Poverty or Glory?

James 1:9″But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;”

Humble Circumstances in this verse could mean quite a few different things, however when we see that it is the opposite of the rich person in the next verse we understand that James is talking about the poor brother. This saint, who is economically poor, would have represented the majority of the people to whom James was writing to. Remember these were Jewish believers who had been scattered because of persecution. The left all that they had behind, and they had been left in humble circumstances. James urges this individual not to be like the double-minded man (vs.8 ), but let divine wisdom open his eyes to see the height to which he has been lifted to as a child of God.

Pessimism should not exist within the family of God, we should be so affected by our future hope that it does away with any present pessimism. As a child of the King, even in humble earthly circumstances, the believer is an heir to future kingdom of glory. The believer needs not be disheartened by his present poverty, or regard it as evil. The child of God is the possessor of spiritual riches that more than outweigh his material poverty in this present life. This is the key! We must change our perspective from “the here and now” to an eschatological perspective. What James is teaching is that we must look at life from an eternal perspective to see who really has the exalted position and who really is rich. When we see things from this perspective we can glory in our highness. Literally we can boast in our position. But what does that mean? Well let’s look at some biblical examples: Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Corinthians 11:30; Galatians 6:14. In all of these cases boasting is presented in a favorable light. There are two reasons why this type of boasting, or glorying, is favorable: 1) it does not boast in the might of man, in fact it views man as helpless; 2) it has such a high view of God that only through the work of Christ can we boast.

Let me ask you this question: Do the people around you know more about your earthly accomplishments than your eternal place in God’s family? Have you told them all about you accomplishments, but never told them of the greatest thing in your life? What is it that you talk about more, yourself, or the one who saved you? Believers must look beyond the world’s evaluation to understand who they are, and see themselves from God’s perspective. God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in Christ with fruit, and an eternal inheritance. It is in Christ Jesus that the believer has received every spiritual blessing, including poverty. We serve a God who is powerful enough to use even something like poverty, which from our perspective seems so horrible, as a spiritual blessing. Poverty, just like all other trials, should lead us to humble ourselves before God placing our total dependence on Him for survival in this world and justification in the world to come. When we are able to do this the joy inexpressible that Peter writes about will poor out of our veins, and we will be incapable of boasting in anything other than that Cross which is so despicable to the world.

Ephesians 1:3-11

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…

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Camp in Four Questions

I have just returned from my sabbatical (taking the youth group to camp), and as I write this posting I am pondering the impact that it will have on the youth. There is one thing that is for certain as a group we grew closer together. We shared in many memorable moments, not the least of which was a 12 hour van ride.

But there are other things that are not so certain:

  • How many more kids are going to get sick (we have two down already)? I am starting to wonder about the food.
  • What is the lasting impact of this week going to be on the people who went? Sure everyone felt the impact of a week of intense time in God’s Word, but can a consistent Life pattern develop from this week?
  • The theme of our camp this week was examine yourself. As we studied through Matthew chapter seven we had the opportunity to take a look at ourselves. As one of the guys said “it gave me the chance to look at me.” We talked a lot about pretenders (those who play the church game but have never had any true change in their lives). There were four questions that were given to help us examine ourselves. Is your love for Christ increasing? Is your hatred for sin increasing? Is your desire to know Christ in His word increasing? Is your love for the Church increasing? These are the marks of a true believer. These are things that a pretender, if truly examining his life, will have to answer no to.
  • Are you a pretender?

Good-bye

Well this will be my last posting for a week. My church has been kind enough to grant me a week long sabbatical. Just as Piper’s sabbatical to write “The Justification of God” changed his ministry forever I hope that this week will be profitable for me. At this point I should make one note; my sabbatical is not to write. I am leaving for a week to take the Youth Group to Camp. Yes, this is slightly less profound than Piper’s work. But it is my prayer that this week will be no less significant than Piper’s work.

Our youth has been praying and preparing to leave for camp for months now. It is our hope that this week will be an opportunity for the Spirit of God to work through the Word of God to renew the minds of our Youth. Our goal is not conversions, or life changing decisions. These goals are reserved for the work of the Spirit. It is our job to let the Spirit use our faithful proclamation of God’s Word to work in the lives of these kids. Thankfully we have been able to join up with other Churches in the South East who share this same basic philosophy of ministry.

Unfortunately there are very few youth ministries, and youth camps that are interested in this type of ministry. Most youth leaders that I have the opportunity to interact with are more interested in fun games than with proclamation of the Word. (Now at this point I would like to make the point that fun games are fun. I am often times looking for fun games, and activities that will provide some entertainment for the group.) There are so many on-line youth tools now that many Youth Pastors spend much of their time looking for already packaged information to regurgitate. You can hop on-line find two games, a power point lesson and be ready for Youth Group. As useful as on-line tools are, I am not sure that this method of Youth ministry is making an impact in the lives of our Youth. Games, and idealistic lessons are great for YMCA youth camp, but shouldn’t a ministry of the local church be attaining to something higher? Let me borrow a question from Eric Bancroft: “are we going to distract, despise, or disciple our youth?” As you look to answer this question know that the kids will know what your answer is. It has been my experience, as a Youth and a Youth Pastor, that teenagers are looking for more than a distraction on Sunday night.

