Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Journey of James--Our Challenges for Today, pt. 1

As I was reading through the Book of James, it seemed that the concerns he shares are as relevant today as they were in his lifetime. So, for the next few weeks, I'll be walking through the chapters and sharing his wisdom and discovery.

In the first part of the first chapter, he speaks of trials and temptations...like I said, very relevant for us today. From the moment we wake up, it seems that the trials and/or temptations begin. When we go to sleep at night, many times they still linger.

What does James offer as advice for these troubles?

Enjoy them.

You heard it...enjoy each and every one that comes your way. Why, you ask?

"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). 

A common response, then, is why does God test us so much? James' answer? God doesn't test us...that seed of doubt that grows and expands and turns to our own brand of inner torture of trials is all ours--homegrown within us. We are imperfect, after all--our goal in this life to seek wisdom that starts erasing those imperfections. 

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (1:13-15).

So, knowing this, how do we become assured that we will be able to avoid the seeds of doubt, evil, and desires that bring us only misery? Ask for wisdom.

"If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (1:5).

It seems to all come down to faith and honesty on our part. That nagging in our gut that tells us what we're doing isn't right is doing us a great service if we heed that nagging. Being honest with ourselves and others is a great stress reliever, too...as Mark Twain once said, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." The truth will set you free.

"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we be a kind of first fruits of all he created" (1:16-18).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time to Forgive...and to be Forgiven

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

We're in for a good test of our mettle this week, folks. On Tuesday we'll be having our national, regional, and local elections. To say it's been a dirty bunch of campaigning has been an understatement.

Now it's time to forgive...and to be forgiven.

"If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

I've been reading an excellent book this week, Praying Like Jesus, by James Mulholland. Mr. Mulholland's book goes through each stage of The Lord's Prayer and puts it into simple, yet thought-provoking words.This morning I was reading a section on forgiveness and it immediately had me thinking about the upcoming election on Tuesday. Hopefully, not too much damage has been done with our words and with our deeds; hopefully, the clean-up will be manageable. One segment in the book tells of when President Lincoln was in the midst of the end of the horrible Civil War. All those round him were demanding retribution from the South--the punishment should be severe, they told him. They were the enemy. Lincoln reminded them that there was a much more effective way to destroy one's enemies. He stated, "Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?"

Words to savor, digest, and ponder...words of wisdom.

As Mr. Mulholland states in this chapter of his book, we need to remind ourselves that all the self-righteous indignation we can muster is one thing...ridiculous. Pointless. 

Why, we ask? We've been wronged; we've been hurt; we've suffered at the words and deeds of others.

Because, simply, we've all been forgiven...over and over and over again. Every day--hour by hour. God forgives. God loves unconditionally. And God is our model for living. That's all we need to remember. 

So, as the elections approach, let's keep this in the backs of our minds...or in the fronts. Harsh words do no good whatsoever; harsh deeds make the darkness all the darker. And we are truly children of the light.

Peace be with you.