Daily Archives: February 23, 2019

February 23 A Casual View of Sin

Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1–7

Key Verse: Romans 6:7

He who has died has been freed from sin.

Most of us have heard how a frog can be boiled to death without any resistance. Placed in a cool pot of water on a cooking surface, the frog remains content and unsuspecting as the heat beneath is increased. His internal temperature rises with the temperature of the water until finally he is boiled alive!

Abraham and Lot were given a choice about the land they would occupy. Lot, seeing the lushness of the Jordan Valley, chose the richness of Sodom while Abraham settled in the land of Canaan.

Greed and lust fueled Lot’s desires. F. B. Meyer wrote, “The younger man [Lot] chose according to the sight of his eyes. In his judgment he gained everything, but the world is full of Lots—shallow, impulsive, doomed to be revealed by their choice and end.”

Lot never considered the character of the inhabitants of the land. He adopted a casual view of their sin. And in doing so he failed to realize the effect of their presence on his relationship with God.

Have you adopted God’s perspective on sin, or do you have an indifferent attitude toward what is unholy before a holy God? Don’t risk being lulled into deadly spiritual lethargy by the complacency of our society. God hates sin and calls us to do the same.

Father, I don’t want to treat sin casually. Give me Your divine perspective on sin. Keep me from being lulled into spiritual lethargy by the complacency of the world in which I live. Let me understand—You hate sin, and You have called me to do the same.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 56). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

February 23 Pruning the Branches

Scripture reading: John 15:1–6

Key verse: John 15:16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

The late Francis Schaeffer observed that the average Christian’s objective in life appeared to be personal peace and affluence. Whether we agree with his assessment, we must at least admit that subconsciously, if not overtly, we prefer the pleasant over the painful, the comfortable over the distressful.

Despite this decidedly normal human disposition, you will stumble badly through the Christian journey if you adopt these longings as your chief aims. Christ’s goal for your life transcends this limited perspective. He has something far more sublime in mind for you—to make you productive in the work of His kingdom. This involves a process Christ termed pruning, a continual trimming of character and habits that are unproductive for your personal growth as a believer, conforming you to the image of God and the standard of His Word.

Unfortunately, this can be painful at times, even severe when the pruning lops off sensitive areas. But whatever God sees as detrimental to your fruitfulness and well-being, He will seek to sever. The tools of Providence may be sharp, but they are held by loving hands.

Perhaps you can identify an area that God’s Spirit has surfaced as deleterious to your spiritual health. Cooperate with the Husbandman. Though it may be trying for a time, God’s goal is to grow you into the image of Christ. In this kind of pain, there is godly gain.

Dear Lord, conform me to the image of Your Son and the standard of Your Word. Prune out everything that is detrimental to my fruitfulness and well-being.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 56). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Not Everything Called “Christian” Is — Abounding Grace Radio

There has always been a great temptation to append the adjective Christian to whatever one favors in order to justify it. Recently we have seen the phenomenon of so-called “Gay Christians” in an apparent attempt to synthesize homosexuality and Christianity. This attempt is made in sheer defiance of the plain teaching of God’s Word. Like heterosexual sin (e.g., adultery, fornication etc) homosexuality is a sin (1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). The nomenclature Gay Christian makes about as much sense as “thieving Christian.” God’s Word says, “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15; Matt 19:18; Rom 13:9). If someone said, “I have an orientation toward stealing and you need to accept me as I am” we should reply, “Yes, we understand that you have an orientation toward stealing. We all do. Scripture calls it sin. No, we need to love you enough to call you to recognize theft for what it is, to call you to repent of it. and to embrace Christ alone by faith alone for your salvation, and to stop stealing.” Paul says exactly that: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:8; ESV). He says the same thing about homosexual and heterosexual sin. Indeed, this is especially true about sexual sin since the Apostle Paul clearly says that it belongs to a distinct class of sins. All other sins are “outside the body but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:9; ESV).

In those cases we see the danger of taking what has become a socially acceptable, even socially favored orientation and/or behavior (homosexuality) and, in effect, baptizing it—i.e., making what Scripture calls sin into a virtue—which is perverse. It turns the truth and godliness on its head. It is calling good evil and evil good. The prophet Isaiah spoke to this directly: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20; ESV). We are obligated by God’s Word, because of the grace of God toward us sinners in Christ, to name things what they are.

It is in light of this biblical pattern of thinking and speaking that we must evaluate an attempt recently brought to light in The Christian Post to establish so-called Christian witchcraft.  Valerie Love is a self-proclaimed sorceress and a witch. She is organizing a conference featuring a speaker who claims that Jesus was a sorcerer, an ironic claim since that was one of the earliest attacks upon Christianity by the pagan critics. They argued that Jesus was not God the Son incarnate, as the Christians confessed, but rather a sophisticated magician who played tricks and used magic. That this sort of nonsense finds a hearing tells us how desperately ignorant of Scripture we have become in our time.

