Compassion Ministry Validates Faith!

-What Does Faith Look Like?

If you’re one that believes your salvation is solely about what and whom you believe in, James epistle has to be a bit unnerving for you! I say that because James lays down 3-part evidence for what genuine saving faith looks like; and, it includes (1) Self-control over one’s speech; (2) A Ministry of compassion to the needy; and, (3) Practical Holiness. I am alluding to the words, written by James’ hand while inspired by God’s Holy Spirit— ”If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:26-27.

-Compassion Ministry!

James places the ministry of compassion on an equal plane as living a holy life & getting rid of your potty mouth! Unfortunately, many believers tend to separate them and elevate one area over another! Many think that becoming HOLY— or, “…keeping oneself unstained by the world” as James says here— is more important to God than taking care of widows & orphans! God doesn’t see it that way! Each one plays an equal part in living out our faith in Jesus, which is exactly what James means by “pure religion.” Ignore the chapter break— which isn’t inspired; but, added by well-intended individuals— and; discover something even more scandalous! James declares it “favoritism” to look past the needs of orphans & widows.

-Pure Religion Shows No Favoritism!

See how it flows without the chapter break:  “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:27-2:1. Failing to minister to the needs of orphans & widows is FAVORITISM! Don’t do that, he says! He then goes on to illustrate favoritism, for us, in ch.2. So, I think it’s biblically accurate to say that the “pure and undefiled religion” in 1:26,27 is the same thing as “faith in Jesus” in 2:1. So, is this how you would define genuine faith? If not, perhaps you need to redefine faith the way that God does! It’s His definition that counts!

-Let God Define Genuine Faith!

That may seem obvious to those of you who are passionate about serving Jesus! But, unfortunately, that’s not the case with many in the church who claim to be Christians! I’m referring to the authority, of Scripture, to dictate every area of our lives! EVERY AREA! There is not one part, of my life, that I can claim authority over! God & His Word have complete authority over every area of my life— my thought life, my work life, my sex life, etc. God’s Word has complete authority over all of it! What “I think” and what “I believe” have to be submitted to the Revelation of Scripture; and, repented of & changed when what, “I think” & what “I believe” doesn’t match up with it! Are we in agreement? That is a fundamental of authentic faith in Jesus Christ! It’s no longer a Holy Bible when we start cutting out those parts we don’t like!

 

Pure Religion!

-An Orphan’s Story!

I married the granddaughter of an orphan! When my wife’s grandfather was a young boy, his father died; and, his mother remarried.  Unfortunately, her new husband out NOT to be the kind of man she thought he was.  He held no regard for her children; and, when she died, he considered them disposable; and, had them removed from his home. My wife’s grandfather was a 14-year old boy when the authorities placed him in an orphanage where he was physically abused; until it was discovered and he was removed and placed in a foster-care home where he was loved & cared for. Eventually, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, married my wife’s grandmother & they established a Christian home together. A home that produced a legacy of faith with children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren who’ve grown up loving Jesus. What a great story, right! An “orphan’s story” with a happy ending!

-An Orphan Crisis!

Unfortunately, that’s the exception. There is an orphan crisis in our world! I was shocked to discover that there are more than 153 million orphans worldwide! That’s staggering! If orphans were a country, of their own, their population would rank 9th in the world, ahead of Russia! 100 million of them live or work on the streets. They survive by selling flowers or cigarettes, by watching cars; and, many sell their bodies, for sex, or engage in criminal activity. Many, of these street children, are subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation; or, in extreme cases, are murdered by “death squads” paid by their governments to “clean up” the image of their cities.

-It’s Easy To Become Hard-Hearted!

So, why am I sharing all this with you? Why should you care? It’s so easy to become hardened to all the images, isn’t it? We’re bombarded with the infomercials! The sad faces. The sad music. The compelling stories. All meant to move us to reach into our wallets ad pay up! And, we can try and rationalize that so many of the agencies out there, who claim to be helping the orphan population, are just siphoning off huge amounts, from the giving, to support elaborate lifestyles for their big-name CEO’s. So, let me tell you why this is important to you! Because we can’t just ignore what God’s Word says about it! God has an opinion & we need to listen!

