September 20, 2008

Worthless? That seems harsh.

James is clear and concise. He says that speaking should be followed by listening. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. And that our hearing should be followed by doing. “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves.” That deception is a like a pride that we have in what we have heard. We may agree. We may feel emotional even. But if we do nothing about it, then we have been deceived by those emotions. We have been fooled into forgetting our experience.

However, there is a blessing for the one who remembers what he has heard and continues to act upon the freedom in Christ. (James 1:25)

Next, James takes on religion. Church can play a key role in our lives. Social development. Fellowship with other Christians. A place to learn and grow. Peaceful refuge during times of crisis. But why was James so extreme to say that our out of control mouth could render our religion worthless? Can it cancel out all of the choir practice and Sunday School? “Hey, I volunteer in the nursery.” “I used my vacation time to work a week at VBS. “ Those are real sacrifices. They are acts of service to God's people.

That’s the whole idea. This entire passage is taking to task that idea of hearers who are not doers. We can be busy doing religious things, but we are expected to also being doing Godly things- taking on His character. Be not deceived. James has clearly called it on this.

We will explore the power of words again in Chapter 3. His emphasis on this topic (and my own struggle over this area) remind me of how much this matters to God. God expects, even requires, me to get my words under control before I will be the grown up that I think I should be by now.

I have been growing in the Lord my whole life. I have been gobbling up God’s Word with more hunger for the past 10 years. I know that this will come up again if I do not get the rudder in the hands of a skilled captain, so that I can face the strongest winds of my life. (James 3)

James 1:26-27: If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue he deceives himself, this man's religion is worthless.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Ooh- I need to read this passage again.

September 10, 2008

Good vs. Evil

Because God so loved the world. . .
Even as we study James chapter 1, we remember that He loves us. John 3:16 may offer the best summary of the Gospel- or Good News about Jesus. I feel that John 10:10 offers the best explanation of “Why does evil happen?"

"The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. But I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Abundant Life. That’s His offer to us. The enemy also places offers on the table, everyday. Many times a day. These are called temptation. Some are set up within us on an automatic reset cycle. They are self maintaining and sin inducing. Our own lusts. Our selfish desires. It doesn’t always feel like a major demonic battle. It is just us and our plan, playing out over and over. A repetition of despair, defeat, and distrust in God.

I often hear people who love God saying that sometimes God does evil to teach us something or for some greater good. This is breaking my heart. It’s a pseudo-spiritual idea. It sounds so noble to be resolved that the end will justify the means. That God is allowed some ruler breakers. After all, He is God. (I have thought this.)

When I study James 1:13, I read the following: Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

James does not support the “sometimes God does evil or tempts us to do evil" theology. Most people like explanations and tidy morals at the end of our fables. At the end of tragedy. At the end of our drought. We long to put God into the picture of our lives. (I have done this.)

So, what’s the harm in saying that God causes sicknesses sometimes or tempts us to sin to give us a maturity test? How can I be so confident that He does not break character to teach lessons?

I see the answer in James 1:14-15. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

OK, there is encouragement for us in this passage. Hang in there. But James warns us first.

Do you think he is reminding us to not fade God over into the “evil” category. He reminds us that God is always good.

Let’s close with verses 16 and 17. Read them several times and then think of the Father of Light when you flip light switches today. He is Light. He is good. "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

I hope you get to hang out with Him today and hear from Him. I long to see His heart during my crisis! Where is He? What is His plan of escape? Let's lean in and hear where He leads.