Making waves


I love the ocean’s roll.

Sitting on the beach, with my feet dug into the sand, the waves reaching up to lap my toes. Waves are calming and predictable – coursing in and out, in and out.

Waves aren’t just pillowy and pretty. They are powerful and majestic. They are driven by an unseen force, governed by gravity and the laws of physics. However, we’ve all seen instances where even the laws of physics can’t contain the ocean’s power. They are ruled by Someone greater. Someone who even the wind and waves obey.

Let’s explore what waves have to do with James.

Open to James 3:2-5:

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.

If you peek at James 3:1 in your own Bible, you’ll note that these instructions from James are actually given to those who teach the Word in the church. I didn’t include this verse because I didn’t want to trip you up. It’s easy when instructions are given to one group to think – “Eh, I don’t teach, so I’m just going to skip over that part.” But let’s be honest – we all have someone to “teach”, someone to influence, someone with whom we share wisdom, life experiences, and God’s Word.

James never actually talks about waves, he actually talks about rudders. Rudders make waves. Ships make waves. When boats pass through the water they churn up all kinds of stuff. We are foolish if we believe that we impact no one as we move through life. Your impact, my friend, I guarantee you is bigger than you think!

We each have reach and possibility and many relationships in our lives. Our tongue guides so much of it. How do we even begin to steer it in the right direction? How do we find a direction that creates safety and spreads the message of Hope, instead of fear and the message of judgment?

The question is not, are we making waves with our lives and words? Rather, it’s –

What kind of waves are we making?

Are we drowning others? Are we saying what we want, when we want? Are we letting emotions of the moment and satisfaction in our “rightness” steal hope from someone else’s soul? Are we ruled by our tongue, or do we let the Spirit guide our words, even when we are hurt, angry, tired, or hungry?

Are we slowly eroding the beach? Are our words not often harsh, but edgy, sarcastic enough, selfish enough, to tear down rather than build up, over time? Do we avoid, rather than seek opportunities to speak up for others?

Or are we moving change in a dark world? Do we give care, affection, or grace, through our words? Do we let the Spirit speak to whomever He brings into our life? Do our words roll up and reach out to someone’s shore, lapping their feet with the warmth and love of Christ?

We won’t be perfect. Our words won’t be perfect. But we are learning to entrust the refining to Him along the journey.

Lord, show us where You are leading us and show us where our ship is plunging ahead without Your mercy and grace. Thank You for Your wisdom and truth, as well as Your forgiveness, always there for us.  Fill us with Your Spirit, for the adventure of each day. In Christ, we give all our words to You. Use them for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

*photo credit to pexels.com

Embracing slow


We all value fast.
Fast internet.

Fast service.

Fast travel.

Fast responses.

We have people to see and places to go, work to be done. Productivity and ingenuity travels at light speed.

I am beginning to see more awareness and appreciation for slow. I see more articles and news media about the health benefits of slowing down, taking a moment, and embracing rest for the benefit of our minds and bodies.

What I don’t see, yet, is media and awareness about slowing down in another way – slowing down our words.

Some of us, like myself, have a lot to say and it all just comes gushing out. This seems to be encouraged in our culture, particularly with the advent of the social media posting platform-

Say what you feel!

Get it off your chest!

You’ll feel so much better!

I have had the devil whispering these very things in my ear. He placates our consciences to shove thoughts about how to say it well, how to speak considerately down deep. These false promises are keeping us from looking for the best perspective, speaking in love, and with the listener in mind. Until the deed is done and the words are out and the guilt and shame begin. He pours that on thick too.

James gives us a simple and direct suggestion, that we would be wise to heed.

We can be bold, to stand up for what matters, but we also need to slow down.

Let’s start with James 1:19-20 and hear James’s simple command:

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.

Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

Look at the order of the words in the text. We often start with a simple discussion. We are listening and sharing. Then the discussion gets going and the words come faster. We hear less, we speak more. Then our blood starts to boil.

Slow to is such a simple concept, we could miss it. God also shows us slow to by the very compilation of Scripture. The words of the Bible, were offered slowly, over the sands of time, not hastily through one individual. Our God does everything perfect, completely righteous. James’s words are part of that Holy Book, breathed out by the Trinity.