-Look After Orphans!

It’s a statement inspired by God’s Holy Spirit— “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:27.  What was that? “PURE RELIGION” is looking after orphans & widows? Is James supporting a salvation of good deeds? No, he’s not! The book James authored dovetails quite nicely with Paul’s book to the Romans. James is NOT saying that your good deeds, like caring for orphans & widows, will result in salvation! Rather, that the result of genuine, saving faith, in Jesus—or, “pure religion” he calls it—is to love others! Like orphans, widows & the marginalized of society! God gives us a heart to love & serve them!

 

The Prayer Of Repentance!

-Once Upon A Time!

The Parable Of The Ducks”— Once upon a time there was a town where only ducks lived. Every Sunday the ducks waddled out of their houses & down Main Street to their Duck Church. They waddled in & squatted down in their proper seats. The Duck Choir would waddle in & take their place. And, the Duck Pastor would waddle forward & open his Duck Bible. And, he’d read to them:  “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up & soar like Eagles! No walls can confine you! No fences can hem you in! You have wings, so FLY!” All the ducks would shout, “Amen!” And, then they would all waddle home!

-When Sin Invades!

The moral to the story? Once sin invades our life it cripples our ability to live the Christian life the way God intended for us to it; and, until we repent of our sin, we’ll “waddle” through this life though God has ENABLED us to “FLY” IN CHRIST! Before his ascension, to the throne of Israel— and, for much of his early reign—  King David was a man of moral integrity. But, some where he began to take himself too seriously; and, pride began to crowd out the voice of God’s Spirit, in his life; and, he began to lose his way spiritually. The tragic events leading up to King David’s most memorable sinful gaffe are found in 2 Samuel ch. 11.

-David’s Tragic Gaffe!

It began “..in the spring,” v.1 says, “when kings march out to war.” It was customary for kings to march out to war, with their soldiers, to inspire them! But, David decides to indulge himself at home while his soldiers set up camp in an open field. “…David sent Joab,” the text says, “with his officers and all Israel.  They destroyed the Ammonites & besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem.” That decision proved to be a dreadful mistake for David! One evening, while out for a stroll on the roof of his palace, he sees something he never would have been exposed to if he had marched to war with his men. A woman was cleansing herself. She was a beautiful woman, according to v.2; and, David decides he wants her. So, he sends messengers to find out who she was—she was the WIFE of one of his soldiers, Uriah & that should have ended it! She was another man’s wife! But David sent for her & slept with her!

-The Big Cover-Up!

It would just be a 1-night fling for the king; but, she got pregnant! And, then he orchestrated a cover-up that ended in her husband Uriah’s death! But God was displeased with what David had done; so, He sent Nathan, the Prophet, to expose King David’s sin & to inform him that the son, that Uriah’s wife would give birth to, would die. It’s at that point that the Scriptures allow us to peer in on King David to see what a “Prayer of Repentance” looks like! What we learn is that repentant prayer re-opens communication with God that sin had closed! I’m pretty confident that David’s sin didn’t begin here with Uriah’s wife. When the big sin shows up, there’s always a trail of little sins leading up to it. And, David repented of all of it!

 

Created With Specific Tasks!

-Adam & Eve Created To Be A Team!

After creating Adam & Eve, God gave them specific duties as male & female. The text says, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” Genesis 1:28.  There were several things He outlined for them to do— be fruitful & multiply; and, fill the earth & subdue it; and, have dominion over all things! And, notice, it says that God blessed “THEM.” This was to be a “team” effort! God never intended for it to be a “MAN’S World.”

-Complementary Roles!

The woman complemented the man in fulfilling these duties! And, then we turn the page, of Scripture, to Genesis chapter 2, where we’re given the “details” of creation that had only been skimmed in chapter 1.  God gives them different “roles” or “duties” to fulfill— COMPLEMENTARY ROLES! They fit together by God’s creative design! He created man 1st to work the Garden— “The Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.   The Lord God planted a garden in Eden… The Lord God took the man & placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” ch. 2:7-8, 15.

-God’s Charge To Adam!

Interestingly, God also created man 1st with a charge to obey: “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” ch. 2:16-17.  So, God’s command NOT to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil was given to Adam, NOT Eve! Have you ever noticed that before?