In 1 Samuel 15:21 witchcraft (or divination) is expressly called sin. 2 Kings 9:22 characterizes wicked queen Jezebel as a “witch” and not in a good way. In Micah 5:12 the Lord promises to cut off witchcraft (the ESV has “sorceries”) from the Israel’s hands. Witchcraft is listed as one of the manifestations of paganism. The American Standard Version of Nahum 3:4 accuses Israel of being like a “mistress of witchcrafts” and who has corrupted the nation through her “witchcrafts.”

It is not as if witchcraft and sorcery are purely Old Testament concerns. Among the “works of the flesh” he contrasts with the fruit of the Holy Spirit are: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19–21; ESV; emphasis added). Paul uses the very same language about sorcery (witchcraft) that he used about sexual immorality and other gross sins. Those who practice these things, who do them impenitently and who lead others to do them have placed themselves in grave spiritual jeopardy. There is no such thing as a Christian idolater, a Christian prostitute, etc. There are things to which the adjective Christian may not be added. There is no reconciling Christianity and witchcraft. They are inimical. They are utterly contradictory.

There are two aspects of witchcraft that make it utterly incompatible and abhorrent to Christianity. First, divination is an attempt to gain knowledge of things that God has not revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that the “secret things belong to Yahweh our God but the revealed things belong to us and to our children.” Scripture is the place where God has revealed his moral will and his grace. We are not to go beyond Scripture to find is moral will. There is natural revelation of God’s existence and his righteousness and even of his moral law (love God and love your neighbor) but divination is an attempt to learn more than that, to contact the dead, to see into God’s secrets. It is diabolical. The second aspect is the attempt to gain power or control over the course of things in this life. That power belongs to God. He arranges. He disposes. Witchcraft is an attempt to steal from God divine control over things. It is idolatry.

The ancient world was rife with witchcraft and idolatry and in our post-Christian world we should not be surprised to see it making a comeback. The Apostle John had a Revelation from the living Christ, who spoke to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (c. 93 AD) and warned them of the dangers of the same sorts of sins that Paul listed in Galatians 5: “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:7–8; ESV; emphasis added). We need not guess what our Lord Jesus thinks about sorcerers and blasphemers who describe the holy Son of God as a magician or sorcerer. One shudders even to see or say such words. May the Lord Jesus have mercy on Valerie Love and the others who teach such things by opening her eyes and theirs (as he has graciously opened our blind eyes) and grant to them a true and saving knowledge of Christ the Lord. The Word who was with God and who is God has no need of tricks or sorcery. He has already dispatched the Evil One and the lake of fire awaits him at the judgment and all those who practice his dark arts.

One final note. There are strains of modern evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal Christianity that are not far distant from witchcraft. This is almost certainly why some Christians are deceived and seek to merge sorcery and Christianity. They are forever seeking secret knowledge from God and seeking to exercise quasi-divine power (e.g., naming and claiming things). They call themselves “gods” and “Christs” and the like. They sell magic handkerchiefs and trinkets to the gullible.

Jesus died for charlatans and sinners of all sorts and he was raised for our justification but now is the time to repent and flee to him. The wrath of God is relentless and his Word is clear. Choose this day whom you will serve, the Jesus who was raised from the dead or an idol fabricated in the minds of liars and shamans. You may not have both. The one leads to live and fellowship with God. The other to an endless lake of torment.

R. Scott Clark, Escondido

Source: https://www.agradio.org/not-everything-called-christian-is.html

Narcissistic Meanies

Into the Foolishness of God

I get all kinds of ideas while walking through Target. Things just jump out at me like you wouldn’t believe. Recently it’s been the vast array of ‘kindness’ merch in their dollar section. Cute mugs and cups, napkins and cups all reminding us to be kinder people. The kindness campaign is out in full force.

“Kindness is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”

“Kind people are my kinda people.”

“Be a kind human.”

It’s all very cute and sweet. We should be kind. It’s like the new commandment of our culture… ifyoucanbeanything,bekind.I wonder if it’s because we have actually lost so much of our decency toward one another that we now need this reminder. Is it possible to just wake up and sprinkle kindness around?

Sometimes that is possible. There are days when we can take the high road, smile at ourselves in the mirror and just push through with…

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Brannon Howse: February 21, 2019

Guest: Anni Cyrus & Shahram Hadian. Topic: Brannon and Shahram predicted that after well-known evangelicals and their Bible ministries affirmed the interfaith dialogue of Neo-Calvinist James White with a Jihadi Imam that the flood gates would be open for others to follow in his footsteps. Now Neo-Evangelical and Neo-Calvinist Alistair Begg of the Cultural Marxist Gospel Coalition join Jew Dennis Prager and Muslim Zudie Jasser for an interfaith dialogue on Wednesday night, February 20, 2019. The graphic for the event had a Star of David, a cross, and the Crescent Moon and Star of Islam blending together into one. Topic: Anni and Shahram explain why the so-called reformer Mr. Jasser misrepresents the real Islam either knowingly or unknowingly. Topic: Why these ongoing interfaith dialogues are a spiritual and national security threat to America. Topic: Brannon and Shahram explain why they believe men like Alistair Begg are knowingly or unknowingly doing the bidding for the red-green axis as useful idiots. Topic: Hear the audio of Alistair Begg declaring that the welfare state is Biblical backed up by the story of Joseph and the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine.

