Love the Sojourner

First of all, this is not a political post.

Second of all, this is a Jesus post.

Neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, immigrants, refugees….

The truth is, we are all sojourners. We are strangers in a strange land.

Our land never quite feels right. We don’t quite fit in. We don’t know where to put things like loss, heartbreak, hate, anger, fear, doubt, pain, grief, war, shame.

Just like the children of Israel slugging it through slavery in the land of Egypt, we look around, we see sin and its consequences, and we know the truth – we are sojourners traveling through a land briefly. Our home is eternal. Our home is comfort in the arms of our Savior. Our home is the feast to come, the victory of heaven, not the blackening landscape of a home that passes away.

We get glimpses of this land through His Word, His sacraments, and through one another.

For this reason, Deuteronomy 10:19 speaks His Word of direction to us:

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

God gently reminds Israel and us of all we’ve been given, of the freedom that has been won, of where we have been, of where we are headed, so that when we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we’ll see our own experience as the sojourner far off…the sojourner who was once a stranger to God, welcomed with open arms, by a neighbor named Jesus.

We GET to be part of all of that. We get to be welcomers into the Body of Christ and the kingdom, because we ourselves have been welcomed, not because we have lived in Haiti, or Germany, or Africa but because we have eternity. We have a home with no shame, a new home of grace that will one day be full and complete.

We have been brought out, so that others may be brought in.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

Who are these others? Look around you. Who is on the outskirts looking in? Who are those that do not know what we know of grace? We can reach across our lawns and we can reach across our oceans and love, love, and love some more.

God does not limit Himself to what is visible in providing for our needs. There is always more room, more trust, more mercy, more comfort, and more provision in the economy of Christ. Where do we doubt His ability to keep us safe, to provide resources for us, and to give us strength when we look at the sojourner in need?

Just as God answers the fears of the people of Israel proactively, He answers ours in the same Word.

Deuteronomy 10:20-22:

20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

He is your praise. Look what He has done! Can He who raises the dead provide what we need to love? Why yes, I think He can.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

A tiny little command, tucked inside a whole lot of promise.

We raise our hands in Praise to Him who can, and simply ask Him to point us in the direction of where to send all the love.

 

Free Love the Sojourner iPhone Wallpaper

Look for the Love the Sojourner line coming out in May 2017, on our Products with a Message page. #surroundme #starttheconversation #productswithamessage

 

The wisdom default

When reformer, theologian, and pastor Martin Luther referenced the book of James early on in his ministry – he was not a fan. Some of us have heard that Luther went so far as to call it a “gospel of straw,” judging it difficult to swallow and lacking in gospel grace.

One of Luther’s complaints about the book, igniting the famous “straw” comments, was that he found the book of James to be disorganized. Sometimes when I sit drinking my coffee and reading James myself, I can almost envision James’s fire. If James appears jumpy at first glance, I think it’s because he’s worked up. The words of the Bible are Holy Spirit- inspired words. They also still contain the individuality of their writers. I bet, Luther, himself being a fiery man with plenty of spunk and spirit, began to appreciate this aspect of James’s work as well. In fact, Luther felt much differently about the book of James as he aged. My study Bible explains that the book grew on him, so to say. As he studied it and maybe even as he experienced more life, Luther began to see the law and gospel truth in James’s words

After studying James myself, I have also discovered that it is not as disorganized as it first appears. James talks about several subjects on repeat within the book, including generosity, steadfastness of faith, impartiality, testing and trials, freedom, taming the tongue and wisdom. All of the chapters in James reflect back on Chapter One. Chapter One is primarily about God’s character-

God is steadfast.

God is generous.

God is impartial.

God is wise.

We studied these aspects of God’s character in week one. Any time you are reading through James and you hear too much law, too much fire, the words seem too hard to choke down-flip back to James Chapter One. Rest in God’s perfection and be reminded that He gives us the Spirit. Jesus calls the Spirit “Helper” for a reason. We need some help! And we have it in a God who saves, a God who is wise, a God who is impartial, and all those other things James is trying to exhort us towards.

Today’s topic does not disappoint as far as James’s style goes. It contains some fire, but the conclusion of James’s words remind us that in honesty we see the law, the truth of our sin, but through that truth we get to the sweet, sweet Gospel of forgiveness, grace, and good fruit.

Let’s dive in.

Please read James 3:13-18. Underline or note any words with negative connotation as you read, words that seem like harsh truth or difficult things to deal with in a person.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James…he’s the friend you call when you need someone to tell it like it is.

Sometimes what we call wisdom is vile. It’s filled with our own ideas and ambitions. This is wisdom that is not directed by the Word of God. And goodness knows we have been culprits of that. When a friend asks for your advice, how do you dispense it? Do you offer to pray with them? Do you open the Bible and try to find answers with them?

It sounds so separated from what we usually do in this world that we may get a little embarrassed picturing it. It sounds cheesy to say to a friend,

“Have you looked in the Bible?”

“I’m wondering what God has to say about this problem?”

“One time, when I was struggling, Philippians 4 really helped me.”

We do it, we point to Christ, but for the most part it’s not our default. James has a new idea:

Let’s make the Word of God, the wisdom of God, our default.