What other wisdom on this does James offer us then? Let’s look through a few more passages in James, keeping them in the context of slow to.

James 2:16

…and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

How is it helpful at times to not always rush to mercy in the moment, but to think for a minute about what we can and are willing to offer? Slow to

James 3:2-5,8-9

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…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.

How is so much in our lives driven by our tongues? How can it affect big decisions and close relationships? How can it impact even the smallest decision and brief relationships?

James 4:11a

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

When have you seen it words poison and when have you seen them bless? How has social media and our rapid communication abilities impacted and amplified the consequences of this?

James 5:12-13

 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

How can we slow our yes-s and no-s? What benefit might there be in that? How do prayers and praises affect our speech and our perspective?

Slow to…

may look a little different from the world around us, but isn’t God’s way always like that?

May your ways be slow and your words be filled with His praise today!

 

Discussion:

Which passage sticks out to you the most? Choose one segment, from what we just went through, and reflect on the questions.

Let’s pray for one another today and ask for guidance for our words and actions. Any prayer requests in particular?

The Implanted Word


I have a thing for TEDtalks. Tell me I’m not the only one?! They can commonly be found playing via podcast in our home while I make dinner, while I run around doing errands, and yes, even while I shower. There’s a glorious amount of information to be had in those 15 minutes or less! I love finding nuggets of wisdom, whether it be about women entrepreneurs in Rwanda, medical advances and brain research, or timeless truth on belief shared by Billy Graham.

Recently, I listened to a TEDtalk on finding design answers by investigating biology in nature. The presenter identified intricate designs in the natural world and encouraged listeners to replicate the patterns of anything from birds nests to symbiosis in their building and program designs.

TEDtalks like this one always make me the most excited and the most sad. Looking at the way God designed creation to be, to exist, and to thrive is such a beautiful thing, but the presenters are so busy seeing the beauty that they almost always miss the Designer.

The stars are placed in the sky…by His hands.

The oceans waves acquiesce to the seashore…by His command.

The flowers unfold their color…by His direction.

Today, we’re going to praise the Designer and learn from His design.

His Word isn’t just given to us…it’s planted in us by the first, the true Creator and Designer. Any good idea I have, it’s from Him. He designed His Word and planted it in us to teach us, to build us up, and to spur us on, as redeemed and treasured people of God.

Let’s read James 1:19-22 to learn more:

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. 

During this last week of study, I want to move back through the book of James to set our feet firmly on the Good Gift of words and the Word, planted in us for a purpose.

James 1:21 tells us that God implants His Word in our hearts. God doesn’t just tell us the Word, or give us the Word to hold: He implants.

The Greek phrase for implanted word in the passage above is emphyton logos. If you have a notebook or Bible out, write that Greek phrase next to the text “implanted word.” Now, jot down other translation possibilities- rooted, ingrown, natural, engrafted, or congenital. Implanted is a very good translation because the Word is, yes, rooted in us, but it also grows or blooms out of us. Plants have both roots and blooms. Let’s reflect on those two things.

First, God’s Word is rooted in us.

He digs deep into our hearts and lives, and places His Word firmly in us. How long have you been attending church – since childhood, just recently? Do you have memories of a grandma or a faithful someone who shared the word with you?

God works the Word into our lives in so many ways and very often we may not even consciously see it.

Have you heard the Word as you show up to church week after week, even when your ears aren’t attentive?

Have you saved up notes or cards from someone who encouraged you with His Word?

Do you have a verse of Scripture that rises up from somewhere within you, from a voice you can’t identify (cough-cough…Holy Spirit)?

One of my favorite people on the planet, Miss Ardyth, faithfully taught my kids songs in the Midweek program at church for several years. What stuck out to me about Miss Ardyth’s song selection was that they were always straight from Scripture. My kids were unknowingly memorizing Scripture and singing them all over the house without even thinking about it. Miss Ardyth believed Psalm 119 and taught me to trust in the power of God’s Word tucked deep inside me.