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Source: Brannon Howse: February 21, 2019

February 23, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Reward for Perseverance

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (1:12)

Makarios (blessed) is the same word with which each of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 begins, making this verse itself a beatitude. Blessed means much more than the mere happiness of a carefree life that has little conflict or trouble. It rather carries the idea of profound inner joy and satisfaction, a joy that only the Lord Himself is able to bestow on those who, for His sake and in His power, faithfully and patiently endure and conquer trials. “In this you greatly rejoice,” Peter says, “even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).

The man who perseveres under trial is the man who never relinquishes his confident trust in God. He is a true believer, who perseveres and becomes the man who has been approved (by passing the test with faith intact). The principle is simple, clear, and marvelously gracious: perseverance brings God’s approval, and His approval brings the crown of life. The term for “crown” is borrowed from athletics rather than royalty. It was the wreath placed on the victor’s head in athletic events, symbolizing persevering triumph. And a more literal translation could be “the crown which is life,” that is, eternal life. Consequently, a more accurate statement of the principle is this: perseverance attests to God’s approval, for it gives evidence of eternal life (salvation). In other words, perseverance does not result in salvation and eternal life, but is itself the result and evidence of salvation and eternal life.

“In the future,” Paul assures us with divine authority, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8; cf. Rev. 2:10). In his previous letter, the apostle admonishes his beloved son in the faith, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). Another great apostle gives believers the same assurance: “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4). This crown—referred to as “the crown of life,” “the crown of righteousness,” or “the crown of glory”—is the same crown and will be received by every believer. It is not one of the various rewards that believers will receive based on their faithfulness (as mentioned in 1 Cor. 3:12–15) but is the common “reward” of salvation that is bestowed on all believers because of their saving faith in Jesus Christ.

James clearly associates faithful perseverance under trial with genuine love for God, perseverance being one of the surest evidences of those who love Him. That phrase, in fact, is a biblical definition of a genuine believer—a person who truly loves God. John repeatedly connects love of God with genuine faith. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8); “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (v. 16); and, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (5:3). Peter writes, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Paul wrote that any person who does not love the Lord is cursed (1 Cor. 16:22).

A genuine Christian is not someone who at one point in time made a profession of faith in Christ, but he is a person who demonstrates true faith by an ongoing love for God that cannot be damaged, much less destroyed, by troubles and afflictions, no matter how severe or long-lasting. Like obedience to God’s will (John 14:15; 15:9–10; 1 John 2:5–6; 4:16; 5:1–3), love of Him is certain evidence of true faith.

Gardiner Spring, a well-known evangelical pastor in New York City in the early nineteenth century, wrote concerning the persevering power of genuine love for the Lord:

There is a vast difference between such an affection and that selfish and unhallowed friendship to God which terminates on our own happiness as its supreme motive and end. If a man, in his supposed love to God, has no ultimate regard except to his own happiness; if he delights in God, not for what He is, but for what He is to him; in such a sentiment there is no moral virtue. There is indeed great love of self, but no true love to God. But where the enmity of the carnal mind is slain, the soul is reconciled to the Divine character as it is. God Himself, in the fulness of His manifested glory, becomes the object of devout and delighted contemplation. In his more favored hours the views of a good man are in a great measure diverted from himself; as his thoughts glance toward the varied excellence of the Deity, he scarcely stops to inquire whether the Being whose character fills his mind and in comparison of whose dignity and beauty all things are atoms and vanity, will extend His mercy to him.… His soul cleaves to God, and in the warmth and fervor of devout affection, he can often say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on the earth that I desire beside thee. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 73:25; 42:1). (The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character {Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, n.d.], 25–26)[1]

Conclusion (1:12)

James’s opening statement was a surprise: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials” (1:2). But now James returns to the theme of trials: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (1:12). This confirms that James’s first theme is the trials of life. We face short-term temptations and long-term tests. Some, such as illness, are obvious. Others, such as prosperity, are not. Yet God uses trials to reveal our spiritual flaws and to test our love for him. So then, in time of trial, let us seek not simply to escape, but to find godly maturity.

  • When we plead for wisdom in a trial, let us love God enough to trust him to provide.
  • When a trial deprives us of worldly goods, may we love Jesus all the more. May our affection never fade even if his external gifts disappear.
  • When our possessions multiply, let us still love the Lord more than our goods.

We may look to Christ in two ways as we pursue this goal. First, Jesus faced trial after trial in this life. Satan tried him directly in the wilderness temptations (Matt. 4:1–11). Jesus had “no place to lay his head” (8:20), so he also faced the trial of poverty. Later, he faced hatred, verbal abuse, and physical abuse of every kind. Above all, he endured the trial of crucifixion before God the Father raised him to life and to glory. Thus he became the prime example of “the man who perseveres under trial” and then receives “the crown of life” (James 1:12). Second, if we fail to persevere in trials and do not deserve to receive the crown of life, the gospel remains. Indeed, when we fail to persevere and we honestly take our failure to the Lord Jesus, confessing our sin, he will “give us birth through the word of truth”—that is, the gospel. By that word, he will redeem us “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (1:18).

