Changing the Direction in Your Life

Changing the Direction of Your Life

James 4:1-10

Come near to God and he will come near to you.” vs. 8

Two Sides 

One of the things I love about our church is the openness and mutual love and concern we have for one another.  It’s not that way in all churches and that’s a shame. In fact, I think disagreements, arguments, and church splits are occurring at an alarming rate and that really is puts the church in a bad light in the view of our communities.  They see the church as a place of contention rather than an accepting and loving community.  I did a little research. Can you name the top 5 issues of conflict in the church? I got this list from Thomas S. Rainer website which is dedicated to growing healthy churches.  This report was put out in July 2014.

  1. Worship style
  2. Decision making – who makes the decisions
  3. Length of worship service
  4. How to deal with clergy and moral failure
  5. Worship service time change

Other notable things that are struggles in the church: volume, pastor’s salary, how big the church should be, attire, role of the Pastor’s wife and/or children.

It’s sad that these things occur but the reality is that they do and it affects the role of the believer. Some become disillusioned with their faith or even just disillusioned with the church and it has resulted in many who choose not to go to church. As we continue with our study of the book of James, he addresses this issue in chapter 4 verses 1-10. If you are able, please stand as this passage of God’s Word.

Read Passage – James 4:1-10 

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 

Problems in the Church 

James doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to this subject.  He hits it right on. He wants our faith to be reflected in how we live. Here is the bottom line, if we want the world to change and to see Christ, it has to start with the church and what that means is that it has to start with each of us, individually. So he asks a question in verse 1a:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?” vs.1a

The early church was used to fighting. They were constantly at odds with the Romans and unfortunately that attitude had spilled over into the church. They were so used to being in conflict that it carried over into he church to the point it was affecting their worship. Conflict can get so bad that it could bring the church to a standstill and cause it to become ineffective. James doesn’t list a specific incident of what was going on but he does tell us the problems they were dealing with:

-Selfishness You desire but do not have…” vs. 2

First, selfishness. He says in verse 2: (read). Selfishness is wanting everything the way you want it. It’s not concerned with others or the whole but only about yourself. In fact, the very definition of selfishness is excessively concerned about only yourself.

-Cravings  “You covet but you cannot get what you want…” vs. 2b

The second problem they had was that they coveted, he says in verse 2b: (read). Covet, that deep desire to want what others have and keep it all for yourself. You want it so bad you crave it and are not satisfied until you have it.

-Impure Motives When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with

     wrong motives” vs. 3

And, the third problem, they had impure motives, verse 3: (read). Now get this, the  impure motives were directed at God. Oh they asked, but they were in a sense deceiving God only to get things for themselves.

Ex. The way that the world sees the church as only out for money.

Does this sound like the kind of church you want to belong to? Probably not.

Looking Like the World 

You might be wondering why James makes this jump from chapter 3 about the use of our words to this issue within the church.  It’s pretty simple, we use our words to fight and quarrel and to put down others while at the same time build ourselves up. I asked a question: Is this the kind of church you want to belong to? The obvious answer is “no.”  The reason behind the question is when we act this way, when we take on these traits of fighting, quarreling and only wanting our way, we are looking like the world.

Ex. Current elections happening on national and local levels are full of fighting, back biting, name calling, and candidates telling us their way is the best way. I’ve heard many people say they don’t know who to vote for or possibly not even wanting to vote. We should vote.

But we don’t want people to look at the church and not see that it’s different than the world.  If it is not, they won’t see the love, peace, and hope that God offers. There is actually a tragic consequences to living this way; it comes in verse 5:

Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” vs. 5

This is hard to fathom but the reality is that when we are acting in these manners and the church is selfish, coveting, and living in impure motives, we are not that bride of Christ and the beauty and love of God, no we are in danger of being the enemy of God. Wow, what a drastic shift.

Changing the Direction of Your Life 

So the challenge from James here is to change the direction of your life. To look and act differently than the world and to be so in love with God that the world would want to be in the church. Now I love this next verse, it has such a great message for us, verse 6:

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” vs. 6

You should circle “But he gives us more grace.” What an amazing thought.  Despite ourselves, our selfish desires, despite our divisive ways, God operates on grace. Grace: the unmerited assistance and forgiveness of God. This changes the direction of our life. God’s grace causes you to want to live differently. James tells us what that look like in three different ways.

  • Submit 

The first thing that we can do is submit to God. He says in verse 7a:

Submit yourselves, then, to God.” vs. 7a

Many people don’t like the word submit.  It carries a lot of negative connotations. The word for submit carries with it the full range intended by the term repentance. In fact, it actually has two aspects to it, to turn away, and then to humble yourself. So from what James mentioned earlier, we turn away from selfishness, coveting, and impure motives and then choose to humble ourselves by putting ourselves under God’s authority.  I’ll be honest, this doesn’t come naturally to us. Submitting to god means we trust his plan, we choose to follow his word even though we might want something different, and we trust that his way is always the best way for us.

Ex. Jesus, his willingness to only do what the Father tells him to do and to be obedient, even to the point of death.

The thing about this is that it’s not a one time decision.  You have to make this decision everyday. Jesus did and he tells us the same in Luke 9:23:

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Circle the word daily. I can tell you that you can make this decision one day and struggle with it again the next. But let me remind you what James tells us about this: But he gives us more grace. Grace says I can fail everyday and still be forgiven and loved and start all over.

  • Resist 

The second thing we need to actively do is resist and he is specific in what we resist, the devil. Verse 7b:

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” vs. 7b

 

Notice he says that when we resist he will flee. This is not a maybe. He will flee. But I know I struggle with this because he doesn’t flee as quickly as I would like.  And because he flees, doesn’t mean he won’t try and come back. Here is a great example of fleeing.

Ex. “Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and ‘scare-coyotes.’ She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs—fifty last year alone.

“Then she discovered the llama—the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama. ’Llamas don’t appear to be afraid of anything,’ she said. ‘When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won’t have anything to do with that. Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.’”

Barry McGee, Denver Post

Think about this as you consider resisting the devil; you don’t have to do it on your own. Not only do you not need to but in many ways you can’t on your own. But listen tot the promise of God that comes from 2 Peter 2:9:

“…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials…” 2 Peter 2:9a

Isn’t this awesome news? YEA! Here is the challenge in our attempts to resist: identify the areas you are trying to do it on your own. It’s in those areas that you will get attacked again and again and again.  (Encourage people to write them down, find accountability partners, be open and honest with who you are not only to God but to yourself.)

  • Come Near 

And finally, the third thing you can choose to do is to come near to God, verse 8:

Come near to God and he will come near to you.” vs. 8

We must look at our lives and ask ourselves if we are living in a way that we willing put ourselves in a position to experience God in a more intimate way every day.

Ex. Think back to when you were dating or interested in someone. For me, I remember being interested in Claudia and I would purposely go places or hang out in places where I could see her and interact with her.

We have to be willing to put ourselves in places that we see, experience, and are interacting with God.  Many times we live our lives and hope God shows up somewhere. No, we have to be proactive in including God in our lives.

Ex. Think about what you can do to draw near to God.  It might be putting more Christian music in your life, or more Scripture, or prayer, etc. But realize it might not happen if you leave it to chance. Don’t over complicate it but make it a purposeful part of you day.

David says in Psalm 72:28:

But as for me, it is goodtobenearGod. I have made the SovereignLordmy refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”  Psalm 73:28

Don’t just include God, make him the place you run to, your refuge, your home base, and your strength. Make him your default (the place you turn to first).

Give God Room to Work 

So James ends by encouraging us in the last verse of this passage, verse 10:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” vs. 10

He says humble yourself. He ends by showing the stark contrast of those who are selfish, who covet, and who live with impure motives; the contrast is humility. The ways that bring problems are reckless and self seeking. Humility is having the control to realize that you can’t do it yourself but that God can. Notice the last phrase: “He will lift you up.” The bottom line is you don’t have to build yourself up, God will lift you up. That’s why God sent his Son, so you don’t have to be in a struggle of trying to prove yourself and earn his love. We willing accept the gift God gave us in his son and that changes who we are.  We are no longer selfish, greedy and egocentric. This is who we are:

-Co-heirs with Christ

-A child of their King

-The bride of God

-Loved, cared for, and valued

Not because we demand it or earned it, but because of god’s great grace, we are lifted up and valued by God.

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The Power of the Tongue

The Power of the Tongue
James 3:16-12

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings…” vs.9

The Change in Word Use
Put on your thinking caps for just a moment and think about this; according to Graph.net there are 6.8 billion people in the world who speak over 7,000 languages. That’s a lot of different languages but, of course, there are some languages that are more prominently spoken around the world. So…can you name the top 5 spoken languages in order of the most spoken. As you guess them they will appear on the screen.
Top 10 spoken languages in the world
1. Chinese 1.2 billion speakers
2. Spanish 329 million speakers
3. English 328 million speakers
4. Arabic 221 million speakers
5. Hindi 182 million speakers
Honorable mention of 6 through 10
6. Bengali 181 million speakers
7. Portuguese 178 million speakers
8. Russian 144 million speakers
9. Japanese 122 million speakers
10. German 90 million speakers
So projections by graph.net says this is going to change. By 2050, here are the projected top 5 languages that will be spoken:
1. Chinese
2. Hindi
3. English
4. Spanish
5. Arabic
The interesting thing about this is that if we want to communicate effectively with people and those of other cultures, it may be important to know the right languages and their cultural background. As you know, you can use a word that may be fine in one cultural and not so fine in another. Today we are going to look at the importance of our words. James gives us some food for thought on this in James 6:6-12. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.

Read Passage – James 3:6-12
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Limited Control
Since the beginning of time, God gave us our tongue to glorify him and to have a limited control of things on earth. Genesis 1:26 states:

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

So we are made in God’s image and likeness but our control was always intended to be limited. Adam even had the privilege of walking and talking with God. That must have been cool. The control we were given was over the animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures. We have distorted that control and extended it to be over ourselves. As God never intended Israel to have a king, he wanted to be their king, so we were never intended to control each other and even ourselves but to have God be over us. Part of that “ruling over” is that one way we can control the animals is through our words. God even gave us the authority to name them in Gen. 2:19. Verse 7 of our passage today talks about us taming the animals:
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind…” vs. 7

One of the ways that taming comes is through our words. So, we feel a bit of control and power that comes with the idea of taming things like the animals.

