Boldly and Courageously

Many don’t actually read the letter that James wrote. They may hear things he wrote or piecemeal passages they want to use for a moment. But do they actually read his whole letter?

We should, you know? He was often known and “James the Just,” certainly because of his character and honorable faith. But also because he was the brother to Jesus! He grew up with Him; they may have shared a room and maybe even a toothbrush. We aren’t told, but he knew Jesus about as good as anyone else did (except his mom, of course).

The letter is addressed to those we refer to as “Messianic Jews.” Although, as most of you know, the Church originally began with Jews, eventually, the Gentiles (especially, Constantine) took over the governorship of “The Church.”

James wrote the letter to encourage believers to consistently live with what they had learned in Christ. And his encouragement was sound and, in many regards, quite profound! He wanted each of them to mature in their faith in Christ by, as you would expect, living by what they say they believed! In other words, we shouldn’t be hypocrites! James was condemning various sins, such as pride, hypocrisy, favoritism, and slander. He encouraged the believers to live humbly, rather than clinging to the wisdom they picked up from the world and to pray in every situation they faced!

Brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

That is rather counterintuitive, don’t you think? Aren’t we always told that we are to “overcome” every negative situation? To stand “against” those attacks? To remain positive, never give up and to never surrender! Ooh, kinda like Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, the commander of the NSEA Protector. in Galaxy Quest!

“Whoa wait! Aren’t we supposed to “resist the devil“?

Yep. Absolutely. James addresses this later in the letter! (James 4:7, to be exact). But just know that “To resist,” means “To withstand,” “Strive against,” or “Oppose” in some way. Now, it can either be a defensive move (you know, like resisting the temptation to sin). Or, it can be offensive (such as using the only offensive weapon we have available: the Sword of the Spirit (which is, of course, the Word of God)! When we use Scriptures to expose our enemies’ lies and temptations, we are making use of the mightiest tool we have and when you use the Word of God, that dog will whimper away!

But, THE most important thing we need to read in that verse, is where James writes: “Place yourselves under God’s authority!” “Submit yourself!” (James 4:7). If you are going to “resist the devil,” you must be submitted to our Father! A believer who is disobedient or unsubmissive, will not see victory!

Along that line, James writes:

If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will certainly tell you! He is always prepared to give a ‘truckload’ full of wisdom to anyone who asks him; he will never resent it or withhold it from you.

However, [and here is the caveat] when you ask him, be sure you truly expect Him to tell you, because a mind that is full of doubt will be as unsettled, in the same way a wave of the sea will toss around a ship! Every decision you make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer (James 1:6-8)

Which should remind you what another author wrote:

We can come confidently, boldly, without any fear or reservation as we draw near to the very throne of God! When you go, stay there to receive His mercy and to find Grace [or His Ability] to help in your times of need (Hebrews 4:16)

Oh man, the moment you enter that prayer closet (wherever it is: your basement, garage, car as you drive into work), arrive filled with faith and armed with courage! Be bold and confident.

I can’t think of anywhere else that courage means so much as during our times of prayer! So many of us approach our Father’s Throne cringing and timid. Like the Cowardly Lion tip-toed as he approached the Wizard of Oz!

What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the “ape” in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain’t got?

Dorothy & Friends:  Courage!

Cowardly Lion: You can say that again.

If you truly want to have a successful prayer time, don’t begin with any conditions. “Well, I’ll pray, but you have to . . .” Oh, friend, you need to believe that our Father is love -personified! And, the fact that He is love, He isn’t going to knock you in your head; beat you up; put you “under-His-thumb.”  Nope, just throw yourself before Him and pray with boldness for whatever it is you need. Don’t worry about the cost or the “impossibility” of your request. You don’t need to know how He will resolve it.  I can simply assure you that it will be legal! lol

Yes, in His in His love and wisdom, He finds a problem in our lives, just be open and vulnerable; accept His correction with delight. THIS is what excites Him! I assure you that any prayer offered like that will never go unanswered. In fact, His character and reputation guarantee this.

As Tozer wrote, “We should always keep in mind the infinite loving-kindness of God. No one need fear to put his life in His hands.”

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Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!

I don’t know why it is, but some folks figure I just pray, and “Bingo!” it is done! But I am no different than any of you. Like you, I have to ask, then trust and believe that it will be done. Shoot, even Charles Swindoll, in his book, “ Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith” confirms,  “We don’t like waiting, but that’s when God does some of His best work on our souls.” Continue reading

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Don’t Give Up!

I have often pointed out that everyone who follows Jesus is empowered with spiritual blessings in heavenly places! THIS is where Christ is, in case you were wondering. But, now hear me on this. If we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are, the promises become mere words. Seriously, how can we enjoy the blessings that have been given to us if we don’t comprehend them? Continue reading

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Like many of you, I was baptized when I was an infant. My parents received a certificate to verify it! I am not sure, but I think we are supposed to keep that certificate so we can show it at the “pearly gates.” It might be our ticket in. Unfortunately, contrary what some of you were taught, baptism does not provide salvation, it symbolizes or illustrates our Salvation.

