journey through James (2)

As we go through our upcoming fall quarter Sunday morning adult Bible class study of the the letter of James at MoSt Church, we’ll do a church-wide “slow read” of this letter, a verse or two each day. Most, if not all, of my weekday devotionals here during this study (Sept. 11 – Nov. 27) will come not only from James, but specifically from the verse(s) we’re focused on in our daily reading. Following is a complete reading schedule for our Journey through James.

Sept. 11 – James 1:1
Sept. 12 – James 1:2
Sept. 13 – James 1:3-4
Sept. 14 – James 1:5
Sept. 15 – James 1:6-8
Sept. 16 – James 1:9
Sept. 17 – James 1:10-11
Sept. 18 – James 1:12
Sept. 19 – James 1:13
Sept. 20 – James 1:14-15
Sept. 21 – James 1:16-17
Sept. 22 – James 1:18
Sept. 23 – James 1:19
Sept. 24 – James 1:20
Sept. 25 – James 1:21
Sept. 26 – James 1:22
Sept. 27 – James 1:23-24
Sept. 28 – James 1:25
Sept. 29 – James 1:26
Sept. 30 – James 1:27
Oct. 1 – James 2:1
Oct. 2 – James 2:2-4
Oct. 3 – James 2:5
Oct. 4 – James 2:6-7
Oct. 5 – James 2:8
Oct. 6 – James 2:9
Oct 7 – James 2:10-11
Oct. 8 – James 2:12-13
Oct. 9 – James 2:14
Oct. 10 – James 2:15-17
Oct. 11 – James 2:18
Oct. 12 – James 2:19
Oct. 13 – James 2:20
Oct. 14 – James 2:21-22
Oct. 15 – James 2:23-24
Oct. 16 – James 2:25-26
Oct. 17 – James 3:1
Oct. 18 – James 3:2-3
Oct. 19 – James 3:4-5a
Oct. 20 – James 3:5b-6
Oct. 21 – James 3:7-8
Oct. 22 – James 3:9-10
Oct. 23 – James 3:11-12
Oct. 24 – James 3:13
Oct. 25 – James 3:14-15
Oct. 26 – James 3:16
Oct. 27 – James 3:17
Oct. 28 – James 3:18
Oct. 29 – James 4:1
Oct. 30 – James 4:2-3
Oct. 31 – James 4:4-5a
Nov. 1 – James 4:5b
Nov. 2 – James 4:6
Nov. 3 – James 4:7
Nov. 4 – James 4:8a
Nov. 5 – James 4:8b
Nov. 6 – James 4:9-10
Nov. 7 – James 4:11
Nov. 8 – James 4:12
Nov. 9 – James 4:13-15
Nov. 10 – James 4:16
Nov. 11 – James 4:17
Nov. 12 – James 5:1-3a
Nov. 13 – James 5:3b-4
Nov. 14 – James 5:5-6
Nov. 15 – James 5:7a
Nov. 16 – James 5:7b-8
Nov. 17 – James 5:9
Nov. 18 – James 5:10
Nov. 19 – James 5:11
Nov. 20 – James 5:12
Nov. 21 – James 5:13a
Nov. 22 – James 5:13b
Nov. 23 – James 5:14-15
Nov. 24 – James 5:16
Nov. 25 – James 5:17-18
Nov. 26 – James 5:19-20

If you’re looking for a good place to view these texts online, click on “Bibles” in the menu line above and you’ll be given a variety of choices.

journey through James (1)

At MoSt Church, we’ll soon start a three-month focus on the very practical and quite candid letter of James in most of our adult Bible classes. That study is entitled, quite simply, Journey Through James and will run from Sun., Sept. 11 through Sun., Nov. 27.