Untamable
Ever been to the circus or sea world or a zoo? I love to see how those trainers can work with animals and train them and tame them. They teach them to do tricks and acts that I am amused by and stunned by. But there is some bad news that James gives us here in verse 8, he says:

“…but no human being can tame the tongue.” vs. 8

We can tame and train a lot of things but James makes it really clear here, we cannot tame our tongue. Sounds a bit hopeless. Here is what I believe God is trying to get us to consider through this statement, we cannot totally tame our tongue but we still have some choices to make on how we live our life. We also want to live in such a way that we are wanting to live more like Jesus.

The Choices of Our Words
Here’s what James does for us. He gives us three word pictures that are also choices that we have to make when it comes to how we use our words. These are important choices and need to be considered carefully.

  • Praise or Curse
    The first choice comes in verses 9 and 10:

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” vss.9-10

The picture here is our conversation and interactions with others and ultimately with God himself. Remember I mentioned that Adam walked and talked with God in the garden. I believe that some of that conversation must have been praise. I could just hear Adam saying something like: “You created that God? Wow! That is beautiful. God you are so incredible.” But here is the thing, sin entered. Satan was right when he told Adam and Eve that eating of the fruit would make them like God. We were created in his likeness. Yes, we are “like” God but the reality is that we are not God. God could use his words and call things into being, we cannot. God used his words to instruct and guide. We may be made in his image but we are not God. Satan on the other hand, he used his words to manipulate and mislead and to drive a wedge between God and man.
We have the same choice in our lives today. We can recognize God’s wonderful creation and praise him. But…do you know the opposite of praise, yes, curse. We were created to praise but we have chosen to use our words to curse. David encourages us in Psalm 66 to let God’s praise be on our tongue:

“I cried to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.” Psalm 66:17

We cannot be in union with God and be on the same page as him if we are using our words to curse others. God is saying: “I created him/her, I made them in my image. And you are curing them? No, I love them.”
Ex. One thing I love is my wife and kids. Now I know my kids faults and I know just as well if not better than anyone their short comings. But here is the thing; you better not talk bad about them around me. Why? Because I get defensive. Those are my kids. God has that same sense and even greater when it comes to his kids.

Exercise: Turn to the person next to you and just say one thing you appreciate about them. How did that make you feel? How did it make them feel? See, wew need more of that in our life.

  • Refreshing or Bitterness
    The second picture he gives us concerns water, and he says in verse 11:

“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” vs.11

The choice is pretty clear through the illustration, we can choose words that are refreshing and life giving or we can choose words that are bitter and destructive.
Ex. After a workout – So refreshing to have a big glass of ice cold water Can you think of a time when you would want to have a big glass of salt water? As a kid my mom made me rinse my mouth with salt water to avoid or get rid of sores in your mouth. Oh, I hated that.

James points out that these two waters can’t come from the same source the same spring. This reflects or deeper person, that we can be people that use our words to bring refreshment to others lives or we can bring a bitterness that hurts and is repulsive to people.
Ex. Don’t really try this but do you know what happens when you take a big gulp of salt water? You choke. You gag. Literally, if we are using words that are bitter and harmful to people we are choking them and making them gag.
Paul writes in 1 Thess. 5:14

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with one another.” 1 Thess. 5:14

If you are taking notes, circle “encourage the disheartened.” We live in a world where we have people using their words to tear down and oppress.
Ex. The increase in bullying in our schools and even worse with internet.

  • Fruitfulness or Fruitlessness
    The third choice comes from the illustration of tress, and more specifically fruit trees. Verse 12 says:

“My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?” vs. 12

Our choice is that our words can bear good fruit or bad fruit and in some cases no fruit at all. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. The idea is that you are what you are. You cannot change what you are in your heart and your words will eventually reveal what is in your heart.
Ex. Animals like a dog. They can be friendly, loving, and the greatest pet but at some point they will always remind you they are a dog. Right? They will do something like eat of sniff something disgusting, etc.
Jesus reiterates this same concept in Matt. 7:17 when h e says:

“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matt. 7:17

This goes back to one of the things that we talked about earlier, that we were created to praise and worship God. At the core we have that in us. Our words should reflect that and show that to the world.

Challenge: To make the choice to use words that bear fruit.

Important Words To Hear
The difficult thing about this is that we cannot do it on our own. Remember James teaches us that our tongues are not able to be tamed. But…we still have choices to make and we need to make every effort to be people that praise, refresh and bear fruit. Now we cannot tame our tongue but there is one that can. God asks us to trust him and to trust in his Son. Jesus showed us through his words that the tongue can be tamed and that our words can make a difference; with his help.

I thought it would be good to end with some important words. Word we need to hear and words that speak to our life. Words of Jesus.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John 10:10

“And surely I am with you always…” Matt. 28:20
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

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Just Make Room

Just Make Room

2 Kings 4:8-17

You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you?” vs. 13

The Talking Parrot 

A wealthy Texas man was in the habit of giving his mother an extravagant gift each year for Mother’s Day. He made it his goal to give her something more expensive and unique each year.  One year he gave her the entire collection of – music.  Not to be outdone the next year he gave her hang gliding lessons. Well he got to the point where he thought he may have out done himself and was at a loss of what to give her until he ran across this unique and gifted talking parrot. The parrot could speak in five languages and the topping on the cake was that it could sing her favorite song, The Yellow Rose of Texas, while standing on one foot. The bird cost $10,000.00 but that made no difference to the man. Well the man was thrilled with his gift and gave it to his mom on Mother’s Day. About a week later he called his mom to check in on her and maybe gloat a bit over his gift. He asked his mom how she liked the bird. She replied “It was delicious!”

HA! I guess it is good to make sure you give your mom the right present and that she is clear on how it is to be used. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from 2 Kings 4:2-17.

Read Passage – 2 Kings 4:8-17

One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” 11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” 14“What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” 17 But the woman became pregnant, and break and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

Finding a Friend 

We have been working our way through the book of James but being that it is Mother’s Day, I couldn’t resist taking a break and doing a Mother’s Day story. In 2 Kings 4 Elisha is the main prophet in Israel. Israel is on a downward spiral. Elisha goes from town to town proclaiming the Word of God and in chapter 4 he goes to the city of Shunem, which he has been to before, and stays at the house of family he has stayed with before. We know little about the woman introduced as the woman of the house but we do know she is childless and that she seems to have control of her household and the trust of her husband. She is one who lives out another famous verse that we read often on Mother’s Day in Proverbs 31:11:

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” Proverbs 31:11

We can see how her husband trusts her and has confidence in her and in her decision making

Old Testament Hospitality 

Now the OT cultured had a different view of hospitality than we do.  Our culture is very protective and guarded. We have extensive lock systems, security system and video surveillance, and all kinds of things to protect ourselves. We rarely hear of taking someone in unless we know them or know someone they know and can vow for them.

Ex. A good example is last week when we got away for a for days, we booked an Airbnb room but the owner went on Facebook to check us out and determine if he wanted to rent to us. The owners can check out your profile and decided weather or not to rent to you.

In the culture we see in 2 Kings, a traveler could go to the main town square and hang out in a particular place and if people saw them there, they were letting others know they needed housing for the night. The people of this time were used to taking people in.  Many of their homes had a “chamber” or porch area toward the front of the house where they could put a bed and some simple necessities for strangers go spend the night. It was somewhat protected from the rest of the house because it was in the front and part of the main living quarters.

In our story today we see the Shunammite woman actually go a bit further with this idea of hospitality, she designates a room on the roof for Elisha so that when he comes by, she is prepared to welcome him and his place is secure.

Her Character… 

What kind of woman would do this? The answer is a woman of high character and one who was confident in herself.  This woman has a quiet dignity about her We can learn from her noting she has three important traits that we take note of and that speak into our lives as well. These traits all have to do with her making a room for Elisha and that speaks about the rest of her life as well.

-Made Room for Others 

The first thing to take note of is that she makes room for others in her life. She didn’t have to designate a space for Elisha but she wanted to. This shows her gift of hospitality and acceptance of others.  We read in verse 8:

One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat.” vs. 8

This shows the importance of giving food to men of God! Ha! No, just kidding. The first thing to note is that word “urged.” Circle that word. What this really shows us is her open spirit to others and her gift of serving. She wanted him to come to her house. Would you agree with me; a person with an open spirit to others is an attraction and a joy to be around? When you open your spirit to others and are inviting in your soul, there is a certain beauty to it. Verse 9 specifically notes that Elisha is a “holy man of God.”  She goes the extra mile for this man who is God’s representative. He’s a prophet, one that speaks the word of God and this woman shows through her actions how important she sees his presence in her community. People who have that open of a spirit are rare but great to be around.

Ex. Maria at Raley’s. Always welcoming, helpful, etc. You wait in line at the store just to get her. (Do imitation)

Proverbs 11:25 says:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Prov. 11:25

There is a refreshment that comes from being around someone who is so welcoming and warm. You tend to like those people and you tend to remember them as well.

Ex. Last week I heard Bob Goff  the author of Love Does. He is that kind of guy. He loves people, welcomes them, sees the good in them. He told the story about how he loves cake pops. I’ve always wondered why people like those things but he does.  He told this story about a guy he was having a struggle with so he buys a cake pop and send it to him in the mail. Ha! Turns out that a simple act like that eased his heart to love the man even more.

We are so guarded in our culture. Why not have a heart that is open and welcoming. Buy someone a cake pop, a cup of coffee, etc.  Having issues with someone, buy them a simple gift and I’ll bet your attitude will change.

-Made Room for God 

A second trait to take note of is that this wealthy woman made room for God. Obviously from the text we note that Elisha had been there before.  It’s interesting that she wanted to be prepared anytime the man of God came to town. We know that God is at work and around us but many times we haven’t prepared for God. This woman wanted to carve out a niche in her life so that whenever God showed up, she was prepared.  Verse 10:

Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him.” vs. 10

It’s interesting to think about, she didn’t go to extremes here, she didn’t get all this fancy stuff and make this room that was extravagant. Nope, she made it a functional simple space that Elisha could use. In this room she put a bed, table, chair and lamp.  This was a place Elisha could use for study, for rest, and that would have just the basics.

But note: she created a space for God. So many times we get caught up in life in general. We fill our lives with work, the kids, with the gym, hobbies, internet, technology, etc., all these things that take our time and energy and we haven’t left room for God. Many of those things are good and needed in our life. But…you know the first area we cut back on?  Our spiritual life.  God just wants a simple place to dwell, just the basics, one that he can use for His purpose and one that is set aside just for him. It’s important to have a place for God.

Ex. Tuesday, got my hike, did my puzzles, built some planter boxes, etc. but never read my Bible. I cut the wrong thing out.

David wrote in Psalm 51:10:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Circle “create” Many people want God in their life but have not created a space for him or prepared a place for him.

