Faith and Works

The Apostle James wrote (James 2:14):

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

This statement has been a subject of controversy. For Martin Luther, it isn’t just the idea of faith and works that is rejected,  “Luther made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon (Bible).” —Wikipedia

King David didn’t have a problem with the whole Faith and Works thing. In Psalm 61:7 he wrote:

My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God.

In the same Psalm, 61:12, he wrote:

For You repay each according to his works.

This is one way of explaining how Faith and Works compliment each other: “People in desperation are often prepared to resort to criminal activity such as theft and extortion (verse 11) as means of extricating themselves from the crises they confront.  David’s message here is that this tendency results from a lack of faith in the Almighty’s power to rescue and support.  If a person truly believes that, as David declares in this Psalm’s final verse, God “repays each man in accordance with his conduct,” then he would never resort to unlawful tactics during times of need.  He would instead appeal to the Almighty for salvation and trust in the assistance God extends to His loyal servants.” —Tehillim

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Another View of Jesus

In his blog In a Mirror Dimly: An Imperfect, Sarcastic Perspective on Following Jesus, Ed Cyzewski began a post saying: “With all of our talk about gender roles and the place of men in society and the church, I think we tend to overlook Jesus.” He suggests some areas we overlook when considering Y’shuaJesus: “Jesus Was Homeless; Jesus did not provide financially; Jesus was single; Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.” Take a look at what he says about each area here.

Mr. Cyzewski goes on to ask, “Should we imitate Jesus’ version of manhood?” He says “the complexity of the biblical story that presents us with a series of paintings that illustrate what it looks like to be followers of God in a particular time and place rather than nailing down a specific way to meet with God at all times and all places.” So perhaps you and I can follow Y’shuaJesus while having a house, a job, a wife, a few kids, and not have to wash the feet of those that enter our houses. Mr. Cyzewski does point out, however, that “in our rush to fit in with our Christian and Western culture, it’s easy to lose sight of how counter cultural and even revolutionary Jesus was in his own time and would be in our time. His ministry would not be the kind hailed at conferences and his manhood the model we’d think of imitating.”

What I really like about this particular blog by Mr. Ed Cyzewski is his closing paragraph: “There is no blueprint for a “godly” home, ministry, or man. There is God’s calling on our lives, and obedience to that calling is what Jesus modeled for us and expects us to imitate. The details are incidental—home or no home, job or ministry support checks. When Jesus says, “Follow me!” We obey because there is no other source of hope or life.

Mr. Cyzewski is an echo of a distant voice:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68,69

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Jesus Models Authentic Manhood

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6, NASB

10 Ways Jesus Models Authentic Manhood*
by Thomas Garrett

As both the Son of God and Son of Man, there is no greater model of authentic manhood than Jesus. I’ve observed 10 qualities of authentic manhood I believe are instructive to men—and women—today. Let’s take a look at them:

1) Jesus allowed the Father to affirm His identity. Before Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness and before He ever performed one miracle, He was affirmed by His Father: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17, KJV). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he allows the Word of God and the Spirit of God to affirm his identity as a son.

2) Jesus was focused on His Father’s business. Even at the young age of 12, Jesus possessed a keen sense of awareness that He was on an assignment given to Him by the Father: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). While others were busy about the normal activities of life, Jesus gave Himself to discovering God’s plan for His life on earth. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is focused on his God-given assignment.

3) Jesus practiced self-control. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted in every category of sin and knows what the “pressure of the flesh” feels like, yet He did not yield to the pressure—showing us that we can endure temptation and do not have to yield. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he practices self-control of his body, his thoughts and imaginations, and his words.

4) Jesus lived dependent upon God. Although Jesus was endowed with miracle-working power and supernatural wisdom, He did not act independently of God. He was completely dependent upon the Father’s direction. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he lives dependent upon the Lord’s direction in the various areas of his life.

