Archive | February 2013

Know It All Attitudes

In the news today, we see the story of a seasoned reporter infuriating a WH official about his views on this idea of sequestering funds. He states he was told by a senior official in a very clear way, “You will regret doing this.” The reporter said, “It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you’re going to regret doing something you believe in.”

Then the reporter invented a quote by the President to give him the benefit of the doubt, instead of having a senior official who threaten him represent the President. The made up quote was, “Look we don’t go around trying to say to reporters if you in an honest way present something that we don’t like, “You’re going to regret this.”

In James 4:11, we find him writing concerning another issue erupting in the Jerusalem Church, which seems to be erupting in the news today about freedom of the press. I’m not trying to be political here, but James is going to teach believers they aren’t to be doing what this senior official allegedly did.

It involved people who were seeking to perpetuate their own standing in that church. They were know-it-all’s and full of hot air. Some of them had gone so far as to intentionally destroy the reputation of other Christians in their assembly—to gain what they thought would be control.

One time, an expert in the law asked Jesus what was the foundational commandment in God’s law. You might remember what He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In his letter, James is calling followers of Christ to rise above this sort of petty, yet dangerous problem, to put Him back into the planning process and do what they know was right; to live as if God really mattered as our modus operandi. Clearly these folks were in danger not only of deteriorating relationships but damaging their own reputation, to having any impact upon others for Christ.

This is why James quickly moves to his thought in the eleventh verse. He attacks the idea that we are good enough to condemn the next person. When that happens, we have forgotten something and are living as if God doesn’t matter.

That’s A Promise

I bought an electric chainsaw to trim trees in our back yard while Judy and I lived in Sturgeon Bay, WI. After reading the instructions, I realized I had to avoid the risk of having the chainsaw kick-back. I thought good night, this could be dangerous! Then, on page 19 of the manual was this warning sign: Seek professional help if facing conditions beyond your ability. Hmmm, interesting.

Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary. I submitted to the instructions in the manual—although I did have thoughts of climbing trees with the chainsaw to cut limbs that weren’t on the ground.

You know, as good as getting some professional help may be, for anything in life, I believe God has the manual for living life well.

I’ve been addressing the need for me (you) to have a healthy respect for our depravity described in the book of James, but without Submitting to God, it’s useless. That’s what the Bible teaches and I believe it’s true, particularly when resisting the devil and any evil.

Who are we kidding? No one has the power to make the devil run away in fear and trepidation, except God. What James says is, Choose God. Be on His team and let Him champion the fight we have with our own depravity and the devil (my emphasis).

In James 4:8 the writer guarantees that in this fight, coming near to God means God will come near to us. He doesn’t like distance.

This can be seen in the life of Jacob and his struggle in the night (Genesis 32:22-32). Returning to what will become the Promised Land; Jacob must first face his twin brother Esau, who had sworn to kill him in retaliation for swindling him out of their father’s blessing. Jacob had a long history of devious behavior.

On his way back, Jacob was approached by a man in the night and wrestled with him until daybreak. We find that the identity of the man is God himself. The story shows how the man wouldn’t overpower Jacob until he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, to cripple him.

I’m told the hip bone is the strongest bone in the body. And it represents everything Jacob had to offer in his own strength. To preserve Jacob from death, God resorts to this expression of his supernatural capabilities, and it’s at this point that Jacob finally recognizes the man. He then says he will not let God go, until he’s blessed by Him.

What a wonderful passage to demonstrate what James is saying!

The story affirms God’s divine commitment to stay with Jacob in his struggles. In fact, God chooses to be caught up in the struggle. His promise to Jacob involves not a passive presence but an active, engaged relationship. It also teaches us that God welcomes tenacity on our part rather than passivity when pursuing Him.

James is saying a deep change becomes evident in who we are when we continue to draw near to God. That’s a promise.

May The Force Not Be With You

This week we read in the news that the son of a retired NBA great is facing multiple charges, after allegedly attempting to run his ex-girlfriend over with a car. It’s embarrassing, humiliating and heartrending for any father to hear a story about his son like that.