Ex. How can you do this?
-A Specific time of prayer

-A walk and talk with God everyday; and it doesn’t have to be long

-A verse card strategically place (Fil’s computer)

-A armband, bracelet, etc. that reminds you about God during the day

-Made Room for God’s Call 

And, the third trait this Godly woman displayed was that she made room for God’s call. You might be thinking, “Didn’t you just say that?”  No. Making room for God and making room for his call are two different things. Let me explain. Many people invite God into their lives. There is a saying that goes,

“Many people want to serve God-but only in an advisory capacity.”

Making room for God’s call is making room for God’s plan for your life, even when it seems your life pattern is set, even when it seems impossible, even when it doesn’t match your plan. For this Shunammite woman, her life plan seemed set.  She wasn’t going to be a mother and the text lends us to believe that she was past the point of having children. Not only that, but she carried around the stigma of being a woman who didn’t have children, which made her of lower standing in her society. In some senses, she was prepared just to finish out her life as a good wife, but not a mother, grandmother, etc. and possibly alone because at some point her husband would probably die before she did. It all seemed set and inevitable.  So, when she is told she will have a child by the same time the next year, her reply in verse 16:

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” vs.16

Although we don’t have the inflections and tones in her voice, we can pretty much assume based on her character that this wasn’t disbelief, this was that she just didn’t want to get her hopes up. She was guarding against the stigma and shame she felt from her society.  Think how she would feel if she told everyone that God promised her a son and then it didn’t happen. She would be ridiculed even more.

People of character leave room for God’s plan even when it doesn’t match their plan or situation. We can get to the point of missing God’s plan when we base it on our ways and what we feel is going to happen.  David put it this way in Psalm 95:7-8:

“…for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,Do not harden your hearts…’” Psalm 95:7-8a

Circle “Do not harden your hearts.” When we accept God but not his plan we have hardened our hearts. We need to make room for God’s call, for the impossible, for the unexpected, and for the things that we haven’t planned on or considered.

Challenge: What area of your life do you feel is so set that it would take an act of God for it to change? Or, what area of your life have you given up on because you feel it will just never happen? Now ask yourself, have you left room for God’s call?

Fulfilled Promises 

This story ends on a high note.  From verse 16 to 17 it jumps ahead a whole year and we read in verse 17:

But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.” vs. 17

God fulfills his promise to the Shunammite woman. This is so exciting and encouraging. God’s ways will always work. Not one of his promises will go unfulfilled. You might be thinking that this is just another Bible story. No, this is God’s assurance that he provided for us too.  You might be thinking that the extraordinary doesn’t happen to you. That your life and your plans are set and that there is nothing that can change them.  Not true. Just the opposite. God sent his Son to this earth to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).  Jesus came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly. You may have given up on a dream or a plan. Jesus shows up when you least expect it. But don’t forget to make room for him and to make room for his call.

Fun Saying 

Some people make room for God but it’s in the waiting room

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Words Are Important

Your Words Matter

James 3:1-6

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” vs. 6

 

Telephone

All of us have played the game telephone. It’s that game where you are in a line and someone starts by whispering a phrase in someone’s ear and they turn and whisper it to the next, and so on and so on until it gets to the end of the line. Usually the end result is no where near what was started with. So here is a cartoon from Leadership magazine that shows a line of pews and the same sentence being passed from person to person.

1st pew: My ear kind of hurts
2nd pew: The pastor has an earache
3rd pew: The pastor got a hearing aid
4th pew: The pastor is having trouble hearing
5th pew: The pastor got a double earring
6th pew: An old lady with a cane is walking out and says”: That does it, I’m outta here! The pastor’s got a double earring.

 

There is a general sense in our world today that words are just words.  They don’t mean much in some instances; things like Twitter, Facebook, in emails and texts, and maybe to some extent even in our normal everyday regular conversations. But in other circumstances, we know they mean a great deal; i.e. bullying, on TV and movies, and most currently in the political realm. We are listening to our politicians words very closely right now in the campaigns for President that are happening. The Bible has a great deal to say about words. James talks about this in chapter 3 of his book.  If you are able, would you stand as we read God’s Word from James 3:1-6.

Read Passage – James 3:1-12

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Christians Are Judged

Did you know that when we get to heaven we will be judged? Jesus talked often about the Day of Judgement. Read Matthew 10, 11, and 12, and you hear Jesus words that there is a day of judgement.  That day is coming and many people better think again about their eternal destiny before that happens.  In verse 1 of James 3 he says:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” vs. 1

Somehow many people have not realized that there is the Day of Judgement coming. But listen carefully now, judgment is different than condemnation.  We’ll be judged at whether we did well with what God gave us or whether we did not do so well. So don’t think, I’ve accepted Jesus as my Savior, I don’t have to worry about standing before God on Judgement Day. No, you will.  But there is good news. Jesus took our condemnation on the cross so we won’t be condemned…but we still are accountable for how we act. We will be held accountable for our actions.  So we need to get this right.  We need to see our words and our actions do have consequences.  There is no condemnation which means we can’t lose our place in the kingdom but we also get a crown and that crown is full of jewels based on our works and actions. And it gets better, we get to throw that crown back to God at his feet because we recognize that all those good things we did, he accomplished it through us. We give him the glory.

Here’s the Good News 

You might say that this doesn’t sound much like good news.  Well, here’s the good news. Lets read verse 2a:

“We all stumble in many ways.” vs. 2a
Huh? You might be going, wait, that’s good news? Yes.  Turn to the person next to you and say “I stumble.” See, we are all in the same boat.  None of us are exempt.  We all stumble. Not one of us is really better than the other, So don’t even worry about how bad you might think someone else is and better yet, don’[t worry how bad you are or even how good you might think you are, we all stumble.

This is true with our words too. Everyone has had that moment when they say,

“Oh, I didn’t mean to say that” or that moment when we’ve said “I wish I could take that back.” But it’s okay, we all stumble. So, let’s do something about it. Let’s learn what God show us about our words and how we can get better at living in a  way that we don’t have to say those things or better yet, live in a way we look back with regret.

Lessons About the Importance of Words

James us a really practical book. In these 6 verses he give us some lessons on the importance of the words we use. I see three of them here.

  • Learn to be Careful

First, when it comes to our words, we need to be careful what words we use. Again let’s look at verse 1:

“Not many of you should become teachers…” vs. 1a

James uses an illustration here that everyone can relate to. Anybody here ever had a teacher? Sure, we all have.  Ever had a teacher tell you something wrong? Ok, don’t answer that. Some of us have had teachers that have given us the wrong information.  What do we say and think? Yeah, they should have known better. We expect teachers to know what they are talking about.  Even more when it comes to those who teach God’s ways. We have to be careful because our words can lead someone astray or down the wrong path. I sure don’t want that on my conscience.

But even more so, teachers need to be careful what they say which tells us to we need to be careful too. Some well-meaning people have said things to those who don’t know god and turned them away from him forever. See our words can drive people away from God or our words can help them see God as a loving Father who loves them and cares for them.  But you know what, this applies to us too.  Jesus said in Matt. 12:37:

“For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matt. 12:37

Our words can save us or condemn us. Paul said in Romans 10:9:

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Ex. At a conference this week with 4000 others and we sang and declared Jesus is Lord. What a great sense of joy and encouragement.

  • Be Willing To Be Led

Lesson 2, we have to be willing to be led when it comes to our words. You’ve probably heard “You can’t tell me what to say!” Well, maybe not, but that might be the sign of a person who is not willing to grow, to learn, and who is willing to be obedient to God. I know that is hard to hear but listen to the illustration James uses in verse 3:

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.” vs. 3

Bits are a tack that is put in a horse’s mouth and rests in an area of the mouth where there are no teeth. Now get this, they work on pressure, not pain.  They are not meant to cause the horse pain, just enough pressure for the rider and horse to communicate effectively enough to work in line with each other.

So get the picture here, the bit is meant to be useful and helpful for the rider and horse to work together. Now I am not saying any of you look like a horse, but…well you fill in the blank. J  We give our lives to God and the analogy is that he is the rider and we are horses.  We try to control the ways we go, the things we do, the things we say.  God is trying to guide and direct us, not with pain, but sometimes it takes a little pressure. Lots of people are like horses trying to steer themselves. If we a rider and horse are in sync with each other, it’s a smooth process and a thing of beauty. But…we have to be willing to be led. Solomon wrote in Prov. 1:5:

“…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…”

Prov. 1:5

Notice it’s the wise who listen and learn. We have to want it and be willing to follow even if there is a little pressure.

  • You Can Use It for Good or Bad 

And the third lesson James teaches us about our words is that you have a choice, you can use them for good or bad. We have probably all been on the wrong end of some bad words at one time or another. We might forget but James makes is really clear, our tongue is just a small part of who we are but it has a lot to do with who we are.  He says in verse 5:

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” vs. 5

It’s interesting here that he uses the idea of boasting. You know, it seems that boasting never has the effect that we think it will.  We try to boast about what we’ve done or boast about some accomplishment and most of the time people are more critical of us and unimpressed.  Yet, somehow we are sure it is going to have the opposite effect. James says it’s like a spark that burns a whole forest down. One small spark has the potential to burn down a whole forest of trees and our tongue, and a few choice words, has the potential to ruin our life.

The opposite is true as well, our words can bring healing and joy to someone who needs the love, peace, and joy of our God. Proverbs 16:24 says:

“Graciouswordsare a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Prov. 16:24

Ex. Trip to Colorado and I left my hip-pack with my wallet, credit cards, and id in SF airport.  I luckily prepaid my taxi ride to the hotel.  I get there, explain my plight to the woman at the front desk, and her words, “Don’t worry, I will help you and make sure you are taken care of.” And she did.  My words later, a letter to her boss and hotel chain president about her professional manner and going the extra mile for me.

Famous Last Words

Let me finish with some famous last words. Word that will change your life. You’ve heard them before. Close your eyes. You know them, Hear them again.

“Father, forgive them, don’t know what they are doing.”

“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

“It is finished.”

Jesus said those words for you. He forgives you. He died for you. Nothing you’ve said or done will ever condemn you if you accept him and his free gift. We are moving into communion.

Communion

Prayer of salvation

Prayers of confession

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Faith In Action

Faith In Action

James 2:14-26

“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” vs. 18b

For the Team 

A Giant fan, a Padre fan, and a Dodger fan are climbing a mountain and arguing about who lives their team more. The Padre fan insists that he is the most loyal.  “This is for San Diego” he yells and jumps off the side of the mountain. Not to be outdone, the Giant fan is next to profess his love for the team. He yells, “This is for San Francisco!” And pushes the Dodger fan off the mountain. HAH! Sorry if I offended any Dodger fans out there.

