This week’s question: “Is anyone among you sick?” (James 5.14).
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (Jas. 5.14-15).
Perhaps no other ministry of the New Testament church has seen as much perversion as the church’s healing ministry. While many involved may have wonderful intentions and pure hearts, some healing ministries have too often been a vehicle for a few to build their own personal financial kingdoms by offering false hopes of healing to any and all who come their way. Here in James 5, we find the only directive in Scripture concerning praying for those who are sick.
The book of James was written to those who had been “scattered abroad” because of widespread persecution. The Greek word translated sick means “without strength” or “to be weak.” And in verse 15 the word used means “to grow weary.” Continue reading →
This week’s question: “What is your life?” (James 4.14).
This week’s question, even in its simplicity, contains all kinds of other questions.
Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where will we go when we leave this world? What is our purpose? Is this all there is?
Hawkins points out that our tendency is to focus on the here and now. In many cases we live as if we were never going to leave this world: taking vitamins, worrying about the quality of our food, cosmetics, plastic surgery … It reminded me of something one of our Pastors, Larry Lamb, said recently in talking about eternal things. He said, “Just keep eating your bark and birdseed and maybe you’ll live a few years longer!”
It’s not wrong, of course, to eat wisely or to take care of our health, but more important is how we live and prepare spiritually. Do we live with eternity in mind?
James not only asked the question, “What is your life?” He also answered it, “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 5.14b).
In light of eternity, even the longest life is brief. And the writer of Hebrews said this: Continue reading →
This week’s question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2.14).
Faith or works? On the surface it seems like Paul’s emphasis was on faith and faith alone, while James emphasized the importance of works. So who was right? Are we saved by faith or by our works?
There has always been a battle within the church between the two. Some might say that the Apostle Paul is the champion of the “faith crowd.” After all, didn’t he say we were saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2.8-9)?
But then there is James reminding us that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2.20-26) and adding “even the demons believe and tremble” (Jas. 2.18-19). Continue reading →
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. When it comes to salvation, many intend to get right with God someday, but someday could be too late.
This week’s question: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2.3).
This could be the most important question for someone reading this!
We have probably all had something, sometime, that we have neglected: something we should have studied more, something we should have taken better care of, or something we should have paid attention to. It could be something minor or something major like a relationship or our physical health.
But there is one thing we can not afford to neglect: our eternal destiny. Hawkins quotes the old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That could literally be true for some. Continue reading →
This week’s question: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6.19).
To better understand this weeks question, let’s read it in context. 1 Corinthians 6.18-20:
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You’ve probably noticed: sex sells in modern America. It sells blue jeans, music, cars, computers, cameras, even mouthwash. Everyone is talking about sex today— everyone except for moms and dads in the home, and preachers and teachers in the church. So young people learn about sex from the hottest new entertainers of this day and the media— voices that too often fill their minds with immoral, if not utterly wrong, information. More than one generation in America has been raised with little to no moral absolutes, so relativism has taken root, influencing the thought processes of too many individuals away from God’s truth. What was yesterday’s shocking behavior is today’s norm. What used to slither down the darkened back alleys now struts proudly down Main Street.
I’m not sure exactly when Hawkins penned the words in this book, but those last two sentences become truer and truer by the minute! What was yesterday’s shocking behavior is certainly today’s norm. In fact, what used to be universally condemned is now being celebrated. What used to “slither down the darkened back alleys” is now considered hateful to even speak out against. Continue reading →
This week’s question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8.31).
Hawkins begins this chapter by reminding us that “a text without a context becomes simply a pretext, or presumption.” So let’s take a closer look at the context so we can properly understand what Paul means when he asks this week’s question.
Let’s first look at all of verse 31 in its entirety:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
In Romans 8: 31 the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is preceded by the question, “What then shall we say to these things?” Thus, before we can accurately answer the question of our chapter, we must address what “these things” are that Paul mentions.
