The Good Gift of Peace

We are given a great amount of freedom in this life. Yesterday, we covered the freedom to be warm, to invite others in, to be in meaningful relationship rather than a loneliness vacuum. We also have the freedom to believe what we would believe, even in the face of very real oppression in some corners of the world. We have the freedom to dance in the face of trial, to laugh when evil rears its ugly little head, because we know a God who is bigger, who is smarter, and frankly who is better than any of it.

Knowing God doesn’t give us these freedoms; they were there all along. But knowing God introduces us to these freedoms, opens our eyes to the freedoms we would miss otherwise. Read 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 to see how this works.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

The veil is removed. If you look further back in your Bible at 2 Corinthians 3:12, which tells us we get to be bold.

I love bold. Bold speaks my language. I’m good for a soapbox and a heated discussion.

James comes in, to remind us again, of the two sides to every coin. As Christians we don’t just see one side in life, in conversation, or in any given situation. The veil is removed.

We are free to see two sides.

For the purpose of our study today, let’s look at the two sides of the coin that can be found in our words –

We can speak boldness.

And we can speak peace.

Read James 3:2-12.

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 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! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

We all have some words. I know I have a few. Sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes they would be better off tucked away with my tongue against the side of my cheek, mouth closed.

Let’s connect some dots. Write James 3:18 out for yourself, or read it out loud.

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

What does peace have to do with everything James talked about earlier in the passage? How is it connected to

a tongue setting the world ablaze

a ship of words that stays the course rather than being blown by the winds of time and raging emotion

words of sustenance for someone’s soul, rather than words of poison

tamed in the knowledge of the righteousness bestowed to every individual on the cross of Christ Jesus, rather than a rebel of selfish ambition, an animal that bites for attention and false affection

salt or fresh water?

fresh fruit or rotten?

James’s point isn’t that we will never be angry, that we will never go forth and proclaim the truth boldly.

Boldly go, friends. Boldly go.

But there are two sides to this coin. Even bold faith looks peaceable in Christ Jesus. The battle has been won. The victory claimed.

We just confess it.

Confessing is what helps us balance boldness and peace. We have a rudder, like James says. His name is Jesus. His Spirit guides our hearts and lives and, yes, our words.

Confessing is simply letting Christ guide, keeping Him at the center, considering in prayer before the words roll out – Dear Lord, help me find the boldness and help me find the peace, all in You.

Discussion:

Is your natural gift boldness or peace?

Can you tell us a time when you or someone you know had to speak boldly but peaceably?

Look back at James 3:2-12. Note any metaphors that James uses in this passage. He’s a word picture wiz. Isn’t it cool how God uses all our individual gifts to share His Spirit breathed message? The metaphors make hard truths, palatable. Which metaphor is the most helpful for you?

Redefining Good

We all want good. Bad is, well…bad.

But what is good? Is it universal or different for everyone? Is there a secret to getting what is really “good”?

More importantly, what does God say is good and is it the same as what I think is good?

In this week’s video lesson we’ll dig in to Scripture so we can begin to redefine what is good, based on God’s Word, rather than our own fleeting feelings and opinions.

You can find the video link for the lesson here:

 Good Gifts Live Week 1 Video Link

Share the following meme with friends on social media, during your church announcements, or through a method that is private to share the burdens of life together and offer them up through the Good Gift of prayer.

The shock of generosity

Our youth have been known to do wild and crazy things. Zany really, not dangerous or concerning, more out of the box and unexpected.

One year, we were robbed of our Christmas caroling plans by a massive snow storm. We were bummed, but we found solace in hot cocoa, popcorn, and Christmas movies. Fast forward to Easter. We’re still bummed. Enter one of my finest ideas ever – Easter caroling! Not just any Easter caroling… Easter caroling at fast food restaurants to cashiers with Easter baskets of encouragement. Ta-da!

We were so jazzed. We practiced our Easter ditty, “Up, Up, Up, He Arose” four Sundays in a row, gathered our Easter goodies to share, and invited all our outgoing friends. We organized restaurant stops progressive dinner style and brought dollar bills to take full advantage of the value menus. McDonald’s was our first stop for side salads. We walked up to the cashier to order, asked if we could sing her a carol (no need to freak anyone out), sang her our tune, and offered up an Easter basket of Gospel and chocolate fun, sharing our thanks for her willingness to just be herself and taking our order.

The look on that woman’s face I will never forget. There were actual tears in her eyes. It was like Bob Barker and Drew Carey had called her down for the showcase showdown.

“For me?” she asked.

“Yes, for you.”

“Why?”

“Because, God loves you and we just wanted you to know.”

“But, there’s lots of stuff in here. Should I share it?”

“That’s up to you. But this basket’s for you. We wanted you to know that Jesus died and rose for you. Happy Easter!”

We are not freakishly generous people. We aren’t special messengers from God. We entered a McDonald’s and gave a gift. We did the same a Wendy’s and Taco Bell, and DQ and got many of the same responses.

People are surprised by even remote generosity. I think the idea of generosity almost makes us nervous in our current cultural context. What do people want from me in return? What will they expect from me? It brings up all our “I’m not worthy” instincts.

But we have a generous Father. He loved us first, He loves us more.

Generosity is a huge part of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And what this generosity does may surprise us. Look at James 1:17 again and underline each instance of the word “every” in your Bible.

“Every good and every perfect gift…

Not some, not a few, but so many gifts…”every” says something. It says that God is generous of Himself. You’ll hear James talk again and again, throughout the book, about how we respond to this in the Spirit.

“Every” wells up in us and pours out to the world who could do with some “every”, because they’re so used to scarcely.

Now read on to James 1:19-27. My choice of this passage in illustrating generosity may surprise you, but bear with me.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

God generously shows us who we are in the mirror. He shows us both our sinfulness and our salvation. He shows us our beauty as His creation and the mark of the cross eternally etched in our forehead.

God’s generosity isn’t limited to love. He also gives honesty, sincerity, steadfastness, hope, joy, courage, and more…generously.

He generously gives us purpose, rather than a void. We hear the Word and then He generously gives us work to complete, vocations to fulfill, grace to be shared.

What kind of generosity is God pouring in you today? How might that reach out to others around you for His Kingdom?

Maybe it’s generosity of affection, generosity or discernment, generosity of care or kindness, or generosity of time. Let Him work in you. The implanted Word has saved you. Now let it reach out to every single person you meet, whether it’s your family and friends, or a cashier at the store.

They just might be the person who needs to see His generosity the most today.

Discussion:

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see that tells you what a generous God we have? (This may be a physical feature, something special about yourself, or a theological truth that serves as a good reminder.)

What kind of generosity are you most aware of God giving you in this season of your life?

Who is someone you feel called to share a touch more generosity with today?

Create your own post-it note truth of God’s generosity to place somewhere you can see today and/share the message of the meme below on social media or anywhere.