Martin Luther believed that the Epistle of James shouldn’t be in the Bible because it contradicted the letters of Paul. Fortunately, most theologians for the last 2000 years have disagreed with him. On the contrary, James might be the most earthy and “real” of all the Apostolic letters in the New Testament.
In his new book, When Faith Works: Living Out the Law of Liberty According to James, David Wilber examines James’ letter, passage by passage, and in the process, illustrates two things beyond any doubt: First, that James aligns perfectly with the rest of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Not only does James not contradict Paul, but they complement each other nicely. Second, that James is imminently relevant to the daily lives of believers in all nations, all cultures, and all strata of society. Whatever your pain, whatever your temptation, whatever your joy, James wrote for you.
If you have ever wondered if Luther was right when he called James an “Epistle of Straw”, you need to read this book. Wilber proves that James is among the most relevant, consistent, and impactful of all the Epistles. When Faith Works is a great book. I highly recommend it.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve had something of an obsession with both prayer and American history for some years now. I have lots of questions for God about prayer and faith, so I spend a lot of time reading and studying about it. It can be tough, because frequently I don’t “feel” a lot of faith. I try to keep praying anyway and I encourage you to do to the same. That’s one reason that I’m giving away the Family Prayers ebook to all subscribers this and next month. (Subscribe here.)
I’m working on another project now, and I could really use your help!
Do you read a lot of American history, especially contemporary works and autobiographies? I’m collecting the prayers of America’s founding fathers (and mothers!). I would really love to hear about any that you’ve come across. Do you have any favorites?
I know there is much controversy over the religious beliefs of some of the Founders too. Were they deists? Were some of them even atheists? If some of these questions are bothering you, leave your thoughts, comments, and questions below. I’ll see what I can find out.
I’ve been reading Michael L. Brown’s book, Whatever Happened to the Power of God. I’m not even half-way through the book yet, but I have to share some of my thoughts with you now. In this book, Brown poses the very same questions that have been bothering me lately, and I haven’t been able to find answers. Here’s the crux of the problem:
American Christianity is a lie.
Or at the very least, it’s not what it claims to be.
Jesus said that if we followed after Him, we would heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. These signs would follow us everywhere we went, but where are any of these things happening? Nowhere that I know of. Sure, a headache fades here, a cold clears up over there, but so what?
How many formerly dead people are walking around in your church? No platitudes about how we were all once spiritually dead and now we’re reborn. No excuses. Why are we still holding funerals in our churches for young people? Why doesn’t everyone in your congregation have at least 20/20 vision so they can see that nobody around them is wearing a hearing aid?
Where has the power of God gone?
Is it in people on all fours barking like dogs or in gold dust blowing out of the ceiling vents? Baloney! That is not the power of God. You can tell me the Holy Spirit is moving in your town all day long and every Wednesday night, but if people aren’t leaving their wheelchairs behind, it’s all just hot air.
God doesn’t change. He makes miracles for His people. Jesus said that we would do greater miracles than He did. I believe in Him. So what’s wrong?
I invite you to read along with me. I hope Dr. Brown has some answers for us. If you know something, please share. Just no second or third hand stories.
The Didache is an ancient Christian writing that purports to be a summary of the teachings of the Apostles. The most interesting things about this particular writing are that it dates from the first century, from the very earliest years of the Gentile congregations, and that it was considered by many early Christians to be authoritative Scripture.
For the next couple of weeks I’ll be tweeting highlights and thoughts derived from the Didache at Twitter. You can read along for free at Early Christian Writings or buy your own copy at Amazon.
The first chapter of the Didache focuses on the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, through a series of instructions on living out the commandment, all of which are directly derived from other Scriptures, both Old and New Testament.
For example, one instruction says “Love them that hate you, and you will have no enemy.”
The kindergarten level interpretation of this is if you are nice to those who are mean to you, they’ll change their minds and be nice to you in return. Of course we all learn very quickly that it doesn’t really work that way. So what could the writer have meant?
If you return love for hate, most of your enemies will continue to hate you. They might hate you even more than at first.
If you return kindness for cruelty, your afflicter may become even crueler than before.
But be sure of this: Your enemy will no longer be your enemy. He will be the enemy of God, punishing you for the goodness of God that he sees in you. More importantly, he will be his own enemy, fighting to keep his own spirit from hearing the testimony of your actions. Your kindness will become the instrument through which God disciplines his soul, sealing his condemnation if he doesn’t repent or transforming him if he does.
The Didache also repeats Yeshua’s words, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also,” adding “and you will be made perfect.”
