Saturday, July 31, 2010

Luther's book of straw (some observations and questions)

While studying the Book of James and comparing it to other portions of Scripture written about the same time period, I came across some interesting observations and questions.  For some I have an idea as to what the answers are, but others, I'm still trying to figure out.  See what you think.

After Paul was converted around 33 AD, he spent three years receiving revelation from God. In fact, in Galatians Paul seems to go out of his way to say he did not receive anything from the other apostles; what he was given was completely new.

For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they were glorifying God because of me (Gal 1:12-24).

Finally around 36 AD Paul visits Jerusalem and stays 15 days with Peter, and sees James. Paul doesn't return again to Jerusalem until some 14 years later, at which time he submits to them what he's been preaching to the Gentiles.

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)--well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do.  (Gal 2:1-2, 6-10).

It is interesting to note that some time after the Book of James was written, certain men from Judea came to Antioch and began to teach the newly converted Gentiles that unless they observed the law and were circumcised, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1).
So, here's the timeline so far:

1. 33 AD - Paul is converted and spends 3 years receiving revelation from God.  After which, Paul visits Peter for 15 days, and sees James.  He does not return to Jerusalem again until some 14 years later (around 49-50 AD).

2. 42 AD (or there abouts) - James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16), writes the Book of James.  At this point in time, the Jewish believers are undergoing tremendous persecution, from both the religious establishment of the day and Rome.  James encourages these believers and addresses some of the serious problems that have arisen in the church.  (Things slowly turn around and by 49-50 AD the Jewish believers have attained so favorable a position that the church can hold the great council of Acts 15 with no one to molest them.)

3. Around 49-50 AD - "some men came down from Judea" to Antioch and begin to teach the newly converted Gentiles that unless they observe the law and are circumcised, they cannot be saved (Acts 15:1).

4. At the Council of Jerusalem that follows (49-50 AD), Paul submits to the church in Jerusalem what he has been preaching to the Gentiles — namely that the law was fulfilled by Christ — and James, Peter and John give Paul (and Barnabus) the right hand of fellowship.  Paul is to go to the uncircumcised and James, Peter and John to the circumcised (Acts 15:1-29; Gal 2:1-10).

The Council at Jerusalem resolves the issue for James, Peter, the apostles and elders about whether or not Gentile believers were subject to the law of Moses. But even after that, while Peter is visiting Antioch, "certain men came from James."  Peter joins them in holding themselves aloof from the Gentiles and is sternly rebuked by Paul for hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-12).  The interesting thing in all this is, the Jerusalem Council doesn't even consider the question of whether or not the Jewish believers are to remain under the law. It seems they assume they are because in Acts 21:17-20 (around 62 AD - another 12-13 years later) they are still "zealous for the law."

After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. "What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. "Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. "But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication." Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them (Acts 21:17-26).

The only thing I can figure is that the "middle wall of separation" between the Jew and Gentile was gradually broken down. It makes sense that God did not reveal everything at once, that there was some kind of transitional period. But why were the Jewish believers in Jerusalem and Judea still clinging to the law at this late date (Acts 21)?  As you can see, James was right there among them — he's even their leader (v 18).  Were they not expected to recognize the change in program from law to grace and move on with it?  And furthermore, whyever did Paul go along with James' proposal*?  Was Paul wrong to do so?

*The proposal was no small matter.  Paul was urged to publicly join with four Jews in taking a Nazarite vow and financing, not one, but five, bloody sacrifices.  This was a considerable amount, since two doves or pigeons, one he-lamb, one ewe lamb and a ram had to be offered for each of the four, plus his own (Num 6).  This procedure was evidently not uncommon at that time.  In fact, Josephus tells how Agrippa I courted Jewish favor by financing Nazarite vows (Ant. XIX, 6,1).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whole wheat bread

This is by far the best whole wheat bread recipe I've ever come across.  It has a sweetness to it that I haven't found in any others I've tried.  My family, as a general rule, are not big fans of whole wheat anything, preferring the white bleached flour over all other flours.  But, they love this bread.  Sliced right out of the oven with fresh, creamy butter on it, it's truly out of this world.  In fact, my husband refers to it as candy!