I think that what many people in the Church and many youth leaders fail to understand is that we are training the future leaders of the Church right now. The youth are not free labor to set up the Church, and they do not need to be entertained every second that you have them. These are the great temptations of Youth Ministry. If you can shake off these temptations, lock yourself in your study, and prepare for a message as if you were preaching at Grace Community Church, that is when you have figured out youth ministry. Give them God’s Word. Strengthen them with the Milk, and then when they are ready feed ‘em steak. God has given us His Word to change lives (ours included), and He has given us (as Youth Pastors) the youth to change them. So why not use God’s life changing Word to change the lives of our youth.

There is one other Good-bye that I must add. Good-bye Jack.

Yesterday Jack Nicklaus completed his final round in a Major Golf tournament. And it was not a great surprise that Jack completed the greatest career in golf history with a birdie three on the most famous home hole in golf. I must admit that I am a little to young to really remember Jack in his prime. But through my father I know all there is to know about Jack’s career. From his two amateurs championships to the ’86 Masters Jack gave us the greatest golf that has ever been played. I was not able to watch Jack’s final round live, however I was up until 1:30am to watch it on tape. I must admit that it made me very sad to see it end, and when his put on 18 when in for birdie I jumped out of my seat and the remote went flying.

Good-bye Mr. Nicklaus, golf will miss you.

Casual Friday

We have made it Friday. That is something to celebrate, and so I have decided that on my blog we are going to celebrate Friday the way millions of people all across the U.S. do; we are going to observe casual Friday.

  • Today my wife and I will be celebrating our six month anniversary. Its not 50, but you have to start somewhere. And like any self respecting husband would I have made dinner plans, and of course sang Fred Flintstones “happy anniversary song” to my wife. If you are not familiar with the song it goes something like this: “happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary, Hap—–py anniversary!” (insert tune to lone ranger and sing). But in all seriousness, the fact that my wife and I have made it this far is a testament to her godly attitude toward marriage and toward me. I love you dear.
  • Last night I became very frustrated. This year the British Open is at St. Andrews (the home of Golf), Tiger Woods is in the lead, this is Jack’s last Major Tournament, , and SportsCenter barely covered it. I want 24 hour coverage. I guess I will just have to dream about that day when we can afford the golf channel. I think that tomorrow I will go buy a blank tape so that I can watch all of Sunday’s action Sunday night after church.
  • A few weeks ago I was minding my own business, not looking for any controversy, when out popped a KJV only tract. Now I don’t have the fire power to burn any buildings down over the issue (see Pyromaniac, ), however it urked me just enough to inquire further. This little book, filled with lies and spilling over with hate, ranted and raved about the NIV (according to author niv stands for “Not Inspired Version” and should be changed to “HIV”). Finally in his conclusion the author penned these words: “The King James 1611 Version is the preserved Word of God for English speaking people. It has won more souls (blood pressure rising) and changed more lives (face turning red) than any other Bible (teeth gritting) that has ever been published. We don’t need new translations or new versions so-called, we need to use the one God has given us, The King James Bible.” I found these in the break room of a part time job that I have. I was pretty upset that people were actually reading this drabble. I went to the powers that be, and eventually these little booklets found their way into the trash. But the problem is that this guy is still out there, and I am sure he is preaching the same way that he writes. I do not wish to give his name out, but you know the type. I think the things that bothered me the most were: his ignorance of history (in a good example of his ignorance he wrote that the 1611 version was the inspired version, but quoted from a later edition of KJV), and his mind-bending use of the Greek.
  • *One final note for Casual Friday* For those of you who have noticed Phil Johnson’s flourishing blog, I am sure that you have also noticed Phil’s blogspotting. Well I am not one of those blogspotting cherry-pickers but I must admit that I am a little jealous that my pal over at Pix from the Pulpit got blogspotted after posting one blog and letting it sit for a couple of weeks.

Dennis

With Emily spinning out in the Atlantic we are left with very little time to reflect on Dennis. Here in Central Florida there was very little to be worried about. No hurricane hits Cuba like Dennis did and makes it into Tampa Bay. But with friends, and loved ones sitting in the “cone” of projection it was still an aprehensive time to say the least.