-Where’s Adam?

The text details Eve’s arrival starting with v.18.  That’s significant! Which begs the question, “where was Adam”, when Satan shows up in chapter 3 and tempts Eve with the condemned fruit? Adam had received the instruction not to eat from the tree & he should have been Eve’s support to obey the command he’d been given! So, God declares, in v.18, the key to understanding God’s design for the sexes:  “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” Adam couldn’t carry out his duties without her!

-Adam Couldn’t Do It Without Her!

He couldn’t be fruitful & multiply without HER! He couldn’t fill the earth & subdue it without HER! In a very dramatic way God convinced Adam that it was impossible for him to make it on his own! By delaying His creation of Eve, Adam came to recognize how important she was! God created the sexes NOT for competition; but, for cooperation, to complement! It’s hopeless to make life work, on planet Earth, the one without the other! God designed us for interdependence— MEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without women; and, WOMEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without men! That’s not what the culture says! But, the culture is WRONG! The culture didn’t design men & women. Can you imagine how different, how perfect, this world would be if it still looked like it did in Genesis 1,2?

 

Honoring Jesus With Our Gender!

-The Culture Doesn’t Get It!

We honor Jesus in our hearts when we obey Him with our lifestyles! And, by our obedient lifestyle, we create curiosity! The answer the culture is giving, about our sexual identity, isn’t working! And, it never will! But, when we live, sexually, in obedience to God’s word, we earn the right to share it when the world gets curious— to share with them the Gospel and God’s purpose for gender. This is difficult subject matter! It’s layered with lots of abuse & painful injuries dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden; and, it’s just not easy to jump into without laying a foundation of understanding with empathy and love.

-Say It With Empathy & Love!

And, that is what the world needs from us— understanding, empathy and love! It’s simply not helpful when, instead, we offer them self-righteous judgment and vindictiveness! So, let me try and unpack some of the main points from the first 2 chapters of Genesis; especially, as it relates to gender & sexual identity. We need to take note of some of the implications it plays for our homes, our families, and, how it plays into our child rearing. Keep in mind,   from an interpretive standpoint of the text, that Genesis ch.1 presents the “Big Picture” of God’s creative act; and, ch. 2 fills in the “details.” Chapter 1 is like the Super Bowl headlines the day after—  “Patriots Win The Most Boring Super Bowl Ever”; and, ch.2 is like the story that fills in the details how the Patriots pummeled the Rams into submission.

-What Shapes Our Opinions?

Let’s also remember the most important detail as a Follower of Jesus Christ—  When determining our roles, as men and women, God’s Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! And, perhaps, the most significant point, of the text, is that God created humanity to reflect HIS IMAGE.  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth’” ch. 1:26.  God created humanity to function as His living image over the creation; and, I believe it’s correct to interpret “man” here as “mankind”; including, BOTH man & woman! I believe the next verse bears that out—  God created humanity to bear His image as MALE & FEMALE!

-God Created Maleness & Femaleness!

The text says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female”  ch. 1:27. Our “maleness” and our “femaleness” are essential parts of being God’s image bearers! Somehow—and, I don’t want to get “weird” here—but, somehow it seems that God is saying that it was in the “complementing” or the “completing” of the man with the creation of woman, that humanity was created in the image of God. That image wasn’t clear or evident until woman complemented God’s creation of man. So, here’s my plea:  Men & Women! We need each other to correctly image God in His creation! When we grasp the significance of that we’ll begin to glory in both “MANHOOD” & “WOMANHOOD.” Together, we are God’s intentional design of human diversity!

 

Designed To Complement!

-Is Gender Inequality Real?

Gender inequality is receiving a lot of attention these days. I’m referring to the claim that there is unequal treatment of individuals based on their gender. Some of this mistreatment is “perceived”; but, much of it is very real! Some claim there is a gender pay gap; and, in many cases the facts support that claim! There’s also a resulting link to career advancement— that one’s gender impedes their advancement up the company ladder!

-There’s Perspective With Age!