The Jewish Christians who first read James needed to hear this teaching, and so do we. Many are strong in knowledge of the faith, but weak in the life of faith. James brings a corrective. The trials of life test our faith, pushing us to act, not just to think. If we withstand the tests of life, we see that our faith in Christ is genuine. Then, when God has confirmed our faith, he will grant us the crown of life eternal. Then we who love him and grow in maturity toward him will dwell with him forever.[2]

12. Blessed is the man. After having applied consolation, he moderated the sorrow of those who were severely handled in this world, and again humbled the arrogance of the great. He now draws this conclusion, that they are happy who magnanimously endure troubles and other trials, so as to rise above them. The word temptation may indeed be otherwise understood, even for the stings of lusts which annoy the soul within; but what is here commended, as I think, is fortitude of mind in enduring adversities. It is, however, a paradox, that they are not happy to whom all things come according to their wishes, but such as are not overcome with evils.

For when he is tried. He gives a reason for the preceding sentence; for the crown follows the contest. If, then, it be our chief happiness to be crowned in the kingdom of God, it follows, that the contests with which the Lord tries us, are aids and helps to our happiness. Thus the argument is from the end or the effect: hence we conclude, that the faithful are harassed by so many evils for this purpose, that their piety and obedience may be made manifest, and that they may be thus at length prepared to receive the crown of life.

But they reason absurdly who hence infer that we by fighting merit the crown; for since God has gratuitously appointed it for us, our fighting only renders us fit to receive it.

He adds, that it is promised to those who love God. By speaking thus, he means not that the love of man is the cause of obtaining the crown, (for God anticipates us by his gratuitous love;) but he only intimates that the elect who love him are alone approved by God. He yet reminds us that the conquerors of all temptations are those who love God, and that we fail not in courage when we are tried, for no other cause than because the love of the world prevails in us.[3]

Overlapping Transition: Blessings for Those Who Persevere Under Trial (1:12)

12 This verse plays a vitally important role in the book’s double introduction. As noted in the introduction to this commentary, it forms both the conclusion to 1:2–12 and the introduction to 1:12–27, the author crafting it as an “overlapping transition.” The reference to endurance under trial reaches back to 1:2–4, while the “blessed” person theme reaches forward to 1:25, where the author begins to draw the introduction to a close. He also uses v. 12 to lead into the discussion of temptation’s true nature in vv. 13–16.

The word translated “Blessed” (makarios, GK 3421) calls to mind Jesus’ teachings, especially the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3–11; 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46; Lk 6:20–22; 7:23; 11:27–28; Jn 13:17; 20:29), which hark back to Jewish tradition embodied, for instance, in the Psalms (e.g., Pss 1:1–2:12; 31:1; 39:5; 83:5; 111:1; 143:12). “Blessedness” has to do with well-being in life that flows from the favorable position in which one is rightly related to God (Johnson, 187). Here the blessing is for the person who endures a trial. The absence of the Greek article probably indicates that no specific trial is in view, and the earlier passage, 1:2–4, has noted that trials are “various” (NASB). James, then, is interested in giving his readers encouragement in the face of discouraging and difficult experiences in general.

The basis for this proclamation of blessing and, therefore, the source of encouragement follows: “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.” In Jewish literature, the concept of being “tested” is almost ubiquitous, being found wherever God relates to his people. The most famous story in Jewish tradition is the testing of Abraham through the offering of Isaac (Ge 22). Jacob, Ruth, David, Daniel, and many other biblical exemplars face tests of various kinds, and the tests reveal the character of the one tested.

Thus for the believer, it is when one has been “approved” (NASB) that the crown of life is gained. In the OT “crowning,” in a general sense, can symbolize the blessings of God, as in Proverbs 10:6 or Isaiah 35:10 (Ryken, 185). Yet crowns in the ancient Mediterranean world were of various kinds and, therefore, could symbolize various dynamics. The winner of a battle or athletic competition was, at times, honored with a bay or olive wreath; royalty wore crowns representing their authority; and a flower garland, worn during a time of celebration such as a wedding or festival, represented joy (Laws, 68). It may be that the first of these images is in mind here. In the NT the athletic imagery is, at points, overt (1 Co 9:25; 2 Ti 2:5), and in line with such imagery, “the crown” is given, as here in James, to those who faithfully endure various difficulties associated with living for God (2 Ti 4:8; 1 Pe 5:4; Rev 3:11). That it is the crown “of life” (Rev 2:10) can be understood epexegetically as meaning “the crown that is life.” In other words, those who endure are honored with the full realization of eternal life in the presence of God. Accordingly, this crown is reserved for those who, through their faithful perseverance under trial, through an embracing of God’s way of wisdom in the world, have demonstrated that they love God.[4]

The high high (v. 12)

Having encouraged low believers to think of their high position in Christ and high Christians to think of their low position as mere mortals, James moves to a point that unifies and thrills Christians of all stations in life. He writes of ‘the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him’ (v. 12).

The crown of life! What does it mean? James was obviously drawing on something with which all his readers were familiar, namely, the realm of sports. Here are some runners preparing for a race. They strip off everything that would weigh them down and step up to the starting line. Every muscle is taut and every nerve ready as they await the signal. And they’re off! Each puts every ounce of strength and energy into the race, straining for the finish line. What does the winner receive? He or she is crowned with the victor’s wreath.

