Thursday, February 10, 2011

James 2

I've been preaching through James the past few months and have really enjoyed it. Following are some of my thoughts from chapter 2. I have the Bible passages linked to Those of you with newer versions of Logos will be able to use the links to go to specific references.

Faith Without Works

A Dead Faith
Js 2:14 "What good is it my brothers..." James confronts those who make the claim to have faith in Christ, but there is no evidence of that faith in their lives. "Can that faith save him?" First, we need to identify what this faith is. It is a faith without works. It is words without action.
Js 2:15, 16 This faith without action is illustrated with a man who sees someone poorly clothed and without food, and tells them “Go in peace, be warmed and filled", but does nothing to actually meet those needs is just like one who has the word faith in his active vocabulary but not in his active life. The question is pointedly asked, "What good is that?" Answer: None, whatsoever.
Js 2:17 The faith of this person, if it is there and not just his words, is dead. His faith is lifeless and inactive. Can this faith save him? No, for the simple reason that his faith is not genuine. Genuine faith is beyond claiming to believe. It's more than intellectually agreeing with a given thought.
A key thought is that not all who claim to be believers actually are. Jesus illustrates that Himself in Mt. 7:21. ‎Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration. -Wiersbe (Also note his quote of Calvin, which I believe is extremely accurate.)

A Useless Faith
James goes from discussing a faith that is dead because it isn't genuine to a faith that is useless.
James 2:18–20 gives us a possible argument that someone may use.
Due to Greek not having quotation marks, most translations disagree in what is actually being said by this individual, but I believe that from the grammar used the quote should include verses 18b-19, thereby reading, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. " The Bible Knowledge Commentary discusses the briefly.
The attitude of this individual is almost to the point of thinking that faith is worthless and only works truly matter. He is correct in believing that works are important, but not at the expense of faith.
This individual tries to further his point by saying that even demons have faith and it causes them to tremble. This is quite accurate. Demons probably have better doctrine than many of the churches existing today, but this faith and knowledge is not something that can save them. It may even have an emotional response, but emotions based on knowledge cannot save either. However, this individual's argument is proven invalid in that faith works with works.

A Working Faith
James, great at illustrating his points, gives two illustrations showing faith working with works. In both instances faith came first, then was proven by the actions taken.
The first illustration is that of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Faith was first. Abraham believed that God would keep His promise that God would make of Abraham a great nation through Isaac. If God asked him to sacrifice his son, Abraham would do it. God would keep His promise somehow. Perhaps by raising Isaac from the dead. (Hebrews 11:17, 18) Was Abraham justified by his works? Yes, but only in that his works were the fruit of his faith and that his faith was proven to be true by his works.
The second illustration is that of Rahab at Jericho. Her faith in God was shown in her protecting the spies at the possible expense of her life. Again, her faith came first and was proven by her actions.
In these, and our, actions our faith is made complete. Anything that is missing from faith is made whole when our actions are shown. What good would it have done for Abraham to claim belief, but then to say, "but there is no way I'm sacrificing my son." Is that faith? No, it is the same dead faith discussed earlier.
Does this contradict Paul and salvation by faith alone? Absolutely not! In fact, salvation by faith alone is enhanced by showing us true faith. True faith is an active faith. It is absolute trust. In salvation, that faith is shown in your trusting Christ alone for salvation. True faith does not say, "I'm trusting in Christ for my salvation, but I'm going to keep doing good works just in case."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Whole Year?!?!?

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted in a year. For those who have checked hoping for updates, I apologize.

The biggest news in our family is that we are expecting another little one in January. It's an exciting time for us.

We have been going strong in Awana and have seen a few more kids that are from families that don't typically go to church. I would ask that you keep them in prayer.