As we work through this letter, I’ll be saturating myself will all things “James.” What that means for you is that most of my weekday devotionals, Sunday picture Bible commentary posts, and sundry other postings here during that time will come from James. I realize those of you who like a lot of variety in where stuff is coming from will likely be “Jamesed out” come the end of November. At the same time, I know those of you who enjoy depth and like to have time to contemplate and ruminate on a text are probably looking forward to this journey. To the former, I beg your indulgence; to the latter I say, “The party’s on at James’ place!”

I’ve asked the adult class teachers here at MoSt who will lead our journey to repeatedly read a chapter every day in the book of James in the weeks leading up to our study. Perhaps you’d like to do the same. Start today and you’ll have read through each of James’ five chapters six times come the day we start our study. Let me also encourage you to follow my lead in this by using a different Bible translation each time to you go through James’ letter. The translations I’ll use for this preparatory reading will be the NRSV, NJB, CEV, The Message, NIV 2011, and the CEB. You can access most of these online at BibleGateway and, of course, have access to many other translations and versions, too.

Watch for most posts on Fridays in the coming weeks that will help you prepare for an intense focus on the wise words of a great man of God, James.

the tenth commandment

This coming Sunday morning (May 22) at MoSt Church most of our English-speaking adult Bible classes (9:00 a.m.) will study Rock Solid Self-Control. This is a study of the tenth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not covet …”; Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21). Make good use of the following questions to assist you in your preparation for class.

1. What would you be tempted to do for twenty million dollars?

2. Can you name a current movie or song that illustrates just how discontented people are today in America?

3. Define the word “covet.”

4. How does the sin of covetousness differ from the sins of say murder, adultery, and stealing? What is it that makes this sin more difficult to corral than the others?

5. Of the other nine commandments that make up the Ten Commandments, with which commandment would you say the tenth commandment has the most in common? Explain.

6. Have you ever heard any confess the sin of covetousness? Why are we hesitant to admit a problem with which we all struggle?

7. So what could possibly be wrong with just “wanting more?” Construct your answer strictly from what you see in the wording of the tenth commandment only.

8. Jesus said, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (Mark 8:36) What does this verse say to you about covetousness?

9. Engage the following quote: “The root of coveting is dissatisfaction with God’s allotment of things. We resent what we think is the unfairness of God (maybe we call it the unfairness of life) and, because of that internal resentment, we act in some way that dishonors God.” (Rick Atchley)

10. When you’re bored or lonely, what do you do to sheer yourself up? Does spending money, or looking at things on which you could spend money, make you feel better or worse? Why?

11. How good are you at rejoicing with others who have “good fortune?”

12. Think of someone you know who has learned to be content. How does their contentment show?

13. Consider King David and his involvement with Bathsheba. Consider how covetousness, and the discontent it brought into his life, was at the root of his breaking most of the Ten Commandments. As someone has said: “Sin lies in the heart long before it shows in the hands.” What practical steps can a person take to cure the covetousness in their heart?

14. Self-denial is central to what it means to being a Christian. As Jesus put it: “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) What do you still need to do to deny yourself in order to more fully follow Christ?

the ninth commandment

This coming Sunday morning (May 15) at MoSt Church most of our English-speaking adult Bible classes (9:00 a.m.) will study Rock Solid Speech. This is a study of the ninth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not give false testimony against your neighbor”; Exodus 20:16; Deut. 5:20). Make good use of the following questions to assist you in your preparation for class this Sunday, won’t you?

1. What constitutes a “lie?” “Define lying.” Be as precise as possible.

2. Of all sins, lying is the one most identified with Satan (“the father of lies” – John 8:44). Why do you suppose this is the case and what are some of Satan’s favorite lies that you hear?

3. Name some instances of lying as related in the narratives of the Bible.

4. What are some of the most common motivations for people to lie? That is, why do people lie?

5. Can you illustrate how it is possible to say something that is factually true, but morally false?

6. Lies are not always told with words. How else do you see people lie? Can a lie be told by being silent? Can you give us an illustration of such?

7. Is there a distinction in your mind between lying about trivial matters and lying about important matters? Explain.

8. Are you inclined to view lying as “immoral” or “against God” in the same way as sexual immorality, murder, and idolatry?

