picture Bible commentary

By trusting in emptiness and speaking deceit, they conceive harm and give birth to malice. They … weave spiderwebs. … Their webs can’t serve as clothing; they can’t cover themselves with their deeds. Their deeds are deeds of malice, and the work of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil; they rush to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are thoughts of malice; desolation and destruction litter their highways. They don’t know the way of peace; there’s no justice in their paths. They make their roads crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace. (Isaiah 59.4-8)

this went thru my mind

 

Choices, evil & good: The Banality of Goodness by Richard Beck [required reading]

“Evil is ordinary people thoughtlessly making a million small choices.”

Death & dying: Five Reasons We Fear Dying by Caleb Wilde

“Here are five reasons we fear dying.”

Facebook: Require Approval for All Facebook Photo or Comment Tags by Dave Taylor

“Facebook … makes it really easy to tag people in pictures and status updates, even without that person giving approval … You can always untag yourself from Facebook photos or comments, but that’s after the fact. What most people don’t realize is that there’s a way you can set up your privacy settings so that you have to explicitly approve all tags before they show up on Facebook.”

Family: Family First!— Not a Biblical Viewpoint by Ben Witherington [required reading]

“… the Bible, and especially the NT, does not encourage us to put the physical family first. … Frankly, this is entirely false and a bad theology, especially a bad theology of calling.”

Hospice: All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Hospice by David Calhoun

“Forgiveness is best not left to the death bed.”

Jesus/wife manuscript: Update on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (from Craig A. Evans)

“Is the Coptic papyrus, in which Jesus speaks of his ‘wife,’ a fake? Probably. We are far from a ‘consensus,’ but one scholar after another and one Coptologist after another has weighed in pointing out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas (principally from logia 30, 101, and 114).”

Leadership: 16 Things Successful Leaders Never Do by Dan Rockwell

“Never create the future by recreating the past.”

Ministry & people: * One Question Every Church Leader Should Ask by Jim Martin; * Stop Trying to Fix People’s Problems by Sam S. Rainer

* “What is it like to be someone else in your church?”

* “Stop trying to fix people’s problems. Lower the expectations of your ability to solve the problem. Raise the expectations to see Christ as the answer.”

Women: Jesus and Women in the Gospels by Joshua Graves

“I know what Paul said in I Timothy 2 and I Cor. 11. But before you tell me what Paul said, can you first tell me what Jesus did?”

this went thru my mind

 

Church decline: One Observation of Declining Churches by Ron Edmonson

“I’ve worked with a number of churches in decline. One thing I’ve noticed that is fairly consistent among declining churches is what they do once they realize they are in decline. … They dig their heels into the tradition that got them where they are today. They go back to what’s comfortable. They resist any changes in what they’ve done before, hoping to avert future decline.”

College: The Rising Cost of Higher Education [infographic]

“The College Board forecasts that in 15 years, the cost of a four-year college education at a private college will top $400,000 (at the current rate of increases).”

Deacons & deaconesses: #359 – Deacons, Ministers, or …? by Patrick Mead [required reading]

“Rather than use made up words like ‘deacon’ and made up words formed from made up words (!) like ‘deaconesses’ it would seem to make more sense to use the Biblical concept and call both of them ‘ministers’ or ‘servants.’”

Doubt: What Christians Can Learn From A Bible-Belt Pastor Who Became An Atheist Leader

“The problem of personal evil and suffering was a huge factor in his de-conversion.”

Food: 40% of U.S. Food Wasted, Report Says

“The report points out waste in all areas of the U.S. food supply chain, from field to plate, from farms to warehouses, from buffets to school cafeterias.”

Learning: Ministry Inside.90 by Jim Martin

“The following are five suggestions for learning from ‘masters.’”

Productivity: What Successful People Do With The First Hour Of Their Work Day

“…  many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too. The first hour of the workday goes a bit differently …”

Sharing faith: Ten Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church by Thom Rainer

“In my work with churches across America, I often ask a series of questions that help me assist the church to become more evangelistically focused. Recently, I took time to write down the questions I ask most often. Look at these ten questions to get at least some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church.”

