12.30.2009

our firm and substantial support

“The true looking of faith, I say, is placing Christ before one’s eyes and beholding in Him the heart of God poured out in love. Our firm and substantial support is to rest on the death of Christ as its only pledge.”
- John Calvin, NT Commentary, vol. 1, p. 74
(HT: Dan Morse)
Firstimportance.org is a grade-A site. I recommend it for your homepage.

12.27.2009

more james

Let's start with a brief summary of what has been covered in the first few verses, ala the ESV Study Bible:

"Trials are designed to produce spiritual maturity and should therefore be counted as joy."

Now I will attempt to try and write in a far less rigid and formal manner, yo. Seriously, all this writing as a business school undergraduate, I mean, former business school undergraduate has really put me in a stiff and academic writing stance. Enough shenanigans, onwards to the Word!

6. let him ask in faith
The right way to pray is to first have faith, to believe. If we pray and we don't believe, our prayers are meaningless. That would be like me asking for a date with a lovely lady, I don't believe I will be answered, but I ask anyways! Zing! Anyone wanna drive me to the hospital, because I just burnt myself.
...Ok, I'll stop. 

like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed
When we pray doubtfully, we subject ourselves to a mental and perhaps emotional storm. Doubts flood our mind, they act like the unseen forces of the wind that drive the fleeting wave of water to and fro and smash it to millions of droplets. Ultimately, a doubting prayer is an affront to God's faithfulness. Make note: God's faithfulness, meaning that God is faithful, trustworthy. You can count on God to not fail or disappoint.

8. a double-minded man
What are the two minds here? The Greek word is transliterated as "dipsychos", and if I have my extremely limited knowledge of Greek correct, this literally means "two minds", hence the double-minded man. Some may call one who is double minded a hypocrite, and this is correct. However I tend to agree with Calvin when he points to a different dichotomous psyche here.

"[T]he unbelieving, who have tortuous recesses, are unstable; because they are never firm or fixed, but at one time they swell with the confidence of the flesh, at another they sink into the depth of despair."

The little notes that I see on CCEL.org (a site that I highly recommend to you, specifically for Calvin's commentaries and Puritan writings, for free) put it this way:

"The double-minded,” or the man with two souls, δίψυχος, means here no doubt the man who hesitates between faith and unbelief, because faith is the subject of the passage. When again used, in James 4:8, it means a hesitation between God and the world."

 Faith and unbelief. These really are on the two opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum, but do they not characterize so many of the victories and defeats of the Christian life?

Side note: Toblerone Chocolate...mmm.

9-11. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
The poor - and might I add that if you are an American, you are likely rich, very rich, even the "poor" college kids - ok I splice my sentences too much. Let's get back on track. The poor are called to exalt in their situation because they have all the riches of Christ and have previously not known or been fully seduced by the riches of this world. I would remind everyone that there are no U-Hauls behind hearses. To quote a lyric of Thrice inspired by the words of Jesus "Put your faith in more than steel: don't store your treasures up with moth and rust, where thieves break in and steal." Once again, getting back on track.

The rich are called to boast in humiliation. What? Yeah, that's what I said when I first read this. I was somewhat dumbfounded by the seemingly contradictory use of boast and humiliation. Again, Calvin helped the hunch I had develop into a more solid thought. Calvin notes:

"Lest, then, the vain joy of the world should captivate the rich, they ought to habituate themselves to glory in the casting down of their carnal excellency."

Basically, those who are rich are to be in a humble state of mind and being. Humiliation...humble...root words anyone? Wow! Check out what Wikipedia has to say on humiliation:

"Humiliation (also called stultification) is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission."

I think whenever I see the word "mortification" used in a sentence I get a little too gleeful.
Why should the rich and poor boast in their respective states? Christ is the treasure that is unlike the grass and flower that fall and fade away, and those who chase after worldly goods and stuff will pass away in their pursuit. The end of verse 10 seems to indicate to me that if we seek for joy and satisfaction in earthly goods, we will die trying to get it.

Ok, I think that is all for today.