9. What is the most deceptive kind of lie – the one furthest or closest to the truth? Why?

10. What lies do you hear people tell in the name of “politeness” or “compassion?” When is withholding the truth wrong? Right?

11. How are lying and slander related to each other? Is it possible to slander a person if everything you say about them is true?

12. What are your most common self-deceptions?

13. What is the most valuable lesson you have ever learned about the value of truth? What is the best way to teach truthfulness to someone?

14. How can a person guard their heart against the temptation to lie? How can someone given to lying break the cycle?

the eighth commandment

This coming Sunday morning at MoSt, most of our English-speaking adult Bible classes (9:00 a.m.) will study Rock Solid Sharing. This is a study of the eighth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not steal”; Exodus 20:15; Deut. 5:19). Make good use of the following questions to assist you in your preparation for class this Sunday, won’t you?

1. Sad to say, stealing is quite common in our society today. Name some incidents of stealing that really “get under your skin.” What harm came as a result of this stealing?

2. What do you believe motivates most of the stealing of which you are aware?

3. Not all forms of stealing are obviously evil. Some forms of stealing wear such a disguise they might well be called “honest stealing.” Name some examples of stealing that are often justified as not really being “stealing.”

4. There are at least four kinds of stealing: (a) taking money or material property that belongs to another with no intent of giving it back, (b) dishonesty in business transactions, (c) taking intangible things from others, and (d) withholding from God what rightly belongs to him. Can you think of other forms of stealing? How might some of the following be considered as forms of stealing: irresponsible indebtedness, laziness, sexism, stinginess, and slander?

5. Of the four preceding types of stealing, which one seems to be the easiest for you to avoid? Which is the most difficult? Why?

6. What personal possessions are you most careful about securing and why? How these most cherished possessions be used to further God’s kingdom and glory?

7. The Bible depicts Christians as “stewards” or “managers.” What is the difference between “owning” something” and “holding it in trust for someone else?” What is the significance of this difference to your understanding of who you are and what you are to be in Christ?

8. How would your lifestyle change if you were required to give one-fourth to one-third of your gross, annual income to the service of God?

9. Restitution of stolen goods was required under the OT Law (Ex. 22:1-15; etc.). Restitution is well exemplified in the statement of Zacchaeus in his encounter with Jesus (Luke 19:8). How can you imagine things changing if restitution, rather than incarceration, became dominant in the United States justice system?

10. Someone has calculated that there are more promises on our sharing with others in the Bible than any other promise. Can you think of any Scriptures that tie together these three thoughts: earning your living, refusing to steal, and deliberately sharing with others?

11. Have you ever been angry with God for taking someone or something away from you? What did you learn from that experience?

the fifth commandment

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)

At MoSt Church this coming Sunday morning, Apr. 17, most of our adult Bible classes will study the fifth of the Ten Commandments (“honor your father and mother”). Following are seventeen questions to help you think about this commandment and to assist in your personal preparation for class Sunday morning.

1. The first four of the Ten Commandments deal directly with respect for God while the last six deal with showing respect to people. How is the placement of this commandment (honor your parents) significant as the first of the commandments dealing with respect for people?

2. Under the Law, the sternest of penalties were threatened against anyone who broke this commandment. “Everyone who curses their mother or father will be put to death.” (Lev. 20:9; Ex. 21:17). This is the same penalty as blasphemy against God (Lev. 24:15-16). Why do you suppose this commandment has such stern penalties attached to it whereas others, such as stealing, do not?

3. What are the two promises connected with this commandment? How are we to correctly interpret these promises? Is the text saying that if a parent dies early then it was a sure sign they were not a good parent? Is it saying that if we are not successful then it’s because we dishonored our parents? How is it exactly that honoring one’s parents helps make life longer or better for a person?

