HIS STORY, our history?

The earliest shadow of our reality as the Church can be seen in Genesis 14:17-20. When Melchizedek appeared to Abraham, he gave the work of God a glorious and futuristic hope in providing a link or bridge back for the lost state of humanity to our Creator. The unique nature of Melchizedek’s priesthood was in his Kingship. His Kingship held the power to promote peace between humanity & God, Hebrews 7:2. In contrast to the first priesthood of Melchizedek was the Jewish priesthood of Levi, one of the Great-grandsons of Abraham. The Levitical Priesthood would never be royal, it’s glory was not in gold & power to promote peace physically, but rather blood and incense to promote peace spiritually. Their work would merely provide one nation with annual peace, between annual sacrifices, whereas Melchizedek’s peace was present and promised secure forever…

We as the church have that peace in Christ, because He is our peace, Ephesians 2:14.

Another great gift from God in the prophetic work of  Melchizedek’s priesthood was the meal he offered Abraham, Gen. 14:18-19. There is a message for us in the bread & wine. It was obviously a celebratory mark of victory God gave Abram over his enemies. Today in the Church we remember the victory Christ holds over death in the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. His body and blood is where the victory was won and when He is represented in our communion, we rejoice in this bitter-sweet fulfillment of Melchizedek’s prophetic royal priesthood. The reality of Christ’s resurrection is powerful in that it was both physical and spiritual. Critics of Christ to this day falsely claim that His resurrection was spiritual, not bodily. But if it wasn’t a bodily resurrection, where is the real power over death, where is the evidence?

Remember who Abram rescued? Righteous Lot, 2nd Peter 2:7. This is why our history is important to learn. If Lot could be counted righteous by the standard of morality God gave them, then how much more righteous is everyone in Christ? Therefore, ANYONE in Christ can be rescued, not because of the righteousness of any human, but because of Christ’s righteousness. This is good news!

There are at least 15 messages recorded in Acts, a couple more depending on how you count and list them. What do all of them have in common? The word Christ and/or Messiah is used at least 28 times in Acts.

Acts 2:14-14 Jesus Christ is the Son of God; Repent & be baptized for the remission of sins.

Acts 3:12-26 Jewish people should repent for Crucifying the Christ

Acts 4:5-12 The power of Christ healed the crippled man 

Acts 7 Review of Jewish history & that the Jewish leaders murdered the Christ 

Acts 10:28-47 Christ can save the Gentiles also like the Jews 

Acts 11:4-18 Gentiles can now be saved by Christ 

Acts 13:16-41 Jesus was the Christ & the Old Testament is fulfilled

Acts 15:7-11 Salvation by the grace of Christ is available to all 

Acts 15:13-21 Circumcision is not required of Gentile converts to Christ

Acts 17:22-31 God will hold all people accountable for their response to Christ 

Acts 20:17-35 Remain faithful to Christ in spite of false teachers and various persecutions 

Acts 22:1-21 Recounts his conversion to Christ and his ministry & mission to the Gentiles 

Acts 23:1-7 Paul’s defense, declares himself a Pharisee believing in the resurrection of Christ

Acts 24:10-21 Righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come with the resurrected Christ

Acts 26:2-23 Recounts his conversion and evangelism for the gospel of Christ

What does the church today emphasize in our preaching and teaching?

God’s Word on The Church

  1. His Story / Our history
  2. His Purposes / Our purpose 
  3. His Names / Our name
  4. His Gift / Our gifts 
  5. The Church’s State and End-Goal

Most Christians understand and believe that we are baptized into the body of Christ which is the church, (1st Cor. 12:13, Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:24) Right? Helping the world understand what the church is, is a huge task, kind of like helping a toddler understand what a computer is, he can see it and enjoy it, but he finds it impossible to understand how to interact with it and really use it, all the toddler can really do is, spectate & speculate. If he tries to use it, the toddler ends up frustrated or breaking it. One of the first tasks Jesus gave His apostles was to make disciples, Matthew 28:18-19. Secondly, He commands baptism, then thirdly he tells them to teach them basically everything! So how do we make disciples before baptizing them, if they don’t even know how to relate to what the church is that they are being baptized into? That conundrum must be one of the biggest hindrances to disciples becoming Christians. I’m convinced infant sprinkling in some denominations, is maintained for that very reason. If you “baptize” a baby, you don’t need to worry about them making a choice, they can’t! It’s like labeling them a “christian” before they even have a chance to know what a disciple is, much less decide to become one. If it wasn’t so unscriptural, it would be hilarious. Jesus commands us to make disciples of Him, not us, the church. That’s great, considering most people in the world think the church is a building! Thankfully some people in the world think the church is a group of people, but they have no idea what God thinks of these people, or how He treats people, they call “the church”. So the best place to start with making disciples is to show them the Christ. If they will follow Him, they prayerfully can understand what God thinks of the people He calls the church. If they will follow Jesus for any length of time, they can not fail but to understand His love and morals. His love & morals should encourage them to be baptized and then they can start interacting as part of His body. Which is much more complicated than a computer but also much more beautiful, so they should grow and stay functioning as part of his body. The church is truly like a lampstand, not the light itself. The light is Jesus, the lampstand is the church, Matthew 5:14-15. But what is a light without a stand? It is like a city in the dark, dangerous! 