5) Jesus was His brother’s keeper. Conscious of Satan’s desire to destroy His disciple Peter, Jesus did not stand idly by but prayed for His friend and encouraged him: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee” (Luke 22:31-32). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he looks out for the spiritual welfare of his brothers in Christ.

6) Jesus walked in humility. Although Jesus was “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), He laid aside His rights to operate like God, became a man, and died on a cross to save His creation. The Creator dying at the hands of His creation—there is no greater display of humility. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he humbles himself for a cause beyond and greater than himself.

7) Jesus expressed His need for others. In His greatest moment of temptation, Jesus was honest about His need for help: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus demonstrated the strength to be transparent with those He could trust and did not pretend that everything was OK. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is honest to express his need for help with other godly men.

8) Jesus was zealous for the house of God. Jesus did not have a casual attitude about the house of God. When He saw merchants misusing the temple, He drove them out with a whip, turned over the tables and poured out the money (John 2:13-17). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he demonstrates zeal and enthusiasm for God’s house and contributes to its purposes.

9) Jesus lived to serve others. “For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he allows God to use him to serve others.

10) Jesus played through the pain. “For the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). From the Garden of Gethsemane until the moment He gave up the ghost, Jesus did not focus on His own agony. Instead, He focused on what would be accomplished if He followed through with the Father’s plan. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is willing to carry out his assignment—focusing on the long-term reward, not focusing on the temporary pain.

*Published in Charisma Magazine Sep. 03,2013

Thomas L. Garrett is senior pastor of Faith Christian Center in Tampa, Fla. He is an honor graduate of the Word of Faith Bible Training Center and a graduate of Lawrence Tech University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering.


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Bobby’s Rant

The_ScreamBobby recently vented his frustration. He said his wife, Donnybrook, “found some of my stashed food stocks. She tossed some into the trash, then put bags of rice and beans in her car trunk, saying she would give it to Salvation Army.” Bobby’s anger, barely contained, was thrust into his stomach. Several antacids later, he still felt the burning in his throat. Bobby is a passive man, and a doormat Christian. I’ve talked about Bobby and his Borderline Personality Disordered (BPD) wife. Bobby takes all Donnybrook dishes out and tries his best to smile, say he’s sorry, and forever and ever respond to all that she says with a polite, albeit meaningless, “Yes, Dear.” Poor Bobby.

Bobby is one of the many “passive men” in America. While the causes differ, Bobby said he “was raised in a home where my father doted upon my mother, yielding to every whim and fancy. All of it translated to me learning to submit totally to women.” Bobby went on to say, “It’s a generational defect: my grandfather did the same thing, and probably his father, too.”

Passive men are the feminized men of a Twenty-First Century American in decline. A report by Steve Connor, of The Independent – UK, speaks to feminization of men as displayed in a reduced sperm count, and he reports on the research into such reduction. Theories abound, of course. One is that males eating ever-increasing amounts of fat are increasing the oestrogens that interfere with male reproductive function. Another theory is that oestrogens are in the water. Connor reports that “environmentalists have suggested that it could be ‘gender-bending’ chemicals – endocrine disrupters – in the environment that are the cause of the gradual feminisation [sic] of men. But despite intense research to find these endocrine disrupters, the precise reasons for the problems have not so far been identified.”

There is some evidence that the feminization of men today is a product of our increasingly liberalized culture. “We could devote an entire book to examples of how our culture is confused (at best) about what a man is and vilifies (at worst) what it does know,” wrote Paul and Sandy Coughlin in their book, Married But Not Engaged.