3 tbsp sugar
4 tsp salt
2 pkgs active dry yeast
4 c whole wheat flour
3-3 1/2 c unbleached white flour
2 1/4 c milk
1/3 c butter (not margarine)
1/3 c molasses

In large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, 2 c whole wheat flour and 1 c unbleached flour.  In 2-qt saucepan over low heat, heat milk, butter and molasses until very warm (120-130 degrees).  (Butter does not need to melt completely.)  Gradually beat liquids into dry ingredients.  Then alternate rest of flours in until it makes a soft dough.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Shape into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning dough to grease top.  Cover with towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch down dough; turn onto lightly floured surface; cut in half; cover with bowl; let dough halves rest 15 mins for easier shaping.  Grease two 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans.  With lightly floured rolling pin, roll one dough half into a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle.  Starting at a narrow end, roll dough up tightly and pinch the edge with your fingers.  Seal ends by pressing and folding them under.  Place the roll, seam side down, in loaf pan.  Repeat for remaining dough.  Cover loaves with towel; let rise in a warm place until loaves are doubled, about 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake loaves 25 mins, then cover with foil and bake an additional 10 mins more.  Remove from oven and drizzle melted butter on top of both loaves.  After 5 mins, remove from pans so the bottoms don't become soggy, and cool on wire racks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Luther's book of straw (part two)

Those who resist the truth often point to the words of Martin Luther as evidence that Scripture contains glaring contradictions. But we must always remember that God never contradicts Himself. When we are confronted with what seems like a discrepancy, the problem is not with the Word of God, but with our understanding of it.

You see, justification simply means to be declared eternally righteous. It’s a legal term. For example, if a prisoner is brought before a judge, there is only one way he can be justified — he must be found not guilty. If he is proven to be not guilty, then he is a just man. However, if he is found guilty of a state crime and sentenced to death, the governor can pardon him, but he can never justify him or erase his crime. Even though the man is pardoned, he is still a criminal. There is no way of justifying him.

But now, amazingly, we are proven guilty before God and yet are said to be justified by the blood of Christ (Rom 5:9). The law shows decisively that we are sinners, guilty as charged, and therefore we are condemned to die. But then Christ steps forward as our sentence is about to be pronounced and says to the Father, “I will bear their guilt and punishment.” So today, those who place their faith in Christ are justified freely by His grace. Our sins and guilt were placed on Christ and in return, His righteousness was imputed to us. We are complete in Him by faith alone (Rom 4:5; 2 Cor 5:21; Col 2:10)!

This was not the case for those who lived under the law. Paul revealed to us that the basis of justification has always been by grace through the shed blood of Christ. But, it was God who determined what would be required to receive this wonderful gift. And under the law, God required men to have faith and show it in their works in order to be justified. They could not say they had faith and refuse to obey the law. If they did, it showed they didn't have faith.  Works were part of the package under the law. It was not by faith alone.

I think we have a tendency to forget that Jesus Christ, while on the earth, was, and also taught His disciples to be, subject to the Law of Moses (Matt 23:2-3). In fact, the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount go even beyond those of the Law of Moses (Matt 5:20). Obviously “the fullness of time” referred to by Paul in Galatians 3:13 and 4:4-5 had not yet come because rather than redeeming those under the Law, our Lord made the law even more searching and binding. And for a very good reason. It was meant to further show men the impossibility of their perfectly obeying God, and hence their deep need for a Savior.

But even after Christ’s death and resurrection, although the people understood that their Messiah had risen, they didn't understand all that His death and resurrection had accomplished. It wasn’t until Paul came along and explained, that they understood. This is where I believe the Book of James fits in — after the cross but before Paul’s message was widely known. When viewed from this point in the progression of Scripture, James 2:20-21 makes perfect sense.

I think this author explains it rather well:

Faith will most assuredly approach God in God’s way at any time, and to seek to gain acceptance with Him in any other way would, of course, be unbelief and self-will. Thus, while works never did or could save as such, they did once save as expressions of faith…..Does this mean that works will be efficacious in themselves? No! They will avail only as the expression and evidence of faith as, indeed, James clearly teaches.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Luther's book of straw (part one)

Winston Churchill, in one of his well-known quotes, once referred to Russian policy as “a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma.” Sometimes I think the same thing about the Book of James because it seems to so directly contradict what the Apostle Paul says:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:2-5).

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:20-21, 24).

