James 3 – The Tongue

James 3:1 – “Not many … should become teachers” James says, yet it seems that many want to teach or assume that they have something to teach. In some ways it makes me wonder even about blogging. So many folks with blogs. Should we assume to teach? Is there a difference between simply sharing one’s thoughts and observations that assuming to be a teacher? I guess, but I the warning still applies. James warns that teacher will be “judged with greater strictness” so anytime we share anything we ought to do so with humility and care, mindful of the impact our words can have. We ought to share what we do in the hopes to help, but not assuming that we have something that others need to hear. The difference, as always, is not in the specific actions but in the heart behind them. Too many proclaim with great confidence that God is saying so and so or that God wants such and such out of someone. We ought to be careful and slow to claim that we know the will of God outside of what He has put in writing for all of us.
James 3:2-12 – It’s in this context that James goes on to warn about the dangers of the tongue. He expounds from warning about what we teach to warning about what we say in general. What we say can do great harm and great good, and it is very easy to go from one to another. One who can truly control his tongue is an amazing man indeed, he says in verse 2.
We easily speak as if we know what God would have us say. We easily and carelessly throw our opinions around as if they do no harm. Certainly, we can become so careful that we say nothing and influence no one, and I wonder if I often fall into that trap, thinking that it is better to avoid the possibility of offense rather than speaking my convictions. James warns us, however, how easy it is to do harm with our words. In fact, he notes how man has tamed the most powerful creatures in nature, but still hasn’t figured out how to control his tongue (James 3:7-8).
The tongue is a powerful tool, able to instruct in the ways of God and able to tear down those it is used against. Just like any other power tool we might use, we must respect it and use it with care or we can destroy not only the work we intend to do with it, but the people involved.
James 3:13-18 – One might call this a mini-primer on how to tell if a leader is of God or not. Is he seeking peace or seeking his own advancement? Is he gentle, open to reason, merciful, impartial and sincere? We must not judge those who claim to lead us in the Lord by the world’s standards – monetary success, size of their following, praise of others – instead, we should look to his character.

James 2 – Favoritism and Faith and Works.

James 2:1-7 – The way of the world, and frankly too often the church, is to look at those ho are poor as failures. They made bad choices, or are not that bright, or else they wouldn’t be in that spot. James calls these things ‘evil thoughts’ in verse 4. If we are honest with each other, there are people that we are tempted to do the same with. They are harder to love because they are needy or maybe just annoying. Do you avoid them in the fellowship (or the workplace, school, wherever)? I know that I am tempted to. I see them on the caller ID or at church or wherever and I hope they won’t want to talk to me or I’m tempted to let the call go to voice mail. Oh, I know what I ought to do, so I take the call or have the conversation. But is that what Jesus or James would have us do, gut it out for the sake of doing the right thing?
Instead, I should pray to see them as Jesus does and have his heart to give to them. This goes back to that John Piper list of 5 ways to handle it when you don’t want to do what you ought. Instead fo gutting it out, we ought to pray for God’s heart.
I was tempted to leave most of this out, because, frankly, it’s embarrassing to admit. I have a hunch that many others have these same thoughts and temptations, however, and as disciples of Jesus, we need to be called higher. Jesus spent most of his time here with those who were outcast by society, why should we do any different? The only way we can do as He did, however, is to pray for the transforming work of the spirit in our hearts.
James 2:12-13 – James calls us to live under the law, not the old law but the “law of liberty”. In other words, as Paul taught, we are free to live God’s way as opposed to being slaves to disobedience. So we should live as one with the freedom, finally, to do the right thing.
What does being judges by the law of liberty mean? It means being judged on our mercy, according to James 2:13. So, having been set free and shown mercy, we must do the same. If we do not, we will not be shown the mercy we claim to embrace.
James 2:14-26 – Some like to point to this passage as saying that good works are required for salvation, even saying that James said that Abraham and Rahab were “justified” by their works. But if you read it properly, James is not saying that at all. he merely points out that the two go hand in hand. Faith without the “good deeds” to back it up is a lie, it simply isn’t faith. And note, he never talks about “Good deeds” apart from faith. The two are inseparable. If you claim one without the other, you deceive yourself.

Blog Maintenance – Complete

I have to do some database work on my blog, which will require taking the database offline. So, I’m closing comments site wide for a while. Hopefully won’t take longer than the weekend.
UPDATE: Maintenance is complete, comments are back open and salguod.net is now coming to you in fabulous UTF-8 character encoding. If you notice any goofy characters in any posts or comments, let me know.

Five for Friday

Ch'uwa YacuAn “Occassional Series” here at Salguod.net. Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.

