Lack of Vision = Collateral Damage-August 28, 2013

Lack of Vision = Collateral Damage-August 28, 2013

Numbers 22: 21-38

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18

This is an interesting story of both things that are seen and unseen.  Just because one may have sight does not mean that they have vision.  For where there is no vision, the people perish. We must trust an all-knowing God about a not-yet-seen future and acting up it in faith.  True vision brings keeps us focused and on the right path, it protects and blesses, and it gives life not death.

Balaam was a diviner, a seer, although he was not part of the people of Israel.  Balaam was contacted by the King Balak of Moab to put a curse on the people of Israel because the Lord had blessed them and they were becoming numerous.  Balak began to fear for the interests of his country.  God had instructed Balaam not to go and after a second delegation came, Balaam consulted the Lord again and was told to go but only say what I tell you to say.  Now it is the next morning and Balaam saddles up his donkey to go on the way.

It would seem odd that the story being with the Lord telling Balaam to go and then seeming to be angry that Balaam is actually going.  The Lord sent an Angel or messenger to speak with Balaam.  The interesting and almost comical is that the man who is a great seer, is unable to see what his own donkey does.  It is right before him.  Many times in a rush to do things for the Lord we may forget to listen to the Lord and try to understand what it is He would want us to both say and do.  There is nothing wrong with having passion and excitement as long as our passion is for the Lord and that in seeking Him we follow faithfully each detail.

This encounter causes Balaam’s donkey to act in ways that the donkey would not normally be accustomed to doing.  The donkey sees that an angel of the Lord was standing in the way with sword drawn and the donkey tries to go another way.  The angel then moves and donkey moves closer to a wall and crushes Balaam leg by accident.  Then the angel moves in and blocks the way for the donkey and the animal seeing that there was no other safe option submitted and lay down under Balaam.  Each of these three instances Balaam a professional seer was not able to see what his donkey could and beat her for it rather than trying to understand her instincts.  This was out of character for his donkey.

This story makes an even more interesting twist as God opens the mouth of the donkey and she and Balaam have a conversation like it was something they did all the time.  Finally, the donkey gets a chance to ask about why he was beaten three times.  Balaam’s answer was he was embarrassed and that if he had the means to he would have killed her on the spot.  The donkey then asks Balaam, “have I ever done this to you before?”  Balaam answers “no.”

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel with his sword drawn and falls on his face.  The angel asks the same question as the donkey “why did you beat the donkey?”  Balaam is not so quick to say anything, and the angel said, the donkey moved away from me three times if the donkey had tried to pass I would have killed you and not her.  Balaam’s donkey had actually saved his life and was getting beaten by him for it.  How quickly does Balaam turn from being angry and offering his embarrassment as an excuse to realizing how embarrassing he was for being and unseeing seer.  His immediate response it acknowledging that he had sinned.  How many of us as soon as we are confronted with sin in our lives are so quick to acknowledge it.  Balaam then states that he didn’t realize the angel was there to oppose him and that he will gladly go back if the angels wanted him to.

This encounter reminds Balaam of the only reason why God let him go in the first place to repeat the words of the Lord to Balak and his princes.  It is a reminder that this sight only comes from the Lord and we need to be sensitive and ready to see what the Lord is trying to say to us.  It serves as a reminder of the blessing of Israel, of the fortunate outcome of Balaam’s donkey stopping and that spared his life.

When we try to do the Lord’s work without the Lord’s blessing or instruction, He can and will stop us if necessary.  The one with the vision was the donkey and in a wise move prevented collateral damage because she used her sight to spare Balaam.  Balaam had to learn that also would have to trust and submit to the vision the Lord would give him and only speak the words of the Lord.  If Balaam had done what Balak wanted him to do and try to curse Israel, how much more collateral damage could have happened.  When Balaam arrives he is very clear by now that he can only speak the words that God puts in his mouth.  How hard would that be for us to do, only to speak words that the Lord put into our mouths?  There would be no gossip or back biting or many other things that can cause more collateral damage.