James has some harsh words- vile, disordered, demonic even. Yikes. But wisdom does change lives and when we offer only what we know, what we think, what we want, that’s the devil working overtime. It’s sin and it’s selfish and it’s distraction.

What are gentle ways you share the Word with people who are seeking wisdom?

Double back to James 3:17 –

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

It’s pure- It’s God’s ideas I’m sharing, His wisdom, not polluted by my wants for my friend and this world’s suggestions.

It’s peaceable – it seeks peace, it’s not seeking anyone’s hurt, it isn’t ramped up to go for the jugular with vengeance.

It’s gentle – it talks nicely, with kindness, keeping the person’s individual needs in mind.

It’s open to reason – it can have a conversation. It understands that answers take time and seeking. It’s not offended by debate, especially when someone is angry or hurting.

It’s full of mercy – it gives space for frustration and mourning, it’s ready to give grace when it’s needed and even when it’s not asked for.

It’s impartial and sincere – it’s not for my good, or your good, or another friend’s good. It’s for His good, everyone’s good as children valued by God.

Wisdom isn’t easy. I almost cringe when someone asks for my thoughts or advice because I do it so poorly. I like my ideas, but I’m learning to let Him lead. I’m learning to open the Word in my own life and in life together with others, to share and grow and let His wisdom flow.

He knows so much better anyway. Wouldn’t you agree?

Discussion:

What do you think of the book of James so far?

If you could share any lesson from James Chapter One, of who God is, which would you share with someone and why?

What are ways that you bring God’s wisdom to the conversation when a friend or family member asks for advice?

How do you keep things peaceable, full of mercy, gentle, and/or open to reason in your conversations? Or what have you seen others do for this that you wish you could emulate?

Hope to see you tonight for Good Gifts Facebook Live – 8pm CST on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page!

Wars and rumors of wars



Day 3 – Wars and rumors of wars

The idea of war is pretty frightening to me. I am blessed to have grown up in a generation without war. Desert Storm was the most heated conflict in my lifetime thus far. I remember going on vacation and coming back to sluggish brown water coming out of our taps. I was 12 and terrified that chemical warfare had arrived on our doorstep. My mom spent hours of her life soothing me with the lesson that a back up of minerals in our faucets and pipes after a long break can cause tinted water for a short time. Whew. I could sleep again.
What about war is at the heart of my fears, or dare I say our fears. I know I’m not the only one. It’s scary stuff and we’re not even living it right now. Killing, destruction, domination, fighting…all these words come to mind when I think of war. What comes to your mind? This may be an anxiety producing exercise, but I think it’s worth it. We need to be able to sit with the reality for just a little, in order for it to lose it’s grip on us. War is and will be a reality on this Earth. We are simply removed from it for a time.
Ecclesiastes 3:8 reminds us that there will be “a time for war, a time for peace.”
Jesus instructs us to be realistic in Matthew 24:1-13. It’s not a cheerful passage, but it is truth. And we can remind ourselves of who is speaking as we read it. An all powerful Savior. Picture Him speaking directly to you as you read below:
There will be wars and rumors of wars. There just will. This is the beginning of the birth pains.
Is it possible that, as Christians, we can praise the Lord even for this? For war?
We live with one foot in one world and one foot in another. I remember, on our honeymoon, we visited the Four Corners region. Every tourist was chomping at the bit, myself included, to have their picture taken with their feet in two “places” at once. Sisters, we already are! We live as eternal people, given eternal life now. We have one foot planted in the reaches of eternity, where time is endless, tears cease, and peace reigns. But we do not have two feet there. We are still called to live here, where fighting and wars are real, where people hurt and give pain. Ecclesiastes and Jesus’s words in Matthew remind us that all this junk is purposeful. It leads us to something…namely, Him.
There will be a time when we live with two feet firmly planted on completely restored soil. Our bodies whole and perfect. Our hearts and minds linked inexplicably with Him, in a way we only know in part now.
The beauty of studying the Hebrew is that we begin to see a little more of the fullness of God’s Word. I found two passages that I am just giddy to share. They share the same Hebrew root as the word for war in Ecclesiastes 3:8. Bask in the beauty of it with me.
Exodus 15:3 –
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name. (ESV)
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name. (NIV)

Psalm 24:8-
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!

The Lord! The Lord is a warrior. He is mighty in battle. All the wars and rumors of wars that swirl around us. They are nothing to the victory that will be God’s Son revealed in majesty at the Restoration. He is so Good!
There is a time for war. The Bible tells us so, as much as we’d like to escape it. God tells us it is purposeful. It brings Him, in the flesh, reigning forever, that much closer to us. Until then we fight daily in the battle with Satan for the dear souls of those we love around us. Because he just doesn’t give up. But neither does our Savior, and He has a secret that Satan knows but won’t accept- He’s already won the victory.
I’m looking forward to that two-feet-one-place day. Oh imagine it! Until then…standing in the victory, when anxiety threatens, remember, the time for war – even this is in His hands.

Discussion questions:
What wars/conflicts or threats of wars do you remember in your lifespan?
What do you think the scariest part of war is for people?
How does knowing Jesus has already won the victory make the reality of war a different thing for us?