May 8, 2011

The Crown of Life – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:2) This patience carries with it the sense of being steadfast and is often translated as “steadfastness.” The temptation spoken of here is an external trial, the trial of our faith. (James 1:3). It is not the temptation that develops from within our own heart which is spoken of later. (James 1:13)

James concludes this thought by writing, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12) With these words James tells us there is a prize waiting for us if we endure the temptation of the world and pass the test. This is not a one time test. The phrases “worketh patience (steadfastness)” and “endureth temptation” indicate action that is continuous over a period of time, often a long period of time. Steadfastness is not something that occurs overnight. It develops slowly from the experience gained by facing trials throughout our lives and learning that if we respond to them correctly, the outcome is beneficial to us. However, if we do not respond correctly, the outcome may be painful because of the consequences we suffer as a result of poor choices we make. But how do we know what is the correct response? By relying on the word of God. The psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and guide unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) James said the crown of life is promised to those who love the Lord. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When we keep his commandments, we will make good choices when faced with trials. We will understand that in so doing we please God and are blessed by him in our well doing.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) Peter also encourages us with these words, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, rather than evil doing.” (1 Peter 3:17). Paul wrote, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Jesus, Peter and Paul—what better teachers could we have about trials of faith?

The Christian should know that the trying of faith will make him more steadfast if properly handled. (James 1:3). That is why we should “count it all joy” when faced with these trials. It will strengthen our faith and allow us to face greater trials in the future. There is nothing like success to breed success. When we realize that if we do God’s will as revealed in his word, it becomes easier to face the next trial. This does not mean that the devil will not continue to test us. He will never give up. But, we know that if we submit ourselves to the will of God and resist the devil, the devil will run from us. (James 4:7)

The trials of this life cannot separate us from God if we remain steadfast. Paul said it well when he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

The Lord has promised that we will receive the crown of life if we endure. (James 1:12) What the Lord has promised, he will deliver. Paul is the perfect example of this endurance. He was scourged five times (39 lashes each time), beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, and in danger of floods and robbers. He was in danger in the cities and in the wilderness. He was cold, naked, hungry, and thirsty. He was pursued by the Jews and Gentiles alike. False teachers among Christians were a constant worry to him. His concern for the churches weighed heavily on his mind. (1 Corinthians 11:24-28). Yet in the face of all that, we was able to write, “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Let us all remain steadfast when faced with the world’s trials and look forward to the crown of life and righteousness that has been promised to us. What joy there will be when we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”—Amen

May 1, 2011

Imagining God – Frank Himmel

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

The feature article in last Sunday’s USA Weekend was How Americans Imagine God. The magazine asked readers to e-mail their descriptions of God. Among the published entries were:

  • A great living Father who lets me climb into his lap.
  • A mother cradling a child, a heart afire with passion, the willingness to sacrifice for another’s benefit.
  • God speaks to us through the voice of reason and the light of love.
  • Unyielding love, grace, and mercy.
  • Love, beauty, goodness, truth, and compassion.
  • God does not erect borders of separation and distance, God bursts open every barrier that would seal us in our aloneness.
  • Like me because she is me and I am her. She is something you feel within your soul.

The title of the USA Weekend article is both accurate and sad: accurate, in that a number of the submissions are clearly imaginary, and sad, in that it does not have to be this way.

God need not be imaginary; He has revealed Himself. He made known His power and existence in creation. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made …” (Romans 1:20). He made known His character both in His word and in His Son, who is “the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

Sadly, many choose to ignore God’s objective self-revelation, preferring their own personal perceptions. That is nothing new. In the Old Testament, God condemned Israel with the charge, “You thought that I was just like you” (Psalm 50:21). And in the New Testament era, Jesus often noted how the Jews of His generation, despite having God’s word, did not know Him (John 8:19,55; 15:21; 16:3).

Remember Paul’s common sense illustration: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Despite claims to the contrary, we do not have intuitive knowledge of God’s will, He does not speak directly to our hearts, nor do we feel Him within our souls. To know the mind of God we must listen to His words.

The author of the USA Weekend article noted that the one common thread in most all the pictures of God was: God is love. Yes, He is. I know that, not because I want Him to be so, but because He said He is (1 John 4:8,16). And while I take great comfort and hope in that fact, I dare not emphasize that to the exclusion of His other self-revealed characteristics. In Paul’s words, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22).    December 26, 2010