In this case if there was not a vision made plain to Balaam, he could have been killed at that moment by the angel.  God would not allow Balaam to curse what He had blessed and we must be very cautious not to do the same.  People of vision are able to not only see God’s call but to respond in faithfulness.  Will we need our dog or horse to have better instincts that we do to save us or will seek Him, follow Him, and only speak the words He gives us to say?  If we do this we will truly be seeing God and His will more clearly and that will bring collateral blessing not damage.  Do you want to be a blessing to others?

 

Misssion Share Service-August 25, 2013

We had several in our church go on mission trips this summer to Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Nicaragua.  Each shared testimonies of their mission work this summer.

James 5:7-20-Living Faith in Christian Community-August 21, 2013

James 5:7-20-Living Faith in Christian Community-August 21, 2013

What qualities should we aim for in true Christian community?  How are we doing?

This section of James explores four areas in which a Christian community cultivates a living faith:  by developing patience, by being a place of integrity, by maintaining an enriched prayer life, and by protecting one another.

A Patient Community (5:7-11)

Developing patience is one benefit of living in a Christian community.  Each of these five verses examines an area of patience that every Christian can nurture with focus on God while relying on God’s power.

First, patience within a living faith is not just sitting idly, waiting for the world to pass by, but rather is an optimistic expectation.  Two examples: the Lord’s coming and a farmer waiting on his crop (5:7).  In both cases, patience is tied to hope and anticipation.  An expectant patience is the realization and acceptance of our limits while trusting in God to provide that which we anticipate, demonstrating patience with a purpose.

Second, patience within the Christian community is a steadfast patience.  “Be patient and stand firm” (5:8), knowing that the Lord will come again allows Christians to maintain a fortified faith that will stand the test of time, demonstrating patience with determination.

Third, we are commanded to be patient with one another (5:9).  We tend to lose our patience with those who are closest to us.  We do “grumble against each other,” showing our lack of patience despite what the Bible teaches.  James offered a sober caution.  As sure as “the Lord’s coming is near” (5:8), “the Judge is standing at the door” (5:9) for those who are grumbling against one another.  Let us be kind to one another, demonstrating patience with love.

Fourth, patience is also the ability to handle suffering.  The prophets in the Old Testament suffered for many reasons (5:10).  Having faith does not exempt anyone from the problems of this world, but faith gives us a way of handling problems, demonstrating patience under fire.

Fifth, endurance is the last aspect of patience that is mentioned.  Living faith provides the ability to endure even in the most trying circumstances, demonstrating patience with lasting strength.

A Community of Integrity (5:12)

James 5:12 refers to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37.  Christians must be people of integrity, especially here in what they say.  The prohibition against swearing by heaven or earth stresses that Christians should not have to swear by anything.  They should be credible enough to be taken at their initial word.  As a part of the community of faith, Christians must be honest with one another.  The Christian community as a whole must demonstrate the same integrity to the rest of the world in order to be trustworthy, without having to have a stack of Bibles in hand.

A Community of Prayer (5:13-18)

The church must be a community of prayer.  This section reveals the place, privilege, and power of prayer in the community.  A Christian community should be a place of love, care, and concern.  Gathering the elders of the church around the person is the perfect example of being a community of prayer.  What an act of fellowship, ministry, and worship.

Another aspect of the privilege of prayer is confessing sins to each other.  Confession builds a tension of trust, vulnerability, accountability, and confidence in each other.  It is a privilege to be allowed into the lives of others to such a depth.  Understanding those personal needs can help drive the members of a Christian community toward a richer living faith.

The most important aspect of prayer is its power.  James 5:16b is one of the classic Scriptures regarding prayer in the Bible, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (NASB).  The first two parts of this verse reveal why prayer seems so ineffective to many people.  “Effective” prayer is intense.  Intense prayer implies a commitment of time and heart, devotion to God, and concern about the matters at hand.

The second part of the verse indicates that powerful praying comes from righteous people.  Powerful prayer is found in the context of a sincere faith and supposed by a life of integrity and endurance until the end.

A Community that Protects One Another (5:19-20)

A privilege and responsibility of being in community is that we care about what happens to one another in a redemptive manner, thereby protecting one another, which can only be done if we are sensitive enough to notice one another’s  spiritual lives.  The community is not saving the sinner but assisting in directing him or her to the one true Savior.

How Do We Apply?

