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?

The War Inside

Each of us experience turmoil.

We have to make personal choices and decisions, there’s conflict in a family or with our neighbor, co-worker stuff, church stuff, and friendship stuff. On top of that we are all impacted by global strife in ways we realize and ways we may not.

In this week’s video study we focus in on James 4:1-5 and talk about the nitty gritty of wars raging in and how we push those wars to the outside because they are so uncomfortable. Christ declares us righteous and holy in Him through all of it!

Find the archived link here on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel:

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section here or on YouTube.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25a


Questions from this week’s study:
Where do you see the war inside of you come out?
What hope does knowing you live as both sinner and saint offer?
What useful questions can you ask yourself or others in this struggle?
What kinds of things do you want and covet?
What things do you see people quarreling about? Is it about Jesus or just stuff?

 

Notes:

simul justus et peccator – whatdoesthismean.org

simul justus et peccator – ligonier.org

Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze

The Invitation to Draw Near

God is jealous for us.

It says it all over the Old Testament, but I don’t think we picture our God as jealous post-resurrection reality. Let’s not rob Him of His character. He has a right to be jealous. He has set us apart for His work in our baptisms. We are called by name. We are His.

James reminds us of this New Testament jealous God. He is jealously passionate for our souls. He reigns inside our hearts with His Spirit. He will not take the devil’s attempts at power in our lives lightly.

Read James 4:5-8

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Where is God in the actions James calls believers to? What is God’s response to our actions? Make a small list for the discussion portion. This is good stuff and I can’t wait to hear your insights!

I really believe that all of these promises could be summed up in one statement, found in verse 8 –

Draw Near…

We are invited to draw near. We’ll never get to the purifying, resisting, or even the grace without someone drawing near. God draws near to us in His incarnation as Jesus Christ to walk along this earth. He drew near by taking our sins on His shoulders, to bear the load and redeem us. He draws so near that He chose us as the dwelling place of God the Spirit. Look back at James 4:5 and underline the quotation found in this verse. Can you see how drawing near in verse 8 can be linked to the Lord’s drawing near to us?

How do we draw any nearer then? What does James suggest? I think we will find part of his answer to this later on, in James 5:13-20. When you read this, underline or jot down every instance in which James suggests prayer as the answer to something –

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

One of the most common requests I hear from women and men looking for resources to grow their faith is, “I wish my prayer life was better.”

My first response is, “Don’t we all.”

Don’t feel less than or ostracized by your lack of prayer. God doesn’t point His finger and shame us. Instead, He whispers in your ear…

Draw Near…

Just do it. Make time for Him. Make room for Him. It sounds super law oriented until you’ve heard the Gospel call of

Draw Near…

Add prayer in snippets into your life and in great gulfs of time in your day. Look back at James’s words in James 5:13-20. Can you hear the cadence of both, prayer thrown into the immediate, prayers of searching drawn across the expanse?

There’s no one right way. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer and we would be wise to utilize it. Beyond that I can only share three ways I have seen make a difference in my personal prayer life and that of others. Maybe these will help you as you walk growing up in your faith and drawing near.

Whisper breath prayers

Pray in the moment, when the thought first comes to the surface. Snatch that prayer up. Share it with the Lord. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed. The Spirit intercedes for us in groans that words cannot express, but we are also given grace upon grace to draw near by sharing our thoughts and words intentionally with God anytime.

Prayer with others, rather than just for others

One day, we went to Guatemala, and I learned to pray. I could go into detail, but there’s no time for that. It was uncomfortable. It was heart-wrenching. It was exhausting. It was awesome. Next time you are in a conversation with someone and they share something, offer to pray for them, yes, but offer to pray with them. Right there. It’s a stretch. You need the Spirit for this. Oh, but watch Him work!

Utilize a prayer journal or pray out loud for a set period of time

Instead of expounding, I am going to send you over to Sybil MacBeth’s website, http://prayingincolor.com/

She explains right on the homepage why utilizing visual prayer can help us to draw near and grow in our faith. Our minds are wonderful things, but the devil would like to use every barrier to us drawing near. Distractions abound. You can print prayer calendars to utilize for the season, and find other resources on the website as well.

However you do it, hear the call of draw near.

You are invited in- to His Word, to His love, in His Spirit, and by His grace.

Draw Near…

 

Discussion:

From our first passage, James 4:4-8 – What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Consider even the statements that are directed to us as believers. Where is God in those actions? What is He doing? What is His response?

What comfort do you find that God draws near to us and that we are invited to draw near to Him?

What is your favorite way to pray or what new suggestion offered for drawing near might you try?
Who can you share the message of Draw Near with today?

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. 😉