Through this imagery James was affirming that Christians are running a race that will end in glory. That is where the finish line is!

But there is a difference. All Christians are winners as they cross that finish line. There the Lord God himself will greet them and will crown their efforts with eternal life.

And in glory there will be no rich Christians and no poor Christians. There will simply be believers in Jesus who are astonished and amazed that the God of glory was gracious enough to forgive them their sins.

The key for us in this life is to keep our eyes trained on the finish line in glory. How very easy it is for us to get our eyes on the wrong things! How very easy it is for us to look with disfavour on fellow-Christians because they are lower than we are, or because they are higher!

If we keep our eyes fixed on eternity, these lesser matters will be seen as lesser matters. In eternal glory, God’s people will experience the ‘high high’. They will be as high as they can possibly go, and nothing will ever be able to bring them down.

So let us keep eternity in mind even to the point that we daily repeat the prayer of Joseph Bayly: ‘Lord, burn eternity into my eyeballs!’[5]

1:12 / James begins with a beatitude: Blessed is the man. Like Jesus in Matthew 5:3–12, he pronounces a surprising group blessed, those who persevere under trial. It is not just the person who is tested who is considered happy or blessed but the person who endures or remains faithful. In 1:2–4 James has said that testing produces endurance; now he states that enduring creates true blessedness. Yet James is neither a masochist nor a stoic, neither claims that trials are fun nor that one should enjoy pain. Rather, he points out that the trials serve a purpose, the experiential proof of the reality of faith, and that that should give one the perspective for deep joy. From reactions to testing one knows one is truly committed and that when [one] has stood the test a reward will come. A person passing a test is like silver being assayed and receiving the hallmark of purity: God marks the person “approved”; his or her faith is sound.

Such a person will receive a reward, that is (in the Greek idiom), “a crown of life.” This pictures the last judgment as if it were a judges’ stand at the end of a race (cf. 2 Tim. 4:8). The victorious runner approaches and a laurel wreath is set on his or her head. But this wreath is life itself (cf. Rev. 2:10), and not just one winner but all who finish the race (endure) receive the reward, for God has promised it to all those who love him. Salvation has only one price, an enduring love of God. With this prospect in mind, Christians can consider themselves truly blessed or fortunate despite outward circumstances, for they already taste the reward.[6]

The target of life (1:12)

First sight of verse 12 is true sight: it recapitulates verses 2–4. James, as it were, brings us back to the beginning of things again, reminding us of our basic position—namely that we move forward, through and by means of trial and test, to maturity. It would, therefore, be possible to see verse 12 as concluding the section which opened at verse 2, rounding things off in a heart-warming repetition. But it is better to see James as returning to the same truth as an introduction to a new perspective on things. He writes, therefore, of a means of blessing (Blessed … endures trial), the end which is to be held in view (the crown of life which God has promised) and the clue to this great objective (to those who love him).

The word blessed contains two strands of meaning. It means ‘happy’ in a fairly general sense in Acts 26:2 or Romans 14:22, but in the more particular sense of ‘fulfilled’ in cases like Luke 12:37. Along this line, blessed picks up James’ teaching in verses 2–4 that persistence through trial brings personal fulfilment and enrichment. In most cases of the word (makarios) in the New Testament, there is a plain hint, if not a clear assertion, of the activity of God in imparting blessing. In the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3ff.) the Lord Jesus describes a life which is fulfilled and fulfilling because it is under the blessing of God. Luke 10:23 is a particularly good example of this meaning. While, therefore, James is in part looking back to the promise of adult maturity at the end of the process in verses 2–4, he is in the main underlining the fact that God is at work in all this business of trial and persistent endurance, God is imparting blessing all the while as well as guiding us towards the great, ultimate blessing of his total approval. As Sophie Laws puts it, ‘the ideas of trial, probation and endurance’ are ‘now seen not in relation to the present perfecting of character, as in 1:2–4, but to the prospect of a future reward’. This brings in a whole new range of motivations on the call to endure. If the former motivation was to see realized in ourselves all that was intended in Christ, the present motivation is to please him who holds out the crown—to envisage his approval and so to live as to delight him. But though the motivation can be phrased differently, the programme remains the same. The blessing is not in being delivered from the trial, but is something found within and through the trial by means of the practice of endurance. We might well say to God, ‘Give me life and then I will be strong enough to endure trial.’ And there is a biblical sense in which this is absolutely true and right. The Lord Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray so that they would not fall before the assault of the coming trial (Mk. 14:38, using the same word, peirasmos, as James). But James would have us learn a different, though parallel, lesson: the trial and test is a sort of divinely given ‘homework’ in which we work out the truths God has taught us in his Word—for it is through this exercise of working it out that we progress in knowledge and grow in spiritual stature. Thus, alongside the perfectly legitimate cry, ‘Give me life and I will endure’, James writes his (typical) command, ‘Endure and God will give you life.’ For it is equally true in the Scriptures that God gives his Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).