What has happened over the past fifty years is that American society views women in a much more positive light that ever before, while at the same time denigrating its men. “The root idea: Men are a serious problem that must be fixed, not a gender to be appreciated. Men are not okay as men. Masculinity, in and of itself, is negative,” say the Coughlin’s. One need only turn to Hollywood, to whom the American public honors as a view of what American culture is to be. Where are the programs like Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver, Sea Hunt, Maverick, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Dragnet, and a whole bunch of others with strong male leads, respectful characters? In those shows men were, well, men. What do we have for the television line up this year, and for the past several years? We have programs dominated by strong women and sniffling men. Family life, as modeled by Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver, has been replaced with Modern Family. GAG! Today, Hollywood shows us that when men try to be men, they are evil and deserving of criminal status. Where are the John Waynes, the Ronald Reagans, the Charles Hestons? Today, mostly, we have whiney men that portray whiny men for which women berate.

Today we have pseudo-men like Bobby who don’t fully appreciate that passivity, total appeasement of women, is sin. Bobby virtually puts his head between his knees and avoids any thought of the conflict that would ensue should he “resist the evil manipulations of a decisive, self-centered, wicked woman,” as he, himself, has described her ways. She is a Twenty-First Century Jezebel! “She condemns any opinions, any actions, that are different than hers. She presents to the world that she is always right,” said Bobby. “She works only with women, has no need for men. A modern Jezebel who need no man.” Except perhaps virtually neutered, emotionally dead, Bobby that serve her every whim and fancy. “When a man does not feel needed, something in him dies. Even an emotionally healthy man turns passive and loses energy,” say the Coughlin’s. Thus, satan wins in the continued seduction and fall of Adam.

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Life is a Balancing Act

Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Lord, who can dwell in Your tent?
Who can live on Your holy mountain?
The one who lives honestly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart —
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his money at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent —
the one who does these things will never be moved. Psalm 15

“David here outlines the virtues that render a person worthy of dwelling in Hashem’s “tent” and residing in His “sacred mountain.”  According to the Radak, David refers here to the resting place of the soul in the afterlife; it is thus here where we are told how a person earns his eternal share in the world to come.  The Radak draws proof to this reading from the chapter’s final clause, where David exclaims, “he who does these shall not falter, forever.”  The term “forever” implies that David refers here to eternal peace, which would suggest that he speaks of the soul’s reward in the afterlife.

“In listing these virtues, David focuses first on proper interpersonal conduct: honesty and integrity (verse 2), and refraining from crimes such as gossip, causing others harm, and nepotistic protection of unworthy relatives (verse 3).  In verse 4, he imposes an important qualification on the virtues of loving kindness and concern for others: “Nivzeh Be’einav Nim’as,” which Rashi translates to mean, “The shameful one is despicable in his eyes.”  Although this prototype acts with love and sensitivity, he is at the same time prepared to confront evil and its advocates, rather than extend to them the same kindness and compassion he shows generally.  He respects those who deserve respect, while condemning behavior that warrants condemnation.

“The Ibn Ezra and Radak explain this verse differently, as meaning that the person sees himself as “shameful” and “despicable.”  Despite his many fine qualities, he recognizes how much more he has to grow and accomplish in order to achieve perfection.  Rather than falling into the trap of stifling complacency, he constantly strives to improve and to accomplish more.

“The message conveyed by this Psalm is thus a dual one.  On the one hand, David promises eternal life to everyone who lives in accordance with the basic values of honesty and Godliness; the world to come is not reserved for only the great Tzadikim who have reached the highest levels of spiritual devotion.  At the same time, however, to earn eternal life one must spend his life in the pursuit of perfection, working each day to grow and become better than he is.  This Psalm does not demand that everybody be perfect, but it does not demand that everybody work towards and strive for spiritual perfection.” —Daily Tehlllim Psalm 15