I’ve mentioned before— about growing older— that one of the few advantages I have, over those younger than me, is that I have a “PERSPECTIVE” they can’t possibly have! I have a kind of panoramic view of time since growing up in the 1960’s. More than just a historical perspective, I lived it! I remember when Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King to a tennis match that became known as the “Battle of the Sexes.” It received international attention; and, when King won, it became a kind of “rally cry” to what has been the women’s movement!

-Gender Resentment’s Not Cool!

Now, let me be clear about something! I admit that from the beginning of time, men, in general, have been guilty of inflicting much harm & gender inequality against women; and, I applaud many of the changes that have been made to correct that! At the same time—here is my “old man” perspective— I have noted, in my lifetime, a deep pervasive gender resentment has bubbled up & boiled over in our day. We’re at this “zero-sum competition”! As a society we’re not looking for the WIN-WIN. There’s this lack of togetherness & teamwork between the sexes! It’s become “US against THEM”; and, the only way one gender wins is if the opposite gender loses! It’s “EITHER-OR” when it ought to be “BOTH-AND.” Either men rule the world; or, women do! The sexes are more divided than ever; and, the sexual orientation & “sexual identity” issues are the natural fallout of this fighting between the genders! The world is lost & confused & needs to be rescued & the Church can help bring sanity to the struggle by embracing the counsel of God’s word & living it out in our homes & in the public square & let me add that we bring that discussion with LOVE, PATIENCE & GENTLENESS!

-The Way God Designed Us!

God’s design for the man & the woman promotes beauty & harmony in the relationship between the sexes! God’s design for men & women is absolute equality in status; but, a difference in the roles! All the cultural debate over homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, public policy concerning women being drafted for combat, church debates over women pastors, and, marital conflicts over “who’s in charge” in the home— ALL of it is addressed directly or by implication in God’s Word. When determining our roles, as men and women, God & His Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! To do otherwise is deadly! The culture is broken & doesn’t have the answers! It all begins with Genesis in my next post!

Living In A Sexually Immoral Culture!

-Where To Find The Best Counsel?

The 7th chapter, of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, contains some of the best counsel available on sex and marriage.  And, though he opens with an endorsement for celibacy, he quickly adds that “…because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband” 1 Corinthians 7:2.  In a sexually charged culture, like Corinth was, marriage is God’s gift for most believers.  Why? Because it’s the only sexual activity that God ordains!

-An Undefiled Marriage Bed!

The author, of Hebrews, puts it like this:  “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers” Hebrews 13:4.  The “marriage bed” was an idiom synonymous with “sex.” So, respect it, because God will judge the immoral or adulterous person who “plays the part” of a married person sexually! But, they’re not married, they’re just “playing house.” When you belong to a culture where sexual immorality is so prevalent—like it was in Corinth & like it is in our own country—God’s answer is, “Get Married!” In the 9th verse of Paul’s Corinthian letter, the Holy Spirit prompts him to write that, “…if they do not have self-control (to REMAIN CELIBATE), they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

-Marriage: A Deterrent To Immorality!

So, marriage is a helpful deterrent to sexual immorality! That might not seem like the best motive for getting married; but, Paul & the Spirit of God are just being practical! It’s better than immorality!  At the same time, Paul qualifies the gift of marriage with some stipulations. Marriage does not guarantee freedom from sexual immorality. Marriage partners have a sexual responsibility to each other. Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying here! Marriage is a deterrent to living a life of sexual immorality; but, ONLY if the husband and wife carry out their sexual responsibilities to one another.  “A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.  A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

-Being Sexually Responsible!

There’s a lot going on in those 3 verses. Paul is preaching “monogamy.” He’s preaching a “heterosexual” relationship. And, he’s preaching that a husband & a wife have a sexual responsibility to fulfill with each other. Some translations actually speak of it as a “debt” or an “obligation.” Again, that doesn’t sound very romantic; but, this is serious stuff Paul is talking about. You can’t say it much stronger than he does in v.5—”Don’t DEPRIVE one another sexually…” Some translations render it, “…don’t DEFRAUD one another…” The husband’s body does not belong to him alone! And, the wife’s body does not belong to her alone! When you use sex as a “weapon” to punish some bad behavior, you think your spouse committed against you, you defraud them & place them in a vulnerable place to fall into sexual sin, Paul says. Don’t do it!