12.26.2009

james continued

Ok y'all...let me know who you are if you are reading this! Perhaps I can better tailor my writing topics if I have an idea who my audience (if there is one) is. Blogging is so weird at times.
James 1...hopefully I will get more than 2 verses done!
3. the testing of your faith produces steadfastness Calvin points to the clear meaning of why we experience trials and temptations:
We now see why he called adversities trials or temptations, even because they serve to try our faith.
Faith! This is the object that is tried as a levee might be tried in a hurricane, or a bridge bearing its load. Though at this point it seems we in a small conundrum. When we are tempted and our faith is tested, it is not a pleasant experience, though we intellectually know that this trial is to ultimately be for our joy. What gives? James, inspired by the Spirit, brings forth more ammunition against the bitter taste of temptation to the Christian. He gives us another reason why we should rejoice: tests produce steadfastness/patience. Paul also states in Romans 5:3 that we are to rejoice in these situations.

4. perfect and complete, lacking nothing The first thing that jumps out at me like a rabid squirrel is this: the full effect of trials, which test our faith, and then produces steadfastness, is so that we may be fully content. Trial / temptation appears - faith is tested - steadfastness produced - steadfastness runs its course producing perfect contentment. Now I realize that the text specifically does not mention contentedness as a final result, however what happens when we are "perfect and complete, lacking nothing"? We are content. Now this perfection is likely not what the fallen world would call a perfect life. It is probably not living in a huge house on the beach, happy family in tow, and a bank account filled to the brim. What does it look like? It might look like the Apostle Paul's life. It might include physical tribulations and beatings for the name of Christ. It might look completely different.

(Sidenote & Request: If anyone who has been to seminary, or is skilled in textual analysis reads this...please tell me if this method of drawing conclusions is really bad hermeneutics. I am even wary of my own conclusion here concerning contentedness.)

Secondly (big breath), "Real patience is that which endures to the end." Our patience must not be fleeting! Patience that runs its full course and produces the aforementioned perfection is the patience that weathers the storm of trial and temptation.

(Another sidenote: I am not gonna make it through Chapter 2 tonight! Doh.)

5. lacks wisdom Who lacks wisdom? Who wants some divine knowledge? I got wisdom heah, only 5 dolla...nope! It's free! Just ask God!
Yes, I lack wisdom. This reminds me of the Proverb writer who said (Proverbs 30:2-3):
"Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
     I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
     nor have I knowledge of the Holy One."
And can we just note that this came from a person who wrote part of Proverbs - a book of the divinely inspired Bible!! Wow. If he says he's stupid, well...I don't know what to call me (and you).
Ok, done for tonight. Maybe I will just stick with the first chapter of James until 2010.

12.25.2009

joyful temptations

I am going through the book of James from now until the end of the year until I begin a read the Bible in a year plan. Here are my notes and thoughts.
Oh, I would like to know who my readers are! Hint, hint: drop a comment! I do enjoy blogging, and one of the reasons why I do it is that others may be strengthened in their faith and Christ be magnified like with a telescope as Piper rightfully says - taking something that we perceive as small to the naked eye, but when magnified (Christ) is shown as it truly is: mindblowingly glorious and magnificent.

1. To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: James wrote to a scattered, Jewish audience. James was the brother of our Lord Jesus and the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem. He begins his letter to the scattered flock by identifying as a servant, literally meaning "slave" in Greek. A definition is offered here: one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men .
James wrote to a scattered audience; it seems that he is either writing to the whole of the nation Israel with respect to the scattered tribes, which is certainly a large audience, or perhaps he is writing to his congregation which is indeed composed of members of the twelve tribes. The Dispersion references Israel as a whole after they were scattered after Assyrian and Babylonian rule.

2. trials of various kinds John Calvin speaks of these trials:
"When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said, that temptations ought to be so deemed as gain, as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy."
This is terribly striking! How often in my life have I been terribly grieved when temptations to sin have come? When the ugly face of temptation has come upon me I typically trembled in fear and felt as though I had already sinned. Yes, often with that perspective I do falter and give in to evil - when I should be taking that temptation and doing a few specific things with it:
- acknowledging it as a temptation, and not yet borne into a committed sin
- seizing it by the proverbial throat and demand that this temptation will ultimately end up as something that I will count as "all joy"
- rightly taking the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and cutting the head off of this deceitful beast
- treasuring this temptation, this trial, as a final gain for my joy

Now the question may arise, "How does one do battle with temptation?" First, it should be noted that temptation ultimately is the occasion when something is placed before you of lesser value than Christ and it demands that you take satisfaction in it, and this is sin (Jer. 2:13). Battle is done with this temptation to a lesser joy, the fleeting pleasures of evil (Heb. 11:24-26) primarily through use of the Bible.