Yeshua wasn’t telling us to be pacifists. That’s the kindergarten interpretation again. He was telling us to be slow to anger and don’t make overly quick conclusions about another’s motivations. Don’t immediately react to violence with violence. Rather, learn to control your passions in order to better judge every situation. Maybe you were struck by accident or because of a misunderstanding. If you discover that someone does indeed intend to do you harm, by all means defend yourself and others.
By mastering self-control, patience, and good judgment, you will become a better person and more Christ-like. This is what it means to “be made perfect.”
Understand also that love and kindness will not always appear as you might expect. Do you love your own soul? Then cut off your hand if it makes you to sin.
We know that God’s Law is the working out of love in an imperfect world. It is a reflection of the character of a perfect Creator who wants only the best for His Creations. Where it forbids, it forbids out of love. Where it allows, it allows out of love.
Be kind. Be patient. But also be wise.
(See here for thoughts on why The Didache cannot be included in the Biblical canon.)
Growing Godly Children. Building a Stronger Future.
Brenham, TX – March 5 – In this time of shifting moral standards parents often feel helpless against unhealthy influences on television, on the Internet, and in pop culture. They need more effective tools to teach their children time-honored principles of wisdom and godly behavior. Brenham resident Jay Carper has created a small book to help meet that need.
Carper’s Family Prayers from Proverbs for Wisdom, Wealth, & Wellness is a family prayer book based on the Book of Proverbs. He distilled each chapter of Proverbs into a short set of three to four prayers designed to draw every member of the family into meditation on the meaning of Solomon’s writings and how they apply to everyday life.
Family Prayers from Proverbs will help parents counteract the influence of the world on their children’s minds and spirits and make wise choices instinctive. Using this prayer guide in your family devotionals will have a lasting impact resulting in a stronger work ethic, healthier relationships, and a better future.
The book is available through online booksellers or by contacting the author at prayerbook@AmericanTorah.com. You can also ask your local bookstore to carry Family Prayers from Proverbs on their shelves.
About the Author: Jay Carper lives with his wife and son in Brenham, Texas, where they are part of a small community of Torah-observant believers. His parents have been involved in ministry with the Assemblies of God and other organizations since before he was old enough to know it, and he inherited their love of the Bible and its Author. He believes that a person can only obtain eternal salvation through faith in the grace of God which was made manifest in the death and resurrection of Jesus. While searching for a deeper understanding of God’s love for His people, Jay began exploring God’s Law and the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith in the 1990s and has been an active participant in Torah-observant congregations since 2001.
Title: Family Prayers from Proverbs
Subtitle: for Wisdom, Wealth, & Wellness
Author: Jay Carper
List price: $9.98
For decades, those who fear God and place their faith in Him have been under a concerted attack from multiple fronts. Islam is infecting the world with its violence and hatred. Feminists and homosexuals deny reality and attack anyone who exhibits the slightest common sense or ability to perceive the terrible effects that their philosophies have on families, communities, and individuals. Moral relativists celebrate every perverse and destructive behavior, while decrying all moral standards as oppressive. Lawyers, marketers, and politicians corrupt the truth and build careers on finding new ways to manipulate people into making counterproductive decisions. The list goes on, but by far the most effective attacker is the one we have been battling for millennia: our own evil inclination.
This week, most Jewish and Messianic congregations around the world are reading the Torah portion known as Vayechi (pronounced vah-yeh-khee), which is Genesis 47:28-50:26. This passage describes Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh and his prophecies over all twelve of his sons. Reading it put me in mind of an ancient document known as The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which most Christians have never even heard of.
The Testaments is a collection of the last wills and testaments of the twelve sons of Jacob. Each contains a summary of the good and bad deeds of the author, moral homilies, prophecies of the Messiah and the tribe’s future, and a final exhortation to good deeds and national cohesion. They were written in Hebrew, most likely in the second or third century BC, and probably include edits made by a Priest sometime during the period of Herod’s Temple before Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) was born and by a Messianic Jew sometime in the first century after Yeshua’s resurrection. Although they were almost certainly not written by Reuben, Simeon, Levi, etc., they are still very interesting for their moral and historical content.
One interesting thing to consider is the influence of history and perspective in the emphasis of each brother’s moralizing. For example, Reuben’s great failing was in his inability to control his physical passions, and so he cautions the reader to maintain strict boundaries between the active spheres of men and women so as to avoid being tempted to fornication. Considering his perspective, when he says “Women are evil,” what he really means is that a man with his weaknesses must be on his guard around women, especially those women who themselves might be tempted to stray. Reuben knew that he was an easy mark for a flirtatious woman and so calls all women “evil” in self-defense. I think most of us have this tendency to inflate our own flaws to the level of a universal principal. We need to keep this in mind when we are tempted to judge another person harshly for what might actually be a fairly minor offense.