That is why it is very important to know God’s view of the church. He introduced it through prophecy. Read Micah 4:1-5 and see the prediction of a new nation with a judge that promotes eternal peace. There are many more Old Testament passages that prophesy about the church, so let’s learn and rejoice in God’s word/message about who we are and what He wants us to do, so that we might share it with people in the world that can see the love and morals of Christ.

Meditations on the Conclusion of James.

The whole reason James wrote this letter is because God’s Spirit does not want any of his children to lose sight of their salvation. It is very easy and part of our human condition to stray off the target and get distracted with other priorities, rather than to stay focused on getting home and helping others get there with us. To “err from the truth” can be disastrous for any Christian because Jesus proclaimed and proved that he is THE Truth, John 14:6. If any Christian wanders away from Jesus as the Christ, we are vulnerable prey, like a lost sheep for the wolves. Take your Shepherd seriously, because once upon the cross, He was the Lamb of God sacrificed for us.  He ends the letter with a plea to encourage each other in the achievement of conversion & salvation. This does not mean we can save ourselves, but rather God mandates our cooperation in His work of conversion and salvation! (5:19-20)

It is notable to see a common theme or context running through His letter and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, it’s almost as if James is quoting from it at times when he writes.

James 1:2 & Mat. 5:10-12 “Trials”

James 1:4 & Mat. 5:48 “Maturity”

James 2:13 & Mat 6:14-15 “Judgment”

James 3:6 & Mat. 5:22 “Judgment”

James 4:11 & Mat. 7:1-2 “Judgment”

James 5:2 & Mat. 6:19 “Treasures”

James (2:1) is the only other author besides Paul to title Jesus as the “Lord of Glory”, 1st Corinthians 2:8, which is similar to what the Psalmist uses in Psa. 24:8, about Jehovah God, as “King of Glory”. When James uses it, it’s in the context of judgment the church exercises in fellowship with each other, James 2:1-4. When Paul uses it, it’s in the context of the world judging Christ as a criminal. So we should see why the title “Lord of Glory” comes to mind for James & Paul when we consider the Judgment Day will be dominated by Christ in glory, see 2nd Thessalonians 1:9. Moses & Elijah saw Christ as glorious, as well as Peter, James & John, Remember how Christ was strengthened during the transfiguration in glory as He prepared for the Cross during his last week with his apostles, Matthew 17:2-3. Do you see Jesus as the Lord of Glory? If so, do not neglect our salvation, Hebrews 2:3.

Meditations on James 5:13-18

“Anyone” is not actually literally anyone. This letter is originally written to anyone IN the church, specifically Christians with a Jewish background, anywhere within the civilized world of the 1st century. So we shouldn’t point this message to the world, but rather we should ensure we apply it’s point to ourselves. Whether or not we as a Christian have a Jewish background or not, the Holy Spirit has preserved it’s message to every and any Christian in any generation until Christ returns. It is the Father’s will that Christians who are suffering in ANY way should pray to our Father and any of us who are cheerful, we should praise our Father. This is not congregational prayer and praise, but personal prayers and praise. We are at liberty to pray and praise Him in ANY way ANY Christian can. We should never discourage any Christian from praying or praising our Father in ANY way they can! Whatever suffering means to you, may not be suffering to someone else, and whatever makes you cheerful, may not make the next person cheerful, but we should still be encouraging prayer & praise, see Psalm 71:14 & Hebrews 13:15. Do you pray to our Father when you are hurting? Do you praise Him when you are happy? If not, why not?