In fact, when my father teasingly said to me a couple of weeks ago — "So, you've left a "cliff-hanger" at the end of one of your posts, just like on the TV shows." — I decided I needed to resolve that and dug into studying the Book of James and reading the different points of view of several commentaries and books. As a result, I’ve found answers to some of my questions, but I’ve also added a few new ones. One thing, though; I am becoming more and more convinced that James couldn't have been merely writing from a different angle than Paul. There are just too many other things going on.

I’m not the only one who’s ever found the Book of James difficult to understand. Martin Luther referred to the book as "an epistle of straw" and stated the following regarding the teachings of Paul and James on the subject of justification:

Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. ‘Faith justifies’ and ‘faith does not justify’ contradict each other flatly. If anyone can harmonize them I will give him my Doctor’s Hood and let him call me a fool.

It’s easy to see why Luther had a problem with James. When he rediscovered the doctrine that man is justified “by faith” and “not by works,” it so completely transformed his life that he became an ardent defender of this Pauline truth, and rightly so. It’s been correctly said that it's “the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls.” What I believe Luther failed to grasp is that we can’t reconcile what God never meant to be reconciled.

Yet it seems that’s what most of us try to do. In an attempt to reconcile Paul and James we read back Paul’s doctrine into the Book of James, explaining that James emphasizes the practical aspects of Christian conduct, whereas Paul concentrates on theology; or, that James refutes the perversions and abuses that had arisen around Paul’s doctrine. Neither explanation, however, resolves the apparent contradictions between the two.

Let's not forget the cardinal rules for interpreting Scripture; that context is king!, and that looking at the context is more than just looking at the verses immediately surrounding the verse(s) we're studying. We must also ask ourselves: To whom and when was the book written? What were the circumstances, and have things changed since then? Always watch for the progression of Scripture!

To answer these questions: The Book of James is written to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad.” (The scattering was probably a result of the persecution that arose after the stoning of Stephen - Acts 8:1.) James is grouped with what is commonly called the General Epistles. I believe this is somewhat misleading, though, because it implies that these epistles were written to both Jews and Gentiles. Some interpret the phrase "twelve tribes scattered abroad" metaphorically and say it refers to Christians in general, but there’s no reason to interpret it this way, especially since we read in Galatians that James was a minister to the Jews (Gal 2:1-10).

Also, because James makes no mention of the Gentiles or of Paul's ministry among the Gentiles having come to the forefront, it must have been written early on. In fact, it is almost universally agreed that James is the earliest written book in the NT, with many placing its composition around 42 AD, the same year Peter was supernaturally released from prison in Acts 12.  The book's many links to the OT and the Sermon on the Mount (e.g., James 1:25, 2:8, 12) also point to a Hebrew audience as well as to an early date, all of which gives the book a decidedly “Jewish flavor.”

What does all this tell us? First, since it’s addressed to the twelve tribes of Israel, we must be careful when reading “other people’s mail.” And second, because of its content and early composition, we can safely assume that James was written before the doctrine of salvation by faith alone through grace alone had been widely revealed and therefore people were still operating under the revelation given up to that point, namely the law with establishing the kingdom in view.

So often we have the tendency to read back newer revelation into what was previously revealed, but James meant what he said to the people he was writing to. And while it’s certainly true that we should interpret the Book of James in light of what Paul taught, this does not mean we should read back Paul’s doctrines into James. Later revelation does not change the meaning of earlier revelation. It may add to or supersede it, but it never changes it — it says what it says!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation

We have just returned from our 6-day summer vacation and had a great time. Very relaxing and a great view out our motel window. It was situated right on the water's edge (Munising Bay - Lake Superior). Beautiful sunsets and the bugs weren't too bad, which is always a concern for me since just one mosquito bite will get huge and cause my nearby nodes to swell and hurt. Saw lots of beautiful waterfalls, and went on a 3-hour lake cruise to see the Pictured Rocks. They're quite beautiful! I got to humming the Gilligan's Island theme know...about the 3-hour tour? Kept waiting to be ship-wrecked, which, incidentally, is another cruise you can take — the Shipwreck Tours. The boat you take for that one is glass-bottomed and they show you all the ship-wrecks in the area. (Not to worry, though; no tour boats are among them.) We took that cruise a couple of years ago so we didn't retake it this trip. They're all rather expensive. Paid over $100 for the 3 of us to take "a 3-hour tour...the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed...if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost..."
There's an ear worm for you. You're welcome. :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Love Has Come

