Monday, December 14, 2009
[You don't need the church to see fruit, faithfulness, honesty, healing and protection!]
I've come to the last chapter in the book of James. Not gonna lie, I feel a bit lonely about it. Like saying good bye for a short time to a close friend. James is a book I keep coming back to time after time. I love his direct hard hitting style and the deep connectedness I receive as God's Spirit uses these words to convict, convince and reshape my heart. Encourages me for the next time around, to go slower, search deeper and allow for the Spirit of God to move beyond the surface.
James 4:13-5:20 Church planting has taught me more than I can share with you in a blog. One of the most important lessons this year has been "How do you measure spiritual growth and success? Both personally and as a Church. I've learned, most often it is those who have had an extra-ordinary event of 'success' who write the books on "How to make your Church healthy- like mine"- that's not my reality and I have had to die to most of the models of success I've read about.
James addresses both the private measures of success and the church measures of success as he closes his letter. He talks about our investments, our banking, and what we are to leave space for in our lives.
INVESTING IN FUTURE HOPE Ch. 4:13-17 [ am I investing in self-reliance?]
James addresses the merchants among us- going from town to town, place to place, buying low, selling high, planning the details for financial freedom, and for a life that will set them up for a sense of worldly peace. Making plans for themselves, by themselves and to themselves. Read the words- people talking to themselves about how self sufficient they will become. Vs 15 holds the key to their false sense of future hope. They have omitted Yahweh (Creator God) who holds the very breath and details of life in His hands. This is not merely an instruction for me to slap a label on MY will "Hey God I'm gonna go do this... stop me if you like or bless me if you can." No! That is such a shallow understanding of God's will. It is a sin of OMITTING GOD! Not allowing for Him to have your present and your future. We are to live each day, even each moment with a sense of this as a grace filled moment given to me from the hand of God- I will redeem this moment, this day by His grace and live to honor Him in it.
JUST IMAGINE! James 5:1-6 [am I banking on self-indulgence?]
What would it be like to be filthy rich? What would you do with 15 million dollars? How would your life change? This is the basic script that drives millions of people monthly, weekly, yearly to lottery counters and Casino's. James very bluntly paints for us a picture of 'Just Imagine' if you were trusting your security or success on how much resources you can amass and manage. "Your riches have rotted, your garments are moth eaten, your coin is corroded and it has eaten the very security and soul you hoped to protect." How foolish to try and grab up riches and resources as the world is on a crash course to a finite end, and as our neighbours or business partners are dieing and going to an eternity with no hope of redemption.
Invest farther ahead than the here and now- bank on something greater than finite resources! These are not true measures of health or success for any individual or for any Church! What is?!
Leaving Space for the Most Important James 5:7-20 [are we living together under the shadow of the Almighty?]
"Establish your hearts" vs 8- make room for these things, allow yourself to be set in these things- "for the coming of the Lord is at hand" - because we live not just for the here and now of selfish gain.
MAKE SPACE FOR:
1. Patience in Suffering vs 7-11 - a proper theology of suffering will help you and your church community know more of God's grace and love than you'll ever learn from the false prophets of health, wealth and prosperity!
2. Honesty in Living vs 12 Understand that we are not merely representatives of self but, as believers, represent the work of Christ to others.
3. Authenticity in Prayer and Worship vs 13-18
Quick to prayer and worship no matter the occasion! Careful to carry the burden of prayer on behalf of others- fasting and praying for their healing and freedom in God's grace and mercy. Diligent to become a community that is humbly seeing the reality of its own faults and confessing our failings to each other. So that we might see the miracles of God's healing and supply among us together.
Lastly, Making Space for the Wanderer vs19-20 We know this perhaps more than most churches. We have a disproportion number of "wanderers". It's messy, and difficult and often seems easier to off-ramp them from the rest of the christian community. But if by the grace of God just one or two can find hope and freedom from their wanderings by authentic Gospel love and pursuit by the rest of us. The soul saved from death, and the multitude of sins covered over... now that is other world kind of success!
May God grant us the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the strength to serve- because the end is nigh!