. I am glad they taught me that. It is from there that a young man will realize that the church is a place were the supernatural and divine will take place.

But God recognizes respect that His children show for Him. I believe that God blesses politicians who pray, promote Godly things, and reference Him. It’s just a simple, fundamental fact that the one and only God who created everything we have deserves our absolute best. 

The story of Mary and the alabaster box is one of the more well-known stories of true honor and respect for Jesus. But it is easy to skip over the importance of the way she honored Him.

In these times, an alabaster box was a container that held very costly fragrance –
ointment of spikenard. It was valued very highly, and offered as a gift to only the most
honored of men. In our time a bottle of perfume or cologne has a lot less value than it would
have back then. This ointment was very precious, very costly. Alabaster itself was considered very decorational in that time. It was made of two kinds of rock that were valued highly. Many theologians think that the “box” looked more like the vessel you see in the picture above; almost like a pitcher.

She came into the room where all of these men were eating.I can imagine that there was a great silence. People were not paying attention to their food. Because Mary came directly over to Jesus, not concerned with the thoughts of the men around her. And Jesus knew her intentions. He let her do what she had come to do. She brings out this alabaster box from under her arm, and now everyone is watching closely to see what will happen.

Mary had the choice to let the ointment trickle onto the head of Jesus, which was the
common practice of anointing. But that is not what she did. She fully realized who this man was that sat before her. He deserved honor. He deserved appreciation. He deserved recognition and blessing. And so she doesn’t let the ointment trickle out, but the Bible tells us that she breaks the alabaster box over Jesus’ head. The ointment pours over His body. She lets her hair out, and she begins to wash His feet with her tears before the eyes of the disciples.

Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown’s Commentary says that her purpose was to “refresh and
exhilarate – a grateful compliment in the East.” 

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says that this may be looked upon as:
 1) “An act of faith in our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed.”
 2) “An act of love and respect to Him.”
 “Where there is true love in the heart to Jesus Christ, nothing will be thought
too good, no, nor good enough, to bestow upon Him.”

Mary had done an extreme act of love, honor, and passion before Jesus.

But what stuns me out of all of this is that she broke this vessel, this pitcher, over the head of Jesus and let that ointment flow down his body. A liquid that very well may have costed every penny she had, she used all of for Jesus. An alabaster box that could have been sold for good money she broke to let it flow down His body. 

God does not deserve a cheap-o can of Axe deodorant spray. He deserves some of that expensive stuff that you have to order in the mail. And even when you get that in, you use all of it. Let it burst over Him. He deserves everything that we have and more. To achieve salvation, you have to offer up every last bit of yourself. Your heart, mind, and soul. Not part of you, but all of you. If I leave part of myself in my seat at church and take the rest of myself to put on the altar, when I come back I’ll deal with the same stuff I left behind. You cannot be completely delivered – completely happy – unless you lay down everything you’ve got at that altar. This doesn’t just apply to salvation, but to everything we do in our life. 

It’s time to start laying down some of the things we are so attached to. It’s time to offer up a complete sacrifice. It’s time to give God what He is worthy of. He is forever the King, and He will forever deserve our best.