Category Archives: James

Wait for It

Suddenly and unexpectedly slammed with grief, I prayed for comfort. God’s response was specific, clear and effective.  But it was not immediate.  I had to wait. I felt like the guy who prayed, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now!”  For whatever His reasons, God let me wait a bit.  When His comfort came, it washed over me in a sustained way.

But why would God delay, why make me wait?  It’s not as though comfort was on back order.  The All Sovereign Lord of the Universe could have responded instantly.  Why wait? Perhaps it is to help us build faith.

Peter wrote about waiting for God’s promises, saying:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  (`1 Peter 1:6-7) 
James wrote about waiting after praying for wisdom, saying:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6)  
As we wait for God confidently and then have that trust vindicated, our “faith muscle” is developed.  As our faith grows, our relationship with God grows stronger.

Perhaps God also makes us wait to give us time to be spiritually strengthened and matured. Isaiah knew about waiting.  He wrote:

“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strengththey shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

Good comedians have a well developed sense of timing.  When one says, “Wait for it…” you know it’s worth the wait.  Better yet when God does.

Ears of Peace

A friend shouted at me because he suspected I had a different political opinion.  You too?  They say it’s going to get worse, no matter who wins the election.  But  it does not need to get worse around you. Not if you apply this simple principle, from Jesus’ little brother, Jimmy.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”  (James 1:19)
In arguments, most people pretend to listen while mentally lining up devastating rebuttal arguments. Listening is more than no moving your mouth.  Real listening strives to understand.  People raise their voices when they don’t feel understood.  If you quietly listen without criticizing, defending yourself or doing anything except try to understand what the other guy really means, he’ll settle down in a hurry.  Especially if you sincerely ask, in your own words, “Is this what you are trying to say?” Once he knows you understand – really understand, even though you may not agree –  most of the time the shouting will stop.  He may even be willing to listen to you.  

What would happen if everyone who follows Jesus took the lead in applying that principle in our divisive circumstances?  Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  (Matthew 5:9)

Homecoming

Have you burned your bridges to God?  Wandered too far?  Lots of people feel that way. But Jesus taught this truth:. If you want to go back, you cannot have gone too far from God.  Maybe what really is causing you to stay away is the fear you would not be received well. Jesus understood why people feel that way. That is partly why He told the story of the Prodigal Son.  To help us come to grips with God’s astonishing love and grace.

It’s easy to miss the passionate details He included.  He didn’t merely say, “The Father was glad his son returned.”. Take some time to consider what He did say, and to imagine God the Father receiving you home like this:

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  (Luke 15:20)

Jesus was not exaggerating. What are you waiting for?

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (​James 4:8a)

What Does God Think?

Do you order stuff online?  If you do, you trust the process – you place your order and truly expect to see it on your doorstep in a few days.  If not, you probably have suspicions.  Maybe you started to place an order, got everything filled out online and then thought, “I don’t know about this…” and failed to push the “submit” button.  You didn’t trust it completely.  Consequently, nothing is left at your door.

The same principle is true when it comes to asking God what He thinks.  Maybe you are considering a new job.  Or, “Is this the guy for me?”  Should you volunteer for some cause?  Is that what God wants?  When you pray about it, essentially what you are asking is,”God, please tell me what You think.”  If you pray that question but don’t really expect God to answer, you won’t receive it if He does.  It’s kind of like not pushing the “submit” button.  Your request is tentative.  You are not sure the process will work.  But, if you are fully convinced God wants you to know what He thinks, and is eager to share it with you, then your request is wholeheartedly sent off with the full expectation of an answer.  God says, a prayer like that will get answered.  James, talking about getting wisdom in times of trial, shares the principle:

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.  (James 1:5-8)

Look carefully at what that says. The problem is not that God won’t tell you what He thinks.  It’s that you can’t be sure you have really heard from Him.  Your mind goes back and forth on it, wondering if what you heard was really from Him.  But when you are convinced God will show you, He does and you trust it.

Because God’s wisdom is frequently contrary to the ideas of the world, it takes real faith to hear what God thinks.  Hearing what God thinks requires setting aside the ways of the world, listening and trusting.  Do that, and when God speaks you will know.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2)

 

 

Help

Nobody know which President said it first, but Abraham Lincoln, at his second inauguration, after taking the oath of office, added, “So help me God.”   I believe we are better served by a President who seeks and receives Divine help.  Especially in bestowing His kind of wisdom.

As you prepare to vote, consider the difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom as explained by Jesus’ brother, James:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  (James 3:13-18)

From where I sit, we have weeded out all the candidates open to godly wisdom.  

So help us God.

Practice Makes Perfect

Dad installed a chinup bar in a doorway and used it everyday.  He challenged me to a contest when I was visiting.  I was amazed at his stamina but still beat him – hey, I was 30 years younger.  But now, at the age he was, there’s no way I could measure up to what he did then.  Unless I practiced.  The training regimen of olympic athletes is scary intense.  They punish themselves with every greater challenges til they know they can push through them.

In a similar way, we are encouraged to accept the various trials of life as opportunities to train our faith and develop our capacity to patiently push through.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

To test a diving board, you jump on it, tentatively at first but then with greater and greater force.  If you can’t break it then you know it will hold you.  You trust it  Same thing with faith; you jump on it to know if it will hold.  You test faith with trials.  As you learn your faith will hold, you become more able to endure life’s trials with steadfastness.  You become “perfect and complete,” in the sense that you are “good to go” in the faith department.  The faith is not in your own toughness but in Jesus’ ability to hold you safe, no matter what.  Like this:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

Anger Danger

When people talk about our Presidential campaign process it is usually with a mixture of dismay and disgust. How did we get here?  The word most frequently used to explain the chaotic turn of events is “anger.”  Voters have become so angry with what has and has not been happening in our government that they latch on to candidates who seem to share their sense of anger.  It is happening on both the left and right sides of the aisle.

But watch out!  Anger is understandable, but rarely a reliable starting place for developing effective solutions.  They say, if you want to win a fist fight, make your opponent angry.  In his anger he will make mistakes.  If we vote for those who simply sound angry, we will likely have to live with their mistakes.

Anger is frequently caused by feeling misunderstood.  Trouble is, anger also leads us to stop listening to one another, to less understanding and then to more anger.  That is why so often in our, so-called, debates, more than one candidate shouts at the same time, neither one listening to the other.  Without listening and genuinely seeking to find common areas of understanding, it is impossible to work together toward solutions.

Consider this:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  –  (James 1:19–20 (NIV84))

Instead of voting for someone who merely sounds angry, what about voting for someone who thoughtfully listens and then seeks a real solution to what has made you angry?