Friday, August 27, 2010

How Will You Be Found? -- Prezi

Was Jesus Crazy -- Prezi

Is Jesus Marveled?

Who Are You to Judge?

It is so easy to look at others and point a condemning finger at the wrong in their lives.  One of the reasons humans are so quick to do this is because it takes the spotlight off them.  Some people like the lime light until that light exposes wrong in their lives.  Nobody can honestly say they like having their sin exposed.  Some people appreciate having Christians to whom they can be accountable hopefully decreasing sin’s frequency in their life, but knowing you need something and actually wanting it are two completely different emotions.  I know I should eat right if I am going to remain in good health, but that certainly does not mean I want to eat right; I would much rather be a glutton.  I know I need sin exposed in my life to eliminate it, but I would much rather keep it hidden and covered.  So, how should we deal with sin?

James wrote, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (4:11).  When we point our fingers at others’ sin, speak evil about them and judge them we completely go against what the inspired James wrote.  It is very tempting to “play God” about other people’s sin if you are trying to divert attention away from the sin that is in your own life.  When we “play God,” we again go against what James wrote next, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (4:12).  What a rhetorical slap in the face!

Let us not go without remembering what James’ brother, Jesus Christ, said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).  This certainly does not mean Christians should go without correcting sin because Jesus went on to say, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5).  Nowhere in this sermon did Jesus call for “righteous judgment.”  He only calls for Christians helping others remove the sin in there life only after Christians have dealt with the sin in there own lives.  So, who are you to judge?  Nobody, there is only one judge, so let’s leave it to him and concentrate on helping the sinner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who's Your Friend?

One of the biggest struggles within the Christian walk can be dealt with by determining who your friend is.  There is no gray area with this issue.  You are either friends with the world or you are friends with God.  You cannot be both, though many try.  James said clearly that this is the reason there are quarrels and fights among us, because our “passions are at war” within us (4:1).  When our desires are not met because we are trying to be friends with both sides we end up losing the battle to the world, thus sin.  “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2c).

James begs the question, “How is your spiritual life?”  Just because someone prays does not mean their spiritual life is healthy.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3).  You can pray all day long and yet still be a friend to the world which in turn makes you an enemy of the very one to whom you pray!  How ironic.  God is a jealous God, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5b).  How then can we deny the world and turn to God?  James breaks it down to humility.  “God gives grace to the humble” (4:6).

What does humility entail?  Ask the elementary boy how he felt when he wet his pants at school what humiliation means.  It literally means “to cause someone to lose prestige or status; to become humble in attitude” (BDAG 990).  If we can get off our high horse as humans and lose our prestige we can begin to deny the world and turn to God.  James wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (4:7-8).  If we can be spiritually strong enough to lose our prestige and realize our sin, we will “be wretched and mourn and weep” (James 4:9).  Only when we give up our friendship with the world can we truly sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  It is hard to tell someone you no longer want to be friends.  It takes courage and a lot of humiliation to have a conversation such as that.  James promised though, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (4:10).  Giving up friendship with the world will humiliate you, but the Lord will renew your prestige.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prezi and Podcast

I have embedded my Prezi presentation to this blog along with the Four Mile Hill church of Christ Podcast player. If you're interested, you could listen to my sermon entitled "Was Jesus Crazy?" and follow along in the Prezi player. Don't forget you can also subscribe to the podcast through iTunes as well.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Does Wisdom Look Like?

Have you ever had trouble matching a name to a face? Some people have a memory that can recall the face of someone they met several years ago. Others can recall names so easily because they paint a creative image of the person and associate it with something unique in their name. A common image in people’s mind for my name was and is Ole’ McDonald’s Farm. In fact, when I joined a club in college I had to sing “Ole’ McDonald had a Farm” and come up with a new animal each day of the week as a pledge name. This was so people could learn and remember my name. Incidentally, I did grow up on a small farm.

Could you put a face to a name like “wisdom;” how about “purity?” James asked, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (3:13). James wrote about two kinds of wisdom: that which “comes down from above” and that which is “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” (3:15). The face that is matched with earthly wisdom involves “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts” (James 3:14). James warned us that where these characteristics exist, “there will be disorder and every vile practice” (3:16). It seems like a pretty serious consequence for allowing earthly wisdom to dwell around you. James’ message is clear: if you discover bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart or the hearts of those around you, get out fast! If you remain, you will find yourself in a huge mess that may drive your soul straight to Hell.

Let us strive to match wisdom’s face to our lives. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). When you examine the lives of those around you the most, do these qualities surface? More importantly, can you see these characteristics in your own heart? A promise is made for us, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). The only way we can have the hope of heaven is to be righteous. This righteousness will come when we have the blood of the lamb washing our sins by a burial in baptism and obtain the wisdom from above by asking God (James 1:5).

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Goes Up Must Come Down

A law of nature that mankind has been bound by since the beginning of time is gravity. Sure, man has gone into space and experienced weightlessness, but the rule remains that what goes up must come down. This principle can be applied to what goes into our minds as well. In other words, what goes in must come out. Jesus said something similar to this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). If we fill our mind with things of this world, soon our actions will show our heart is not set on things above. Paul wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

As Christ followers, we must be cautious of what we allow to enter our minds. If we are constantly around negative people, they will soon rub off on us and our minds will be transformed into negative thinking. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Paul understood that we can be conformed to the world by the things we watch, listen to, read, participate in, and people we associate with.

When James wrote about taming the tongue, he described it as “a fire” (3:6). He even recognized, “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). Where does this fire get its fuel? Our speech strongly reflects the things we put into our minds. You are more likely to allow bad language to ooze into your vocabulary if you permit it into your mind. It may be a gradual progression we do not realize has happened. It may get to a point that, “With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10). Do not fool yourself into thinking you can keep spending time with that foul mouth co-worker, television show/movie, music artist, comedian, etc. and be able to tame your own tongue. What goes up must come down and what goes in must come out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Would You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?

When I was a boy, my brothers and I sometimes talked mean and said bad words we picked up at school. My parents let us know in a hurry that was not the way we should talk. They let us know in two specific ways that this manner of speaking was not prohibited. Sometimes, both of these methods were implemented because of a single offense if they deemed it necessary! The two means of course correction were the traditional spanking and the always classic washing the mouth out with soap. There are still debates today on which is worse! Both methods are still reminders to this day of how we ought to speak.

James knew that the tongue is a difficult beast to tame. Because of this, he warns us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man…” (3:1-2). When we visited the Smokey Mountains, my brother-in-law, Chris, pondered as we were riding horses what it would have been like to be the first person to tame a horse. The animal is so large it could trample a person to death if it wanted to. James described by putting a bit into its mouth, a tamed horse can be rode wherever the rider so desires. He also wrote about large ships being maneuvered by a small rudder wherever the pilot desires (3:3-4). “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5).

James’ point is that what we say has a huge impact on people’s perception of not just us, but Christ. To those self-righteous people who do not care what others think of them and the way they talk, James gives a whole new perspective. To become a Christian means to become a priest (1 Peter 2:9). When you become a priest, you are a teacher. Whether or not your profession is teaching, as Christians, we are teachers by default. As Christian teachers, we have to tame the tongue, the most difficult beast to break. If we do not learn to tame our tongue, our world may be “set ablaze by such a small fire.” So, would you kiss your mother with that mouth?