When you are sold out for something and it really gets into the core of who you are, your actions support that. In this case, the Dodger fan found out the hard way. On a more serious note, we can say we believe in God and in Jesus Christ, but do our actions really show it? What would it look like to really live like a Christian, especially today when being a Christian is looked down on by many people because they feel we are too right wing, too fundamentalist, and to intolerant. I suggest to you that we are living in a time when we need to have a faith that is real and that people can see through our actions and lifestyle.  Today we will be looking at James 2:14-26. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.

Read Passage – James 2:14-26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Biblical Contradiction? 

I grew up in a pretty strict community of Christian people who I admired and who taught me many good Christian values. I loved them a lot and I feel I had a good foundation for my faith. One thing they often said was: you are only saved by faith; it was faith, faith, faith. One of the main passages for that came from is Romans 3:28:

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

Rom. 3:28

That made a lot of sense to me. You can’t earn your salvation was another thing they would often say.  I tried to live that out but I found myself in a struggle. I found myself doubting at times and then when I felt my faith wasn’t strong enough or when I struggled with my faith I would question if I was really going to go to heaven when I died.

But another thing happened too. I realized the only way I could be a good Christian was to do good things and I bordered on moralism. In other words, I always wanted to do good things and be the “good Christian” boy because I knew that would please God and he couldn’t send me to hell if I was a good boy, right? So I set out to pray every day, read my Bible, help people whenever I could, etc. Now I was bordering on actually trying to earn my way to heaven.

One thing that happened as I started reading The Bible more and was it seemed like there were passages that contradicted each other. I was taught you could only be saved by faith and that made sense but there were passages like the one we are reading today.  Doesn’t it seem that there was some Biblical Contradiction? Read verse 17 again:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” vs. 17

Isn’t that saying the opposite of what Paul said? Paul says faith alone and then James starts talking about actions. Did he not read or hear Paul? Is he saying you can earn your faith?

More than Talk

James even pushes it a bit more when he says things like  our faith is more than just talk in verse 14:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” vs. 14

It’s an interesting thing to think about. Can I claim to follow God, can I declare Jesus is my Savior and not have it affect my daily life? Well guess what, there is a group that claims to believe in God but it doesn’t affect how they live. Yea! James tells us about them in verse 19:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” vs. 19

Ex.  I managed a recreational softball team that played in the city leagues.  It was a lot of fun. I managed it but asked the players to pay the fees. We took the total fee and divided it up and each guy was supposed to kick in their share. I had one guy who would play every season and always promised to pay.  Every season he agreed to be there, never missed a game, and always had an excuse about why he didn’t have the money but he would get it to me. He said he wanted to be part of the team and played every game and promised me the money every week but it never seemed to happen. I didn’t want him to tell me he’d get me the money, I wanted to see the money. He could say it but it wasn’t real until he did it. BTW, it wasn’t \until he showed up and I wouldn’t play him that all the sudden he came up with the money.

Here is what James is trying to get us to understand. You can say you’ve given your life to God; you can call yourself a Christian, but you can’t really have a changed life without showing it.

The Balance of Faith and Action
What I learned about Paul and James and their apparent contradiction can be summed up in this; the Christian life is one that has a balance of faith and action. Let me put a little bug in your ear as we approach this: It is possible to be religious and not be living for God.  Note: that was the Pharisee’s in Jesus time. James helps give us a couple of ways to evaluate this for ourselves and to check our lives so we aren’t out of balance, or even worse so that we aren’t like the demons who say they believe in God but choose to follow Satan. Ouch!

  1. Real Faith Changes Your Heart

The first evaluation comes from within; it our heart. Here’s how I interpret what he is trying to get across; Real Faith Changes Your Heart.  In verse 16 James says:

“If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” vs. 16

What’s he saying here? He is saying that mere words are just fake because your heart isn’t really changed. Our words have no substance if they are not from our heart. Remember, even the demons claim that they know God is God. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18:

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18 

Jesus is touching on the same concept here. Our words reflect the deeper part of who we are and that is found in our heart. We are broken people. We cannot save ourselves and our heart is a reflection of that. We use our words to confess our sin and through the work of Jesus on the cross, we are cleansed. But…that is not a permanent state. We sin and our heart is once again stained with sin. So when we speak, we can say things that are untrue but it’s our that is a reflection that our heart is in constant need of Christ renewal.  To rectify this, we need renewal. We need revival.

Abraham

In the passage, James gives us an example of person who goes through this process; it’s Abraham. When Abraham was a younger man, he struggled trusting God and it showed in his words. In Genesis 18 God promised Abraham that he would be a father and that he would be the father of many nations. In Genesis 20 Abraham and Sarah are traveling and they come to a place where this guy, Abimelek is king.  Abraham is fearful that they will kill him so he tells Sarah to lie about her identity and say she is his sister so they won’t kill him and abduct Sarah. She does and God has to speak to Abimelek in a dream and let him know that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Abimelek them has to return Sarah to Abraham.  Now why did Abraham and Sarah lie? Because they didn’t believe in their hearts that God was going to come through and that came out in their words.

Now jump ahead a number of years.  Sarah has had a son, Isaac, and God calls Abraham to take his son and go up on a mountain and sacrifice him. If you read Genesis 21, you see that when God speaks and calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he does not respond with words. Why? Because Abraham’s heart is now changed. In hi heart, he trusts God. But when Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb for the sacrifice is, Abraham’s words reflect his trust in God and he tells his son “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.” See his change of heart. Trust has taken the place of doubt. In his heart, Abraham now fully convinced, in his heart, that God will work and provide. His heart trusts God and that is reflected in his words to Isaac so that James says in verse 21:

“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” vs. 21

Real faith in God will change our hearts.

  1. Real Faith Changes Your Actions

We trust, and that trust leads to a second way our faith is checked to  make sure we are in balance, real faith changes your actions. Probably the most famous verse from James comes in verse 18:

“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” vs. 18

So here is where Paul and James are not in contradiction with each other but are complementing each other. When Paul talks about that it is only faith that saves us, he is talking about the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross and that you cannot earn your way to heaven but it is faith in what Jesus did and accepting that free gift. James is now talking about what that faith looks like after you have accepted the gift of salvation. James is saying that our faith changes the way we act. The best example of this is Jesus who live out faith through his actions. John reveals this to us in 1 John 2:6 where he says:

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

I find it easier to do something if I have an example of what I am supposed to do. It seems we all work that way.

Ex. Planter box. I have been thinking about building planter boxes for us to have a vegetable garden. A few weeks ago we were at Home Depot and there were these planter boxes made of  this certain kind of cement blocks and 2” x 12” boards. Claudia saw it first and showed it to me and you know my words? Yea, “I can do that.” Why? Because I saw an example of it.  So this week we bought the blocks and yesterday I started building our planter boxes in the backyard.

Rahab

Again, James gives us an example of someone who lived out this concept for us and it comes in verse 25:

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” vs. 25

Now think about this for a second.  If you wanted a good example of faith and you go into a town of people, who you going to look for? A Godly, righteous, moral person who appears faithful.  But who does God choose? Remember, the Israelites are going in to conquer this land that God is giving to them. God sends some spies in and they end up at this house of a woman named Rahab. Let me explain who she is:

*A woman – Men didn’t usually talk to women. Most woman were thought of as property and something to be owned.

*An enemy – She was part of the people they were coming in to take over and to annihilate. She was the enemy.

*An Outcast – She was a prostitute. She was the kind of woman a man would use but would never be accepted in society.

That is who God choose. Why? Her faith.  God looked beyond the outward and looked at her faith and knew that this was a person he could count on to act out the things he asked.

Living Faith

The bottom line is that James challenges us to be people who not only claim to believe God and trust Jesus as Savior, but to live it out too. He ends this passage by saying in verse 26:

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” vs. 26

James is stating that without a spirit, a body is just a corpse. It has no life. Notice he is talking about faith not having no faith.  His analogy is that faith without deeds is just like a lifeless body; dead. Now the good news about his is that Jesus died for you and I so that we can have the Holy Spirit. His Spirit lives in our hearts and that gets to come out in our actions. We see the beauty of what Jesus did for us, he died so that we would have new life, life in a relationship with the Almighty God. When you see that beauty of Jesus, that giving of himself for you, you want to live a good life out of appreciation and gratitude. You are so grateful that he did that for you, that you in turn want to give a little part of that to others so that they can see how much he did that for them too.

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How We Treat People

How We Treat People

James 2:1-13

“…believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” vs. 1b

 

Kindness 

On Tuesday night, April 12th, a man was driving an SUV recklessly. The Antioch, CA city council meeting had let out minutes before and council woman Lori Ogorchock was on her way home.  The SUV struck her car and continued on who about 10:01 p.m. on A Street near the Highway 4 on ramp. The crash crumpled the SUV and trapped the 35-year-old Antioch man in the twisted wreckage.

Both Mayor Wade Harper and Councilwoman Ogorchock immediately jumped into the mode of helping the victims.  I kept calling his name,” Harper said, adding that the man was conscious. “I made sure he heard his name. I wanted him to know he was going to be OK, to keep him alert.” The SUV’s engine was smoking, so Harper yelled for someone to fetch a fire extinguisher from the minimart at the Chevron gas station nearby and began talking to the driver. Harper remained at the scene until emergency responders were able to extricate the man, a process that he said took at least 30 minutes. The two people inside the truck also were taken to the hospital, but their injuries were considered minor, Antioch police Lt. Don LaDue said in a statement.

I want to give kudos to both Mayor wade and Councilwoman Ogorchock. Both showed a great deal of integrity and I would say restraint as well. If that were me that were hit, I might be out there getting angry or upset.

Today we are going to look at how we treat people and what the Bible says about how we should treat people. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from James 2:1-13.

Read Passage – James 2:1-13 

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,[b] also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Polluted by the World

In order for us to get a clear picture of what James is trying to convey to us we must backup to verse 27 of chapter 1.  He says in verse 27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

In the OT the Israelites had to concern themselves with being ceremonially unclean so they would not be hindered from worshipping God.  James uses the word polluted here. The first definition of polluted in the dictionary is:

Polluted:  To make ceremonially or morally impure

What James is getting at is that if we let the world be our influence if we let the world be our guide and dictate our actions, then we have become polluted or made impure.

The main point that James makes in the beginning of chapter 2 is the need for us to treat people well. Unfortunately, in the world, there are many areas in which people are not treated well. It could be based on gender, ethnicity, social status, job, etc.