"What?! The Bible? I thought I had to be super-spiritual and/or muster up feelings in myself that will help me fight temptations to sin - of my own strength!" Well my misinformed theoretical friend, you are wrong. Might I commend to you Psalm 119. Yes, the longest "chapter" in the Bible. Might I specifically point to these verses:
v. 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
v. 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
v. 165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Ok, now where in the world was I? Fighting through temptations for joy, ah yes. A final interesting note on what the ESV translates as "meet", but other translations give "encounter" (NASB) and "fall into" (NKJV): the Greek word is peripiptō (περιπίπτω )which Strong defines as "so to fall into as to be encompassed". Temptation can seem like we have fallen into a circle of enemies and we are encompassed with no hope of victory!

In sum, don't be robbed of the joy an experience of temptation may present. Hold fast to the greater promises that Christ through his Spirit-inspired Word gives and fight for joy!
Verse 3? Maybe next time, it's late.

12.23.2009

Christian? watch this.


If you are a Christian, please watch this. It is produced in a dramatic manner, but this only accentuates the grave and bold content of the message given.

12.22.2009

B.S. in CPA Accounting + Finance

I just want to say...
I am done with Syracuse University.

It has been good, SU.

Boo-yahhhhh.

12.14.2009

evening devotion

This post will be 99% verbatim from my written journal that I do not write in enough. Commence.
12/14/2009 - Devotion
Devote your time to God's exaltation through your exultation. (Side note: if you don't know what either of those two words mean...click here and here.)
I prayed before my dinner tonight and the Spirit reminded me how I need to pray more than just at meals. May my prayer life not be anemic! If prayer is "communion" and communion is God's presentation of Himself to us, then we as Christians should innately feel and express joy, because of God coming to us in love. He does not come in wrath to the righteous, but as glorious and affection-gathering. God communes with us in prayer so he may be made glorious in our eyes and with this we have joy. Psalm 43:3-4 pictures man's response to God's sending out of "truth and light" as one of "exceeding joy". Don't skip over the Gospel!
Galatians 3:13 - Christ bore the curse of the Law for us.
Galatians 3:10 - If man relies on his works for righteousness, works that are under the Law, in trusting in such obedience to the Law, he will be cursed because he cannot fulfill the Law. Man is cursed by not abiding by the Law.
Galatians 3:11 - Righteous people live by faith. Faith is the qualifier for righteousness. No man is justified before God's judgment seat by the Law. Every single human is guilty according to the Law.
Interrupted with at thought: Is this verse by verse exploration of the bible normal Bible study? Or is it an outlet of my passion for the Word, pointing to a specific way I must use it? I want to spread this! I want to spread the truth in these pages!
Galatians 3:12 - The law is not of faith. See Romans 10:5 .
Galatians 3:13 - Man is under the curse of the Law due to his disobedience to the Law. Christ saved us because he became cursed with the curse of the Law we were to bear. Who is the "us" in this verse? It does not say "all".
Deuteronomy 10:13 - Do I believe that keeping God's will is "for [my] good"?
Exodus 34:6-7 - God promises future forgiveness for transgressions.
Deuteronomy 9:23 - Rebellion is caused by the failure to believe God.

12.06.2009

academic maelstrom

I wanted to use maelstrom in the title. So I did. I also used it in that last sentence. Maelstrom. Maaaaaaaelstrom.
EEE 457, my senior business thesis/create a business plan from scratch/meet with your group ad nauseum/class has been quickly swallowing up my free time (and social life) in the past couple weeks. We present out plan to a panel of judges this Friday (!) and submit our loooooooooooong written plan. As the accounting/finance major, I was slave to the financial statements and valuation methods and leveraged cost structure, etc. Shenanigans.