I will try to be more regular in posting, but no promises. :-D

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Larson Letter

Larson Letter
We have just celebrated our third anniversary here at Bethany Church and it’s amazing to see the changes that have occurred in that time. Our family has drastically changed, first with our adoption of Ethan nearly two years ago, and also with the birth of Ember this February. We’ve seen changes in the church and changes with Village Missions. However, we are encouraged by our God who does not change and remains faithful.
I’ve been enjoying being a missionary/pastor for this area of north-central Kansas. I’ve learned a lot and continue to love ministering to the people of this area. Being a Village Missionary is quite interesting because you never can tell what you will be doing from one day to the next. One day I’ll be riding in a combine with a young man about to head to college and the next I’m directing a Bible camp for the youth in the area. From funerals to baby dedications, my life is busy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Misty has been busy as the homeschooling process has begun for our family. Ellie is entering 1st grade and Misty’s been learning about how to keep things organized with four kids, ministry, and trying to find time for herself, which is a rare thing indeed. She is looking forward to another year of teaching Cubbies in Awana.
Elise (Ellie) is a vibrant 5 year old who loves to play with her friends and absolutely loves to read. Her love of dressing up makes things interesting where it’s not uncommon to see her walking through the living room as a princess, minutes later dusting as a servant girl, and then jumping around as Tinkerbell. She is excited about joining the Sparks group in Awana and learning more in piano lessons.
Ethan is an extremely energetic boy who never stops moving unless it’s to sleep. (Although he doesn’t sleep for long!) Turning four in September, he is going to be starting with Cubbies and gets to join Mommy this year. His adoring, almost smothering love for his little sister is both sweet and scary to watch. He has adjusted well to our family over the past two years and is making great strides in his speech. We thank you for your prayers over that adoption process and also for his previous diagnosis with hydrocephalus which actually turned out to be a cyst which will not require surgery.
Evan is a bright and imaginative 3 year old who is looking forward to being 4 in October. He has learned to talk, and practices all of the time. His sense of humor is a force to be reckoned with. His punch line to all jokes, “because he died.” He enjoys playing with his brother and sister, and has done quite well starting to learn verses for Cubbies which he also starts this year.
Ember Lanae Larson, born February 10th of this year is an answer to prayer. With a rough pregnancy, her birth has brought us much joy. At six months, her smiles and noises are a delight. Ellie had prayed for a little sister for many months before we were even expecting another one. We tried to prepare Ellie for maybe having a brother, but with her faithful prayers, I don’t think we needed to even bother. God answered her childlike faith with a sweet little sister.
We want to continue to thank you for your support, both in prayers and financially over the past three years. Without your support this area would be without a Bible preaching church. It is amazing to see Him working in the lives of the people here.

We ask for your continued prayer in these areas:
Ember’s health
A large number of children in the church
The servant’s heart in this church

Awana to reach the youth and their families in the area
Continued outreach
A greater love for the people
Our family

Thank you and God bless,
The Larson’s

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Elections, Leaders, and the Hearts of Men

I must admit that I am sickened by the attitudes of many people today. I've read articles from people both disappointed and elated by the election of Barack Obama and most of them have extremely wrong attitudes. There is bitterness and anger directed at those who voted for "the other guy", whoever you would consider him to be. Ladies and gentlemen, this should not be the attitude that we have after the events of this election.

Regardless of my own personal political views, I am grateful to live in this nation. No other nation in the world has the same rights and freedoms that we enjoy. One comment in particular has been going through my mind repeatedly. During the election coverage from the American Family Association they had a live blog where people could post their thoughts throughout the evening. After it became apparent that Obama was winning, one person wrote, "If Obama wins I'm leaving this country. Maybe move to England or something." This is an attitude that absolutely drives me nuts! We are living in a nation where people have the right to choose their leaders and to make their opinions known through our votes. If you don't like what's going on, don't leave, but do what you can to change what you are able to.

I've been planning on using Romans 13 as my text for this Sunday's message for awhile now. The message itself wasn't going to change regardless of Obama or McCain's election. It doesn't matter. The message of this passage is the same regardless.