4. We usually hear this commandment discussed in the context of children still living at home respecting their parents as they grow up and are yet to be out on their own. However, this commandment extends throughout our life and is by no means limited to our pre-adult years. How does this reminder affect the way you hear this commandment?

5. What instances of disrespect from children toward their parents do you recall are recorded in Scripture?

6. Where is this commandment referenced in the New Testament? What is the context there?

7. How has your relationship, or lack of one, with your parents affected your relationship with your heavenly Father?

8. What is your emotional reaction when you hear a child (no matter their age) being disrespectful to, or of, their parents? Would you say children are most often disrespectful because they lack honor or because their parents do not require honor from them?

9. How does a parent lay the foundation for the respect they are to receive from their children by their showing respect to their children?

10. It is easy to honor an “honorable” parent but how can a child honor a “dishonorable” parent, a parent that behaves badly toward them?

11. While our culture worships youth, Scripture extols the praise of those who are older. Where do you see evidence of the tension between these two differing world views? What are some (perhaps conflicting) ways our culture views “seniors” today? “A wise child heeds a parent’s instructions” (Proverbs 13:1). What trends and events in society have caused us to ignore this good advice?

12. Ageism is as sinful as racism. Give some examples of ageism that you detect in our society today, within, or without, of the church. Do you see increasing age as an plus, as a minus, or as something completely neutral to you in life today?

13. It is quite possible to take this commandment to honor our parents to a harmful extreme. “If we never defied the people who parented us, either we never really grew up or they never really allowed it. ‘Parents,’ Peter Ustinov wrote, ‘are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth.'” (Joan Chittister) And so, where is the boundary line where the “keeping” of this commandment crosses over into something dishonorable to the parents and/or the child? Under what circumstances should a child ever disobey a parent?

14. What responsibilities of honoring your parents continue after they are deceased?

15. If you have a living parent, what are three specific, practical ways you can express your loving commitment of respect and honor to them? If you do not have a living parent, how can you express such to senior members of our church family?

16. Imagine what could be if the church today took the same sort of collective responsibility for children that the Israelites did in the time of Moses. What problems might we see reduced? What hurdles can you imagine being in the way of implementation of such and how might we clear them?

17. What creative possibilities for affirming older folks and helping them preserve their dignity exist in our church family? What additional ones might be worth exploring?

you shall not make an idol

If you’re a part of a Sunday morning adult Bible class at MoSt Church, you’re surely preparing your heart and mind in reading, study, reflection, and prayer for our focus this coming Sunday (Mar. 27) on the second of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not make an idol” – Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 5:8-10). With that in mind, let me to steer you toward some “good stuff” for you to consider.

Jason’s Hood’s fine article entitled Idolatry, the Gospel, and the Imitation of God appeared in Christianity Today just today. I believe you’ll find it helpful for consideration of application of the second commandment today.

No doubt you’d also enjoy and benefit from Dan DeWitt’s brief, simple series of posts recalling J.B. Phillips’ classic work Your God is Too Small. Here are the links to that series: Your God is Too Small (intro), Absolute PerfectionGrand Old ManMeek & MildParental Hangover, and Resident Policeman.

Finally, following are a variety of questions from which I’ll choose a few to use in the 20/20 class. Some of these are of my own creation and some I have robbed from the likes of Atchley and Shelly.

How would you feel if your mate or best friend made a sculpture of what they wished you look like, instead of the real you, and then spend all their time gazing at the sculpture and ignoring you?

What would you say are the first and last examples of idolatry mentioned in the Bible? What specifically are those idols? Do you believe they are still around and actively worshiped by many today or are they long since passe? Explain?

What Old Testament accounts or quotes come to mind when you think of the subject of idolatry? What New Testament accounts or quotes do you recall in regard to idolatry?

What is the difference between the first commandment (“no other gods before me”) and the second commandment (“you shall not make an idol”)?

Notice how the first commandment regards our not being distracted by other gods and the second commandment concerns our not developing them. Rather than eliminating God (or gods) from our lives completely, we humans tend to worship someone or something. Why do you think this is so?

