Tag Archives: romans

James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.

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The Politics of Jesus: His Real Message

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I’m writing this on Election Week. All over the country people will be flocking to the polls to vote for the person they think will best run their country, state, and county. It is a grand privilege and right of every American to exercise the freedom to vote. I hope you did.

Thinking about elections, however, makes me think about Jesus.

What did He preach? Many people think that Jesus went around merely preaching that people should do good and doing good himself. When people think about Jesus they regard him as a nice man who taught many good philosophies on how to live life to the fullest. They think of all the miracles he did and are amazed at the power.

Many people think Jesus went around preaching that people should come to him. I mean, isn’t that what most churches are preaching these days? People should turn to Jesus. It’s almost like we think he was campaigning for three years. Vote for Jesus!

Look at the central event of his life – his crucifixion. Why was he crucified? Would people kill someone for doing good and being nice? Would people put someone on trial for obvious miracles? Would people kill a man preaching about philosophies of peace and unity and “love your enemy”?

No. Jesus wasn’t crucified for any of these things.

Perhaps Jesus was preaching a message of salvation to everyone that was different from the religions of the world? Maybe he was killed because of the religious implications of the messages he taught. No, this is not the case, either.

Jesus had one central sermon in his ministry, and it was the same message as his cousin, John.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Mark 1:15)

Jesus was crucified because he was preaching a kingdom that was different than any other kingdom of the day. Indeed, it is different than any kingdom that exists today.

The Jewish leaders didn’t like it because it presented a different role for them. In this kingdom they didn’t have the power to manipulate and control the lower people. In this kingdom the people truly had freedom. In this kingdom, religion wasn’t as important as they had made it out to be. Their presuppositions on how a person had to live in order to serve God were shattered.

The Roman leaders didn’t like this kingdom either. Sure, this was a peaceful movement, but the Caesar was the king of the known world. How dare they claim another king and claim allegiance to another kingdom. That was treason!

Over and over Jesus preached this message of the kingdom. Then, when he was crucified, Pilate had his title posted over his head on the cross: “King of the Jews”.

For centuries people have taught about this kingdom, but many get it wrong. Many people are waiting for the kingdom to be established when Jesus comes back and reigns on the earth for a thousand years. This is very similar to what the Jews were looking for in their messiah. However, Jesus tried to correct them over and over.

At one time someone asked Jesus where the kingdom will be, and Jesus taught that it wasn’t a physical kingdom. Rather, it was among and within the people who were the citizens. This was a kingdom with no borders.

Another time Jesus urged the people to watch for the kingdom because it would come before those who were there listening to Jesus would die. So, either the kingdom is here, or there are some really old people still living somewhere on the planet.

In Colossians 1, Paul reminds them that they have already been brought into the kingdom.

So, if you’ve been washed by the blood of the lamb, then you are no longer a citizen of the country you live in. Your primary residence is in the kingdom of heaven. But that residency starts now. You are called to live as that citizen with God as your King.

You are promised the kingdom as your inheritance. You are princes and princesses with Jesus of the kingdom. Jesus is your brother, and God is your Father.

As you plan and prepare for your time as a citizen of whatever country you live in, remember that it is a tertiary residency. Your primary allegiance is to the Father, your King. How you live here and now should reflect that.

May you live as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and may your life reflect that citizenship. Blessings to you, the citizens of God’s kingdom.


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Doing church

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When you’re lying around thinking about things, what do you think about? What captures those valuable moments of meditation as you allow your mind to wander? When you get up, what do you do? What things are necessary that dictate your actions? As you do those things what is your attitude? Do you enjoy the life you are living, the things you think about and what you do?

Many of us have hobbies. Those are usually things that we love to do, and when we aren’t doing those things we are thinking about those things. When we are given the opportunity to be immersed into our hobby for a while we jump at the chance.

Many of us love sports. We have our favorite teams. We don’t miss a game. We wear the paraphernalia. If we get a chance to actually go to the game we jump at the chance and tell just about everyone we can because we are so excited.