What things is he referring to? Romans 8.28-30:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Then the apostle asked, “What then shall we say to these things?”— to these amazing truths? And he answered with another question: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The obvious answer? It doesn’t matter who may be against us when almighty God Himself is for us, for He is always at work watching over us and providing for us.
The author calls verse 28 “the family secret.” The secret is that God is always watching over us. When others try to hurt us, we know the secret. When circumstances seemed stacked against us, we know the secret. As Hawkins says:
Only those who love Him can unlock this truth. It’s a family secret.
Things to remember:
First the family secret is constructive, He’s working everything for our good. Though we can’t always see the good at the time, we can often look back and see God’s purpose and that it was good.
This week’s question: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16.30).
As Hawkins reminds us this is “arguably the most pointed question in the entire Bible.” The question was asked by a jailer in the city of Philippi.
To fully understand why a pagan jailer would ask such a question, we need to look at the passage in context.
Paul and Silas had been arrested for preaching and for casting a demon out of a slave girl. Acts 16:
22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
They had just been beaten and now were put into stocks, a device intended to cause great pain and cramping in the muscles. But instead of focusing on their own pain and discomfort, Paul and Silas began singing praises to God. Can you imagine what the guards and the other prisoners were thinking?
25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
I don’t know who said it first, but there is no time in life when we have a greater opportunity to witness to the power of God in us than we do when life is hard. It’s easy to proclaim our faith when everything is going well, but when times are tough, people start to wonder what really is different about us!
How do you and I respond during the midnight times in our lives? Do we respond with singing and praises to God or do we respond with “why me” and “it’s not fair”? Possibly something of a mixture, but why should we learn to respond like Paul and Silas?
As Hawkins explains, praising Him in the midst of trouble, singing a song in the night, affects three areas of our lives: Continue reading →
This week’s question: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9.6).
I love Hawkin’s opening to this chapter:
September 11, 2001, is a date like December 7, 1941— one that will live on in infamy. America was suddenly awakened to the reality that terrorism was not simply confined to the Middle East. Certainly, twenty-first-century terrorism is nothing new to that part of the world. One of the cruelest terrorist attacks of the first century took center stage in Acts, chapter 9. The man was en route from Jerusalem to Damascus, and his goal was clear: stamp out a Christian uprising there. In Acts 8 his terrorist cell, operating out of Jerusalem, had successfully eliminated Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The traveler was engaged in a systematic attempt to use intimidation and murder to crush this new and expanding church. This traveler— named Saul— was the master terrorist of his day, and like today’s terrorists, his evil acts were in the name of religion.
But something happened that transformed him. “Suddenly a light shone round him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ ” (Acts 9: 3– 5). The risen Christ revealed Himself to Saul who, “trembling and astonished,” asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (v. 6).
God had a unique job for Saul, later Paul. He would eventually write over half of the New Testament and travel all over the Mediterranean area sharing the gospel, teaching, and planting churches.
Like Paul each of us is unique and God has a unique purpose for us, a job no one else is designed to do in quite the same way – a job that will bring us joy and satisfaction in the process. Continue reading →
This week’s question: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2.37).
This question came in response to Peter’s powerful, convicting message on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When they heard about the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the truth pierced their hearts and they cried out. Peter’s answer was “repent.” As Hawkins points out, repentance is almost a forgotten word in the church today, to say nothing of the world as a whole. Continue reading →
This week’s question: Do you love me more than these? (John 21.15).
Have you ever needed a new beginning? Has there been a time when you have blown it and you were tempted to just walk away from everything? Has that ever happened in your relationship with God?
Maybe you can identify with Peter. Someone once called him the disciple with the “foot-shaped” mouth. He had told Jesus that he would lay down his life for Him (Jn. 13.36-38), and yet, when that rooster crowed, he had denied Him three times!
Peter, heartbroken over his denial, walked away and went back to what he knew … fishing. Peter needed a fresh encounter with the Lord. And sometimes, so do we. Continue reading →