Vs. 14, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” A wonderful exhortation and reminder on Christmas Day! In the midst of living in a dark world, we must not lose hope! Peter exhorts those who are older to not live and lead like the world would have them do (vs. 1-4). There is a often a danger in allowing pride to puff up our minds. But, we must remember that pride is in direct opposition to God (vs. 5-7). And speaking of opposition, we must take a stand against the devil who wants to devour (vs. 8-11).
Regarding application…Don’t Be Anxious. Vs. 7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” There was much to be anxious for the original audience of Peter’s epistle. And in many ways, there are always things we can point to in our life to make us anxious. The Christmas season is probably one of the more stressful times in our lives with traveling, visiting family, and the extra-added events that we pile on. Question: Is there anything in your life that is causing you to be anxious? Let’s take the time to rejoice for a Savior has come ready!
Vs. 4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Question: What is the problem here? The previous chapter reminded us about human wisdom vs. God’s wisdom. As people continued living with their own selfish wisdom, their sinful desires took precedence over the Lord. They began to love the world and what it had to offer. James does not hold back and denounces such ways of living (vs. 1-10). Little did people realize that their selfish ways were literally hatred towards God. We are reminded that when we submit to God, the devil must flee (vs. 7). In the latter part of our chapter, James addresses two admonitions regarding holy living; speech and money (vs. 11-17). People were gossiping and slandering their brothers and sisters (vs. 11-12). When we so quickly judge the actions of others, we are in effect trying to do something that is reserved for the Lord, not us. And lastly, James addresses the boastful and smug attitude towards their future and attitude towards money (vs. 13-17). Not much has changed, for we struggle with such goals even today. With our current economy and the collapse of the value of homes, we know how the things of this world are never certain.
Regarding application…Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. Vs. 14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Perspective folks…Perspective. We work so hard for what? To play and enjoy the temporary things of this world? Work hard, play hard. Question: How would you live your life if you only had one week to live? Given such insight, I think many of us would get things right. Yet, we have this reality that our lives are but a vapor in the wind. How foolish to have such a small perspective when it comes to how we look at our lives. This is an important reminder for all of us as we consider how we conduct our lives and our future goals.
Vs. 4, “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Moses was tending flocks for his father-in-law Jethro (Reuel) and was now at Mount Horeb (Sinai) (vs. 1). This is the chapter where we come upon the well-known encounter with the burning bush. Moses would quickly find out that he was in a very conversation with the creator of the world! God showed His faithfulness by hearing the cries of his children and responding (vs. 7-10). While easy to point fault at Moses for his questions and concerns, but I don’t think any of us would fare any better (vs. 11-13). Moses asked God’s name, and He would reply with, “I AM” (Yahweh). I really enjoyed Moses giving us his dialogue he had with our God. The Lord would go onto explain in detail the events that would transpire with the Egyptians response and the hard to believe willing plunder that would come to fruition (vs. 21-22).
Regarding application…Who am I? Vs. 11, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” How interesting that a man like Moses who was so confident in the past (trying to rescue the beaten Hebrew, and rescuing the women at the well) would now be humbled. But I suppose all of us would be standing on holy ground before our Maker (vs. 5). God chooses the weak to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27). In many ways, Moses had to be broken to be put back together again. But Moses would ask a question that applies for all of us today: Who am I? We are failures, we are not perfect, we are stubborn, we are doubters…yet God still loves us and chose us! Question: What tasks is the great “I AM” asking you to do in your life right now?
Vs. 1, “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.” Though Paul doesn’t like it, he continues to respond to the boasting of others. Some were making huge claims of extraordinary spiritual experiences to make others in awe of them. While it is beneficial to share testimonies of things God has done, Paul did not go around flaunting some of the visions God did in fact give him (vs. 1-6). The person Paul speaks about is himself, but he did not share this for worry that others would put him on a pedestal. In addition, in order to keep Paul humble, God brought a thorn in Paul’s flesh (vs. 7) a messenger of Satan. No one is quite sure what this thorn in the flesh was, but Paul definitely understood that though he prayed for the Lord to deliver him from it, God was the one who was in control (vs. 8-9). In the end, Paul reminds them of God’s call as an apostle for the Lord and that the Corinthians were just as important to him as all the other churches (vs. 11-13). Remember, they thought lesser of Paul and of themselves since Paul did not receive financial support from them (vs. 14-18). And Paul refers to some of the sins they were reverting back to when he had visited them the second short visit (in-between the writing of the of two letters.) (vs. 19-21). I was Paul’s hope and prayer they would live a life worthy of the Lord and thankfully he had the courage to address it.