Many of us have families. We cater to our children’s needs. We serve them to the point of fatigue and then some. We spend time together playing and working. We teach them. We are engaged in our families. When we aren’t with them we are thinking about them. When we are away we can’t wait to be back with our family.

What if we treated our hobbies, favorite teams, or families like we treat our commitment to the Kingdom of God?

What if we only saw our family on Sunday mornings for two hours? What if the family needed our help, but we were always too busy to help or figured someone else would come to their aid? What if when we were with our family we were constantly thinking about all the other things we would rather do away from our family?

How much of a fan would you be if you didn’t spend time getting to know your team? How skilled would you be at your hobby if you only went to lectures and heard about how to do your hobby but never actually got busy doing your hobby?

This is how many people “do church”. We come on Sunday mornings. Many people don’t even come for class even though it’s only an hour sooner. We sing a few songs we don’t even realize the words to. Then we listen to a sermon while thinking about what is for lunch. When we are done we shake the mandatory hands and say “hi” to others, but we are really glad to be done with this portion of our week.

We are called to so much more in our walk with Jesus.

Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.

In many churches there is a core group that understand the need to work together as a family to help spread the message of the good news of Jesus. The majority of the church is only engaged on Sunday mornings.

If we are really honest, the majority of our Christianity consists of what we do and who we are Monday through Saturday.

If your church needs you, don’t wait for someone else to get involved. We are all called to be active in working to he’ll the kingdom of God grow. Your church does need you.

You have been given the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus needs you to. Offer everything to Him all the time. Let Him give you rest, but you only need rest after you’ve exhausted yourself by working. Let’s get to work.


Running Away with Jonah

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A you familiar with the story of Jonah? Jonah is a short book (four chapters) in the Old Testament in the Bible. It tells the story of Jonah in the days when Nineveh was a scourge upon the earth. Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria, and they weren’t treating the Jews rightly.

Jonah was a prophet of God, and he was pretty used to hearing His voice. One day, however, God spoke to him to give him a message that he didn’t want to hear. God wanted Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent. God wanted them to repent so He could forgive them.

Jonah hated the Assyrians and despised the people of Nineveh. He couldn’t believe God would even consider forgiving a people so evil as they. Jonah was upset. He was willing to give God’s messages to the people of Israel, but he wanted nothing to do with these Ninevites.

He decided that what God had asked of him was too much. He would go just so far for God but no further.

So Jonah ran. He got in a ship sailing for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He figured he could run from God, but God is omniscient and omni-present, so it wasn’t a successful venture.

Out on the sea God caused a violent storm to come upon the ship. The sailors tried to figure out who was responsible for this unnatural storm, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Jonah confessed to his running from God and told them that in order to stop the storm they had to throw him overboard. Jonah knew that being thrown overboard into the ocean would mean certain death for him.

The sailors reluctantly agreed and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea calmed down. As Jonah sank deep into the sea a giant fish swallowed him. Jonah knew he had messed up royally. God had shown him the way to go, and he had not been willing. So, in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed.

After three days God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on the shore. Then, God called Jonah once again to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah went, although he was still wishing for the demise of his enemies.

When he spoke the word of The Lord to the Ninevites they repented and prayed to God clothed in sackcloth and sitting on ashes (signs of genuine remorse). Jonah went up on a hill outside of town to watch God smite them, but He forgave them instead. Jonah became furious.

Jonah couldn’t see how the forgiveness of God is greater than our understanding. He couldn’t see the plans of God. He was filled with hatred and vengeance toward these people.

Did Jonah ever come around? Read the book and find out.

Lets look at ourselves in the meantime. There have been many times I’ve heard people say that they know God wants them to do this or that, but…

When we know what God’s will for us is, and we reject that will, then He is no longer the King of our lives. We have dethroned God and placed ourselves on that throne. We are very much like Jonah.

The may be decisions you are called to make in life. Will you make them? There are moral choices you are called to make. Will you make them?

We live in an age where the people in most churches live lives very similar to that of the world. When confronted with a direct command from scripture, it is not uncommon for them to say “yes, I know, but…” Is that what God wants of us? No!