  1. Agua Clara – Tu Nombre Empieza Con “N” from Ch’uwa Yacu
    This is one of a couple Peruvian flute based CD’s we got at street fairs. Great background music for having dinner guests. In searching for the album art, I discovered that I had reversed the band and CD name in my library, LOL Looks like you can download some of their music from their web site for free.
  2. Enya – Caribbean Blue from Shepherd Moons
    I love Enya adn have several of her CDs. Also great dinner guest music.
  3. Styx – All in a Days Work from Edge of the Century
    This is a great song that doesn’t sound like traditional Styx, probably mostly due to the lead singing not being Tommy Shaw or Dennis DeYoung. This post-reunion CD features short lived new lead singer Glen Burtnik. Great, acoustic almost folksy song with strings and even accordion and a thought provoking message.
  4. Southern Culture on the Skids – Shotgun from Mixx on the Fly – Live From Studio A Vol. 6
    I love these WCBE CDs and I have the first 9 of 11. This is a great, driving rockabilly song.
  5. Bangles – Crash and Burn from Everything
    Yeah, I like the Bangles. I guess I’m a sucker for a pretty girl-voice, what can I say. Typical 80’s style pop, which is not a bad thing.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

James 1 – Trials, Temptations and Obedience

Last night at church we had a little exercise centered on Jeremiah 36. There, King Jehoiakim is read a scroll that God had Jeremiah write. It was the words of God, delivered through Jeremiah (and a scribe and a servant) to the King. As the servant read it to the Kind,every few columns the King would slice it off and throw it into the fire pot. He was defiantly showing how little he cared about teh words of God, throwing out that which he didn’t like. (Frankly, I don’t think he was editing as much as discarding it outright, a distinction without a difference.)
So, we asked ourselves, what parts of the Bible would we like to discard? What bits could we do without? We may not burn them or physically rip them from the pages, but we ignore them, skim over them or simply focus on something else.
Martin Luther is rather famously known to have had trouble believing that the book of James should be in the Bible and last night it would seem that many of our congregation would agree as passages in James, or even the whole book,were targeted for removal.
The point of the exercise was not to edit the scriptures but to point out that we need to accept and submit to all of it. The words God gave to Jeremiah were given that perhaps the people would turn back to God. Jehoiakim defiantly ignored God’s word, and he paid a price for it. Perhaps then we should pay more careful to those passages that we find the most challenging. It’s in that spirit that I decided to start a study of James.

James 1:2 – This was one of those passages. Consider it a joy to be tested? We decided that we might even be OK with the trials, but would like to reserve the right to grumble and complain about them.
Frankly, this is something that even the world understands, however. “No pain, no gain”, right? How many times have you heard stories of folks who grew and triumphed out of severe trial? The fact is that not only has God decreed that his people shall learn from trails and testing, but he has set up the world that way. We grow through challenges, we learn through failure. Why then, not embrace it? Why not revel in the trials that God brings to strengthen us and make us steadfast, lacking nothing.
James 1:5-8 – James says if we lack wisdom, ask for it and God will give it to you. Have you ever connected that with James 1:2-4 where ‘lacking nothing’ starts with trials and testing? So, if we ask God to grow, we shouldn’t be surprised to see hardship come. If wee resist the trials, we resist God who is giving us what we asked for. We like to think that if we ask God for wisdom he will magically bestow it upon us, we will wake up the next morning wise beyond our years. The lessons of history is that God does not do that. Over and over, God’s people learned through trials. David being chased by Saul, Paul on the road to Damascus, Moses through the desert and many more. Jesus promises that God will prune us, Paul says that he disciplines those he loves.
So if you ask of God, be ready to joyfully receive the trials that will produce the growth you’ve requested.
James 1:12 – I always took this passage as a call to endure, to hold out until the trial is over. In the proper context, however, James is saying that being faithful isn’t simply enduring, it’s embracing the trail as a gift from God for our growth. The blessing comes from God through the trial, not in spite of it. If we can keep this in mind, how will it transform – and redeem – the trials we face?
James 1:13 – He makes a distinction here between trials and temptations. God sends us trials, but not temptations. We need to recognize the difference. Flee the temptations bot embrace the trials.
James 1:19-20 – I find myself needing to remember this a lot. A whole lot. I am quick to become angry by nature. God has given me victory over much of it, but I have far to go.
James 1:22-27 – And now we start to get into the bit that gave Luther fits. James says that our religion is worthless if we simply listen, we must act upon what we hear. How many do just that, they go on Sundays, maybe even Sunday School, Wednesdays and Bible study groups. Yet their daily life is not transformed by what they hear. It’s easy to point fingers, but we all know how easy it is to get sucked into the world, forgetting what we learned that Sunday or studied even that morning (or, ahem, lunch hour) in our Bibles. James calls us to a higher faith than mere belief, he calls us to the faith that Jesus did. After all, he called men to act out their faith in serving the poor, denying themselves and seeking the lost.
Faith must produce something in our lives or else it is not faith at all, or else it is merely philosophy, and a powerless one at that.

