No chameleons welcome

When I was young I dated a guy that I would classify as a chameleon. You never knew what you were going to get. I have spent many a night lamenting the choices of my youth, but we each learn and we grow. One thing that God showed me during repeated sessions of repentance and forgiveness, was this…

it takes a chameleon to know a chameleon.

By that I mean, part of the reason I attracted or was attracted to guys who changed colors and shape like they changed outfits, was that when I looked deep down, I did as well.

It’s easy to shift when you’re young, trying on personalities, ideas, and opinions. Part of growing is growing out of our chameleon skin. The chameleon in us is part of what Paul calls, spiritual infancy. See what he has to say about it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 –

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

We are ready. We have been growing. And we desire to grow more. We are big and brave enough with Christ in and around us to let God flesh out the chameleon pieces still stuck inside. Let’s see what James has to say about being one whole person, rather than a chameleon with shifting and changing fruit.

Look through the following passages in James to get an overview. James addresses this chameleon issue in almost every chapter. Although the passages each address different topics, you’ll see the chameleon effect running through all of them.

James 1:5-8, James discusses how easy it is for us to be doubtful in prayer and what we ask from God. We believe He is capable, but live wondering if He’s capable:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 3:9-10, James addresses the tendency for our tongue to run one way and then another on any given day:

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.

James 4:8-10, James addresses our failure to admit our sinfulness, while identifying the irony that facing our guilt and shame allows God to exalt us in forgiveness. We haphazardly try to present a version of ourselves to others that doesn’t “need” forgiveness:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 5:12, James calls out the chameleon in each of us point blank. We like to say no when we mean yes, and yes when we mean no. Oh goodness, I don’t know about you, but I am over those games:

12 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.

Growing up means looking at the world honestly, but it also means looking at ourselves honestly. Where in our lives do we present ourselves differently than others? Where do we shine God’s light and where do we put Him in a box and forget about Him?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. The good news is that fruit comes from our Savior and His Spirit and not our own whims. We are given the gift of His fruit when we fail. We confess and are forgiven, our hands are cleaned, and then we grow up. We shed that chameleon coat and when it pops back on, we turn to God and ask Him to do the hard work of molting it off some more.

Thank you, Lord for growing us up in You. Guide our hearts and our lives to live in Your salvation. Give us clarity where we need it and hope when we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Discussion –

When you were young, did you do anything silly that you wish you would have never done?

Look through James Chapter 2, what in this chapter can you apply to the chameleon effect and God’s good work in us of growth?

What area of your life would you like God to help you grow up more in?

Grocery shopping and the steadfast fruit of forgiveness


I love the produce department at the grocery store. It’s full of colors and textures. There are piles of just-ripe oranges and pretty see-through containers of any kind of berry you could want. Displays are round and square and triangular. It smells fresh. Sometimes if you inhale just right there’s a snap of citrus for the sinuses.

The biggest bummer about the produce department is that there are seasons. I could buy blackberries right now, but only if I want to break the bank. And if I want a ruby red grapefruit in the middle of the summer, I’m gonna pay. I live in America. I can get what crazy outlandish fruit I want, when I want it, but it may be four times the price or traveled across miles to overripeness, because fruit can’t be controlled by my desires and whims.

God’s fruit is unlike the fruit at the supermarket. It doesn’t have a season or region. It just is. But like the fruit at the store, I can’t make it happen for me just whenever I want it. I can’t demand what I want and get exactly that. Fruit grows when and where it will, based on God’s plans. Still, God does promise we will never be without His fruit, because it is of His Spirit. This week, we’ll discover all kinds of tidbits about God’s fruit in us. James highlights a few different fruits in particular that come from a God who plants Himself in us to water and grow and build up one another in all we do.

Turn to James 2:17-20, to remember a discourse central to James’s viewpoint of fruit.

17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 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?

The word written work in our translation is from the Greek root word ergon – an action that carries with it the desire within. It’s not just work, it’s work done with purpose. It’s work done with the knowledge of the Creator. This is one reason we call it fruit. It’s the natural growth of the tree planted and watered by Christ in our baptisms, as we read the Word and worship together.

Our work is steadfast because He is steadfast. Our work is a sure thing, because He is as certain as the sun, and more so. Look back at James 1:17. Just how certain and sure is our Creator and Lord?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 

The physical manifestation of His steadfastness in us creates doers. Look at Matthew 7:24-25 for a passage that shares what the fruit of a steadfast doer looks like:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 

We don’t just change with shifting shadows either. Let’s honor that for a moment. Thank goodness for security in Christ when everything else seems to be crumbling around us.

That said, we are sinners. We can surely separate ourselves from the Word, whether by avoiding opening it or listening with one ear closed. Then it becomes harder, not impossible, mind you, but harder to be doers of the Word, producing bountiful fruit. How do fruit trees do in a drought? Not so well, I hear.

Jesus puts all the pieces together. Read Luke 3:8 –

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 

While Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees here, James is also calling out our pharisaical tendencies.

The secret to fruit is repentance.

Whether we can see the fruit of God in us or not, whether we feel like the produce department at the grocery store or the dried and cracking field of a too hot, too dry summer, we simply turn to Him in repentance every day.

Lord, I have failed to love You and Your Word most. Lord, I have hurt others and put myself first so many times. Lord, open my heart to hear You, follow You, and know You more each day.

Christ is faithful. The Spirit in us is steadfast, not a shifting shadow. Forgiveness is His primary fruit that brings Life and Salvation and is that which all other fruits come from. In taking the time to admit our sin, we can be more aware of the work He is doing in our lives on any given day. Look- He offered forgiveness when I yelled at my kids. Look- He offered forgiveness when I avoided my neighbor. Look He offered forgiveness when…you fill in the blank.

Repentance keeps us steadfast in the Spirit, turning back, turning back, and turning back again and again to a God who loves us.

Let Him work that fruit of forgiveness and see what comes from it, friends. The grocery store produce section holds nothing on God’s bounty of abundant Life.

 

Discussion:

What is your favorite fruit to pick up at the supermarket?

When have you seen Him stay steady and faithful when the world seems to waver?

What repentance can you offer today, privately or with a friend or study group for accountability? What fruit do you think He can bring from that situation when forgiveness enters the picture?

The Good Gift of Light and lights

James 1:17 refers to the Father of lights, and intriguing title for our God. What is in the nature of this Good Father, who is both the Father of the Light of the World and many, many lights?

Find this week’s video study here:

Psalm 136:1-9

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever…

James 1:17 Scripture Engagement Tool

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