Regarding application…Staying Humble. Vs. 7b, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” How interesting that God would use the epitome of pride in Satan to keep Paul humble. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that we don’t have to struggle with pride in our lives today? Yet, I wonder how many times God has allowed us the enemy to bring struggles for the intent purpose to keep us humbled and dependent upon the Lord. Question: What are your “thorns in the flesh” today? I think self-esteem is one of them for me. There are times I struggle with my abilities whether good or lacking. I am quick to find my esteem in my success and lose my esteem in my failures. Yet, God has a way of keeping me humbled to prevent my head from getting too big. My struggles with low self-esteem have been a personal “thorn in my flesh”, but that has often been the driving force of reminding me that my esteem is found not in my self (accomplishments or failures)…but in my identity in the Lord. Whatever struggles you have, find peace in knowing that God is the one in control! Have a very blessed week!
Vs. 13, “Then he said to me, “The north and south rooms facing the temple courtyard are the priests’ rooms, where the priests who approach the Lord will eat the most holy offerings. There they will put the most holy offerings—the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings—for the place is holy.” The Angel continues his grand tour as they look at more and more measurements. This time we zero in on the rooms for the Priests. There were two identical sides that housed the rooms for purposes of eating and changing of clothes. Sounds boring, but there was definite purposes behind them. This is where they would eat the certain foods of the sacrifice and it was to be a holy (set apart) function. The changing rooms were used for the priests to change from their priestly garments back to regular clothing.
Regarding application…Being Humble. Vs. 14, “Once the priests enter the holy precincts, they are not to go into the outer court until they leave behind the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they go near the places that are for the people.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Be humble, or you’ll stumble.” In this situation, we can look none other to the example of Jesus. As the Christmas season nears, we are reminded Jesus came as a humble baby. Jesus could have come in his glorious transfigured self already a man, but instead, he humbled himself. The taking off of the priestly garments and going amongst the people is a application that we too must be ready to mingle among others. What can you do this week to be humble and share the love of Christ? Perhaps invite a friend to church, call a loved one, give to the needy…pray that God would humble us to love others!
Vs. 13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites...” Now that Jesus was in Jerusalem, he had quite a captive audience of disciples as well as Pharisee’s and teachers of the law. Seven times Jesus would would point out the faults of the Pharisee’s and teachers of the law. In fact, this would be the last public message before his death. Question: Really? A message of fire & brimstone? Yep, it was time to rebuke the false teachers and warn the disciples as well as us the hypocrisy that surrounded their life. Here’s a rundown of what the hypocrisy looked like: They were not practicing what they preached (vs. 3-4), They did it for recognition, not God (vs. 5-7), they put the focus on men rather than God (vs. 8-12), They tried to control the very gates of heaven (vs. 13-14), they led followers astray (vs. 15), they put their value in worldy oaths (vs. 16-22), they ignored God’s law (vs. 23-24), they put focus on the outside rather than the inside (vs. 25-26), they were empty morally on the inside (vs. 27-28), they judged their ancestors when they themselves were doing a worse action (vs. 29-32). Not a very distinguished list, huh?
Regarding application…What times is it? Humble Time. Vs. 12, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Looking at the list of “woes”…I would like to think that I’m not guilty of any of these. Yet, I find that I have acted just like the Pharisee’s and teachers of the law. The more I measure myself to God’s word, the more humbled I am. Going back to seminary is one of the most grueling and arduous things I have done. God has a sense of humor and all those times I have not studied in the past…I’m making it up now. As I venture down the road of Biblical & spiritual academia…I am humbled. As you venture down reading the Bible everyday…allow His word to humble you. Question: What good is it to read and not be moved? Then you wasted your own time and God’s time. As Jesus closes his message, O Jerusalem…O Jerusalem…I can’t help but think he’s saying that to us. (Sigh~~~…Oh Youth Group…O Youth Group….how often I have longed to gather you together.” It’s time brothers and sisters. Turn to the Lord.