See three different Biblical translations for Psalm 119:11 below:

ESV I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

NIV I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

NRSV I treasure your word in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.

When we hear the Word, when we read the Word, even when we speak the Word, God is storing it, God is hiding it in us, God is building a treasure store in our hearts and minds. This is God planting the Word – it is taking root.

God’s Word blooms out of us.

God’s Word also just COMES OUT! It blooms up and out. That’s the way it’s designed. When it’s tucked deep inside, it jumps out when we least expect it. It grabs ahold us of in our need and it clings tightly to our neighbor whether they understand it or not. It grows up and out and brings answers where there were none. It gives comfort where only anxiety reigns.

When have you seen it?

God’s Word is planted in you. His Holy Spirit is at work. His Word does not return void. You are reading this, so you are hearing the Word and it is taking root and doing its work. I am so excited to see what He is growing with it!

 

Discussion:

What is your earliest memory of the Word?

Who has the Holy Spirit used to plant His Word in you?

What is your favorite Bible story or Bible verse? How does it speak Hope and Life to your life?

Brothers, sisters, chief of sinners, jedi


I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have been waiting to talk about Star Wars for my entire blogger existence.

I own shirts, notebooks, and a waffle maker that express my vibrant love for all things dark side and light side. A friend mailed me Star Wars unmentionables this last weekend. I listen to various Star Wars podcasts and daydream about being a guest interviewee. People who visit our toy room frequently comment, “Wow, your kids like Star Wars.”

It’s true. We passed on the obsession. But don’t worry, we try to pass on more Jesus than Star Wars, so they’ll be ok. More importantly, today is the day, my friends – the day Star Wars and Bible study come together. (Can you hear my joy?!)

Why do we need Star Wars today? Because the Good Gift of We also has a truth that we cannot ignore…

Life together has a dark side.

James loves his brothers. Brotherly love and affection, does not mean the absence of truth. James doesn’t trade in hard truths for untruth. So, like James, let’s say it like it is. If life together has a dark side,

that dark side is personal judgement.

The world is filled to overflowing with judgement. We all have opinions and suggestions just waiting to be utilized. If we cannot share our judgements personally, we’ll gossip about them or throw them on the internet as a vague article share about parenting or politics.

James knows this. He also knows that without speaking in the language of we, no one will ever see their sin, much less their Savior.

Let’s see what James has to say about judging in James 4:10-12 –

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Let’s clarify – sharing truth in love is not the dark side.

James shares the truth in love all over the place. Judgement, however, is when we make our own rules, when we share our own opinions on life choices rather than God’s opinion from His Word, when we share them absent of love, or when we share them without a deep relationship that involves follow through and follow up.

Most of all, judgement is alive and well when we fail to recognize our own need for forgiveness. This is the humility he speaks of in verse 10.

James uses the term brothers so many times, not only because we are adopted sons in Christ Jesus or created sons of the Father, but because…

We are brothers in sin.

That sounds terrible, but it’s our earthly reality. We are imperfect. Our brother is imperfect. Our families are imperfect. Praise God we have a perfect Savior! Only by identifying together our state of imperfection can we begin to talk to one another about the things that matter most- with love, and kindness, affection, and humility.

We are brothers in need of a Savior.

It’s not that our sins are the same, but that our hearts are in the same condition. We NEED Jesus. We NEED Him in a way that we can only begin to fathom together.

Paul, like James, identifies the need to leave judgement out of our hands and into the Lord’s. Read 1 Timothy 1:13-16 –

…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Living life together helps us to see our own need, not our own superiority. Oh, His perfect patience, with me, with you, with we!

We are in this together, brothers and sisters, in this together. Chief of sinners though we be – forgiven, redeemed, set free. He walked out of the tomb so that we could help one another dance, walk, and hobble down the road, chains broken, lives restored.

Sinners together. Forgiven together. We have a Father of Light.

 

Discussion:

Where do you see personal judgement around you? What do you think people in our world and in our culture feel most judged for?

What language can we use when communicating our own sinfulness and how can this be helpful in confronting the sin of our brother or sister?

Who, in your life, needs to hear the message of sin and forgiveness today?