The Hebrew writer tells us that if we know the good we should do, and we don’t do it, we sin. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are to quit sinning on purpose expecting grace to cover us. Does grace cover us? Yes! But should we abuse that privilege? No!

You are called to live a life like Christ. When faced with the hardest time of his life – the crucifixion – he didn’t tell God he wasn’t willing to go through it. He loves you too much to go against God’s will for him, though we know he really struggled with the pain that was to come.

Look at your life. Find the areas where your life doesn’t match up with the life God has called you to live. Pray to God for help in changing direction. And find people you can surround yourself with that will help you along the way. You don’t have to live like the world. Your witness will be much more effective when you make this change.

May you stop giving God ultimatums. May you follow Him with wild abandon. And may the world watch as you live in joy and peace from knowing God’s love and grace all the more.

If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you would like to comment on this article, then please feel free to shoot me a message at http://www.mrdobbs.org. Blessings to you as you follow Him.

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Living in a Cardboard Box

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Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you and your family were moved to a hostile place. It could be the remote jungles of South America, or maybe you are thinking of a hotspot like Iran or Iraq. It is a place where you are constantly fearful for your own life and the lives of your loved ones around you.

In the jungle there are predators you haven’t even heard of that lie in wait for your young or wounded to be vulnerable. In Iran or Iraq or places like it there is constant fighting, and you would probably stick out like a sore thumb in a place like that – I know I would.

Now imagine what kind of living conditions you might provide for your clan. Perhaps you would have no house at all. Maybe you would just live on the jungle floor or in the streets of Baghdad. That would definitely not be ideal conditions. I don’t know any person that loved themselves or their family that would not strive to improve on their conditions in such a case.

Maybe your ideal isn’t living out in the open. You want to find some kind of shelter. What do you find? Cardboard! You construct an elaborate cardboard house with multiple rooms and all the amenities. Surely your family will be well taken care of now. You paint the exterior, and no one can tell the difference between your house and one made of brick and mortar.

Will this house provide adequate protection? When the rains come they will soak through and disintegrate your home. When gunfire rips through your area bullets will penetrate your home, and lives will most likely be lost. No, this will not do.

You wouldn’t be satisfied until you were able to provide some kind of real shelter for your family. You want them to be protected from the elements as well as enemies all around. Your house would be as secure as you could make it so that no one would need to live in fear.

Our lives are much like this wherever we live. Some of us are living out in the open. Some of us are living in cardboard box houses, and some of us have actually constructed secure living conditions.

You see, we are all living in a dangerous place. The scripture says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion waiting for whom he may devour.” He’s out to get your family and mine, yet many of us are still providing cardboard protection.

What do I mean by this? We have weak defenses against the evil one. Some of us have no defense – we have never given our lives to Christ, and we are already prisoners of war; we are already infected with sin. Some of us have made a dedication to Christ in name, but we use that name to construct a cardboard box of our lives. We think that once we confessed the name that was enough. Yes, that was a major step, yet we are still defenseless against Satan if we do not wield certain tools.

Jesus, the Son of God, had a not-so-cozy visit from the evil one after He had been in the desert and fasting for forty days. Jesus was hungry, tired, and weak. Satan attacked him at his weakest point. But what did Jesus do? He didn’t succumb to the fiery arrows of evil. No! Jesus shot back with the weapons He had in His arsenal – weapons of the scripture.

Many of us go through life without this ability. When temptations arise we have no foundation for being able to resist them. We are called to be like Jesus, and He knew His scriptures.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and in the psalms we see that he was continuously meditating on the word of God. In fact, the Psalmist says that he “has hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” The psalmist sees that the memorization of scripture is key to building a house around us that will provide continual protection.

Yes, Jesus provides grace to those of us who have dedicated our lives to Him – have been born of water and the spirit, but according to Romans 1 it is not a license for us to sin all the more. We are called to leave the life of sin far behind. If we do not know what God’s word says, however, we will easily be picked off like the seeds Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

My younger children are 4 and 6 years old, and we are working with them daily on memorizing scripture. We want them to have the arsenal necessary to withstand the devil’s attacks. I’m proud to say that so far they have Genesis 1:1 and the Ten Commandments memorized, and they are able to tell me what each of the commandments mean. We are starting young to hopefully instill in them a pattern of memorization and learning for their life.

