Unity

Re:Verse reading–Philippians 2:1-11 (day two) Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Vs. 2

It is one of the questions that comes up frequently to the leadership of FBCSA, and it is also a central theme of our new paradigm. Individuals with much institutional memory remember the days when the church was less complex in structure and they long for us to be “united” again. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Everyone in the same place, experiencing the same thing at the same time. Yes, indeed, but that doesn’t paint a very accurate picture of our body. We are diverse, with different needs, languages, and experiences. We are large and small, young and old, but we are united.

Being united, does not mean all the same. What unites us is our love of scripture and our commitment to Re:Verse. Our staff and leadership are united in common purpose to reach and disciple. Our resources are all channeled to a single model. We are more united than many realize. It may not look like it did, but it sure feels like we understand this scripture.

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Civic-minded

Re:Verse reading–Philippians 2:1-11 (day one)

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”–v 4.

It is the opposite of Charlottesville.  The opposite of the new, nasty norm in contemporary American politics.  Rather than look out for ourselves (our race, our political party) followers of Christ will look out for the interests of others.  We will ask a different question.  What is best for all parties?  What is wise and fair for everyone involved?

Not an easy assignment, I agree.  It requires time to hear each other.  Time to consider opinions/feelings not my own.  Even so, it is a better path.  Learned from the “Prince of Peace”.

“A kingdom divided against itself will not stand” said the same Prince on another day. And no one should imagine that our nation will be the exception.

Want to build a church?  Want to build a city?  The Savior will teach us how.

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Am I willing?

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day seven)

“But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”–v 20

Hard question.  Important.  Requires some soul-searching.  Am I willing to learn/know God’s truth?  Willing to change the way I see things?  Or, just looking for an opportunity to argue, determined to convince God to “see it my way”?

Sometimes, if I am honest, it’s the latter.  Not really open to change, not really listening for a new perspective, not really considering a new position or direction, I want what I want. End of sentence.

Deep in the human heart is a stubborn switch that has significant power–power to allow spiritual progress, power to resist it.  It is called “the will”.

“If anyone is willing (same word that James used) to do His will, he will know whether the teaching is from God.”–Jesus (John 7:17)

Stubborn pride is a locked door. Ask yourself.  Am I willing?

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All Talk and No Action

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day six)

“Faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6) That is how Paul describes a faith that works, much like his pastor friend James does in James 2. They were very much on the same page; both tackling the same issue-dead faith.

Dead faith is all talk and no action. It is all sitting, thinking, speaking, but no going and doing. If we are not careful we will describe ourselves mostly as a people who gather together and sit; we gather for worship, we gather for Bible study, we gather for meetings, etc. That’s not faith, and it is not what it means to be the church. The church is not a place or only a gathering; it is a people who are working out their faith through love in a particular place. By faith the church is sent, it doesn’t just sit.

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Faith Without Works

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day four)

Can we claim a valid, saving faith if it does not result in works of mercy and ministry?  James says “no.”  James would not disagree with Paul or Jesus that we are saved by grace through faith alone.  James is going one step further and saying that if our faith has any usefulness, it will result in works of service.

Here at First Baptist, San Antonio, we put action to our faith.  Christmas Care, Disaster Relief, ESL training, serving military, working at Lamar and Briscoe elementary schools, backpack ministry, Mission: Dignity, SA Christian Dental Clinic, community garden—all of these ministries and more are doing what James tells us to do.  How about you?  Are you involved in serving and ministering to others…giving your faith the opportunity to exercise and grow?  Find out more about these ministry areas in our church and get to work.  Faith without works is useless!

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Living

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day three)

“Can such faith save them?”  We throw words around all the time like we know what we’re doing.  One such word is “believe”.  What do we mean when we use that word?  Consider two people who are hard workers and true to their word with their families and in their dealings with others day by day.  One, we learn, “believes in” God, while the other, we discover, is unconvinced of God’s existence.  What does belief really mean in this instance?  Does belief mean anything more than choosing the “right answer”, all other things being equal?  Is each person’s eternal destiny the only difference between these two?  James reveals that to believe is to arrange your life in such a way that you live as if what you say you believe is true.  In other words, belief is a life, not a resumé.

 

 

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I Love My Wife

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day two) And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. vs. 23b

I love my wife. Over 17 years ago I stood in front of the church and declared to her and to God that I loved my wife. Now everyone knows that I love her, and that is the end of that.

…that’s not how it works. We both know that. My love for my wife is ever-growing. I express it to her in a thousand ways, and I still fail to sufficiently acknowledge how much she means to me. I tell her I love her, I send her a text at work. I will buy flowers, or gifts, or make the bed in the morning. Large gestures or small, they each speak to my love for my beloved.

Why then do we bristle when we read this passage from James. My love and commitment to Jesus is the greatest call on my life, so shouldn’t my life be marked by evidence of that love? Just as I want April to know that I cherish her, so, too, do I want Jesus to know that I am fully his. I long to be like Abraham and be considered a friend of God.

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What’s the use?

Re:Verse reading–James 2:14-26 (day one)

“If a brother or sister is without clothing. . .and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary . . .what use is that?”–v 16

A question that a pragmatist would love.  A solid standard by which religion must always be evaluated.  What’s the use?

Ophelos is the Greek word.  It mean’t “advantage or profit or progress”.  Same word that Jesus used in Mark 8:36.  “What does it profit (opheleo) a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

So. . .(is your honest hat on?) If we bottom-lined your faith, would the world show a profit?  “I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”–Abraham Lincoln.  OK, but what about your neighbor, your city, your church?   What useful thing will come to the world this week because you believe?

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Free at last!

Re:Verse reading–2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (day seven)

“in great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”–v 2

It was a supernatural outcome.  No question.  A grace (gift) from God.  An unthinkable equation unless the Spirit of God is present.  Affliction+joy+poverty=generosity?  Yes!

The Macedonians were in a difficult chapter.  But with every new hardship, they seemed freer from anxiety, more ready to serve Christ.  They wanted to help.  Begged for the privilege to do so.  It was amazing!

Paul had seen this miracle before.  Until a person knows the Spirit of God, he/she is captive to the world and its threats and dangers.  Ruled by fear. Obsessed with self.  Once a person is filled with the Spirit, he/she is set free from these earth-bound priority-prisons. Freedom comes!  And generosity!

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “–Jesus (John 7:38)

 

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Rich

Re:Verse reading–2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (day six)

2 Corinthians 8 teaches us very important lessons on giving. Have you ever given any thought as to why we don’t give? What keeps us from giving of our time, energy, and resources? It’s a worthwhile question. The Macedonians gave, not out of their abundance, but out of their poverty. In other words, they gave of what little they had not knowing where their next meal would come from. I don’t give like that. One, God has tremendously blessed my family; we are not poor. Two, we give regularly, but it is always out of excess; it never hurts to give.

Paul didn’t make that a requirement of course. He wasn’t expecting the Corinthians to unwisely put themselves in a financial bind, nor us, but I do think he wants us to see that whenever we give, we are always giving out of abundance. The Macedonians gave because they knew that although they were poor financially, they had been made rich in grace through Jesus, and therefore were eager to give of what they had to meet the needs of others.

You are rich! So give.

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