The blessings God will give are summed up in the gift of the, crown of life. In the Bible, the wearing of the crown speaks of dignity of position, royal or otherwise (Est. 8:15; Ps. 21:3). It speaks of gladness and rejoicing (Song 3:11; 1 Thes. 2:19); it is given to the victor (1 Cor. 9:25); it is the prize at the end of the race (2 Tim. 4:8), the chief Shepherd’s reward to his undershepherds (1 Pet. 5:4). Specially, it is the reward of faithful endurance (Rev. 2:10). This last reference seems to be the only other place where a crown of life is mentioned, and the setting is the same as in James. Those who are prepared to use this life as an arena of endurance for Jesus’ sake will find that an abundant life awaits them from the hand of God. In this world, the onlooker might see them as sacrificing life, as having a wretched time, as ‘missing out on life’. They might be asked why they bother, why they do not opt out and enjoy themselves for a bit, and so on. But they have chosen to endure for Christ, and to live with their eyes on the life which he will give, crowning them with dignity, victory, happiness and reward in heaven.

But what attracts the reward is not their endurance, but the love for God which prompted it. The crown of life is his gift to those who love him. What a key truth for the whole of life! For in the light of it, all life becomes a trial (as James uses the word). Here, for example, is a person to whom the Lord accords an experience of deep happiness, whatever it may be. The Lord gives the happiness so that he may presently ask: Now do you love me more? And often we sadly answer that we have thoughtlessly enjoyed our happiness as though it were something we could demand as of right, and that easy days have blunted the sharp edge of our love for him. Many people have pondered the ‘problem of pain’. Few pause to ponder the problem of happiness. Why should a holy God give restful days, a happy home, healthy and dear children to a sinner like me? How I should love him for his blessings! Likewise it is true that the Lord visits with hardships and sorrow so that he may draw near to us and ask, Do you love me still? An elderly man, bereaved of his wife, said: ‘It must be that the Lord still has something for me to do, else why has he left me here?’ And someone replied, ‘He has not left you to do anything except to love him still.’

In the opening paragraph to this section we noted this reference to loving God as the clue James gives to making our way through life to the crown. It is a genuine clue, but it is a searching truth. Our progress to the crown is expedited not by our powers of endurance but by the depth and reality and pervasiveness of our love for him. We live by what we love; the shape of our lives is determined by the joys of our hearts.

Thereby hangs the whole tale, as we shall see, of verses 13–18.[7]

1:12. A double result is promised those who faithfully endure their trials. First is an inner reward of blessedness. Blessed is the same term which appears repeatedly in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12). It describes an inner quality of joy resting in God and unaffected by external events. It is not a wish or statement of fact but a joyous affirmation: “O the blessedness of the person who endures trials.” In the New Testament it often describes people whom the world would never regard as blessed or fortunate in any sense—such as the persecuted (Matt. 5:11–12). Having the trial is not a blessing in itself, but the stalwart endurance of the trial brought blessing.

The second blessing is a gift from God, the crown of life. Crown did not refer to the ornament of a ruler but to a garland wreath given to the victor in an athletic contest. God’s reward to us for faithfully enduring trials is not a position of royalty over others. Rather, it is recognition from God for spiritual victory. The crown is not a physical object but a spiritual privilege which gives a deeper, fuller life on earth (John 10:10) and an unending, joyous life in the world to come. Enduring trials for his glory shows that we love God. God has stored up marvelous blessings for those who love him.

Four features in this section provide encouragement for people caught up in trials. First, God uses trials to produce staying power in those who endure. Second, for those who seek it, God provides wisdom to understand trials. Third, believers, whether rich or poor, find encouragement to rejoice over their position in life. Fourth, God promises a reward to fill the believer with hope.[8]

Sustaining the Test


James returns to the theme he introduced at the beginning of his epistle: perseverance under trial (vv. 2–4). He calls the persevering believer blessed and tells him that because of his love for God, the believer “will receive the crown of life.”

The author displays a fondness for using key words. With these words he advances the flow of his epistle. In verse 12 he explains the meaning of the expressions trial and test; this leads him to an explanation of the verb to tempt. Verse 12, then, is introductory to the next section.

12. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Note these points:

  • Man

The term blessed relates to the Beatitudes of Jesus. Matthew records a series of nine such statements (5:3–11) in the Sermon on the Mount. The complete expression—“blessed is the man”—appears frequently in Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets.

The Jews were fond of using the word blessed (makarios). Both in the New Testament and in extrabiblical literature the word is common. For example, in the New Testament it occurs fifty times.

Who is the man the Bible calls “blessed”? He is the person who finds complete happiness in God. He may be poor, meek, hungry, or persecuted—but he is happy. This appears to be a contradiction. From a worldly perspective only the rich and those who are secure can be happy. But Scripture says that “the man who perseveres [endures] under trial” is blessed.

  • Test

God tests man’s faith to learn whether it is genuine and true. For instance, we test the purity of a bowl made of lead crystal by lightly tapping the outer edge. Immediately we know its genuineness when we hear a reverberating, almost musical sound. We also know that the lead crystal bowl went through the fire when it was made.