Beyond developing a personal living faith, Christians gather together as a community, having the privilege and the responsibility of investing our lives in one another.  Each individual affects the community, and in return as a whole the community affects each believer.  We learn patience with one another and in the face of things of this world.  We should demonstrate lives of integrity, both as the Christian community and in our own private lives.  We must develop effective prayer lives based on obedient lives.  We ought to protect one another and as a community guide each person to reject a path of sin and follow the way of righteousness.  Together each of us grows stronger in our faith as we invest in one another as a living community.

The Letters of James and John-BaptistWay Press by Tom Howe ©2010 (59-68)

A Great Cloud of Witnesses-August 18, 2013

A Great Cloud of Witnesses-August 18, 2013

Scripture:  Hebrews 11:29-12:3

We did not read all of chapter 11 but the faithful of God go back to the beginning and moves forward though time.  God has always had those that were faithful to Him and if you look at this list you will see men and women who were faithful to God even though it cost them greatly.  In some cases it cost them their lives.  As we look at this list we my be surprised at their faithfulness and the circumstances that surrounded the lives of these individuals, but we too can be confident in the faithfulness of God.

These names are being called and we being to realize throughout time that the circumstances of each are different, but there is a common thread that develops, they are all connected to one another by their faith.  There would not be enough time to talk about all those that have been and are faithful to God.  It was said of these faithful that the world was not worthy of them.  The world will always be opposed to God and those that are faithful to Him.  The world was not worthy of them because their citizenship is in heaven.  These went to the ends of the earth for the sake of the gospel, willing to share their faith to those whom they encountered.  These were commended for their faith.  It would be difficult for any of us to argue about their faithfulness and dedication to the gospel.

They have all been reported and testified about how great their faith was and yet, they had not received the promise.  Anyone would have thought if any should be deserving it would certainly have been these on this list.  Still they did not receive the promise.  How about us?  Are we afraid that we may give our lives and make sacrifices and also not receive the promise?  So does God withhold or not keep His promises?

In our modern culture we use the term “we” very loosely and are prone to thinking of ourselves and want to be seen as individuals.  It is often this pride and looking only to ourselves that has its own adverse affects.  It leads us at times to feeling alone and uncertain when things get tough in this world.  When you have taught yourself to rely on your own strength and knowledge, there will come a day and a time when we realize the limitations of our humanity.  We are not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all loving like our God.  It is in these moments that life can come crashing in around us, that we find as individuals little comfort.

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from  God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  Romans 10:2-4

When we are connected to a powerful, all-knowing, all loving God by faith that we are connected to this long line of faith with all believers of all times.  Perhaps the idea of a line is a bad analogy, this is just one line of a larger more encompassing presence and does not just include our fellow believers in this time but for all time.  We are now and forever joined to the body of Christ and the people of God from old.  We are His.  Being His is better than what we could imagine.  Why go this far to get back to a question I asked earlier, are we afraid to make sacrifices for God out of fear that He won’t keep His promises?  Perhaps the promise was being delayed for a reason, one that they did not know about but would be better than what was originally promised.  If I promised you a bicycle, but then later told you that I would not give you what I had promised because I wanted to give you something better like a car.  The something better usually comes with greater sacrifice for the giver and may take more time.  In this case it was the cost of this greater gift was the life of the Son of God.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  Romans 11:25

It was God’s desire that we all would be the completion of His work together.  It is for God’s own reason that He delayed His promise and His wrath finally that more would have the opportunity to receive His grace.  Where would be if it were not for the grace of God?  Trusting God by faith allows us to enter into a relationship with Him.  We also become connected to all others who have trusted God.  There is a great cloud of witnesses connected to and enveloping each of us.  We are not alone as we trust His Lordship more.  We are also helped in understanding and following Him daily by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will help each of us the see the sin in our lives and helps us to do something about it.  The Holy Spirit also helps us to hear and follow the lead of Christ.

So let us throw off the sin that ties us up, weigh us down, and keeps us from focusing on Christ.  There will always be the temptation of sin.  Sometimes sin will tie us up, tying up our time and attention.  Sin can weigh us down with guilt, grief, pain, and regret.  Sin also dims our vision and distracts our focus.  We are no longer able to see God.

