Making waves (Good Gifts 6:3)

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.

 

 

Embracing slow (Good Gifts 6:2)

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 (Good Gifts 6:1)

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?