Monday, June 14, 2010

June 15, 2010

"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:25-27
The third theme in chapter one is that of serving. How you serve is a reflection of what you believe.
What does it mean to serve?
James gives us a couple of insights.
True religion, is faith that serves God and others who are in need.
The key to serving God is obedience. You must listen to the Word and learn the Word so you can live the Word. Until you live it you don't believe it. Until you live it you haven't learned it.
In order to obey God you must deal with the sin that is revealed in your life from looking into the Bible - a moral mirror. That is where obedience begins. You can't disregard the Word and dismiss the conviction of the Holy Spirit and expect to serve God. Getting right with God takes your focus off of you and gets you focused on what matters to God.
What matters to God is helping the helpless people Whom He loves. He mentions a couple of them - widows and orphans.
Faith works out through service. Faith exercises obedience by caring for those God cares about. There are needs all around you that you could meet if you were to get your eyes off of yourself and your suffering. Obedience opens your heart to God and your eyes to the needs of others.
How is your religion? Are you living what you say you believe? Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Are there some sinful attitudes or unhealthy habits you are nurturing in your spirit?
If you are not living your faith you don't really have a faith. Your religion is worthless.

June 14, 2010

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22

A second big theme of the first chapter of James is your approach to the Scriptures.

I think there are three common approaches to the Word.

Some read the Bible for inspiration. When they need a little emotional boost or a spiritual lift they pull the Book from the shelf and read some verses.
The Scritpures certainly ARE inspiritational, just consider the Psalms, for example, but they are far more than that. If you are just reading them for inspiritation you are short-changing yourself.
Some read the Bible for information. There certainly is a ton of great information in the Scriptures. Think about it - there is historical information. Much of what we know about the rise of human culture we know from the Bible. The Bible contains amazing stories about heroes and villans, about wars and conquests and some steamy love stories. If you want to know about the origin and early history of the Church, it is all contained between the covers of this Book. But it offers more than just information.
A few read it for implementation. THAT is what James recommends for you. The Bible is a living Word. For the Bible to be truth and transforming it must be lived out in the lives of believers. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life must be allowed to flesh out the power of His truth through you.
James admonishes you to "do" the Word not just "hear" it. How about you? What is your approach to His Word?
Are you reading it for inspiration?
Are you reading it for information?
Or are you reading it so you can implement it and allow its power to transform you - and others through you?

June 13, 2010

When I assumed my first ministry assignment at Princeton Wesleyan Church in Illinois, I spent a year preaching through the Book of James. I figured the theme of the Book - "practical Christianity" - might be a good place to start. It was a pretty safe bet!
This Summer I am trying to do it in 10 week with Father's Day, July 4 and giving my assistant an opportunity to speak. This is proving to be a bigger challenge than I thought. So much good stuff and so little time!
Having completed Chapter One this morning, let me see if I can summarize that Chapter in a timely and coherent manner.
In Chapter One I identify three big themes: Your attitude during suffering, your approach to Scripture and your actions in serving.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
How do you take joy in suffering? Is this some form of masochism?
I give you three reasons to rejoice in suffering. First, rejoice in the confidence that God is in charge of your trials and testing and He promises that He is faithful to make sure you are not tested beyond your endurance and that He will provide a way of escape. Also, He promises that everything works out for good to those who love and serve God.
Another cause for rejoicing is that tests and trails bring you to greater commitment. Here James admonishes you to commit to His wisdom. When things get tough you tend to be guided by your pain or to seek His wisdom and insight. He promises that if you ask for wisdom He will shower it upon us. Fully commiting to Him and placing our trust in His wisdom will definitely bring us joy.
Thirdly, you can rejoice in character of God and the knowledge that His character will be developed in you as you trust Him through your suffering.
That is how you develop the right attitude during suffering.
No one wants to suffer. But, it sure helps to know that your suffering is profiting you and your pain is not being wasted. Consider what Jesus' suffering gained you and rejoice in what your suffering can secure for you - an Him!