Monthly Archives: September 2013

James Abbreviated: Chapter 5

This is our final chapter in the series, James Abbreviated!

If we were to summarize each earlier post in this series, we would have these three bullet points:

  1. Christians grow to maturity by trusting God in difficulties; God’s Word renews the way you think. (Chapter 1)
  2. Christian’s must look after their own poor; generosity within the family of God is evidence of genuine faith. (Chapter 2)
  3. Holiness is manifest in your speech. (Chapter 3)
  4. True faith makes the church grow in holiness and generosity. (Chapter 4)

The last chapter is James’s concluding exhortation to persist in Christian maturity amid difficult situations by trusting in God. It’s almost as if James in applying his theology directly to different groups of people in his Jerusalem congregation. For these purposes, we can identify three different categories in James 5.

  1. Rich people in the church (vv.1-6)
  2. Persistence (vv.7-12)
  3. Prayer and confession (vv.13-20)

Let’s look at each category to find the thread of James’s overall message woven throughout the chapter. Starting with vv. 1-6

Once again, key verses will be in italics, followed by brief exegesis of key themes, and a summary in red. I will highlight prevailing motifs and themes in green.

James 5:1-6 “Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. Your wealth is ruined and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned—you have murdered —the righteous man; he does not resist you.” (HCSB). 

The problem being identified is not the wealth that a person may have, but what they do with the resources given. In this case, some of the more well-to-do in the Jerusalem congregation were hoarding their wealth for themselves, while refusing to assist those struggling within their own church family. James here is accusing them of having “murdered” the righteous man in this case (v6), and taking them back to his exhortation in chapter 2, which was to care for the poor in the church. If those who are wealthy (as is the case with these particular individuals) are not also generous, they are heaping up “miseries” for themselves in the life to come (v1), for their faith is in vain—indeed, they are proving themselves unregenerate!

James is just contextualizing his theology on a particular people group, reminding them that, (more…)

Taste Test Me

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8, HCSB)

One scholar writes that taste can mean “judge” in the sense of determining for oneself whether God is actually good. To “see” has the same concept.

Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon entitled A Divine and Supernatural Light, described the difference between believing information and experiencing the same:

There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty…when a heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension (Edwards, Works. Vol.2, 14).

God is so certain of satisfying our deepest cravings, that He actually implores us to experience him for ourselves—to experience the divine taste-test.

Britt Merrick | The Holy Spirit & Mission

Impulsive Callings: The “what” may not include the “when”

Has God ever called you to something risky?

Adventurous? Exciting? Perhaps through a prophetic word, a confirmation, an opportunity; maybe it came through a divine revelation, the kind that gnaws at you when you lie in bed, and consumes your thoughts; or a burden, as though you felt the very heart of the Lord on the matter. Regardless of the form it takes, one thing is certain. God calls us to obey—often in ways outside of our comfort zone—and that, in all of its accompanying mystery, is exciting. I remember when Brianna and I experienced God’s calling on our life, and the urge we felt to obey God right that moment. We immediately rearranged our lives, not to mention our emotional and mental state of mind. Unfortunately, that calling never materialized, and we were both left wondering if we heard from God all those years.

The examples of my friend, Dominic Balli, are also exemplar. In one conversation I had with him, he brought up some dreams and ambitions in music stirring in his heart, which he pursued for years, some of which are only just now transpiring. After we shared mutual stories (and laughs), he pointed out that many of those grand callings God gave to him didn’t take place for eight to ten years later! That left me with a sobering thought: When God gives you a calling, he is not necessarily giving you the timing.

Why am I saying this?

I have seen friends and peers ruin their lives by prematurely chasing God’s calling.

For example, I hear lines like these a lot:

“I’m called to ministry—right now!”
“I’m supposed to be with that guy/girl—right now!”
“God’s calling me to this job—right now!”
“God is telling me to move to Russia—right now!”
“I think we are supposed to get married—right now!”

The pattern is predictable: God’s calling = right now.

But sometimes God may indeed call you to the former, while you mistakenly assume the latter. And unless you hear God giving you a time, or a specific command to “move immediately” you should consider that He might be revealing the ambiguity of his plans just to excite you, or refocus your attention on him, not so you can “help” make it happen. When you rush too quickly, you end up working outside of His will by pursuing a God-given calling through power-hungry cravings and willpower; God never blesses those self-reliant efforts. In any place outside of God’s will, your calling will likely not happen the way you envisioned, and you will find yourself entertaining all sorts of explanations, dead ends, and endless circles of bewildering excuses. Kind of like where we were at in the beginning of the story. Where did we go wrong? We moved without him telling us when. And we can call it radical all we want. Premature obedience is still disobedience.

What should we do with God’s big callings?

Maybe two examples from the Scriptures will help; one, Joseph, the other, Mary. Read the rest of this entry

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