The Holy Spirit will help us to recognize and cast off sin so we can run the race with perseverance and determination the race marked out before us.  In order to run a race we must know the destination or focus.  So we fix our eye on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.  A farmer plowing a row in many cases will find a focal point a long way off to aim themselves up with.  If they continue to focus on that object that is ahead and continue to make small adjustments to that fixed point, the line will be much more straight than just looking over the front edge of the tractor.

I used a stick as an illustration…I put it on end in my hand and tried to balance it.  Balancing the stick is not so hard if you keep your eyes up to the top of the stick and make small adjustments.  If I put the stick in my hand and only look at my hand the stick will never be balanced and it would come crashing down.  So the question is would it be better to focus on my own hand or to look up and make small adjustments?  Only one will help to bring balance to our lives.

If we want to maintain balance and perspective we must look up and as He moves we must make adjustments to balance our lives.  We must make the adjustments not Him because that what followers do.  Are you a follower?  Don’t be discouraged, remember the great line of faith stretching back to the beginning and the great cloud of witnesses, remember the Holy Spirit will help us to recognize and cast off our sin, and guide us as we seek Him.  May we follow and fix ourselves on Him.  Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You Are Not Alone!!  For by faith you have Christ Jesus;

You Are Not Alone!!  You have the encouragement of a great cloud of witnesses;

You Are Not Alone!!  You have the help of the Holy Spirit;

You Are Not Alone!!  You have the fellowship of this body;

You Are Not Alone!!  You are His, deeply loved, encouraged, helped, and connected.

May you live this life of faith with your eyes on Him, hopeful for the future, sure of the past, and supported each day.

You Are Not Alone!!

James 4:13-5:6-Living as if God Doesn’t Matter-August 14, 2013

James 4:13-5:6-Living as if God Doesn’t Matter-August 14, 2013

Many times people make plans without considering God in the equation.  Worse, we sometimes make the plans we want to do and get frustrated if God doesn’t bless them.  What is God’s will for me?  How will I be serving God?  How will I be a blessing to others?  What potential temptations or traps will affect my Christian faith?

In the business world the model is generally what is the greatest R.O.I. or return on investment?  This approach is not the best model when it comes to our relationships in the body of Christ and our relationship with Christ.  James wants to remind us that life is temporary.  We are like vapor or mist that will all too soon be gone.  Life will be gone more quickly than we think.  Most of our individual lives and acts will be forgotten in time, but some of our collective good will remain and advance society and the kingdom of God.  Little of what is being done on earth now will matter one day in the future.  The great exception is that which is eternal.

The best this world can offer is temporary, because this world itself is created, temporary, and therefore not eternal or lasting.  There is nothing wrong with making plans.  Paul made plans based on the fact that God mattered to him.  We should not make our plans without God and then ask the Lord to bless them.

We need to seek and learn the will of God, and then do the will of God, which allows God’s will to saturate all our thinking.  Just as Jesus knew the will of God included the cross, He agreed to do it even though he did not necessarily want to.  “Yet, not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

Sin is more than just doing wrong things.  The sins of omission are those good things that are left undone.  Failing to look for God’s will is sin.  It is also sin to know God’s will and not do it, being hearers of the word only not doers.

Hoarding wealth demonstrates trust in self instead of trust in God.  Jesus’ parable about talents demonstrates that God gives wealth to be used for his purposes (Luke 19:12-17).  Hoarding wealth also shows we do not care about God’s purposes and are just interested in ourselves; thus, it is a sin of omission.  It also reveals a lack of love and concern for those in need.  Human wealth has no eternal value.  What could be accomplished with that wealth might have great eternal worth.

The illusion of wealth is that it brings security and is lasting.  Nothing that appears permanent and visible is really lasting.  Security is found in God, not in the accumulation of wealth.  Sadness or misery can come from the grief of losing all the possessions that we trusted in for security or a in repentance recognizing that we trusted in the wrong things for security that took us far from the will of God.  We are only stewards of what God provides for us and allows us to handle.

How we treat people matters to God.  Some see people as a resource to earn more money.  Although wealth is not lasting the consequences of our actions can be.  Our decisions can have both direct and indirect implications.  Direct implications are when we participate in or knowingly ignore unfairness to others.  Indirect is more of the accumulation of things that produce luxury and self-indulgence while ignoring those in need directly in front of us.