As Dennis passed by our latitude, some 240 miles west of us, my wife and I went to the beach. What an amazing thing that a storm over 200 miles away could cause such roar here. But it was not until I got home from the beach and discovered that my dad was home from work that I realized the possible severity of the storm. You see, my dad works for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (he’s a firefighter). Last Hurricane season my dad earned the nickname “Hurricane” for his many hours spent in the rescue/clean up efforts. And as the “HIT” (hazardous incidents team) coordinator for the county, he plays a significant role in the pre-hurricane planning (so things do not blow up)



With Dennis making a b-line for Pensacola my dad came home to get the sleep he knew he would not get for the next few days. On Sunday dad headed toward the panhandle, waiting for Dennis to pass in Havana (mapquest it). Dad searched through many different homes, and many different piles that used to be homes. Thankfully dad did not have to save anyone. But as I spoke with my dad yesterday he told me how random some of the destruction was. Some homes were left standing while all the other homes were gone. It must be the construction. Even though they were all in the same neighborhood, probably built by the same company, one up withstood while another crumbled. One small mistake, one place for wind to come in, and the roof is gone. But there must be more to it than that…



Dennis showed more than the importance of craftsmanship. Dennis displayed the wonder of God’s power, and His freedom to choose. I do not know why 4 people in the State of Florida have died from Dennis, but I do know that for some good and perfect reason God chose to send Dennis right were Dennis went. And the question that I am left with now is: “how can I, hundreds of miles from the aftermath of Dennis, glorify God through this catastrophe?” Maybe this desperate “plywood plea” is the answer.

Wisdom From God (part III)

“Don’t expect to receive anything without faith.”

If your joy is dependent upon your circumstances, and you are asking the Lord for help without believing He can help do not expect to receive anything from the Lord. The anything here should not be pressed beyond the context of the passage. It is limited to what is asked for, wisdom. So if a person is going through a trial and prays to God for the wisdom to see things from His perspective, but doubts that God will do anything that person should not expect to receive wisdom. Wisdom in this passage is being able to see God at work even in the trial. Wisdom is having an eternal perspective. And if a person has no real trust in God it is doubtful that no matter what the outcome of a trial that he or she would ever recognize God’s hand at work. Let’s try to follow James’ reasoning here. 1) Trials test our Faith; 2) Testing develops endurance; 3) Let endurance have its perfect result; 4) If you have trouble understanding how trials benefit you then ask God for wisdom; 5) If you don’t ask in faith then you will not receive wisdom. It all goes back to the renewing of our minds. If we will let God change the way we think through trials then we will lack nothing. If we are having difficulty with this then we need to pray for wisdom. But if we do not believe that God is at work for our good in trials then our minds cannot be changed. Remember it is the Spirit of God through the Word of God that grows us closer to the image of Christ. And if we are not willing to get into God’s Word then how will the Spirit change us. And if we do not believe that God is at work for good in our lives even in trials, then how can we ask God to show us the good that He is working for in our trials.

The double-minded man cannot receive the wisdom to see God at work in his trial because he does not truly believe that God is at work in his trial. He is missing it. God wants to do a divine work in your life, but instead you have chosen to let your circumstance steal your joy. You are a double-minded person unstable in all that you do. One moment you will swell up with confidence in your own ability, and the next moment you will sink deep into despair because of your circumstances. This stands in stark contrast with God who gives with singleness of mind, and without reproach.

Wisdom From God (part II)

James 1:6

“Ask in Faith”

In order for a prayer to be effective it must be made with trust. The way we ask God for wisdom (or anything else) must coincide with the way God gives. He gives with a single mind, and we too must ask with a single mind. God gives without reproach to us, and we too must trust what he is doing in our lives and not go to him questioning our circumstances. Arguing with God, complaining about circumstances, or hesitancy to be open to God’s answer are human attitudes that prevent God from responding to our prayers. Here is the general principle behind what James is saying: God responds to us only when our lives reflect a basic consistency of single-mindedness toward God. It is not that we never question, or never doubt (Even king David in the Psalms at times questioned what God was doing.). It is that our lives are marked by a faith in God; faith that relies on God’s promises to work for our good; faith that is full and unquestioning dependence upon God. And this kind of faith is the only proper response to the goodness of God. The man who prays without this faith not only doubts what will happen, but also doubts the God who makes all things happen. A request that does not take God at His word doubts either his ability or his trustworthiness. The man who outwardly prays in doubt inwardly is not sure that God can do anything about his situation. His uttered request has not answered his inner indecision. And this inner indecision is an unwillingness to rely wholly on God.

This man’s request is not really even a request because he does not believe. He is like the wave of the sea tossed one way by the wind, and then back the other way by another wind. He is in constant agitation, and motion with no forward progress. James would have been familiar with such waves. He grew up near to the Sea of Galilee, and even though the Sea of Galilee is more like the size of a lake it had a reputation for severe storms (Matthew 8:23; 14:22). This is not like the tide rolling in. Imagine the waters in a storm being blown around by every different gust of wind. This is the person who doubts God. He does not pray with any consistency, or sincerity. One minute he wants wisdom from God, but the next minute he wants wisdom from the world. He is frantic, and prey to the shifting winds of fear and desire. This person’s joy is not anchored in the Lord, but rather dependent on his situation. If the sea is calm he is ok he has no reason to doubt God, but if a storm rolls in he becomes frantic doubting God and looking elsewhere for help. He has forgotten that the Lord he is praying to is the same God who calms the storms and walk on the water. Does your joy depend on your circumstance? Or is your joy found in Christ Jesus?