Similarly, God tests the faith of man as, for example, in the case of Job. Faith that is not tried and true is worthless. God wants the believer to come to him in a time of trial so that he may give him the strength to endure. God is not interested in seeing the believer falter and fail; he wants him to endure, overcome, and triumph.

See how Peter encourages his readers to persevere: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).

  • Promise

Why is the believer who perseveres during a time of testing happy? Because “he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

After his period of testing has ended, the believer will receive the crown of life. No one competing in games receives a crown until the race is over, and then only one person gets the crown (1 Cor. 9:24–25). The phrase the crown of life, it seems, was a well-known idiom in the first century. It occurs in the letter addressed to the church in Smyrna: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Writes R. C. Trench, the crown of life “is the emblem, not of royalty, but of highest joy and gladness, of glory and immortality.” The phrase, then, suggests fullness of life that God grants to those who endure the test of faith. God has promised this gift “to those who love him.”

Man cannot earn the crown of life, for God gives it to him full and free. God asks that man place his complete confidence in him and love him wholeheartedly. To love God with heart, soul, and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself constitutes the summary of the Ten Commandments. Interestingly enough, James returns to that royal law, as he calls it, in the next chapter (2:8). However, James teaches that God chose man who then began to love him (2:5). John says the same thing when he writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God comes first, then man.[9]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 41–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 28–29). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (pp. 287–288). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 219–220). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Ellsworth, R. (2009). Opening up James (pp. 37–38). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[6] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 34–35). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Motyer, J. A. (1985). The message of James: the tests of faith (pp. 47–49). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 260–261). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 46–47). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The “There Is No Recession In Sight” Chartbook — ZeroHedge News

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Yesterday, Michael Lebowitz wrote an interesting piece discussing the “yield curve” and the message it is sending. To wit:

“Recently, Wall Street and the Financial Media have brought much attention to the flattening and possible inversion of the U.S. Treasury yield curve. Given the fact that an inversion of the 2s/10s Treasury yield curve has predicted every recession over the last forty years, it is no wonder that the topic grows in stature as the difference between the 2-year Treasury yield and the 10-year Treasury yield approaches zero. Unfortunately, much of the discussion on the yield curve seems to over-emphasize whether or not the slope of the curve will invert. Waiting on this arbitrary event may cause investors to miss a very important recession signal.”

Mike is right. The problem is that when the yield curve INITIALLY inverts, or comes close to inverting, there won’t be a “recession” immediately noticeable in the data. This is because, as discussed previously, while the calls of a “recession” may seem far-fetched based on today’s economic data points, no one was calling for a recession in early 2000 or 2007 either. By the time the data is adjusted, and the eventual recession is revealed, it won’t matter as the damage will have already been done. As you notice in the chart above, the yield curve predicted each recession, but the yield curve was already rising sharply by the time the recession was officially announced.

But is there anything to fear currently? 

Not according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin:

“We see no indications whatsoever of a recession on the horizon. The administration’s efforts to cut taxes, slash regulations and overhaul trade deals have had a very strong impact on the U.S. economy.”

Since I am not the Treasury Secretary of the United States, who am I to argue. Therefore, I simply present some charts for you to consider with respect to whether a “recession cometh” or not.

(Some of the graphs below were shared with RIA Pro subscribers in the Chart of the Day section. For more information please visit us at RIA Pro. Use code PRO30 for a 30-day free trial.)

As David Rosenberg stated yesterday:

“I love to read the bloggers out there who say ‘a slowdown isn’t a recession.’ Someone should remind them of Newton’s laws of motion. A slowdown doesn’t morph into a recession when there is some exogenous postive shock that turns the tide. And when it isn’t about the Fed easing policy, then it is another Central Bank, like the ECB and BOJ in 2016.

Initial jobless claims are a leading economic indicator and have already risen enough to suggest that recession odds have gone from close to 0% a year ago to around 40% today. Not a base case, but the direction is not something the bulls should be crowing about.”

No recession in sight?

Maybe? But if you wait for someone to tell you the recession has started, it really won’t matter much anyway.

As my friend Doug Kass noted in his missive yesterday:

“It remains my view that the weight of slowing global economic growth, untenable debt levels, political turmoil and policy issues/concerns could ultimately produce much lower stock prices than are present today.”

Source: The “There Is No Recession In Sight” Chartbook

February 23 Digesting God’s Word

scripture reading: Psalm 19
key verse: Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Any farmer or gardener prefers a soft, steady rain for thirsty crops or plants. Heavy downfalls may appear favorable, but much of the water is wasted, the ground unable to absorb the deluge. However, the soil and rain are synchronized when the precipitation falls at a steady rate.

Meditation is akin to this analogy. Slowly, steadily, and productively, the Word of God is distilled and digested. It is the process of patiently listening, hearing, and waiting upon God. However, meditation can be hindered for two significant reasons:

First, quiet time versus busy time. You are harried and hurried. Your pace is fast, even on a slow day. But meditation requires time, still time where the voices of duty and responsibility are deliberately muted.

Second, quality versus quantity. Many Christians have a reading schedule that takes them from Genesis to Revelation in a year. This is a profitable exercise, but its benefits can be negated if the heart isn’t set on digesting meaningful portions. Reading shorter passages of Scripture can facilitate biblical meditation, and often God will focus your attention on one verse.

