Monday, November 30, 2009
[Doesn't God want you rich, comfortable, successful AND spiritual?!]
Three questions about living like the world and truly being spiritual- could it be possible to do both?
Q.1 Can a Christian live for here and now but still be spiritual? 4:1-4 [Worship Wars!]
I think God must be yelling at the church "Don't get distracted church!" All kinds of minutia distracts the Church from becoming the pure spotless Bride of unity, wholeness, and a catalysis for spiritual change in our communities. One of the biggest distractions has been and in some places continues to be "WORSHIP WARS." Typically this is a growing animosity between those who hold to the great hymns of the faith and those who connect with an expression of worship through popular modern day worship choruses or bands. In fact in some churches this worship war has reached almost a Cain and Abel status. It is both sad and frightening that the first recorded death in scripture happened shortly after the first recorded worship service in the Bible. What you realize though when you study this passage is that it wasn't really a worship style problem but a heart of worship problem. This is what James confronts in answering the question can a Christian be both spiritual and filled up with the things of the world. IT'S A WORSHIP PROBLEM! Look at the words used to describe the heart- passion, desire, longing to spend it on self - these are worship words. DON'T GET DISTRACTED CHURCH- the real worship war is not in the style of music or songs you choose. The worship war is in what we look to fill us up! Our passion for self comforts, success, wealth and how we try to manipulate others, religious expression and yes even God Himself to make ourselves more comfortable! James bluntly calls us adulterers! Wickedly pretending to be spiritual while we are passionately engaged in lusting for the world! This is the true WORSHIP WAR going on in the heart of the Church.
Q.2 Can a Christian Live in Opposition to God and Still be His Friend? 4:4-6 [A Risky Reality]
Re-read the question... o.k. I admit it the answer is obvious. You can't be in opposition to someone and still be their friend, can you? James continuing in his hard hitting style simply answers, "No! You can't be intimately hoping the world fills you up and be in an active friendship with God. No!" We don't think of all that we risk when we pursue this passion for world. What's at risk? a) friendship with God- actually James doesn't equal it to a friendship gone cold but as though we have become an active enemy of God and what He wants to do in our lives. That's a BIG risk- being God's enemy for the sake of our world lovin' passion. b) jealousy of God- in the Old Testament we read that God's name is Jealous! God disciplines those He is jealous over- those He loves. We risk putting ourselves under the strong arm of God's jealousy.
c)We risk the daily experience of the grace of God. Of all that we risk this one should cause us to truly be saddened. God gives grace to those who are in humble relationship with Him- a daily grace to endure and grow in everything a day may send our way- a grace found in Christ alone for the friends of God alone.
Did you know the grace of God is for a daily experience in the Christian's life?
Q.3 Can a Christian Participate in Everyday Grace? ch 4:7-10 [Imperatives of Experience]
In three short verses we are given 10 imperatives! TEN direct commands to protect our friendship with God and to be an active participant in the grace of God in our daily lives. These ten imperatives are a separate study in themselves- which I don't have room to write, nor you the attention to read, right here. But read them over slowly. Think on each one- YOU can experience this sort of spiritual life because of the grace given to us through the cross of Christ! i.e. You can confidently, boldly resist the devil in your life daily because by the cross of Christ the devil is a defeated foe! You can participate in this grace by resisting the defeated enemy! Go through each one with these glasses and you will discover a deeper appreciation and courage to live in the graces of Christ today!
Live humbly in the grace of Christ today and God's mighty arm will lift you up, a friend of God.
Monday, November 2, 2009
[If it looks like a Christian Leader, talks like a Christian Leader, wants to be known as a Christian Leader it must be a Christian Leader, right?]
We are at a place in the development of our little church where we need to begin to identify spiritual leaders. Not something that we take lightly. In many ways our future health and preservation depends upon how we identify, develop, and grow spiritual leaders. How do you or does your Church identify spiritual leaders? I know you point towards the 2 Timothy passage regarding what spiritual leaders are supposed to look like, that's good. My experience however has been that churches pick their spiritual leaders by default; "Hey, we've asked 10 people. They all said no so we really need you to serve as an elder in our church." Funny I don't see this in Timothy, Romans, Acts or actually in any of the Bible where they are lead to identify spiritual leaders. James gives us some good instructions here in chapter 3 on what to and not to look for in selecting spiritual leaders:
He's Good at Talkin' 3:1-5a [Take a closer listen to the details 3:5b-12]
James starts this portion of his letter off warning the church about desiring to be a spiritual leader merely for positional significance. We all like to be known as someone important or to be seen as holding an important position. James cautions, "Not many of you should be teachers." Why? because they will be held to a greater judgment [a forensic word]. The role of teacher is not merely a positional role but a stewardship role- stewardship of word and life which God will use to example spiritual growth to others; This calling gives God permission to use any means necessary in our lives to teach those under our care and we will be held for the stewardship of how we respond in word and deed. James gives us negative examples of leaders who talked themselves up as leaders but proved they were unable to bridle their tongues to stewardship such a calling and therefore are disqualified from being teachers. Indeed a strong warning to us who claim to be teacher/leaders!
He's Good at Promotin' 3:14,16 [Take a closer look at the product 3:14-16]
There are those among us who are great at promoting a cause, closing a deal, moving an audience- even with spiritual undertones. James points to these skilled leaders next; He points us to look beyond the surface, or the closed deal to discerning the end product. The end product of this type of leadership is seen here as self- promoting, self indulgence, self-stroking, self boasting! Spiritual leadership is a stewardship of service. The greater servant is the greater leader in God's leadership economy. To be driven by self promotion before humble serving is a red flag to choosing a spiritual leader according to James. Some of you are thinking that I am being to harsh or strict in laying out standards for leadership like this... well James calls this type of 'leading' as straight up demonic! Yeah, read it, James 3:16-19.
The James Model of Spiritual Leadership 3:13,17,18
Identify those whose lives don't make "mini-me's" but those who sow seeds of peace, righteous living, and bring a harvest of spiritual health of others. This is going to mean living with a community of people for an extended period of time- long enough to identify who is doing this in the normal part of building godly relationships. This is going to mean helping these potential leaders understand the heart of the call of eldership/teacher is a call to be a greater servant. May God grant us spiritual insight to see beyond the self-hype to the heart that is planting and producing righteous living and peaceable fruit for the glory of God alone!
Spiritual wisdom lived out in good conduct and peaceable works = Spiritual Leader!