Ex. Women still make considerably less money in performing the same job. Many of the CEO and higher position jobs in our country are dominated by white males, very few people with little wealth can run for a political position. Of course there are many more examples.

There is another word for this: favoritism.

Do I Show Favoritism?

One area that is of concern is wealth. James warning here is not to treat people differently based on wealth. Most of us may think of ourselves as better than we are at treating people fairly but I think it would be best for us today to ask ourselves an important question:

Do I show favoritism?

Most of us may answer with a quick “no!” But take a moment to challenge yourself here. If most of us are honest with ourselves, we probably have to admit that we can do a better job of treating people fairly and equally. In verses 1 through 13, James challenges his audience in this area of treating people based on wealth.

Ways We Divide 

A natural thing for us to do as human beings is to divide ourselves and we usually do this by labeling people. If we can put a label on someone, we tend to assert some control and to keep an upper hand. The challenge is really to avoid division and focus on God’s ways of treating people, not the world’s ways of treating people. So how does that work, it comes out in 2 ways.

  1. How We Treat the Rich

The first way is how we treat the rich. In your outline you have a fill-in. The first is that we treat them with “Special Attention.”

Special A__________

James points out in verse 2a:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes…” vs. 2a

There is something subtle going on here. Though you see this outwardly, you are making the decision inwardly. See, when someone walks in, unless you know them, unless you know their situation, you are making a judgment based on what you see, the outward nice clothes and jewelry, but you are assessing them in your mind. You are assuming they are important, and rich, based on what you see and you are deciding in your mind to treat well because of your thoughts about them. Ask yourself; “How do I feel when I see someone in nice clothes and expensive jewelry or in a nice car, or in a big house, etc. When you decide to treat them better than others because of that, you are playing favorites and showing bias.

Ex. Scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts character goes into a store and is not helped because she is dressed like a hooker. BTW, didn’t we all loves when she went back after buying a ton of others things and rubbed it in the saleswoman’s face?

A second way we treat the rich is with “Special Treatment.”

Special T__________

James points this out in verse 3a:

“If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” vs. 3a

 

So here we move from the inward to the outward.  It has now moved from our thoughts to our actions. We are visibly showing them, and others, that they are important enough to be treated differently and with a greater status and honor. Here’s the thing with that, we are telling them that they are more important and we are telling others that they are not.

Ex. Gift bags given to the stars at the Oscars. The 2016 gift bags had some impressive things in them: $12,500 vacation package, an Italian train trip valued at $11,500, $800 in custom candy, and the list goes on.

Ex. I saw this in the corporate world where stock were made available to the upper management, and to those that have.

2. How We Treat the Poor

James also touches on a second way we divide and it is how we treat the poor. These are really startling points and it does make us consider if we may act in these ways. First, the way we treat the poor is that “We’re Repelled.”

We’re R___________

Notice how James states it in verse 2b:

“Suppose…a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in vs. 2b

It’s almost comical the way he states it; “filthy clothes.” He could have said this same thing a number of ways but he chose a way that shows the disdain that tends to dominate our thinking. Many of us have a dislike for dirt; for things that are not kept clean or in a neat way, even more so when it comes to the poor.  We really become uncomfortable with them. We are repelled by the dirt, the smell, the filthiness.

Now how does this play itself out in us? In the same way we gave special attention to the rich, we now avoid or give no attention to the poor. Think about it, we choose to walk around them we choose to walk on the other side of the street, to use another door, to go around if at all possible. We even ignore them if we can.

Ex. Homeless woman who told me I dropped my smile.

The second way we treat the poor is that “We Exploit” them.

We E____________

James points out in verse 3b:

“…but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,  vs. 3b

Notice the actions here, it’s more than just not giving attention or not helping, it’s putting them in a position of humility and establishing dominance. When he says “stand there” he is implying “over there,” out of the way, in a place that cannot be seen.  He also says to “sit on the floor by my feet,” in a degrading or humiliating position. A place where there is definitely an established dominance and hierarchy.

Ex. Sept. 2013 the state of Nevada shown they were shipping homeless people with mental illness to S.F. on buses

Selective Obedience 

James also puts in a few verses that may seem out of place at first but they really are supposed to be here and they are important to understand in the passage. They come in verse 10-11, verse 10 says:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” vs.10

Here’s what James wants us to remember; that our obedience to God’s Words is not selective. We should not be in the habit of picking which laws of God’s we want to follow and which ones we do not want to follow. God’s Word is not a smorgasbord of things we can choose to do or not to do. So what are God’s laws about how we treat people? Let’s start with 1 John 4:11:

 

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

 

Here are a few things that God calls us to be:

  • We are to be people who love – 1 John 4:1
  • We are to be people of peace – Mark 9:50
  • We are to take care of the widows and orphans – James 1:27
  • We are to be gentle, kind, patient, and people of peace – Gal. 5:22

 

Can Anybody Really Do This? 

Now you may be looking at this and going; “Can anybody really do this?” Part of the reason that James addresses that we should not be selective is because he follows that thought up with verse 12-13:

 

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” vss. 12-13

 

The reason we are called to follow God’s law and not be polluted by the world, God’s law gives freedom. If you follow the world’s ways you will never be able to keep up. You will always be struggling. God’s ways bring freedom but you might be asking, “Yes, but I fail. How can I possibly follow God’s ways when I fail?” It’s simple, you don’t have to worry about failing because we all fail and we all have God’s forgiveness. I believe it comes down to what Jesus did for us. John 3:16:

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave is only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

Jesus is the living example of how to treat people.  He didn’t die for the rich, for the important, for the successful. No, he died for all. Jesus could do what James is talking about and we are called to be as much like Jesus as possible. He does what we can’t. And, he invigorates us to follow God’s ways and not the world’s because that’s what he did.

Ex. Jesus and the lepers

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Tested Faith

Tested Faith
James 1:2-18
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” vs. 12

The Bandit
There’s a folk story of a bandit named Jose Rivera, who became notorious in several little towns in Texas for robbing their banks and businesses. The people of these towns got tired of the constant robbing, so they hired a Texas Ranger to track him down in Mexico and retrieve their money and valuables. The ranger arrives at a desolate rundown shack of a cantina. At the counter he sees a young man enjoying his beer and at another tables, he sees a man with his hands over his stomach, hat over his eyes, and fast asleep and snoring. The ranger approaches the young man at the bar and says he is on a mission to bring Jose Rivera back to the Texas, dead or alive. “Can you help me find him?” he asked. The young man smiled, pointed to the other man whose asleep, and said, “That is Jose Rivera.”
The ranger approaches the sleeping bandit and tapping him on the shoulder he says, “Are you Jose Rivera?” The man mumbled back, “No speak English.” So the ranger turns to the young man and asks for some help translating.
It was difficult at first but they finally develop this rhythm of first the ranger speaking, then the young man translating, Jose responding to young man and then the young man telling the ranger what Jose had said. It got to the point where the ranger finally warned Jose Rivera and that he had two choices; the first was to let him know where all the loot he had stolen was hidden, in which case he could walk away a free man. The second choice was that if he would not reveal where the money was stashed, he would be shot dead instantly.
Jose Rivera pulls himself together and said to the young man, “Tell him to go out of the bar, turn to the right, go about a mile, and he will see a well. Near the well he will see a very tall tree. Beside the trunk of that tree is a large concrete slab. He will need help in removing it. Under the slab is a pit in the ground. If he carefully uncovers it he will find all the jewelry and most of the money I have taken.” The young man turned to the ranger, opened his mouth…swallowed… paused—and then said, “Jose Rivera says…’Go ahead and shoot!’”
We can be tempted to do something wrong often in life. What are we supposed to do and how are we to act? How are we to handle temptation? Let’s read about this in James 1:1-18 Please stand if you are able as we read God’s Word.

Read Passage – James 1:1-18
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Testing and Temptations
Today we begin a study from the book of James. Some people avoid James because they see it as a book about actions and some interpret that as an attempt to earn our salvation by works. That can be a bit short sighted. Faith in Jesus saves us but that our actions have a lot to do with how others see us and that the way we conduct our life and the faith we profess. Our passage brings up something that can be a struggle for some people, testing and tempting. This comes from verse 13:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…” vs.13

Some people see God as a big punisher. A God who sits up there and dangles evil in front of us hoping we do something wrong so he can thump us on the head or punish us for doing the wrong thing. They look at God as mean and someone who takes pleasure in our pain. How do you see him? Is he your loving Father or some evil ruler or even someone who takes pleasure in others pain?

Our passage brings up two things we need to distinguish between; testing and tempting, especially in the face of the difficulties we face.
1) Tempt – Tempt is to entice someone to do wrong. It usually includes the allure of some type of pleasure, fulfillment or gain
Ex. You are tempted to cheat on taxes to get more money, to gain something
2) Test – To produce a reaction with the intent of identifying or developing character, skill, or knowledge.
Ex. You study hard in school, takes tests, etc. to learn a skill or to gain knowledge to help you in life

Why is this so important? James makes it clear that God does not tempt us. Understanding this gives us a guide to discern when struggles and difficulties come if are they meant to lead us to do wrong, which tells us they are not from God, or if they are meant to hone our skills, our faith, our character, then we know that it could be God testing us. God is not tempting us to do evil, he is protecting us.
Ex. A loving father would not let his child run into the street while playing because it is dangerous. We look at it as an infringement on our rights. The father is trying to protect the child and do what’s best for them.

The Deception of Satan
That is important because James tells us in verse 16:

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” vs. 16

Satan is a liar, he will attempt to deceive us into believing that God is trying to tempt us when, in fact, he is behind the temptation. We can also be deceived into believing that the good things in life are from Satan so James makes it clear in verse 17 that all good gifts are from God. God will never tempt you, God will never deceive you, God only wants to understand that good gifts are from him, and Satan wants to take credit for those. I Peter tells us Satan is like a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour, to buy into his lies.

So we need to be discerning when it comes to the circumstances of our lives. When we understand what God is trying to do for us, build our character, make us stronger and healthier, and that Satan is trying to deceive us, we can move forward with greater clarity and strength.

Four Choices for Hard Times
James addresses four choices we have to make during the hard times of life. So I am going to give you 8 words in 4 examples that you face in life when it comes to hard times.

1. Joy vs. Happiness
The first choice, realizing that we all face struggles and difficulties, is what are you looking for, joy or happiness? He says in verse 2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” vs. 2

Anybody going through some tough issue this week and you said to yourself; “I am so joyful right now?” Probably not likely. I am using the NIV and it uses the word consider. Some of you may be using a version that uses the word count. Whichever is good but understand that this an accounting term. It means to take stock of. Consider carefully. Investigate fully. Line up all the numbers them add them all up. This is where it is so important to discern the truth. God calls us to be joyful. That is truth. God does not call us to be happy.