The Pledge of Allegiance: A Restless Patriotism by Richard Beck [required reading]

“I’m a mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes I say it. Sometimes I don’t. Social context generally determines what I do, with the main criterion being not wanting to embarrass anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable. I also struggle with not saying the Pledge as I don’t want to be taken as being ungrateful or dismissive of those who have made sacrifices for everything I enjoy in America. So I’m trying to walk this line between being socially appropriate, respectful to others (particularly to those who have lost loved ones in war), deeply grateful, and yet holding onto the belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is inherently idolatrous. That’s a tough line to walk and I don’t walk it well or very consistently.”

evil

“But now you boast and brag, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16 CEB)

Think about this: how dark must something become before you label it as truly “evil?”

Some matters are obvious. Murder, kidnapping, and rape immediately come to my mind.

At the same time, while there are some matters we certainly wouldn’t classify as “good,” we hesitate to brand them “evil.” Make your own list.

Here, James emphatically tags “bragging” and “boasting” as “evil.” Why? I suggest it’s a matter of source and trajectory.

Ask yourself what a particular behavior says about your heart’s “hunger” and where that behavior, if followed to its logical end, will lead. Does it start with darkness and lead one further from the light of the Lord? Then it’s “evil.” Period. Bragging and boasting speak of selfishness and pride and, if followed, will lead one far away from a humble, self-sacrificing Lord Jesus Christ.

“Evil” musn’t be allowed to become a word we use only in regard to what we would quickly classify as “big sins.” We live in an evil world. Evil is all around us and within us. To think otherwise is to, well, blindly boast and brag.

“Your boasting and bragging is evil.” (James 4:16 DSV)

Give me discernment, heavenly Father, to grasp the difference between confidence in you and cockiness about myself. May my ways follow your Son’s way, and so, lead only to you. Amen.

wherever

Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. (James 3:16 CEB)

“No James, you don’t understand. Some people may have a problem with jealousy and so, screw up the order of things in their life, but not me. It might be an issue with others, but me, well, I’ve got it under control. I’m not going to say I don’t have any jealousy within me because that would be a lie. No, what makes it all different for me is that I keep my jealousy on a leash, you see. It’s tied down. I’ll admit, it’s there, but ‘disorder’ creeping in as a result, nah, that’s just not where it’s at with me. It’ll never happen. Not with me it won’t.

“See, all sorts of evil does creep into some folks’ lives. And it does so because they’re selfish in their ambitions. They’re all wrapped up in a “What’s in it for me?” way of thinking. They’re always looking to get something out of everything for themselves. But that’s not me. Not all. I’m immune to that sort of stuff. Oh sure, sometimes I get to thinking in a ‘I’m lookin’ out for number one’ mode, but it doesn’t last long and I certainly don’t dabble in that long enough for any other darkness to find its way into my mind. No, you don’t need to worry about me.

“Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate you looking out for me and all, but buddy, you’re way overstating your case. In fact, let me just gently say you really need to just tone it down a bit, brother. Your ‘wherever’ is just too broad a net. Talking that way only weakens the point you’re trying to make with some folks. And hey, I have to be honest with you. The way you’re talking is just a bit offensive to me. I mean, you come across like you’re just lumping me in with the rest of the herd and that’s not right. When it comes to this sort of stuff, I’m different. It’s truly all different with me.”

To which James replies: “Whatever. I’m stickin’ with ‘wherever.’”

Wherever you find jealousy and selfish ambition you’ll find all sorts of evil and people’s lives and relationships in disarray. (James 3:16 DSV)

Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, may I ever remember my place before you, dependent on your grace, and may I ever consider others better than myself. Amen.

God is good, all the time

No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. (James 1:13 CEB)

  • God is good.
  • God is good toward all.
  • God is good toward all in every way.
  • God is good toward all in every way, every day.
  • God is good toward all in every way, every day, all along my way.
  • God is good toward everyone in every way, every day, all along my way, even in times of testing from without.
  • God is good toward everyone in every way, every day, all along my way; even in times of testing from without or in times of temptation from within.

No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” Why? No evil tempts God and God tempts no one. (James 1:13 DSV)

God, you are so good! Let this be my exclamation throughout this day. May my ways not distract, divert, detour, or derail anyone from understanding and underscoring your goodness. Amen.