The Letters of James and John-BaptistWay Press by Tom Howe ©2010 (51

If You Love It, Let It Grow-August 11, 2013

If You Love It, Let It Grow-August 11, 2013

“If you love something so much let it go.  If it comes back it was meant to be; if it doesn’t it never was.”  Possibly Albert Schweitzer

Scripture:  John 3:25-36

If you love something so much then let it grow.  What is it?  Christ!  If you love Christ let His presence grow in your life, His power grow in His church, and His love grow in His Kingdom.

There is a dispute that develops between a certain Jew and John’s disciples.  What they argue about is not really the issue.  When John’s disciples return to him them they are wired up and they don’t completely understand.  They never seem to ask John a question only make sure that John knows that they are talking about make sure that John knows that they are talking about Jesus and they say, “well, he is baptizing, and people are going to him.”  As we have said before, seldom ever is the issue the issue.

John’s response in some ways surprises his disciples.  He reminds them a man can only receive what is given him from heaven.  With this statement he begins by reminding them that it is God’s decision alone.  He reminds them as well that he is not the Christ, but I do have a role and responsibility.  He tells them that the bride (the church, believers, followers) belong to the bridegroom, Christ.  A friend of the bridegroom will not try to confuse the situation.  It is their day and time, as a friend we attend to Him, wait, and listen.  This sounds a little like what prayer should be we show up, wait, and listen.

Be there, wait, listen, and find joy in the bridegroom’s voice.  John is not upset, or jealousy, but finds joy, and that joy is complete because he understood himself and his role in the Kingdom which gave him great joy to see his work completed.  Then in one challenging statement he sums up that this process of growth begins with a simple but never easy statement:  He must become greater; I must become less.  If you love Christ allow His presence to grow in your life and heart.  This is a biggie, because if Christ isn’t growing is us and we are becoming less, then the growth of power in His Church and Love in His Kingdom will be greatly diminished.

John again shares Jesus’ credentials.  The one who comes from above is above all.  Those that are from earth, belong to the earth, and will speak, act, and think in earthly ways.  He is the one from heaven and speaks about what He has seen and heard, but no one accepts His testimony.  How can they, when their minds are on earthly things?

There will be those that will accept His testimony saying (certifying) that God is truthful.  The one whom God sent speaks God’s word for Him, and gives the Spirit without limit.  Let the power of God grow in His Church.  What if we decrease as God increases, and we trust the Son of God whom He sent?  Then the power of the Spirit would be without limit in the life of the Church.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.  This everything is the Kingdom of God or Heaven.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

First, we must allow the presence of Christ to grow in our lives, then the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit to grow in His Church, and finally the Love of Christ to grow in His Kingdom.  The Father loves the Son and puts the Kingdom in His hands.  Any who would accept the Son have a life in that Kingdom where they will see the love of God in Christ.  Letting that love grow is about Kingdom and family expansion, God has not limit or shortage to His love.

There is this dire warning that those who reject Him will not find the unending love of His Kingdom but God’s wrath instead.  What if, this rejection is not a willful rejection, but a unawareness of His Kingdom because we were unwilling to share and let the Kingdom of Love grow?  Perhaps, even more damning would be that the others would see us full of ourselves, not Christ, and choose other than His Kingdom because the see no difference in His believers.  When we are full of ourselves it robs the Church of its power and the Kingdom of its great love.  The Lord will inhabit the praises of His people, not their bickering, self-seeking, or their empty grasps at glory.

How do we let it grow?  First, beneficial growth does not just happen it is cultivated.  Just like the argument “developed” so does our relationship with Christ, His Church, and His Kingdom.  Till the soil, by preparing our hearts to trust Him more, by becoming less and allowing His presence to be greater in our lives.

Second, plant and water, trust the power of God for daily living, trust His word to guide us, encourage one another in the journey, and praise and worship Him for the Lord inhabits the praises of His people, with power.  Lastly, there needs to be Sonshine, but this is not S.U.N. but S.O.N.  Being reminded that it is His Kingdom.  John has come full circle beginning with whatever a man has from heaven is a gift, that gift was given at a price.  God’s love was shown through the giving of His Son to demonstrate that love.