Happiness – a temporary pleasure.
Ex. I am happy when I eat ice cream. (I am not as happy later when I have to work it off at the gym or when my diabetic numbers are out of whack.

Joy – deeper delight; A deeper state of well-being; longer contentment.
Ex. Marriage-I love my wife but I am not always happy. We can be in a disagreement or sees things differently and that’s okay. I might not be happy at the moment, but I am joyful that I am married to her and I don’t want that to change.

I found this saying about joy: Joy is the byproduct of obedience. -Author Unknown So, what James is saying is make the hard choice about wanting the long term joy and sometimes that means giving up the temporary happiness. Not always, but sometimes it is necessary. Paul wrote in Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Notice it says as you trust him. Circle that. Your choice here is to choose God and his ways. It might not feel good at the time, might not give you happiness, but in the long run you find his joy.

2. Perseverance vs. Quitting
The choice we have James confronts us with in verse 3:

“…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” vs. 3

James really helps us here in our decision making because he tells us in the middle of this verse that “the testing of you faith.” Circle that. You will be tested. But that is good. Testing builds perseverance. I will be honest, sometimes it’s easier to quit. But if we want long term results, it comes through testing. Think about it, we don’t get stronger or build character by being stagnant or stationary. Perseverance, endurance and strength come in testing and working and challenges. But perseverance is hard.

Now there are some things that are worth quitting. Things that hurt us like smoking, over eating, lying, etc. But there are things we need to push through to really find the benefit and perseverance we need.
Ex. Hiking – in Tahoe and wanting to give up. If you quit too soon you miss the beauty and incredible views from the top. (Show picture)
Paul writes in Gal. 6:9:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

Notice again this is a trust issue. Do you trust God? His timing? It says in the verse “at the proper time.” We want our time but we need to trust God’s timing and his plan.

3. Maturity vs. Immaturity
The third choice comes in verse 4 where we are called to maturity vs. immaturity:

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” vs. 4

This is really the test of building our character. It’s long-term. The best way to grasp this is to think about the mature person compared to the immature person.
Immature – selfish, yell, get angry, have fits, unforgiving and basically hard to be around.
Compare that to the mature person.

Mature – thinks of more than themselves, doesn’t need to yell or scream, may get angry but is angry and still in control, forgiving because they realize their own shortcomings, usually enjoyable to e around.
No one wants to be around a grown up acting like a child. Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:14-15 to:

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” Col. 3:14-5

Press on, that is the idea of working through it and toughing it out. But notice something else, circle “which God has called me.” God calls us to maturity. You were never meant to remain a child. Paul likens this in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians as eating meat compared to drinking milk. Milk is necessary for infants but adults, mature people, need solid food, something with substance.

4. Wisdom vs. Foolishness
Finally, the 4th choice is to choose wisdom or to choose foolishness, verse 5:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” vs. 5

I think most of us want wisdom, we want to be wise, and we want to be knowledgeable. I would even say that we have something in us that wants to have the answers and to be wise about life. But James touches on something we often forget and he calls us to put it first, it’s in the middle of the verse, “you should ask God.” Bear with me on this but this is what we are being challenged to:

Foolishness – trusting yourself and relying on your wisdom
Wisdom – asking God for insight and trusting and relying on him.

We don’t have to know it all. We don’t have to have all the answers. Solomon, a wise man in his own right, wrote in Proverbs 8:11:

“…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:11

We do have knowledge, we do have people with lots of intelligence and knowledge, but the ultimate wisdom and knowledge comes from God.

Receiving the Crown of Life
James says that it all comes down to this, what we find in verse 12:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” vs. 12

The result is that having “stood the test,” we receive the crown of life. This is where we realize that we cannot do it on our own. No matter how good we are, how hard we try, and how much we accomplish, we still cannot do it on our own. But…Jesus could and Jesus did. He can do what we could not. We are called to be more like him and though we can never make it on our own, we don’t have to because he did it for us. Christ accomplishes what we couldn’t. So when we trust him, through his power and strength, through his example and his sacrifice, we receive the crown of life. His work gives us the strength to make the hard choices.

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Prayer in the Garden

Prayer in the Garden

Matthew 26:36-46

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…” vs. 36

Hit Hard and Fast

Deborah Greene was picking up her groceries at a Whole Foods in Georgia, USA, in April last year when she got a tearful phone call from her brother, breaking the news. Her father, Lowell Herman, age 72, took his own life just two months before he would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary. Writing on her blog, Reflecting Out Loud, she said she broke down in tears and fell to the floor – but instead of ignoring her or walking away, others in the store came over to her and comforted her, called her husband and made sure she got home safely.

This is her blog post in full:

“Dear Strangers,

I remember you. Ten months ago, when my cell phone rang with news of my father’s suicide, you were walking into Whole Foods, prepared to go about your food shop, just as I had done only minutes before.

But I had already abandoned my cart full of groceries and I stood in the entryway of the store. My brother was on the other end of the line. He was telling me my father was dead, that he had taken his own life early that morning and through his own sobs, I remember my brother kept saying, “I’m sorry Deborah, I’m so sorry.”

I can’t imagine how it must have felt for him to make that call.

And as we hung up the phone, I started to cry and scream, as my whole body trembled. This just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be happening. Only moments before I was filling my cart with groceries, going about my errands on a normal Monday morning. Only moments before my life felt intact.

Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned. And you kind strangers, you were there.

You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn’t.

No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs: “My father killed himself. He killed himself. He’s dead.” And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream, “Why?” I must have asked it over and over and over again.

I remember in that haze of emotions, one of you asked for my phone and asked who you should call. What was my password? You needed my husband’s name as you searched through my contacts. I remember that I could hear your words as you tried to reach my husband for me, leaving an urgent message for him to call me. I recall hearing you discuss among yourselves who would drive me home in my car and who would follow that person to bring them back to the store.

You didn’t even know one another, but it didn’t seem to matter. You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose, to help. I remember one of you asking if you could pray for me and for my father. I must have said yes, and I recall now that Christian prayer being offered up to Jesus for my Jewish father and me, and it still both brings tears to my eyes and makes me smile.

In my fog, I told you that I had a friend, Pam, who worked at Whole Foods and one of you went in search of her and thankfully, she was there that morning and you brought her to me. I remember the relief I felt at seeing her face, familiar and warm. She took me to the back, comforting and caring for me so lovingly until my husband could get to me.

And I even recall as I sat with her, one of you sent back a gift card to Whole Foods; though you didn’t know me, you wanted to offer a little something to let me know that you would be thinking of me and holding me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. That gift card helped to feed my family, when the idea of cooking was so far beyond my emotional reach.

I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all.

If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would’ve done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day that I didn’t have to find out.

Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life-altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured.

You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity, each and every day.”

(Last updated Fri 11 Mar 2016)

In a time where we see the world going crazy over the dumbest of thing, where many people seem to be concerned only about themselves, there is s till a ray of hope. But this is real life, right? Things are going along and BAM! you get hit with something you never expected, couldn’t imagine, and it just throws you for a loop. So, let’s see how Jesus handled hardship. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from Matthew 26:36-46.

Read Passage – Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Oil Press

We are continuing our study of the last week of Jesus life and the events that led up to his death and resurrection. Last week we saw the gift of communion as Jesus met in the upper room with the disciples. Today we see Jesus in another place, verse 36:

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…” vs. 36

Anybody know what Gethsemane means? It is derived from the Aramaic language and it means:

Gethsemane = OIL PRESS

I just discovered this and I find it fascinating. The place where Jesus goes to pray and to pour himself out before God, to seek God’s will and where he is feeling the pressure of what is about to happen to him is called “oil press.” It’s interesting if you try to look up Gethsemane and Jesus prayer at this place. People try to make it more palatable, less stressful. Here, I’ll show you a few pictures of how people have portrayed it. (Show pictures) if you remember in the text it says Jesus fell face down. It says he is in deep sorrow. None of these pictures really portray that and that is why I choose the background picture I did today, it does a little better job of showing the deep sorrow and the posture that Jesus took while he was praying.

The reason I think this is significant is in these times, an oil press was a large stone in a large stone vat that crushed the olives and extracted the olive oil. That first crush is where we get our virgin olive oil. They would crush those same olives a second time and that is where we get the extra virgin olive oil. If you did it a third time, it was extra extra virgin olive oil.

The point is this; this c rushing the olives was a strenuous process for the olives. Now we see Jesus in a strenuous time of his life. He is facing the biggest challenge of his life.

Gradual Awareness

What we are seeing as we work through this last week of Jesus life is a gradual awareness that what Jesus came to earth to do is now at hand. He is preparing his disciples to see this as well. He is trying to make them gradually aware that he is fulfilling his purpose for coming to earth and it’s a bit different than they understand it. Notice when he is in the upper room he tells them about the bertrayal that will soon take place, Matt. 26:21:

“And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’” Matt. 26:21

Then he narrows it to one of the closest men to Jesus will betray him:

“Then Jesus told them, “’This very night you will all fall away on account of me…’” Matt. 26:31

Then he takes the 11 with him to get away, Luke 22:39:

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” Luke 22:39

Next they see Jesus begin to express his emotions, verse 37:

“…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” vs. 37b

Then they see him in deep sorrow and overwhelmed, verse 38:

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” vs. 38

What happens next is we see the character of Jesus come out as he deals with this overwhelming sorrow. I think it is important to remember that his sorrow is not about dying and death. That would be a natural assumption. I believe his sorrow is more that he is going to experience something that is something he has never felt and never wanting to know; being forsaken by God. He is part of the Trinity, the triune God of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There has always been a natural flow of these three working together and the unity that bring as one God and now that will be broken. Now Jesus will take on the sins of all mankind and feel the sorrow that comes from having God forsaking you. It was what we were supposed to feel but Jesus is doing that on our behalf.

Jesus Set the Example of What to Do

What do you do in those times of deep sorrow? How do you handle that overwhelming sorrow and forsaking? When we realize that Jesus feels all that we feel and went through all that we go through, we see three traits of his character that we can put into our lives as well.

  • He Included His Close Friends

First, Jesus included his close friends. Jesus and his disciples went tot the garden to pray. He goes a little further and takes his three closet companions with him; vs 37:

“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him…” vs. 37

One of the things that happen when we go through struggles and difficulties is we feel very alone. Our tendency is to make that true by separating ourselves from those closest to us. In separating ourselves we make sure that the feeling we have of being alone comes true. We are kind of self-predicting and making something happen that is not meant to happen. We actually create our own pity party and we do exactly what God does not want us to do; depend on ourselves. We get to that point where we say things like:

I can handle this

I can make this happen

I can take care of myself.

