Archive for February, 2015

James 1:9-10: An upside-down world

Posted: February 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. – James 1:9-10 (NIV)

It’s all about where we see ourselves in the big picture.

Have you ever looked down on someone because you saw them as beneath you?  Maybe we don’t enter the day with that intention in mind.  Yet, we see another person and make snap judgments based upon the way they look, the way they are dressed, their overall cleanliness.  Sometimes, maybe without any real thought, we turn away from them and head in the other direction.  Or, we hurry past time in the store.  Or maybe we really don’t give them much of a thought at all.

But there are other people that when we look at them, we see them as having it all together.  We make those judgments based upon their clothes, their car, their wealth, their job, their status.  Maybe instead of heading in the other direction, we try to find ways to move closer to them. 

That’s the world that James seeks to address.  It’s a world where there is a bias against the “least of these” and a bias toward the “blessed of the blessed.”  One of the places it is playing out in James’ time is in the community of faith.

So, James seeks to turn that world upside down.  Those in humble circumstances, the least of these, the poor are to take pride in their “high position.”  And the rich, the wealthy, the blessed of the blessed are to take pride in “humiliation.”  Is this a statement about wealth or something else?

James is pointing out the fact that in a spiritual sense, we all come to the same place before God.  For those who have nothing, God reaches out to lift up and love the “least of these.”  For those who fall into a temptation of wealth as a god (with the little g), God shows what it means to lose all of our shame, guilt, etc., to be built up again in love.

James challenges us to see the world in a new way.  So, how will we see it today?  Will we still see it with our biases and preferences?

All-loving God, open our eyes to the world around us.  Expose to us our biases and show us the ones that we might otherwise ignore.  God help us to know that in you, we are all equals in need of your love, grace and mercy.  In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

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James 1:2-8: Joy in trials?

Posted: February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:2-8, NRSV)

There are some moments in Scripture that can absolutely leave you scratching your head.  Does James seriously think that I’m going to be joyful when I’m going through the tough moments in life?  Maybe you get where I’m coming from on this.  Joy is often times the last thing that I will feel in the moments of stress, the times of struggle, in the hours of pain, in dealing with fears and questions and doubts.

Yet, that’s where this letter goes.  Go to joy.  Why?  Because it’s a chain reaction.  View it as joy because this trial can test your faith and show you just how much you need God.  And when you realize that about your faith, your faith can mature and grow.

But still, joy? Joy when someone is stabbing you in the back?  Joy when people are talking about you?  Joy when you hear a rumor or half-truth?  Joy?

Maybe what James is ultimately pointing us to is that we can reach a place in our faith when we see past the emotions that we encounter and we can see that God is still present.  It’s a place on the other side of pain and doubt.  It’s the place where we know that no matter what, God is there.

Maybe that’s what can lead us to be able to ask God without doubt.  Why?  Because we’ve had the chance to see God in our trials.  And because we’ve seen God there, we know that he’s going to be there in the future and that God’s never going to leave.

Maybe that’s what I find myself coming back to.  God is here, God is there.  God is always.  Even in the trials.

And for some reason, that does start to make me feel joy.

Almighty and loving God, thank you for your presence with me in the toughest moments of life.  God, you are with me there just as you are with me in happiest of times.  Help me, God, to find the joy in knowing you will not leave even in the toughest of moments I experience. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.