v14-15, this is all about a personal request for spiritual help while undergoing a physical problem. Notice how James describes the effect of Elder’s anointing and praying with the individual Christian, using words like, “save”,  “raise up”, and “forgive”. The word “save” can be translated “restore” and it is the Lord who does this. If it is His will, He will restore them partially, or completely, or physically, or spiritually, but they will in some way be restored! This verse does not talk about eternity or physical utopic conditions, God is talking about what He chooses to do via an Elder’s anointing and prayer.  It’s not always, nor necessarily what we want, but what He wants! The mere idea of a Christian receiving forgiveness via an Elder’s anointing and prayer makes it obvious that it is possible for Christians to be unforgiven. Being unforgiven is worse than being sick or disabled. Being physically sick or disabled or in any kind of physical or mental pain, isn’t as bad as being eternally lost and suffering in hell. This fact should encourage us all to request that Elders pray and anoint us, but rarely do we see this happen by my experience in the church for the past 30 years. Why? It better not be because we have more faith in doctors and less faith in God! By all means, do what your doctor says, but at the same time, keep God’s word and will at the center of your heart and the highest priority in your mind, as you deal with the complicated problems of pain & chaos in this world. 

v16-18, the great power Christians experience in prayer is equated to what Elijah experienced when praying for both a drought and rainfall. In order to fully appreciate the power of God through our prayers from men or women in Christ is to carefully read the story of Elijah during this ordeal, see 1st Kings 17:1-7 & 18:1-2 & 41-46. When we believe what God’s word says and follow through trusting and obeying Him, then His will is performed, no matter what!

Meditations on James 5:7-12

Jesus expects his disciples to “Bear fruit with patience”, Luke 8:15, which may seem odd, since patience is actually part of the fruit of the Spirit. But if you look closely at what Jesus is saying, we find out that patience comes from holding the promises of His Word in a good and honest heart, then patience grows! So if we think that getting better at being patient is only gained by life experiences, Jesus gives better direction. If our heart desires His word, and our heart has insight into His word which leads us to experience His commands then this experience really develops patience. The more a human heart holds His word with integrity, the more we see our patience turn into perseverance! The time it takes to do this with God in everyday life, is why patience is called His fruit, fruit takes time to grow.

v8 repeats the “coming of the Lord” in the context of Harvest. Fruit of the earth yielding its valuable crop is an image of harvest, referencing judgment; which is good for the church, but bad for those who reject Christ (Matt. 13:29-30).

v9, The Judge and “last days,” is a reference to Christ’s second coming and the judgment (Rom. 13:12; Heb. 10:25; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 22:20). This can also convey the idea that our life is short and our time to judgment is near, so we need to “wise up” in Him.

v10, what amazes me about the ancient Jewish prophets and Job himself is their obvious perseverance in painful persecution, yet they often had no example to follow, Christ wasn’t leading them. God’s word through the law and God’s word in their visions is all they had. Job didn’t even see a single miracle, and his life remains righteous, unlike the horrific sins of David. Our advantage is that we have access to the mind of Christ and the presence of his Spirit to teach us God’s message. That is a “blessed” life and why Jesus proclaimed the beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11. 

v11, “the purpose of the Lord”, They had seen, “truth & grace came by Jesus Christ”, John 1:14-17. That’s what patience as a Christian will get for you!

v12, Swear…oaths. In the Greek, swear means to grasp something hard for support. Here, it refers to a verbal agreement witnessed by an object that represents God. An example would be swearing by the Temple that manipulates God as a witness to our promises, and dealings (Gen. 24: 1-9; Ezra 10:5; Neh. 5:12; Acts 23:12; Heb. 6:13-17). They would go through these long, elaborate oaths, then not live up to them. The OT Law forbids irreverent oaths, especially the misuse of God’s name. It breaks the third commandment (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Duet. 5:11; 6:3; 22:21-33) Without integrity in our words of promise, we are left condemned by our own conscience if we used an oath in a way that left us a loophole.

Meditations on James 5:1-6

v1, This impending wrathful judgment coming upon greedy rich “christians” is certain because they are guilty of cheating their laborers and at the very least, they are guilty of harboring hate in their hearts towards righteous people, v5. This was real in the first century and very real in our nation’s history. Many scholars believe that our Civil War 1861-1865 was a direct result of so-called christians abusing the “righteous” in slavery.  God’s judgment is not limited to only the judgment day, as in the “coming of the Lord”.  Remember the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple took place decades after the birth of the Church, (AD33-70) and it has never recovered to this day. The Temple will never be reconstructed and the city will always be under threat of wars and rumors of war, Jerusalem is still a divided city and since 1949 Israel’s Knesset struggles to remain united, today it’s currently dissolved. This fact might cause us to question why systemic racism and hate crimes still plague our own nation, even after we have had a civil war, several amendments to the constitution and differing social movements of protest necessitating change. Why are we still plagued with violence & all kinds of crime from the mere issue of race? Because many of our citizens make up a greedy nation of cheaters that claim to be christian and yet have hate in our hearts towards the righteous! The timing of God’s judgment is perfect and far beyond our complete understanding, but it is real. See Romans 11:33 & Daniel 4:35. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is like asking God to help me win the lottery that I don’t play. 