This is the time for me to take care of me

Here is where Jesus teaches us; we were not meant to go through things alone. He takes his closest friends when he could have said, “I just need to be alone with God.” We not only need others, we rob others of the gift of friendship of being there for us.

Ex. Something good happens and you want to call your friends. What about when something bad happens. Many times we are saying: Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell me?

  • He Went to God

The second character trait we see is that when he is down, when he is struggling he turns to God. Notice the intimacy and struggle of Jesus in verse 39:

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” vs. 39

Jesus takes a posture of humility and trust. First notice the intimacy that is expressed in Jesus addressing God by saying “My Father.” Remember I said we tend to pull away in times f struggle. Not Jesus. He moves to intimacy and remembering that close relationship he has with God the Father. He not only recognizes it he depends on it.

And…notice that we only get a short version of a much longer time of intercession with God. The passage tells us he went a stones throw from the three, and then prays. While he is praying, they fall asleep. I am guessing they didn’t fall asleep in just one sentence. But we get the important part of the prayer. His plea to God.

Note that Jesus started his ministry by being tempted by Satan to abandon his true calling of being the Messiah. He is now being tempted again, and it is the greatest temptation he ever faced, to abandon his purpose of being the Messiah and the sacrifice that needed to be made for our sin. The text tells us about this in verse 41:

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” vs. 41

The disciples are facing the same temptation he is, to turn away from the plan. But Jesus is confident in God’s sovereign plan and perfect will so he prays that his will not be followed, but that God’s will be completed. Jesus is not altered by the unique events that are about to happen.

  • He Went to God Again and Again

And the third character trait we see in Jesus in the garden is he doesn’t just pray once and it’s done. No, he went to God again, and again. Three times he prays the same thing; verse 42:

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’” vs. 42

The second prayer is slightly different but the message is the same. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking we pray about something once and that’s all that is needed. Yet, our minds never stop thinking about our struggles. It’s interesting we continually think about our struggles but think we can pray once and takes care of it.

Ex. Our weekly prayer list. The health issues with loved ones that we keep on the list for continual prayer.

But notice twice is not enough for Jesus. He goes to God a third time. This shows his deep struggle with this and the need to keep talking to talk about it. Verse 44:

“So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time…” vs. 44

Sometimes we can pray once and then we still are not settled about it. But going to God again and again shows our willingness to let God be the judge, let God be in control, and let God work his plan and that we are dependent on him. Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:17

“…pray continually…” 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Aren’t you glad that Paul didn’t say just pray once? No, Paul is really telling us that our lives are to be in continual communication with God. The real truth is that God wants us to be in constant communication with him. It’s good to pray the same thing over and over again if that is what is on your mind.

Result: God Gave Him the Strength

The end of this passage shows us the result of going to God again and again with our struggles and difficulties; he gives us his strength.

“Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” vss. 45-46

Jesus is now prepared to face those that are going to mock, ridicule, persecute and kill him. We learn obedience in suffering It’s talking with God that gives him strength to move forward.

About 15 years ago I took the challenge to memorize some of the Psalms. One was Psalm 46. I love this Psalm and the first verse I repeat often. It says:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Through Jesus character we see this verse implemented in our lives. Jesus let God be his refuge and strength in his time of trouble. Through Jesus example we can do the same.

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The Gift of Communion

The Gift of Communion

Matthew 26:17-30

“Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples…”

A New Invention
On a hot August day, three brothers, Hyman, Maxwell and Norman Cohen entered the Dearborn, Michigan, offices of Henry Ford, the car maker. “Mr. Ford,” Norman Cohen, the eldest of the three said, “We have a remarkable invention that will revolutionize the automobile industry.” Ford looked skeptical, but when they threatened to offer it to his competitors, he listened with interest. Please, they said, “We would like to demonstrate it to you in person.”

After a little convincing, they brought Mr. Ford outside and asked him to get into the black automobile parked in front of the building. Hyman Cohen, the middle brother, opened the door of the car. “Please step inside, Mr. Ford.” “What!!!” shouted the tycoon, “Are you crazy? It must be two hundred degrees in that car!!” “It is,” smiled the youngest brother, Max, “but please sit down, Mr. Ford, and push the white button.” Intrigued, Ford pushed the button. All of a sudden a whoosh of freezing air started blowing from vents all around the car, and within seconds the automobile was not only comfortable, it was quite cool.

“This is amazing !” exclaimed Ford. “How much do you want for the patent?”
Norman said, “The price is one million dollars.” Then he paused. “And there is something else. We want the name ’Cohen Brothers Air-Conditioning’ must be stamped right next to the Ford logo!” Ford replied “The money is no problem, but there is no way I will have your name next to my logo on my cars!”

They haggled back and forth for a while and finally they settled. Five million dollars, but the Cohens’ last name would be left off. However, the first names of the Cohen brothers would be forever emblazoned upon the console of every Ford air conditioning system. And that is why even today, whenever you enter a Ford vehicle, you will see those three names clearly printed on the air conditioning control panel:  NORM, HI and MAX. J

A little fun humor as we embark preparing for Easter and this season.   For the last 2,000 years Christians take the time to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death in these weeks just before Easter. Some churches recognize this by celebrating lent.

Read Passage – Matthew 26:17-30

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Growing up when I did, I remember how everyone seemed to have basic Christian beliefs, even if they didn’t believe them, and it was common to ask where someone might go to church. In fact, everyone kind of understood what sin was.

Point: I think that is why people could go door to door or stand on a street corner and people would actually talk about sin.

Not so today. Not only do people today tend not to believe in sin. It’s not uncommon for people to say something like, “What is sin?”

Ex. Claudia and I have some good friends who we love and respect but they don’t believe in sin. I am purposely not sharing their name or belief system but I wanted to give you an example of how people think today. They go around the world teaching these values. They believe (in a nutshell):

  • Everyone comes into the world with a bright and pure heart.
  • Every person was once thought of a cute, cuddly precious, and even miraculous.
  • At some point in our growth we were all hurt.
  • Because of that hurt we begin to protect ourselves so we build walls and barriers to do that
  • Some of these walls and barriers are the self-destructive behaviors we practice like drugs, abuse, disorders, negativity, violence and even suicide
  • Regardless of our hurts and barriers, we are all intrinsically good

The passage that we are looking at today has much of that same flavor. Sure the Israelites believed in sin but the Romans didn’t care about the Jewish religions or traditions. So when Matthew begins this passage he talks about things the Israelites would understand because his book was meant to be heard by the Jews. He mentions something that the Israelite people would all know very well; the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a celebration that happened for 7 days prior to the Passover. This feast was the remembrance of Jewish people fleeing Egypt. In their quick exit they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, the effects of the yeast, so they had to eat unleavened bread, bread without yeast. In Deut. 16:3the Jews are commanded to eat the “bread of affliction” or unleavened bread for 7 days. Yeast, also called leaven, eventually came to be a symbol that represented sin because it fermented the dough and it naturally led to the decay of the bread. . So one of the traditions that the Israelites practiced was to clean their houses to make sure there is no yeast, not a drop, anywhere during this time.

The Passover

Then came the Passover. Passover is the celebration of the final plague that God used to free the Jews from the Egyptians. In that final plague, there is a whole meal the Jews were to take part of and it meant slaughtering a lamb and spreading the blood on the doorposts and frames so that when the plague came at night, God’s hand would “pass over” that house with the blood and the firstborn would be spared.

So why is all this important? Good question. Because this is all meant to lead to Jesus Christ. Even the Jewish people were of the time this passage was written were waiting and hoping for the Messiah. Prior to this time Jewish people need to make atonement for their sin. Jesus comes to live among us and lead us to God and to die on the cross to atone for our sin. It says in Phil. 2:8:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Phil. 2:8

You see, sin is real and in order for us to be restored into a full relationship with God that sin needs to be atoned for. Jesus Christ pays the price once and for all. His sacrifice covers sin forever. Now where that leads us to is communion; the remembrance of what Jesus Christ did for us through his death and subsequent resurrection. He paid the price once and for all.

God’s Gift of Communion to Us: Look…

And here is what we discover; communion is a gift. It is God’s gift to us to never forget what Jesus Christ did for us. And that gift has some really important understanding that comes with it. It calls us to look at certain things.

  • Back and Forward

First, we are called to look back and to look forward, much in the same the Israelites were looking back but always looking forward too. The disciples ask in verse 17b:

“Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” vs. 17b

It pointed the Israelites back to the Passover and God’s redemptive work free the Israelites from the Egyptians after 400 years of captivity and slavery. God wants us to know history, that’s why we have His Word. History is important. Hopefully we learn from history. For us, communion points us back to the death of Christ and his redemptive work on the cross.

The Israelites were also called to look forward to the appearing of their Messiah. So we too are called to look for the return of Christ. Looking forward points us to the time when we will celebrate again in the heavenly realms with Christ himself. Jesus talks about that in verse 29 when he tells the disciples:

“I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” vs. 29

We look back with thankfulness and we look forward with anticipation.
Ex. I think we do this in a practical sense as well. We remember those we love and care about but look forward to spending eternity with them. I think it is natural for us to look both back and forward.

  • Inward

Another direction communion points us is inward. Communion is s time of self-examination and confession. 1 Cor. 11:28 tells us:

“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” 1 Cor. 11:28 

This is a time of inward reflection and purification. The way that is done is by taking a hard look at yourself and being honest with yourself. We have to get real and honest with ourselves and humble ourselves before God. This is hard stuff and not very fun. Looking inward drives us back to the cross and the realization that there is a price to be paid for our sin. That’s hard to admit and confess. But…through it comes of the gift of forgiveness. We are assured that God forgive every sin (vs. 28) and that nothing, not even sin, can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).

  • Up

Next, communion directs us to look up. Looking up is the idea of seeing God and seeing things the way he sees things. I would even challenge you on this that the call is to have a bigger vision; a bigger vision of life, of material things, and of trying to discover God’s bigger plan. Col. 3:1-2 says:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col. 3:1-2

Circle “set your mind on things above.” The clue here is that we tend to put a lot of value and importance on earthly, temporary things. Those things are gifts to us from God but should never have greater importance than eternity. When we set our minds on earthly things we get self-centered, a narrow focus, and frustrated because the earthly things can never completely satisfy. But…when we set our minds on things above we find hope and encouragement.