Customize your schedule to find an appropriate quiet time that allows you to maximize your investment.

My heart is thirsty, O Lord. I need quality time with You today. Slowly, steadily, and productively, let Your Word do its work.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

James MacDonald and the End of the Celebrity Pastor

Maybe it’s unavoidable that churches become microcosms of their eras. The early American church—in those strict, mean times—was a lean, sparse affair. Around the 1970s, the American church looked more like a business, with pastors acting like CEOs of small companies, focusing on delivering a weekly product.

In recent years, as the entertainment industry became the focal point of American culture, a growing number of churches began operating like a brand, with the pastor acting as the focal celebrity while a team around him (it’s almost always a him) streamlined his content for maximum impact and ran interference on potential scandals.

This has led to a phenomenon we call “celebrity pastors,” a phrase that should ring alien, yet doesn’t in the American church of 2019. If the label applies to anyone, it applied to James MacDonald, the recently fired senior pastor and founder of the immense and influential Harvest Bible Chapel. MacDonald’s lengthy series of scandals unspooled over several years, as allegations of bullying, intimidation, dishonesty and financial mismanagement surfaced and were buried one after the other. A 2019 investigation from Julie Roys at WORLD Magazine forced a slightly more honest reckoning before a series of tapes from Chicago shock-jock Mancow Muller, in which MacDonald was heard making vulgar threats toward the journalists covering the scandal, got the senior pastor fired.

The entire executive committee at Harvest has pledged to resign over their mismanagement of the various allegations against MacDonald. Victims have continued to come forward with new allegations (a former Harvest worship pastor went on Mancow’s show to say MacDonald touched her inappropriately a number of years ago), and it’s probably impossible to determine how many lives have been disrupted by MacDonald’s actions, how many people’s emotional and mental wellbeing could have been protected if countermeasures had been taken earlier.

That’s the thing about a celebrity pastor: A celebrity pastor is a brand, and a brand doesn’t take action against itself. That would be antithetical to its entire existence. Brands survive because they deflect damage, control the narrative, protect talent and promote new successes over recent failures. Accountability is bad for brands. For them to listen and respond to people they’ve hurt is a liability.

This construct was apparent in the Houston Chronicle’s devastating report of abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention, or in Mark Driscoll’s laborious attempts to weather, in vain, the crumbling of his empire. It took an avalanche of accusations from the Willow Creek Church community before Bill Hybels was ousted from leadership. There are many, many other examples. And unless the American Church course corrects here, there will be more in the future.

The Celebrity Pastor is a failed experiment, though it never stood a chance at success. It began benignly enough, with radio ministers like S. Parkes Cadman in the 20s and Reverend Ralph Sockman in the 40s gaining massive followings, but it was the advent of televangelism when the concept took on an uncomfortable sheen, shepherded by people like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell. Those sordid legacies speak for themselves, but their influence remains today, the pinstripe suits and poofy hair replaced by All Saints and undercuts.

The biblical model for a pastor could not have less in common with the modern celebrity. As Paul tells Timothy, pastors are to be  “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” None of these things are particularly compatible with the entitlements and hubris that accompany fame.

There is not a large enough sample size of famous people for a robust study of the psychological effects of celebrity, but the examples we have are not encouraging. The biblical injunctions against inflating yourself are fairly straightforward. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled,” Jesus says in Luke 14. Or, to quote an anonymous American folk writer some years later, “Sooner or later God’ll cut you down.”

Any rise necessitates leaving others on the ground, and that is an alienating thing for those in power. Isolation emboldens our worst impulses. The more people who affirm us, the more likely we are to believe them, and the more we believe them, the less likely we are to listen to other voices telling us less gratifying things. With this comes a dismissal of accountability—often in tiny increments—until you find yourself on a pedestal high above anyone who could give you an honest assessment of your life. It’s a dark place for anyone to be. It’s untenable for a pastor. It’s ideal for a brand.

None of this is unique to the American Church. Even King David, not a pastor but certainly a spiritual leader, found himself brought low after his power and authority calcified into a poisonous permission for him to force a woman into his bed.

But since America has prioritized celebrity in a way many other cultures haven’t, the American Church might be the first sector to have duped itself into believing a celebrity pastor could ever be a good thing for itself. For this country, the bitter fruit of celebrity has been a hollow, image-obsessed society that confuses size for success and wealth for wisdom. It’s been more or less the same for our churches, but with an extra, bitter undercurrent of torment. When a celebrity falls into scandal, it’s tabloid fodder, an object lesson for the rest of us to tut-tut over. But when a celebrity pastor falls, it sends shockwaves through the spiritual journeys of the people who’d looked up to him.

While it may be unavoidable for our churches to acquire the look and feel of their cultural context, we don’t have to be thoughtless or enthusiastic about that influence. In this, as in all things, we must “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12). Being a pastor is an immense responsibility, and any models for the job outside the church—kings, corporate bosses, Instagram stars—are doomed to bring disaster. The first and finest model for pastors will always be Jesus, whose words in Mark 9:35 only grow more radical with time:  “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Source: James MacDonald and the End of the Celebrity Pastor