Thursday, July 10, 2008

James 4

"Therefore submit 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:7-10

I love this entire chapter in the book of fact, the entire book of James is absolutely amazing. James has just finished giving the church a rather harsh rebuke. He had just told them that they were an adulterous people and their actions were essentially those of unbelievers. Like most of us at one time or another, they'd really blown it. But like any good teacher would do, he gives them (and us) practical ways for ending this spiritual affair.

1 Draw near to God - This simple act of returning to Him is the first and action we must take. Spending time with Him in His word and prayer. It's not as hard as it may seem because there is promise attached to that command - "and He will draw near to you.". Like the father of the prodigal son, He runs to meet us with open arms.

2 Wash your hands - Now that the turning point has been made, it's time to remove the things that have defiled our lives. This isn't just the ceremonial, skin deep washing that makes us feel better (or at least not as bad). This is repentance. The physical act of turning from an action or the thing that is putting up an barrier between us and God. The thing that is making us impure. "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully." Psalm 24:3-4

3 Purify you hearts - This is sort of like the washing your hands part...but more along the lines of the spiritual life. Having the behavior under control for the moment is all fine and good, but if the heart isn't right with God, it doesn't matter. "Blessed [are] the pure in heart, For they shall see God. " Matt 5:8

4 Grieve, mourn and wail - I heard someone say the other day that, regardless of the natural amount of emotion you are naturally prone to exhibit, if the sight of your sin before God hasn't broken you to tears and sorrow, you probably haven't actually repented. Now, I don't want to pass judgement on anyone, but I agree with this person. I've seen it in my own life. When the point finally came when I realized my sin and received just a small taste of what our sin does to our Lord, I was so filled with sorrow. It was beyond just being sorry. It was a repentant brokenness.

5 Change - turn your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Repentance requires a change in both thought and action. By the grace of God, by the time we get to this point, we are not only willing, but are eager to change. We realize that nothing good dwells in us apart from Christ. If our desire is to glorify Him, then we must change.

6 Humble yourselves - Not a personal favorite of mine. It's so hard to get there, much less stay there, but when we do (even for a little while), it's the most amazing place in the world to be. To take our proper place before God. To bow before Him in total submission to His good and perfect will. There is only peace and rest in that place.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What a mind blowing week. God is so cool. I don't know where to begin, so I'll just start. Okay. So, I've been having a hard time with bitterness lately. I think I let go, but I just take them right back and get all angry again. It's not been fun. I know it's sin, and I've been trying to lay it down, but finding that I'm only making marginal progress at best. One night last week I finally got alone with God and really sought Him about this bitterness. It's been putting a block up between me and Him that I could nearly physically feel, but couldn't seem to get passed. I was fed up.

Next day, I re-read an email I'd received from and very wise woman God put into my life through a bible study I'm doing. It hit me between the eyes and all the sudden it made sense. It's another attack. Satan found another weakness and decided to exploit it. I was distracted because I was busy on "re-building" the physical part of the temple I neglected to keep my guard in other areas. I should be about my Father's business, but I've been too caught up in my own frustrations to do that.

Once this all came crashing in there was such an initial release it was amazing. There's still plenty of work to be done, but at least the process has been started now. I am already beginning to see a difference in how I'm looking at those situations. Some of them are still pretty hurtful, but there's less anger.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Character of the New Man

Character of the New Man
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17

God has taught me so much through the book of Colossians lately. He lead me across this scripture after revealing to me that I still have some unfinished business with Him in some areas that I thought were pretty much under control. Bitter roots run deep and the only way to get rid of them is by calling on the mater gardener to pull them up and replace them.

As harsh as it may sound, bitterness, like anything else that goes against God's heart, is sin. It causes us to make our own judgments about people and situations. It doesn't allow God to be sovereign. Thankfully the Lord has been convicting me about this lately and has really been helping me. These verses in Colossians have really helped me and given me a practical guideline for actions to take against this root of bitterness. I really believe that He has much yet to teach me here and I'm looking forward to it and being free from this vice.