(Still Thinking About But Not) Living Intentionally

Well over a year ago, I wrote this post about living intentionally. In other words, deciding my path, doing what I know I should or what I believe to be best based on what God has shown me in the Bible rather than just going with the flow of life, wherever it may take me. Back in May of 2008 i wrote:

I sit down at my laptop every night and most days (like now) at lunch, but mostly I browse around the web looking at stuff. Some good stuff, like Codepoke’s blog or Jared’s blog (two you ought to read), but sometimes it’s just time killers. The online equivalent of reruns of M*A*S*H, something you do to have something to do.

Painfully, this is exactly where I find myself today. More and more distracted by the fluff of life, sitting on my bum watching re-runs of M*A*S*H, figuratively. Almost a year and a half later, and nothing has changed.
Today, however, I a this post from the Desiring God blog that opened my eyes. It was titled When You Don’t Want to Do What You Ought To and was an eye opener. In it, John Piper lists 5 ways of dealing with exactly what I’ve been feeling.
Choices 1-2 are basically ignoring the problem or fooling yourself into thinking that what you want and what you ought are one in the same. Options 3-4 are where many religious people live, gutting it out, doing what you ought even though you don’t feel like it and maybe feeling guilty about not wanting to.
I’ve realized that I’ve been living in Option 1 (denial) while trying or hoping to get to option 3 (just doing it).
Option 5, however, is where I need to be:

You can seek, by grace, to have God give the “want to” so that when the time comes to do the “ought to,” you will “want to.”

In other words, cry out to God to change my heart and make my desires line up with the good I ought to do.
My prayer life hasn’t been what it should be, shoot it’s been practically non existent. But my mental focus hasn’t been on reconnecting with God so that he might refresh me and renew in me the desires of His heart. Instead, I’ve been spending my mental energy trying to figure out how I can make room in my schedule, remove Twitter followers, readjust the feeds I subscribe to, change my viewing habits, rearrange my schedule or whatever so that I’ll be able to get myself to do the good things I ought. Instead, I should be on my knees, asking to be made ready to act. Not just in ability but, more importantly, in heart and desire.
it’s a fools errand, trying to change myself. I’m far too broken, far to limited in my intellect and far too weak to do so. All along, he stands at the ready to give me what my heart desires. All I have to do is ask.

Five for Friday

Heart - These DreamsHaven’t done this in a while, let’s see what comes up.
If you don’t remember, Five For Friday is an “Occassional Series” here at Salguod.net. Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.

  1. Heart – Barracuda from These Dreams: Heart’s Greatest Hits
    Strong start, great classic rock tune from one of the greatest female rock band of the 70’s.
  2. First Call – Bless Ye The Lord from Undivided
    Well, that was an awkward transition. Seventies rock to mainstream 80’s (1986) Christian song. Pretty standard Christian musical fluff from the era.
  3. Damn Yankees – Damn Yankee from Damn Yankees
    Speaking of awkward transitions, this one borders on unholy. I love these guys, Tommy Shaw’s vocals combined with Nugent’s guitar work makes for some great, driving hard rock. Great song.
  4. Poco – Call it Love from Legacy
    I love this pop tune with vaguely country guitar work. This was the single, but it’s not a bad CD altogether.
  5. IIIrd Time Out – Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There from Mixx on the Fly – Live From Studio A Volume 6
    Another from WCBE’s compilations. We seem to be on a Rock – Christian – Rock – Christian theme, although this is a Christian song by a Bluegrass group. This is a great A Capella song with bass lead. I frequently put this one on repeat and sing a long, although it scrapes the bottom of my range. Off IIIrd Time Out’s disk, Living on the Otherside

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

I Need More Than a Clean Slate

A common idea among Christians is that Jesus came and wiped our slate clean, washed us of our iniquities, cleaned us with his blood. It was recently pointed out to me that that’s not really accurate, or at least it’s incomplete, through a communion message by Mark Suyat (I hope I spelled that right, Mark), our new campus minister.
He used 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You see, God didn’t simply wipe sin from our slate clean of the sin we had carved into it, leaving it blank, clean and feature less. Not only has the old passed away, the new has come and we have become the righteousness of God. So, after wiping our sin off of our slate, making it clean as it was when we were born, he then wrote in the deeds of Jesus, filling it up with his righteousness and goodness, so that when he looks down, he doesn’t see our broken, sinful selves, or even a sparkling clean soul with no sin, but no righteousness either. Instead, when he looks upon us, he sees in us the goodness of his own Son, with His righteousness infused into our very soul through our contact with his blood.
How amazing is that! I mean, a clean slate is more than we deserve and plenty to rejoice about, but it wasn’t good enough for God. He strove not to simply give us a new start, because, frankly, even with a million chances to start fresh, we’ll fail to finish well. Knowing our weakness, he erased our past and filled in our future with the good deeds of Jesus, providing us with a fresh start and the perfect ending as well.

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