It’s one thing to persevere in the face of conflict in sports arenas and quite a different thing to create conflict through the chaos of irresponsible behavior, like the son of an NBA great did.

I believe we all have and experience a reality of something inside of our personhood summoned from an unseen place and becomes apparent for all to see. It is the presence of a force having the potential to activate evil or bad—as we choose to release it. Let me ask some questions to support such a thing.

Is it possible for a person to achieve levels of greatness, as society frames it and yet sink into the depths of commonness, or the ordinariness of being a sinner? Must we have evidence that only the naked eye can see, before we say the source of our lost-ness is real? Why is it that humanity accepts data like DNA (something no one can see until researched) to reveal culpability? So is it possible everything about our humanity can’t be measured only by what we see? Are these fair questions?

I was talking to a good friend last night about many subjects where we can only say God knows. It’s like He says, here is my creation. Go and find out everything about it, as if it’s the first time it’s ever been discovered. For instance, the unseen principle of electricity built into my creation now becomes seen, so earth is illuminated and you can go from megaphones, to the telephone, to I Phones and the internet.

I’m 66 and been through all of that!

James addresses the unseen reality of sin in chapters one and four. The fact of conflict among the saints in his writings should come as no surprise to us. We find the disciples arguing among themselves in the Gospels about who was the greatest. We find divisions and lawsuits among the Corinthian saints. Even a wonderful church at Philippi had two women who were at odds with each other.

If we think that we are incapable of any other sin, we deceive ourselves.

Here are two principles I believe James teaches. First, we must admit that there is no sin of which the saint is incapable. Second, the path of sin released inevitably leads to some form of devastation in us and to others.

Brent Curtis authored The Sacred Romance and talks about our divided hearts trying to meet the sacred longings within us by filling them with other, more readily available pleasures. When believers choose that, the force of sin overpowers our will and as Jonathan Edwards said, becomes like a viper, hissing and spitting at God.

Such is the source of sin we’re responsible for. We must respect that reality if we’re going to move into relationships with love.

Worst Foot or Best Foot

I read about one article in a paper describing the murder of a 38 year-old man who was deaf and probably mute as well. It seems that a 14 year-old boy shot this man because he didn’t, understand he was being told to hand over his money – which was only enough change to pay for his bus ride home. Within hours of this tragic murder, an 80 year-old woman was abducted while making a quick trip to the store. A young man kidnapped the woman and later killed her, so that he could drive her car and purchase some gifts for his friends with her credit card.

The list of evils in James 4:1-6 reads a great deal like the front page of many daily newspapers and James seems to be saying that professing Christians, in his day, were behaving similarly. How could this be!?

In James chapter 1:13-17, the reader is told not to blame God for his sin, or for his temptation. He tells us that temptation comes from within and that good and perfect gifts come from above. So, now in James chapter 4, he is going to give us additional details on the source of our sins. But first, I want to say something about the basic need of every person before I talk more about that in the next blog.

Each one of us has a personal need to be regarded as a worthwhile human being and there is nothing sinful about that. Human beings desperately need to be loved and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, people generally choose to operate in one of two ways to meet those needs, and it’s to their detriment.

1. Sometimes we put our worst foot forward to test the sincerity of those who say they love us. 2. The more typical method is putting our best foot forward in order to gain acceptance. So often we try to be good in order to be accepted don’t we?

What do you think would happen if every Christ follower took hold of the liberating truth that we are now free to be good because God already accepts us through the Cross of Christ – that his sacrificial death credited us with total acceptability to Him? How great is that!?

Sad to say, this understanding didn’t grab hold of some of the Christians to whom James has written. Instead, many of them decided they would meet their basic needs to be regarded as worthwhile and accepted by ignoring that truth.

Worst foot – Best foot forward? God is not impressed with either one when they’re used to keep us from having a genuine relationship with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t pull any punches on that. But James won’t leave us hanging on this subject. Why? Because God is about hope through reconciliation and restoration and believe it or not, he is for us. Yet, there is no question we are being warned by James about the consequences of sinning.

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