 

James 3:13-18-4:12-Want Peace? Start Here-August 7, 2013

James 3:13-18-4:12-Want Peace?  Start Here-August 7, 2013

We begin with a cutting question, how is wise and understanding among you?  Some may be tempted to offer a quick response and that too may be unwise.  Wisdom is not just knowledge although knowledge is a part of wisdom.  Wisdom is also not necessarily years as perhaps experience.  A person may have lived for a good number of years, but not spent those years in training of knowledge of plumbing, auto repair, cooking, or computers and so although they may use these things in their daily lives does not necessarily make them wise in those areas.  In the same way neither does living a long life not devoted to Christ make you any wiser about Him.

Fortunately or unfortunately we do not get to decide what James means when he asks the question, because he also qualifies his question.  Those who are wise show it in their good life, by works that are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  Additional qualifiers are:  if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.  In other words if there is a strong self-desire that motivates you, don’t be so unaware as to boast about it.  Boasting is shameful, but also don’t deny it either because most likely your actions have already shown otherwise.

The wisdom from below is not easy to abandon or avoid precisely because it is the “way of the world,” inscribed not only in the language and literature of our surrounding culture but also in our very hearts.  Those who recognize this are better able to deal with the continuing ambiguity experienced by all believers, even after an initial conversion of faith.  Complete consistency in life is not given by a first commitment.  It is slowly and painfully won through many conversions.

Desire gives birth to sin; and when sin comes to full term, it brings forth death (1:5).

This kind of wisdom does not come from God, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.  James demonstrates the growth of these bad seeds of envy and selfish ambition.  As these take root they grow into disorder and wickedness of every king.  James shows the contrast of earthly wisdom to that of Godly wisdom.  Godly wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  These seeds will yield a harvest of righteousness sown in peace for those who make peace.  This yield of Godly wisdom stands in opposition to the disorder and wickedness that grows from the earthly wisdom.

James ended chapter three with an exhortation that peace is available to those who pursue peace.  However, he was addressing hearers whose lust for conflict was hindering the peace of the congregation.

Chapter 4:1-12

The conflicts and disputes didn’t just show up from nowhere, they are a byproduct of trying to do things the worlds way, to seek our own glory, and expect blessings to come from somewhere else but the hand of God because we do not want to trust Him or His ways.

You do not have, because you do not ask.  Instead we often try to get or acquire through other means.  Then when we do ask we do not receive, not because God is unwilling to bless, but because our hearts and motives may be wrong.  The people did not receive, James said, because they asked with the wrong spirit, desiring only pleasures.  Earthly wisdom began a process in the lives of believers that James sought to confront.   We are blessed to be a blessing to others and to ask God to bless and give us things to hold over others or falsely inflate our egos is contradictory to God.  It resembles more of the world which puts us at odds with God and makes us His enemy, and working against Him rather than for Him.

The language of advertising creates a world of values in which “to be” means “to have” and to have more means to be more.  This creates a deeper attitude of desire and also the greater means to get what is desired.  This is an issue of the haves and have-nots.  This invites both a moral and ethical demand within the framework of faith in the living God rather than specifically in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It is envy that spurs the “have-nots” to violence against those who have what they want; it is arrogance that spurs the haves to boast over those from whom they have taken in order to “be” who they are.

God desires for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.  Submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God, and He will dear near to you, and that is the greater blessing that God is near.  Come to Him with clean hands and pure hearts, don’t straddle the fence, put the other things away and find grace and life in Him.

Lament, mourn, and weep.  The things of old that brought laughter and joy are now causing us to mourn and feel dejected as we now know who they break the heart of God.  Humble ourselves so that God won’t have to and at the proper time He will exalt.

Do not speak evil against one another.  If you judge them then you are judging the law.  In judging the law you are not a doer but are sitting in judgment.  There is only one law-giver and judge who can either save or destroy.  So who are we to judge our neighbors?  Slander is one of the most pervasive and destructive forms of arrogance.  James provided one additional item of practical guidance for humbling oneself before the Lord:  one must recognize that refusing to “speak against” other believers is a prerequisite to achieving true peace.

New Interpreter’s Bible XII-James commentary by Luke Timothy Johnson ©1998 (212-213)

The Letters of James and John-BaptistWay Press by Ronnie and Renate Hood©2010 (43-50)

Personal Reflections by Greg Soult 2013