“Here is a very serious question concerning the character of a citizen of Zion. It is the happiness of glorified saints, that they dwell in the holy hill; they are at home there, they shall be for ever there. It concerns us to make it sure to ourselves that we have a place among them. A very plain and particular answer is here given. Those who desire to know their duty, will find the Scripture a very faithful director, and conscience a faithful monitor. A citizen of Zion is sincere in his religion. He is really what he professes to be, and endeavors to stand complete in all the will of God. He is just both to God and man; and, in speaking to both, speaks the truth in his heart. He scorns and abhors wrong and fraud; he cannot reckon that a good bargain, nor a saving one, which is made with a lie; and knows that he who wrongs his neighbor will prove, in the end, to have most injured himself. He is very careful to do hurt to no man. He speaks evil of no man, makes not others ‘faults the matter of his common talk; he makes the best of every body, and the worst of nobody. If an ill- natured story be told him, he will disprove it if he can; if not, it goes no further. He values men by their virtue and piety. Wicked people are vile people, worthless, and good for nothing; so the word signifies. He thinks the worse of no man’s piety for his poverty and mean condition. He reckons that serious piety puts honor upon a man, more than wealth, or a great name. He honors such, desires their conversation and an interest in their prayers, is glad to show them respect, or do them a kindness. By this we may judge of ourselves in some measure. Even wise and good men may swear to their own hurt:but see how strong the obligation is, a man must rather suffer loss to himself and his family, than wrong his neighbor. He will not increase his estate by extortion, or by bribery. He will not, for any gain, or hope of it to himself, do any thing to hurt a righteous cause. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a Rock. He that doeth these things shall not be moved for ever. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him. The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Savior, and love to him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.” —Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

Two perspectives on a psalm of King David. One from a Jewish Commentator; the other from a Christian commentator. Both perspectives point to the obligations to live in the balance between justice and kindness. Rev. Henry wrote: “The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Savior, and love to him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.” From Tehillim we learn that “. . . to earn eternal life one must spend his life in the pursuit of perfection, working each day to grow and become better than he is.  This Psalm does not demand that everybody be perfect, but it does not demand that everybody work towards and strive for spiritual perfection.”

The only difference I find between the Jewish and Christian way of living is those who know Y’shuaJesus as Messiah have accepted they work toward perfection so that they may live eternally in the House of the LORD, yet understand it  is never earned, but granted by the one Who gave His life, that died, rose, and lives so we may live today without regret and live forever with Him in the House of the LORD.

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How to Prepare

Prepare? For what shall we prepare? A quick look at shows us that there are a lot of things that can happen for which we should prepare. And there are a lot of very practical things we can do in our preparation for various natural and unnatural disasters. But I’m not talking about those disasters at the moment. No. I’m thinking more about preparing for the a time when our G-d, who is slow to anger, has His fill and brings His wrath upon the earth. G-d said:

I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung. Zeph 1:17

This distress that G-d will bring on humankind makes us walk like the blind. This distress is spoken of also in Joel 1:15, where there is great famine. There are many who say that war brings famine, which is followed by disease. But in the case of West Africa today, it is disease that came first, then famine is following closely behind. In South Sudan, war prevented planting of the fields, which is leading directly to famine over the coming months. The Day of the LORD is a day of great distress. Walking like a blind man could mean stumbling, like one might do if one were famished, ready to die from starvation. Walking like a blind man might also mean that the people simply don’t see they must humble themselves and seek the LORD, who is gracious to save.

Salvation. We are talking about Salvation. And if humankind suffers distress, humankind won’t seek out the LORD for His salvation to come. The time to seek the LORD is, and always has been, now. First, we must SEE and understand G-d’s purpose of salvation. “For G-d so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). Second, we must SEE and understand that our problem is separation from G-d. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d,” (Romans 3:23). Third, we must SEE and understand that G-d’s remedy is The Cross. “For there is One G-d and One Mediator between G-d and men, the Man Christ Y’shuaJesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” (1Timothy 2:5,6). Fourth, we must SEE and understand that we must respond by trusting in Messiah Y’shuaJesus. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of G-d, to those who believe in His Name,” (John 1:12). And Fifth, we must SEE and understand that G-d provides assurance though His Word. “For whoever call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Romans 10:13). [From commentary in The Billy Graham Training Center Bible)

And we have this to consider BEFORE the distress of the Great Day of the LORD:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the Lord.” Zeph 2:3

Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .