Archive for the ‘James’ Category

James Five: Who, Me?

Posted: November 3, 2012 in James

As we make our way into the final chapter of James, we find a scathing warning- really a tongue lashing- for rich people. Not for having wealth, mind you. But because of what they did (or didn’t do) with it. And understandably so. Think about it this way…God, as the creator and owner of the earth and everything in it, chooses just how wealthy any of us are. Some of us He deems to be dirt poor, others of us filthy rich (interesting that we relate both extremes to dirtiness). God does this to glorify Himself in various ways. On the poorer side of things God is glorified in taking care of His people in the most trying of times, very often through the re-funneling of wealth from those who have it, also glorifying Himself through them. The bottom line is this- however it works out, if we devote our material wealth to God, be it a large amount or small, He will be glorified and we will be provided for.

Thus, James is warning the rich who cling to their possessions at the expense of others who need it or have earned it from us. He’s warning those who have “lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.”

We’d like to think that in our own culture, James is talking about that wealthiest 1% of Americans who gain more than 288 times the average median American salary each year. It’s easy to target people with that absurd an amount of money.

But what if he’s talking about you? Or me?

I know I’m nowhere even remotely near that top one percent of wealthiest Americans, but consider this- the average global salary for all wage-earners is $18,000 a year, or nine dollars an hour. I would surmise that most of you reading this make more than that. I do.

Did you know that as of 2008, roughly 1.3 billion people on this planet survive (if you call it that) on $1.25 a day, or about $450 a year? The computer you’re reading this on probably cost more than that.

UNICEF says that some six million children under five die in developing countries each year from malnutrition and hunger-related diseases. How’s your fridge looking?

The reality is that on a global scale, anyone with the ability to read this blog is considered wealthy. None of us are poor. None of us are hungry. To over a billion people, we are the rich. For some of us, billions would consider us as such.

So what are we doing with it?

James Four: High-Energy Vapor

Posted: October 31, 2012 in James

So I must confess, I have a weakness for Monster energy drinks. Nothing like an addiction, mind you…but a weakness. When they started making zero-calorie options, I lost all resolve. Though I typically drink the 16 oz. option, when the occasion demands I’ll buy a 24 oz. can. These are cool. My favorite part is unscrewing the lid, listening to the pressure-releasing “pop,” and watching vapors of epicness wafting out of the can. Don’t judge me! I’m easily entertained, haha.

James has some news that’s a bit troubling in the fourth chapter of his letter. He says, “That pop-can vapor? Yeah dude. That’s your life. Where did it go? How long did it last? What significance did it really have?”

Perhaps I’m paraphrasing a bit, but not too much. His actual words are, “…You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Life is too short to waste on trivialities. Today is too valuable to waste by obsessing about tomorrow. What can we do today that will make a difference in eternity?

James Three: Shut it, Bub.

Posted: October 29, 2012 in James

The longer I serve my church as a pastor/elder, the more I realize just how much I got away with saying as a student pastor. And the more I reflect on my vocabularial license as a student pastor, the more I wonder how much I said that never should have been said in the first place. In other words, is there truly that great a difference in what I should say now as a pastor as opposed to when I was in student ministry? I don’t think so.

I think my problem, our problem, is that our standard is off. We ought not ask ourselves, “Would I say this if I were a _______?” You fill in the blank. I hear this one often too: “I can’t say this- I’m in a church.” Does our location really change the rightness of what we’re about to say?

Perhaps the best way to judge our speech is to simply ask ourselves this: Is this something that Jesus would say? It’s not about your job, it’s not about your location. It’s about whether or not we truly believe that Jesus would say and approve the words coming from our mouths.

David hit the nail on the head in Psalm 19:14, which says “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

James Two: Legit Faith

Posted: October 21, 2012 in James

There has been no small amount of confusion over the implications of James two. While neither time nor space permit me a full treatment of the issue, I want to simply interject a thought or two. The crux of the issue is this- there are some groups that classify themselves under the umbrella of Christianity that don’t (in my opinion), quite grasp the idea of being justified by faith. When pressed on the issue, they often turn to James 2:26, which says that “faith apart from works is dead.” Therefore, faith alone must not save…nor will works alone, but some combination therein. So they say. I have to disagree.

What James is saying is this: it’s impossible to have a salvific faith that isn’t also played out in our daily lives. The reason for this is simple; as faith is part and parcel of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, true faith therefore does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. Those believing are born again. Those born again are new creations- created for good works planned for us in eternity past. So don’t believe that you can go to Heaven based on good works…but at the same time, look for them. Their absence speaks volumes.

James One: Means to an End

Posted: October 20, 2012 in James

Lately I’ve spent a bit of thinking thinking about God, salvation, and sanctification. For years I have loosely wondered, “Why doesn’t God just call those whom He has saved straight into Heaven? Why leave us here, fallen-yet-redeemed, as Luther said, ‘Simul iustus et ,’ that is, ‘at the same time righteous and a sinner’?”

A surface-level answer is simply because our life here on earth is used to glorify God. A deeper answer is because the sanctifying process glorifies God…and deeper than that is the answer that God brings glory to Himself through the believer as He actively works intimately in the lives of His children in absolutely every detail to bring them to a deeper awareness of His person and grace, which in turn produces within us the worship and attitude needed to become increasingly more Christ like as our outward flesh catches up to the new man within.

James hits on that idea. He says, “Be glad when you encounter trails, because it means that God is at work and at its end you will have even more faith, more trust in God. Ask God for wisdom- He’ll give it to you! Your trials will result in rewards- keep pushing. Every good and perfect gift comes from God- rejoice that you are His child! Put away anger and wickedness- they’re time wasters. Instead, read and obey the Word of God- it’ll be a blessing. Help those who need it, remain different from your culture.”

These are all pieces of the process. How much easier it is to look at life from God’s point of view. Sometimes I’m staggered by my own stupidity and stubbornness….also part of the process!