There is “The World’s Culture” and then there is “Your Family Culture.” Two examples of this are found in our children. When our daughters were young, many of their friend’s parents were divorcing. It was getting so bad Janet and I sat them down and comforted them saying, “We will never divorce.” Our youngest daughter, Ashley said “Thank you.” Apparently she needed to hear that. When our sons were first coming into our lives, their verbal opinion of marriage was, and I quote, “Yuck.” At the tender age of 5 they had learned a man is defined by how many girlfriend’s they have. These young men learned a different culture. They never dated in high school and are waiting to date until they are financially able to care for a wife and family. The world’s culture has dramatically warped and will continue to. Be strong in the faith. Make God’s way your culture. And be comforted that you can teach your children “Your Family Culture.”
“Going to church” is dangerous, but the alternative is worse. I have had various back issues since I was two years old. I have been hospitalized three times, recently for surgery, and at age 4 when I awoke and could not walk. Due to the recent situation I have needed to take pain medicine. What my medicine does is mask the pain without curing it. But when it works I begin to think I am fully recovered (or before that I didn’t need surgery). When I think I am fully recovered I stop taking the medicine. Then I regret my decision; really regret. “Going to church”, even being Christian doesn’t mean I no longer have a sin problem on a daily basis. Temptation is still real. But just like the Pharisee who recounted to God all his good deeds; Christians can start to think they have it all figured out and look down on those struggling – again like that Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Being chosen can make one arrogant, apparently. The alternative I mentioned at the beginning is totally forsaking God. That choice masks the pain of being a sinner without hope of ever being healed. For us believers, “going to church” isn’t done because we are healed of sin’s temptations. “Going to church” is done because we know, although we have been healed of sin’s punishment; spiritually we are still sick and need help.
Faith in James: Is tested (1:3); prays without doubting (1:6); poor chosen to be rich in (2:5); can claim it but not have a one that saves (2:14); must have works to be alive (2:17); is seen by works (2:18); without works is useless (2:20); perfected by works (2:22); is credited to us as righteousness – belief same as faith (2:23); doesn’t justify without works (2:24); without works is dead (2:26); can be combined with prayer (5:15).
When we let the Holy Spirit define words instead of theologians we often find a much deeper and different definition. Let’s see how the Holy Spirit expands on faith in James 2: A Seen Faith (James 1:14-26)
“You are what you eat” is a phrase most of have heard of. And you are, in that when you eat something you take on the characteristics of that food. Eat something with a lot of carbohydrates and you get energy which is why athletes “carbo load”. Coffee has caffeine and unless you are ADD, it wakes you up! On Sunday we will eating a special supper. Eating the bread and fruit of the vine encourages us to take on the characteristics of what they represent. That is why it is a remembrance (1 Cor.11:24,25) and proclamation (1 Cor.11:26). But it is something even more. Paul wrote, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor.11:27). This doesn’t mean if your mind wanders you are guilty. It means we are to eat recognizing or judging “the body” (1 Cor.11:29). In context the “body” is tri-fold: 1) the physical body of Jesus, 2) the symbolic body of the bread, 3) and the spiritual body which is the church. In context the Lord’s Supper is one of submission and sacrifice for others. That is where the Corinthians failed. So if we are what we eat, while eating Jesus Christ’s supper, submit to one another in love, sacrificing your rights for theirs. Become like Christ because you are what you eat.
Being buried alive, pardon the pun, scares people to death. In former times, without our medical advances, people were accidentally buried alive; then literally “saved by the bell” that was placed with the supposed corpse for such emergencies. While being mutilated was a horrible way to die, its benefit was a death that was verifiable and certain.
In Jesus’ time, when preparing a body, they would wrap the entire body while leaving the face unwrapped. Instead it was covered with a cloth. That way if the one buried was only temporarily comatose he could blow off the face cover and yell for help from within the cave.
We see this practice in John 20 where Jesus lay the burial napkin separate from the other linens. There’s a nice story about the meaning of this that probably is more made-up than we want to admit. But what is undeniable about the scene is Jesus did not need to call for help. He laid both the face napkin and body linens aside. Why? He who had been really dead and mutilated by scourging and crucifixion was really alive. He was buried so He could come back alive.
(Burial information from “The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence)
I am embarrassed. I don’t inherently get wowed at what’s impressive to God. The blind receive their sight. Wow! The lame walk. Wow again! Lepers are healed. The deaf can hear. The dead are raised? Yes, wondrously the dead are raised! Wow! Wow! and Wow! I would have loved to have witnessed these and been wowed! Oh by the way, “And the poor have the gospel preached to them”. Eh. (Lk.7:22).
Admit it. It doesn’t carry the same viseral punch. I have seen the gospel preached to the poor. I can get more excited at a windmill dunk or no-look pass.
Shame on me. While healing is an act of grace; the gospel is an official offer of grace. Jesus hadn’t died yet so this good news is about God caring for those forgotten that they too could be forgiven without an expensive sacrifice. All the physical miracles by Jesus were pointing to Jesus having the power to heal spiritually. These acts of physical wonder were in reality the warm-up act.
While messianic miracles were prophesied (Isaiah 35:5-6); the most inherently divine act was prophesied in Isaiah 61:1. That chapter carries a lot of spiritual wows. John the Baptist needed to hear this (Lk.7:18-19) and so do we. Both he and we get tired of waiting for something spectacular from God. So Jesus gives His cousin a beatitude: “Blessed are those who are not offended by Me” (Lk.7:23).
So be blessed and be wowed at the main event – the gospel. God cares. God forgives. God gives grace. WOW!
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen.1:1). Then man lived with God in Eden and God provided him a wife (Gen.2). “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth passed away (Rev.21:1). Then man lived in “the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” when saved mankind is prepared by God like a bride for her husband (Rev.20:2). The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The begiining is the end and the end is the beginning.