Nowhere else in the Bible as works-based as the book of James is. For him, it is by our works that our redemption is validated. And James is not alone in this. If you look at the Old Testament, we see a very external relationship with the spiritual experience. Atonement is shown by the sacrifice of livestock. Grieving is shown by the tearing of fabric. Deals are brokered by the passing of sandals (true story). James just picks up where the Old Testament left off, for the Bible is a very Hebrew-centric manuscript and reflects their cultural experience.
Where people get confused is they come to the conclusion that it is fact our works that saved us, that it is by a series of merit badges or brownie points that we are saved. This creates a sense of guilt for those who feel they have not done enough and a sense of pride in those who feel they have checked all the appropriate boxes. In the Gospels, Christ is quick to dispel both feelings. He goes to the outcast, even the criminal moments from death, and says, I am enough. To the self-righteous, He urges to drop the charade and come follow Him. We are not the authors of our salvation, even our own faith. All of it is a gift.
If it is a gift, then what is works? Works are the fruits of our salvation. Out of our love for Christ and for others, we do good works. Out of the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we venture out of our comfort zone to perform miracles. You can “like” and “love” as many posts as you want, but still there comes a time when we are called to show our love in a real sense, to give of ourselves either in time or treasure or ability, as a physical manifestation of our spoken claims.
Always be listening for these opportunities, for they are often small and pass quickly, but partaking in them makes a world of difference. So today, keep your eyes, heart, body, and soul open. You may just have the opportunity to change a life and let them know they truly matter and that your affections are real.
Bless and be a blessing. Amen.
So we all know Judas as the man who betrayed Jesus, but did you know he served as the treasurer for Jesus’ earthly ministry and sat in the seat of honor at the Last Supper? This was not an accident. Jesus loves His prodigals. He is constantly holding them near. Peter who denied Jesus three times was given the keys to the church of Jerusalem. Paul who outright persecuted the early church was chosen as the main witness to the Gentiles. Just when we think we are furthest from God, God is closest to us, calling us to come home.
We all know the “Lord is my shepherd” chapter. It’s a famous passage, right up there with the Lord’s prayer and John 3:16, but did you notice the slight shift that comes in verse 4?
In verses 1-3, David speaks nicely of God. He feeds me, He quenches my thirst, He finds me a shady spot to rest my head. Very idyllic. But look what happens in verse 4! When we enter into the Valley of the Shadow of Death (an actual place, so I hear), David stops referring to God as Lord and starts referring to Him as You. You are with me. You comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies. When things get hard, David’s relationship with God becomes very personal. Not until David speaks of heaven does he return to speaking of God as by His kingly title of Lord.
Jesus invited us to refer to God as Abba, Daddy. David holds his Savior tight. We too are invited to hold tightly to our Father in the midst of trouble. We need Him always, but especially in those times. Our knee-jerk reaction is to estrange ourselves from Jesus when times of trouble. God invites us to draw closer than we have ever been.
On Easter, we told resurrection stories
She stood up and told of how she was duped into sex trafficking,
escaped physically but was emotionally scarred
Then came the drugs and the depression
and the self-loathing
but God found her even as she hated Him
for not saving her sooner,
but He rescued her from the pit of despair
He brought her into hope and family and love
and now she is here,
safe and clean and rejoicing in all that God has done.
Praise Jesus! Hallelujah. The Lord God Almighty reigns.
I do not understand the love affair amongst some Christians of making the cross offensive. “This will (probably) offend you,” they say. “This may upset the PC people,” they add.
What kind of witness is this? Yes, Paul calls the cross “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18) to some, and many times it is. There are many who don’t get it, don’t like it, or more likely have had bad experiences with it.
But our goal should never to be to offend, but simply to present the Gospel as it is. The naked Gospel is powerful enough without attaching a bulldozer to is.
Let us witness and truth and in love. May it be Christ and the Holy Spirit that speaks through us, rather than our own selfish ambition.
As I lay dying on the hospital bed
my own blood turned poison,
Christ came and gave me a transfusion
giving all of Himself
so that I would be purged of death
and brought into new life
Jesus sent them out
first the twelve, then the seventy-two
He sent them out with nothing,
reminding us all we don’t need all the baggage
all the stuff
to accomplish His mission
We just need Him
And if His message is not received
that is okay,
just knock the dust off and keep on going.
We’ve got to do,
miracles to perform,
demons to expel.
Let the Kingdom of God begin here today!