We are to submit to the authorities that God has placed over us.
Rom. 13:1, 2 (NIV) "Everyone must submit himself to the govening authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels agains the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Italics my own.)
Regardless of who you voted for, Barack Obama has been placed into the position of authority over those of us who live in these great United States of America. I will not rebel against the authority that God has placed me under. As long as this nation continues to uphold the freedoms that we celebrate, we will continue to be a great nation. As long as there are Christians down on their knees praying for our leaders, there is hope. As long as we have the right to worship God freely, I will submit to that authority. Why? Because God said so!

Romans 13 continues on in verses 6 and 7 about how we need to give to the authorities what they are due: taxes, revenue, respect, and honor are the examples used. Regardless of my opinion on Obama, I will give him the respect that is due a person in his position. I will not withold my taxes. We need to continue to respect the leaders of this nation. We don't have to agree with everything that they do and stand for, but let's at least show them the respect of their offices.

Please post your comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Resting before I Go Again

I'm sitting in my office in between our potluck lunch and our afternoon service. Once a month we move our evening service from 7pm to 2pm after our potluck so that those who travel don't have to every Sunday. I enjoy these days, but they make for a long Sunday. It's also hard to stay awake. Our bellies are full and we sit in a warm sanctuary... *snore*

Sorry. As I said, it makes for a long day. It still amazes me how much I love this church that God has seen fit to place us in. Today was a good day. In addition to my mom and grandma staying with us this weekend we had several families join us this morning who hadn't been here in months due to circumstances beyond their control. It was great to see them and reunite with them in fellowship.

On a personal note, our family is doing really well and the baby continues to be healthy. Ellie was writing the names of our family down on a paper the other day, "Ellie, Mommy, Daddy, Evan, Ethan" and then there was something I couldn't quite read. I asked her and she said "That says, 'Baby Whatever-Your-Name-Is". I got a pretty good laugh out of that. She's really excited for this new child to enter our lives.

As I leave I just want to thank you all and your support for us in this ministry. We deeply appreciate your prayers and look forward to seeing you again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Busy Life and Other Stuff

Hey everyone, sorry about not posting since April. I have slacked in this area, but maybe I'll be able to get back into it a little bit.

We've started our second year of Awana and are really enjoying it. We've had around 25-35 kids each week. That's taken a lot of prep work for both Misty and I. It's been interesting trying to fit the church schedule into something that remotely looks feasible.

We're still studying John on Sunday mornings. We had our first anniversary in the book at the beginning of September and we're enjoying just taking our time and seeing how things fit together.

In personal news... we are expecting baby #4 in March. Not sure if we'll have a boy or girl at this point, ask us in a few months. ;-) We haven't done a lot of announcing about this, originally because we just wanted to see if we could keep it a secret. After that though, there have been some complications and we weren't sure a number of times if we had lost the baby. As of this past Monday though, it seems that the baby is doing extremely well. Ellie was even able to feel the baby kick.

Well, supper is about ready, so I should get going.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A View From the Pulpit

So, what does a pastor see on an average Sunday morning? Well, obviously churches differ, but this is what I see. The people that I love and care for. The people who are here to hear the Word of God spoken.
One Sunday morning we were packed. A couple had celebrated their 50th anniversary the day before and all of the family decided to join us on Sunday morning. We could barely fit any more people in. One woman asked if Iwas nervous. My response, "Yes, but not because of the number of people. I'm enough of a show-off that I enjoy being in front of people. I'm nervous because of the responsibility that I have in properly preaching the Word of God."
I love public speaking. College speech class was one of my favorite courses. I get a thrill from it. I rarely get nervous if I'm just giving a speech. However, once you add the responsibility of accurately preaching God's Word, I get nervous. It is a great responsibility that I should never take lightly. Once I do, then I am in the wrong position. God, help me never to take that responsibility lightly.