I know this life is filled with sorrow
And there are days when the pain just lasts and lasts
But I know there will come a day
When our tears are washed away
With a break in the clouds
His glory coming down
And in that moment

Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
That God is love
And love has come for us all
Every heart set free
Every one will see
That God is love
And love has come for us all

For anybody who has ever lost a loved one
And you feel like you had to let go too soon
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But don't you know it's just a matter of time
'Til the tears are gonna end
You'll see them once again
And in that moment

Oh, and on that day
We will stand amazed
At our Savior, God and King
Just to see the face
Of amazing grace
As our hearts rise up and sing

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Thank You for the cross
Singing glory, glory, hallelujah
Christ has paid the cost

by Mark Schultz

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why do God's children suffer?

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not teach that all men are the children of God. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day: "You are of your father the devil" (John 8:44), but to the believers at Galatia Paul wrote: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

As descendants of Adam, it shouldn’t seem strange to us that we have to suffer, because sorrow, sickness and death entered the world through sin (Rom. 5:12). But some people wonder why God's children, whose greatest desire is to please Him, should have to suffer along with others.

There are several reasons for this. In the case of Job, God allowed him to suffer to prove to Satan that Job did not live a godly life for personal gain — and Job was richly rewarded for all he endured (rather a good picture of our receiving rewards in glory for enduring to the end).

Then too, God's people could not be of much spiritual help to others if they were exempt from the sufferings which others have to bear. The unsaved could understandably say: "Oh sure, you can talk! You don't know what it’s like to suffer disappointments, sickness and pain, like we do." Our Lord is an example to us of having endured all things common to man for the sake of a dying world. And as His ambassadors, haven't we been told that we will "share the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24; 1 Pet 1:11, 4:12-13, 5:1)?

For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10).

Finally, suffering and adversity produces endurance (James 1:2-3; 1 Pet 1:6-8) by tending to make us pray more and lean harder on Him; for it is in Him that we find spiritual strength and blessing. In fact Paul said: "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

But there is a great twofold advantage which we as believers have over others. First of all, our sufferings are only temporary and, second, they produce eternal glory for Him.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Before the Morning

This is for all those who are hurting tonight.

Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there's a God who loves you
Where is He now

Maybe there are things you can't see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Someday somehow you'll see you'll see

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend you know how this all ends
And You know where you’re going
You just don’t know how you’ll get there
So say a prayer

And hold on cause there’s good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot
It might take a little time but you’ll see the bigger picture

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory, memory, memory

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

Come on you've gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the hurt before the healing
Oh the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning
Before the morning

By Josh Wilson

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More word plays - 10 best puns

My MIL, who obviously knows I love a good play on words, recently sent these puns to me in an email. They are the 10 first place winners in the International Pun Contest. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! :)

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, "Dam!"

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.............

Friday, July 2, 2010


What does "blameless" mean in Philippians 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 1:8?

Many times words have more than one meaning, like this one, which has both a practical (what we do) and positional (who we are in Christ) meaning.

Regarding the practical meaning: In Philippians 3:6, when the Apostle Paul said of his former life as Saul that "as to the righteousness which is in the law" he was "found blameless," he didn't mean he never sinned, "for there is no man who does not sin" (1 Kings 8:46). He meant that every time he sinned, he brought a sacrifice. This was also true of Zacharias and Elizabeth (Lk 1:6), though they were saved, while men like Saul were not, "because they did not pursue it by faith" (Rom 9:31-32).

In 1 Corinthians 1:8, Paul promises that the Lord will "confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here is the positional meaning: "Blameless" refers to our sinless position in Christ, as it does in I Thes 5:23. Notice that in both places, confirming our blameless position depends on God's faithfulness, not on our own (1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thes 5:24).

Of course, it is the challenge of the Christian life under grace to make our everyday practice match our eternal position, and so Paul challenges us to live godly lives "so that you will prove yourselves to* be blameless and innocent" (Phil 2:12-15). And, "if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast," the Lord will be able to "present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" at the Judgment Seat of Christ as far as our service is concerned, and upon which our heavenly rewards are based.

So put on the new man and allow the Lord to "cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness" when He comes to the Judgment Seat "with all His saints" (1 Thes 3:12-13)!

*There is no "prove yourselves to" in the original Greek. Directly translated it says this: "... that you may be faultless and simple, children of God unblameable in [the] midst of a generation crooked and perverted ..."