v2-3,  From God’s perspective, His judgment against them is already a foregone conclusion and He sees the riches they trust in, as rotten & rusted. They are as good as already burning in hell and James wants them to know that The Lord’s anger is kindled against them in the same way that Jesus pronounced wrathful judgement in the parable of the lazy servant, Matthew 18:34. 

v4, Remember Christian, when the Spirit teaches us to do nothing “complaining”, we have a LORD of Hosts (Ex. 6:26 & 1Sam. 17:45 & Isa. 54:5) that is attentive and reacts to the injustices in your life. Peaceful protest has a good place in our society, but Christians should pray to our Lord who will see to our needs, and in perfect timing, his justice will be meted out to any cheater or blasphemer that becomes our enemy. This is the very reason Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. It is not because we need to inform God of who our enemy is, but it is to ensure we are aware of God’s concern for our needs. How God treats our enemy will be perfect justice or sweet mercy, depending on how our enemy reacts to God’s message & Son.

v5-6,  One of the reasons Christians who enjoy the righteousness of the Righteous One, are able to rejoice under persecution is because we know our victory is certain. Whereas the demise of the greedy self-indulgent haters seem to be ignorant of our established victory in Christ by his resurrection, ascension and shared glory, 2nd Corinthians 4:6-18.

Meditations on James 4:11-17

v11, “speak no evil” is also translated, “no back-biting” in Rom. 1:30 & 2Cor. 12:20. Why? Because we are family! (brothers). Life is short, Death is sure, Sin is the cause, Christ is the cure! Therefore we should echo our Master’s words. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” Mat. 7:1. If we speak evil of a brother, we judge them and if we accuse a brother behind his back we are back-biting. This quickly detracts from his good name as a Christian and we take upon our own heart the weight of judgment. Even the old law, which Jewish Christians were supposed to love, condemned speaking evil about a brother, Leviticus 19:16-18. By passing sentences upon a brother, we can take upon our self (in God’s eyes) the jurisdiction of the law, which is to accuse, charge, convince, pronounce guilty, and condemn: And then what have we done? We have mishandled the law itself! So in v12, James points out that the only person able to handle the law perfectly is the one and only Lawgiver, being Christ, not Moses. See what the Law of Christ is in Galatians 6:1-3, it’s the opposite of speaking evil.

James questions in v13, a worldly attitude amongst God’s children. It is the planning of making money by trusting in one’s own abilities and plans instead of seeking God’s power & desire to be helping them use their resources. They were being presumptuous, thinking that “my life” belonged to just to themselves, and feeling secure in their money, while feeling they did not need God (see Jer. 12:1-5) They need to stay in touch with reality from God’s perspective and that is only His perspective is long range, we are only short-sighted, if we don’t accept God’s foresight. It’s like being honest about today while you have no certainty in tomorrow, yet you live like eternity is a real victory because you are always looking for ways God can use what you have and who you are.

v14 contains the phrase “Know what will happen”This means ignoring the providential, sovereign reign of God in our lives (Job 9:5-6; 28:25; Psalm 104:10-25; 145:15; 147:9; Matt. 4:4; 6:26-28; Luke 12:6-7; Acts 17:25-28; Rom. 8:28). It is to live our lives our own way with arrogant presumption and self-satisfied forgetfulness of God. This mindset shows disregard for God’s personal attention to the details of our daily life. James’ readers would wholeheartedly agree with this; however, they did not practice it! When we make plans without God, we are like a blind person stepping into the dark without guidance or sight.

v15 actually uses a common Greek expression “If the Lord wills” seen in (Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 16:7), and used as a Latin motto, “Deo Volente” for centuries by committed Christians. This refers to the fact that God’s will is supreme. We have no preview of future events, despite what some people say about “Revelation”. The future is conditional to God’s will, not ours. God is universal. He is sovereign, preserving, and leading all of us intimately and personally with care, while remaining in control of the entire universe! The way to avoid a worldly confidence in tomorrow is to ask God what are my opportunities and gifts and how can I use them to Your glory? This is an operating system for your decisions that control both your programming input and output. The system is prayer and precepts, seeking Him, and learning His Word, so you can make good, healthy decisions (Luke 12:19-20; Prov. 16:9; Isa. 56:12).v16-17 shows clearly that James believes if we reject this Godly vision, we are sinning, because deep down even atheists know they are not in control of tomorrow. So we must, “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” Luke 12:31