Parents, teach your children the scriptures. Help them to memorize certain passages. Some of my favorites for remembering in hard times are Jeremiah 29:12 and Romans 8:28. When you teach them to your children you will find that you learn them too!

If you don’t have children or your children are already grown, it’s never too late to start hiding the Word of God in your heart. You will find that it quickly changes your life.

Its time for us to stop lying to ourselves thinking this religious mansion we’ve created is anything more than an elaborate cardboard box. It’s time for new construction that begins with a foundation of the word of God. May you know the scriptures, may they set you free, and may they protect you from all the advances of the evil one.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or at jddobbs@verizon.net. If you haven’t given your life to Christ, I would especially like to visit with you. Becoming a follower of Christ isn’t a decision made out of ignorance. Educated and uneducated alike are all invited into the kingdom of God. God bless you all!


What to do when we wait

Can you imagine the situation of the apostles? Their leader, whom they had lived in close quarters with for the last three years has now been taken prisoner. They were trying him unjustly and illegally so as to frame him for crimes he did not commit. Then, they planned to kill him.

And they succeeded. They killed Jesus.

We speak often about Friday, and we preach about Sunday, but what about Saturday? It was on Saturday that they had to wait.

I don’t think this was a comfortable waiting either. They must have been constantly questioning themselves. Is that it? Was he really who he said he was? Did we just waste three good years of our lives? What’s next? He talked about rising from the dead, but what if it doesn’t happen? There had to be much trepidation in the hours between the cross and the empty tomb.

Read the account for yourself. Have you ever thought of what it must have been like?

We wait all the time, don’t we? We wait at restaurants, stores, doctors’ offices, amusement parks, airports, even the DMV. It is inevitable that sometime during your day you will have to wait for something. You’re not alone. Everyone waits.

What do you do with the time that you must spend waiting? Some people tap their foot and wrinkle their brow and become increasingly disgruntled. You know the pattern…they start mumbling about how slow this is and how much of a hurry they are in. They become rude to the people who are doing their best to serve them. God forbid they have to wait.

Is this you? I hope not. Waiting doesn’t have to be a negative time of your day. In fact, the next time you wait – for anything – try one of these few ideas.

First, remember the apostles on that lonely Saturday. What did they do? They prayed. Waiting is a great opportunity to pause and spend time in the presence of God in prayer. He wants to hear from you, and the only way you’ll have a great relationship with Him is to talk to Him. Pray for all kinds of things that you are going through, but don’t forget to pray for those who are making you have to wait. Perhaps they are having something worse than waiting that is going on with them.

Second, spend some time in the word. We live in the age of tiny technology. If you have a smartphone, you can access the mobile version of biblegateway.com, or you can download the youversion app or the logos app. All these are free, and they are great resources for reading the bible in whatever translation you desire on the go. I use all three of these at different times, and they are really great! More than just reading the word, though, just read a verse or two, and meditate on that passage. You will find God often speaks to you through His word in ways that cut right to what you are dealing with, even if it’s a struggle with being patient while you wait for that incredibly slow train that is cutting the town in half while you are trying to get the kids to school on time.

Lastly, just breathe. Take deep breaths and relax and let the cares slide right off of your shoulders. Sometimes we need to create peace times in our days, and waiting in line or at the red light can help fill those peaceful needs.

Jesus came to bring us peace. I think it was a powerful lesson in trust that the apostles went through on the Saturday so long ago as they waited for their messiah to be raised. You are faced with the same trust questions. Do you trust that God is in control even of this very situation? Do you trust that he works all things for your good (Romans 8:28)?

May you see waiting times as joyful opportunities rather than painful detours to your carefully planned schedule. Besides, when we tell God our plans He probably has a pretty good chuckle at our expense. He is always in control, and he wants us to allow Him to guide our lives so that Jeremiah 29:11 can be fulfilled in us.

If there is ever anything I can do for you, please call me at 245-1611, or email me at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you all!


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