God once said, “I am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5a; Deut. 5:9a). He hasn’t changed. In fact, this is specific the reason (‘for”) we are to never bow down to or worship an idol. What is the meaning of this phrase “I am a jealous God?” How is it a good thing that the living God is “jealous?”

How and why is it that the breaking of this second commandment (as well as the avoidance of breaking it) greatly affects future generations? (Ex. 20:5-6; Deut. 5:9b-10)?

Aside from the fact that God said “don’t do it,” what is it exactly that makes idolatry sin? From which Scriptures does your answer come?

J.B. Phillips once wrote a book entitled Your God is Too Small. How is idolatry an attempt to shrink God?

“Insecurity is usually the soil in which idolatry grows best.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

Idolatry often consists of either making a means into an end or substituting a thing for a person (i.e. – valuing something[s] over someone[s]). Such even happens often within Christ’s church. Can you name some examples?

How can you know when something becomes an idol in your life?

It has been said that the most common idols for men in their 20’s is sex, for men in their 30’s money, for men in their 40’s food, and then the cycle starts all over again. Whether you think this observation is hysterical or spot-on, what might the cycle be for women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc.?

Do you believe the genders are tempted to construct different idols? That is to say, what are some idols women tend to make and what are some idols men tend to build? How do you account for these similarities or differences? Does any particular Scriptures come to your mind in this regard? How do the opposite genders in the room react to your observations?

What can we learn about God’s image by looking at Jesus? What can we learn about our image by looking at Jesus?

What would you say are some modern attempts to mix idolatry and the worship of God? What potential “golden calves” threaten to steal our allegiance from the true God today?

“When it comes to the relatively important things in life (basic values and behavior concerning wealth, power, prestige, justice, security, peace, work, time, and so on), most Christians are indistinguishable from the world. Still, Christians know that they should be different from the world in some way – otherwise, what would Christianity mean at all? So, in an effort to establish some kind of Christian distinctiveness, attention and concern is focused on the trivial (which, by its very nature, does not require us to make difficult changes in our lives). In the end, it is okay to be entirely captive to the idols of mass – consumerism as long as we don’t watch R-rated movies; perfectly acceptable to spend our entire lives pursuing a cozy, suburban affluence as long as we don’t mow our lawn on Sundays; just fine to live life completely indifferent to systemic, mass-starvation around the world as long as we don’t drink beer. We, like the Pharisees, ‘strain out a gnat and swallow a camel’ (Matthew 23:24).” – Christian Smith. How do you react to this quote? Do you see any relation to it and the the subject at hand, namely, idolatry? Explain.

Anything or anyone can become an idol, even very good things such as the Bible itself (bibliolatry). Can you name some examples of how you have seen the cross of Christ made into an idol? A particular religious practice? A leader? Etc.

Have you ever confused love for your particular church with love for God? How are they the same? How are they different?

What do you hear Christians today say about God that you do not think first century Christians would have said?

How does your church, as the body of Christ, reveal the true God to the world? Are there ways you think it communicates some form of false image of God or idolatry? Explain.

When you think of idolatry in regard to other religions (i.e. – Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.),what comes to mind? Now, imagine you were a member of one of those religions looking at Christianity. What might you then imagine as common idols within Christianity today? Explain.

How do you try to keep God “in his place” in your life? Describe three ways that you try to manipulate God for your own purposes.

“Who you worship determines who you are.” Who would your neighbors say you are by watching your home life? What/whom do they see you worshiping?

Do you ever find yourself trying to put God into a neat package you can define and manage? Why do we sometimes do this?

How do you try to limit and control God? What borders and boundaries have you most commonly put on him?

What idols need to be confronted in your own life? How will you confront them, destroy them, and when?

What are some practical steps we can take today to guard our hearts against the pursuit of idolatry?

“Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.” (1 John 5:21, The Message)