Here’s the problem with infant baptism: instead of being able to point to the instance, we are forced to refer to it as an autobiographer referred to his birth, “I was born (so I am told).” Shockingly, since the fourth century (if not before. Opinions differ on that), most Christians were baptized as infants and had to take their baptism on trust. Although, I doubt they received certificates to prove that they were baptized.

On the other hand, if you were, like others, baptized in or after your teens, as a first-generation convert or a member of a Baptist church, for instance, you will remember it vividly. I can! It was a month after I was born again! I can remember the day I was born-again; I remember that day as if it was yesterday! How about you? Have you been re-born? Can you point to a specific time when you gave your life over to Jesus and received the infilling of His Spirit? Maybe not, because many don’t, but I can tell you the date and the approximate time: October 27, 1979, @ about 3:40 am! As I stated, I was baptized a month later, right before Christmas in 1979, at the First Assembly of God on Lover’s Lane, in Kalamazoo by Pastor Pace!

What I am saying is that baptism, whenever we received it, belongs to our past! And, as it bears on our life today, we don’t remember it as an event, but as a sign, a symbol that carries a message; what Augustine calls a visible word from God.

Okay, so where do I get this way of looking at baptism? Why, from Paul, of course! He used baptism to illustrate our calling. Read Romans 6:1-14. Paul wrote that because we have been buried and raised with Christ and symbolically illustrated in baptism, there is no reason for us to continue living in sin. In his letter the church in Colossae, he argued that because we have been buried and raised with Christ (as symbolized in baptism) we must not lapse into a Christless, worldly, “natural” religion, with all of that legalism and superstition. No, we should allow Christ’s supernatural to risen life to be expressed by breaking bad habits and hammering out a new, Christlike character.

When we live this way, in conscious solidarity with the Living Christ, on a basis of total cancellation of guilt through the cross, we experience what being a Christian truly means, and, as Paul explains, baptism signifies this process — both God’s work of renewing (our co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Jesus) and our work of repenting (turning over new leaves to express new life) are illustrated in Baptism!

Yes, some people confuse what Paul wrote in this regard. In some passages, Paul seems to insist that we are justified and saved through faith in Christ alone (see Romans 3:27-30; Galatians 2:15; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:4-9), but in others that baptism brings salvation. But if that’ is the way you see it, you are misunderstanding what he actually wrote.

Paul teaches that for each of us, faith is a beginning, not an end; it was a journey, not a bed that we lie in while waiting for the day of our Lord’s triumph. Believing was not a once-done act; it is more than an act, it is an attitude of heart and mind which inspires and enables us to take up our cross and follow our Lord wherever He leads!

Now, here is something for you to consider, Paul was writing to first-generation converts whose baptism, according to New Testament custom, would have followed immediately after they professed their faith; so that believing and being baptized seemed linked in their minds as two aspects of the single act of becoming a Christian.

Now, presuming this link, Paul reminds them that what they thought of as happening in baptism happened through faith, and not without it.

“In baptism . . . you were also raised with him [Christ] through faith” (Colossians 2:11)

Despite popular superstition (sometimes encouraged by clergy who should know better), no Christian tradition — Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox — actually teaches that any person who was baptized and capable of faith could be saved without being baptized, nor those genuine believers can be lost they weren’t baptized. To my knowledge, no Church ever teaches that. However, many sincere believers believe that!

My point is that Paul does not, in any way, use baptism as proof of salvation (baptism alone can never do that). No, Paul refers to it, as I said, only as a God-given sign teaching professed believers what sort of lives they are called, and committed, and privileged, and enabled to live! And, as a public proclamation of that act of faith, we are to be baptized! And, as an extension of that, no baby can possibly make such a proclamation!

When Martin Luther (not King, the civil-rights activist) was tempted to doubt God’s love (which he often did) and lapsed into a depression, he would calm himself by saying, “Baptizatus sum (I have been baptized).” So he would recover the assurance that God’s gracious call to him was real and that he should remain strong in his faith. Hey! Evidently, Luther grasped the message of baptism! Have we?

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How “Hallowed” is His Name?

I don’t know why, but I was overwhelmed with the presence of my Lord! [Oh, how I love that word! It means that I was “overpowered‘” “overcome,” especially with superior force; destroyed; crushed; conquered . . . I hope you get my point!]. This morning I began to pray with the Psalmist: Continue reading

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Understanding the Times

I have explained several times how I hate when people misuse their “title.” You know, “Prophet Dodad.” But you heard all about that. But there is also, a tremendous amount of misuse of those titles. For instance, many are now calling themselves “Apostles.” What many do not understand, in Hebrew, the word is shaliach, a “sent one.” Continue reading

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Look Over The Years

Recently, I discovered that I am no longer as aggressive and adventuresome as I used to be. Back in my younger days, I saw every MLM business there is. lol. I sold soap; grape seed extract; several different nutritional supplements. You name it, and I was probably involved with it. Evidently, people viewed me as someone to hit up for their network. Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed with the programs I saw and found many of them to be extremely helpful for people (as well as very profitable). Continue reading

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