Ex. Struggle with dad’s health and death

  • Around

Communion is also meant to cause us to look around. Communion was never meant to be practiced alone. Think about this; this sacrament goes all the way back to the time of Moses. The first Passover was celebrated with family and the mandate from the Old Testament is to celebrate it with family. Christ also set the example for us as we see in verse 21:

“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.” vs. 21

Jesus celebrated communion with the 12 disciples, those closest to him on this earth. We are called to celebrate communion with those we worship with because we will be together for eternity. In fact, look around for a moment, you are going to spend eternity with those around you…and so many more.

Ex. Introducing someone in the congregation to those who have gone before us

1 Corinthians 10:17 says:

“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”

1 Cor. 10:17

We are one, just as the there is only one loaf in the communion.

Ex. The old way of taking the loaf and passing it and pulling a piece off. Had to stop for sanitary reasons.

  • Out

And finally, communion causes us to look out. By out what I mean is that it is an expression to those outside of the church that we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, and that salvation is a free gift that comes from the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:26:

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Cor. 11:26

But this message is two-fold. Notice that Paul uses the word proclaim. First we are proclaiming to the world what we believe. But, secondly, we are proclaiming that all are welcome to come. We want everyone to know the gift that comes through Jesus Christ and to live in the love, peace, joy, and strength that God provides.

Eternity with the Lamb

As we take communion, we are proclaiming now but we will also be proclaiming in eternity the good news of Jesus. Rev. shows us a glimpse of heaven and those there proclaiming:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Rev. 5:12

We have this incredible gift of salvation that comes through only one person; Jesus Christ. So let us proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection this morning.

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Living Vertically

Living Vertically

Psalm 1

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous…”

The Breakout

In November 1975, 75 convicts started digging a secret tunnel designed to bring them up at the other side of the wall of Saltillo Prison in northern Mexico. They dug for months and covered each other while they worked. They figured out how to get the tools they needed, how rid of the dirt, and scheduled they digging in such a way that they wouldn’t get caught. On April 18, 1976, they were successful in breaking through. Here’s the problem; they tunneled up into the nearby courtroom in which many of them had been sentenced. The surprised judges returned all 75 to jail to finish their sentences with time added for the attempted breakout.

Great plans but…didn’t you have to ask yourself: Didn’t anybody check to see where they were going? Doesn’t anybody out of 75 know how to plan and make this thing happen the right way? What do you think? Here’s where I think it takes us: We do the same thing. I do things and think It’s going to be great and I mess it up, head the wrong direction, end up in the wrong place, etc.

If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from Psalm 1:

Read Passage – Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Functional or Intentional

We have been on a journey to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and discovering what it takes to be in emotional health and how that drives us to a deeper relationship with God. One of the struggles that comes in Christianity is how to take our relationship with God to a deeper level. In fact, it could be said that many Christians are not intentional about their relationship with God but they are more functional. Let me explain and challenge you on this.

Functional is the idea of being useful but it isn’t necessarily moving forward.

                                Functional: Useful

Useful is that you are functioning but not necessarily thriving. Functioning is going through the motions, the same routines, the same schedules, filling our lives with a lot of things that keep us busy but don’t necessarily do much for us.

It’s the idea that we get up each day, go through our morning routine of coffee, breakfast, commute and then get through the day at work and come home and take care of a few things and though we got through the day, we might not necessarily feel that much was accomplished. We even get that way with our relationship with God. For example, I read my bible, said prays before each meal, maybe tried to memorize a verse, etc.

The challenge for us might be to be more intentional about our life. Intentional is the idea of having a conscious plan and having a direction.

                                Intentional: Direction

Intentional takes it to a deeper level. It’s the idea of having a plan and working toward something and doing things that help you achieve that plan. It’s having direction in life and having direction when it comes to my relationship with God. It’s taking active steps to purposely grow in your walk with God and seeing his plan unfold before you and know that you are in His will.

I think we get intentional living when it comes to our careers, our family, and a few other things. Many of us have a plan and a course set out for us to achieve certain things in our careers and we work with everything we have to achieve that. The same is true for our family but that is a bit more of a challenge at times. But here is the challenge: Are we progressing in our relationship with God or are we just getting by, just going through the motions without any real direction or goal? That’s a hard question.

The Need for Revival

One of the things that brought this to mind was some reading I was doing and the author put this idea out there: We all need revival. I know my eyebrows raised when I read that. Sure some do but everyone? When I think of revival I think of a church movement or maybe even something that “those” people need. Whoever “those” people are. But the author challenged me and I want to challenge you with it as well because he convicted me.

Revival – an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit. This includes conviction of sin, renewal, assurance of grace, and growing closer in our relationship with God.

When I read that, I realized I needed revival; everyday! I don’t want to be a Christian going through the motions, functioning but not having direction when it comes to my life with God. I would even go so far as to say that we all need revival, every day! Sin is constantly robbing me of my intimacy with God and the only way to get it back is revival. Confessing my sin, realizing how much I am loved by God, and his assurance of his joy, peace, and grace in my life and my true heart’s desire to walk more closely with God.

Living Intentionally for God: Consider…

Through Psalm 1 we see what it is to live intentionally for God. In fact, David touches on 4 things for us to consider about how we live our life and how it helps us deepen our relationship with God.

  1. Who You Hang Around

The first consideration comes in the first verse where he challenges us to consider “who we hang around.” He says in verse 1:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers…” vs. 1

The challenge is to consider who we hang around with because we tend to be like those we hang around. We tend to mimic those we hang around and do the things they do, say the things they say and act the way they act. This actually comes pretty naturally to us.

Ex. My brother, grew up together, same family, same everything, now that he lives in Texas, he says things like “y’all” and “howdy”.

We have to ask ourselves what we look for in those we hang out with? We have to acknowledge how easily we are led astray and that our tendencies are to imitate and mimic. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:33:

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 1 Cor. 15:33

Now let me be really clear here, this isn’t saying we should not associate with non-Christians. We need to go to the character of people and their heart. There are many non-Christians who have good character and are good people and we can benefit greatly from their friendship. This is telling us to look for people with good character, good hearts, and people who build up and encourage, people who challenge us in a good way, and people who have our best interest in mind. Solomon wrote in Prov. 27:17:
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Prov. 27:17

We need people who can sharpen us and sometimes that means they challenge us and push us but always with our best interest in mind. We need people who challenge our beliefs and thoughts and are willing to walk and work with us.

Ex. Draymond Green Golden State Warrior Forward – Since his early childhood had a love affair with Michigan State University and basketball. His goal to play for them. In his freshman year of high school he was influenced by friends to cheat on a Science. Caught. Mom kept him out of basketball that summer. Coaches, parents, everyone tried to talk her out of it. She wouldn’t budge. Green kept waiting for her to cave in and she didn’t. He got the point. Green grew up that summer, grew up into a man who would be more than another player on a lengthy all-time roster at Michigan State. “I never got less than a 3.2 [GPA] after that,” he said. “That summer, it really made me look at things. If it wasn’t for that, if my mom didn’t do what she did, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be playing at Michigan State because I wouldn’t have had the grades.”

  1. What You Think About

The second consideration is to consider what we think about, what we are basing our beliefs and philosophies of life on. Verse 2 says:

“…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” vs. 2

You might want to circle “Delight in the law of the Lord.” There ae a lot of teachings out there and a lot of good things that we can learn. But I will caution you with this: What does the Bible says? God gave us his word to be our guide and to help us through this life. We need to be wise and discerning when it comes to how we live our life and we need to put thought into our actions and beliefs. Now God has given us a brain as well and there are a lot of things that we have decision making on.

Ex. Food, clothes, sometimes jobs, relationships etc.

But God gave us his word as a guide and a rule for living. He wants to live a life that is filled with his joy and peace and love. A good example of what to thinka bout and consider comes in Phil. 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

I think the problem is we haven’t committed to living by God’s way because we aren’t taking the time to think about them.

-You can’t know God’s ways if you’re not reading His Word

-You can’t know God’s ways if you’re not talking to him (prayer)

-You can’t know God’s ways if you are being led astray by false teaching

  1. Where You Get Fed

The third consideration is where you get fed. David uses imagery for us to grasp this point. He says in verse 3:

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season…” vs. 3

One of the things I love about God’s Word is that it gives us some word pictures that I know help me “get it.” So think about this for a second. Where do you see the most growth in nature? Yes, near water. Why? Because water brings the nutrients and sustenance that we need to get through life.

Ex. The lawns at the church during the drought

The things that grow in Black Diamond Mines and Park – Notice things grow near the ponds, the water areas, etc. the places where the roots can get down and deep and find the water necessary to grow and thrive.

Paul states in Col. 2:6-7:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col. 2:6-7

Circle the word “rooted.” Roots get down in the ground and they pull the nutrients into the plant and send them to the right place so that the plant becomes strong and healthy.

What we put into ourselves, what we feed ourselves, has a lot to do with our health. We have to think about his in our physical diet. Some us have to be careful how much salt we take in, how much sugar, how much fat, etc. If we want our body to be strong we need certain vitamins and foods that help build us up.

Ex. Athletes in training.

Some things to consider about your spiritual nutrition:

-What you read (books, etc.)

-What you watch (TV, Movies, etc.)

-What you listen to (music, lectures, sermons, etc.)

-What you view on the internet

  1. How Dedicated You Are

And finally, the fourth thing to consider is how dedicated you really are to being a fully devoted follower of God and truly wanting to live in a way that reflects your commitment to him and your love for him. If we are not dedicated we are told what will happen to us, verse 4:

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” vs.4

Again I think there is a great word picture here. He talks about the chaff from grain plants. The chaff is the hard outside casing that protects the seed and when the seed is ready for harvest you can throw it up in the air and the chaff blows away while the good seed falls to the ground and is ready for use. Interestingly enough if you look up chaff in the dictionary one of the definitions is refuse or waste.

The real issue is the connectedness to the plant. The chaff isn’t really that connected. It’s just there until it’s blown away. We have to be sold out to being dedicated to developing a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. Another picture the Bible gives us of this is the vine and the branches. Jesus calls us to be a branch that is connected to the vine. A branch cannot grow, thrive and bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine. Jesus talks about this concept in John 15:4 where he says:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” John 15:4

Remain means to stay, keep on being connected.

Follow Jesus’ Example

To wrap this up, getting to Emotional Healthy Spirituality takes being intentional about how you live life and a commitment to living in a deeper relationship with God.

So we choose carefully who we hang around with by surrounding ourselves with people that encourage us, build us up and challenge us to be better. We consider what we think about by being committed to God’s ways by knowing his word and using it as a rule for our life, by purposefully choosing the things we put into our lives so that we are growing and nurtured by being properly fed, and by staying connected to God and walking deeper with him.

It takes focus, it takes commitment, and its takes intention.

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