One tiny sinner, saved by Grace Alone…dressed as Boba Fett. 😉

What does friendship with God look like?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has long been the standard for understanding human needs. From the basics of life – water, food, shelter, safety – to the needs higher up the pyramid – love, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I have been encouraged to see some amount of research across recent years that acknowledges a flaw in this concept. Maslow’s hierarchy is useful but, like everything made by the hands of man, imperfect.

We may not be able to survive without food, but, to some extent, what kind of survival is that without connection, without someone to share it with, without friendship? We know as Christians – connection matters most and it is basic to our survival.

When we worked with a feeding program as part of the holistic mission of Ministry in Mission in Haiti, the children didn’t just come for the food and juice. They came to be loved on. They came to sing songs together and to see what Hope looks like from people who shared Jesus with them, and to share hope with one another. I’m positive they would have shown up without the food offered, because connection is just as much what they needed. And it’s true for each and every one of us. Why?

Because we were created by a Good Good Father for connection with Him above all else.

We mostly think of friendship and connection within the horizontal realm, in our friendships with one another. What we believe about God, that vertical friendship, affects how we believe, think, and we act in our friendships with one another. Why? Because He created friendship, and He created everything to be shared in relationship with Him, never apart from Him. So, if we want quality friendships with one another, we need to understand our friendship with God first.

For this, James sheds a little light on the subject. Let’s open to James 2. If you have your Bible out, please take a minute to read the entire chapter for a fuller context. Here, let’s look at James 2:1 alone –

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

Impartiality is founded in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Friendship is just that, offering impartiality, offering safety and care, extending the hand of fellowship enough to know someone more and to say,

“You too?!”

“Tell me more.”

“You are worthy of time and energy.”

Jesus Himself identifies the root of our friendship with both God and one another as His work and His Word active in our lives, through His sacrifice. Read John 15:12-15-

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

James points us to more. Read James 2:19-23

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

Even the demons believe -Yikes! We don’t just have belief; we have friendship with God in Christ. Praises! Abraham’s story is rich and full in the Old Testament, but let’s look at just a piece of it. In Genesis 18, Abraham was blessed to meet with God. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the benefit of His Word available to us daily, we also can meet with Him at any moment, every day. We could easily only hear James’s recurring phrase “Faith without works, faith without works, faith without works…” in our head, but the “works” can easily be summed up in this – relationship.

Read Genesis 18:1-15 and see what kind of relationship God offers us, now through His means of grace, as He offered it to Abraham so many years ago.

The Lord visits us

Genesis 18: 1-5 –

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Just as God did not find it offensive to visit Abraham’s tent, partake of Abraham’s food, and rest in Abraham’s company, so He does with us. We need only open His Word, or share around the Word with His people to be visited by the Most High God. He, in fact, wants to visit with us, makes time for us, and invites us to His table to share His meal with Him.

We converse with God

Genesis 18:9-15 –

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

I LOVE this exchange. It tells me that I don’t have to have it all together to meet with God. It tells me that He’ll straighten me out in His Truth and His Love. He welcomes me to the conversation for the delight of relationship, and in Him I find restoration for my soul.

We are given great and precious promises

More on these promises tomorrow. But for now, look at what Abraham and Sarah received! Surely we would list the seed which is Christ Jesus, promised near those oak trees long ago, but goodness the promise of the conversation alone is notable.

Come, Lord Jesus. Eat our food. Be our Guest. Rest in our homes with us. Recline at our tables in Your open Word. Make full our hearts and lives in conversation and friendships centered on you.

I am a friend of God.

You are a friend of God.

Discussion:

What is the most inviting or caring thing a friend has ever done for you?

What qualities do you look for in solid friendship?

How does God fulfill all the qualities of friendship we could ever desire?

Bonus for fun and connection: What would you serve the Lord if he came for dinner? Give us your favorite food or best recipe!

 

Notes:

*Ministry in Mission has Easter crosses, designed and handmade by Haitian artisans. Funding raised goes to support the very feeding program I spoke of. Check them out at this link…

Ministry In Mission – Feed The Orphans – Buy a Cross

*For more on the challenge to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, see this helpful overview by Forbes.