Faith and Deeds

James 2b.

Or not 2b. That’s not the question.

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Can a we have a saving faith in Jesus without it changing our behavior? Is our faith in Jesus real if it doesn’t prompt us to act on the behalf of those around us with needs that we can meet? Real faith will change us. Real faith will not only cleanse our hearts, cleanse our minds, break chains from the past, change our thoughts and emotions but it will also cause us to do. Do stuff. Do stuff for people. Otherwise this faith in Jesus is not faith but an idea about or an opinion of Jesus. It’s not faith in Him until it grabs ahold of us and we start sharing the love we have been given with others.

“You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

The 2 examples James gives us, Abraham and Rahab acted on what they believed and showed by their actions that their faith in God was real.

At the end of the storm in Spokane this week there were 206,000 people without power. No heat, no way to cook, no lights, no refrigerators. 2 of those households are my kids. I’m not sure how I will help but can it be just “stay warm guys, love ya”? How will I help? How will my faith take action?

“26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Not everyone is nice

God sees, he knows and he cares.

“1 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;

protect me from the violent,

2 who devise evil plans in their hearts

and stir up war every day.

3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;

the poison of vipers is on their lips.[b]

4 Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

protect me from the violent,

who devise ways to trip my feet.

5 The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;

they have spread out the cords of their net

and have set traps for me along my path.

6 I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”

Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.

7 Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,

you shield my head in the day of battle.

8 Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;

do not let their plans succeed.

9 Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;

may the mischief of their lips engulf them.

10 May burning coals fall on them;

may they be thrown into the fire,

into miry pits, never to rise.

11 May slanderers not be established in the land;

may disaster hunt down the violent.

12 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor

and upholds the cause of the needy.

13 Surely the righteous will praise your name,

and the upright will live in your presence.”

I wait for you Lord God. While l wait, I follow you. I see my own heart is bent and broken and sinful. Forgive me Lord and help me to serve you by loving and caring for those you put in my path today. Even if they hate me Lord you love them. Maybe they just haven’t heard how much you love them. Help me share the story of your love for this lost world of which I am a sojourner.

Mercy: giving and receiving

James 2

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Maybe it’s contagious. This wealth thing. We tend to want to hang out with wealthy people. Remember the show “lifestyles of the poor and destitute”? No wait, that wasn’t it, it was the “rich and famous”. Our human nature wants to associate with wealth and success. Could it be that we think it might rub off? At the very least, rich people have cool stuff. Cool stuff is fun and expensive and so it is rare. Hanging with rich people we might get to play with their stuff. But human nature is almost always counter to Christian belief and practice.

The kingdom of God is upside down to the world. Our king laid down his life and died for us. Our king washed his friends feet. Our king never had a palace or a throne or a scepter. Our king was born in a barn and slept in a feeding trough. Our king carried his own cross.

Christianity is counter cultural and sometimes counter intuitive. It doesn’t always make sense.

“5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

Favoritism = adultery = murder. That is not good math. Not in my mind. It’s like saying a penny equals a million dollars because favoritism is a penny sin, murder? That’s a million dollar sin. Am I right? No. I am completely wrong. Sin = all other sin. Sin is sin.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

There is hope. Our God is merciful. He expects us, once we have experienced his mercy, to extend his mercy to the world around us.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Mercy. Not getting what we do deserve. Grace. Getting what we do not deserve. They are what distinguishes Christianity. That and the fact our savior rose from the dead. When I receive mercy from God and he doesn’t give me what my sin deserves, he expects me to act mercifully with my fellow sinners. Our culture does not venerate mercy. Our culture venerates judgement and revenge and retaliation. This the is another opportunity for me to live counterculture-ally.

Jesus loves us. He died to wash away our sin. He lives to intercede on our behalf. Will you accept that gift today?

Christianity: how to

James 1 part 2

We left off at verse 13.

“13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The wages of sin is death. That is not good news. It’s not even news. It’s on the news.

But the gift of God is eternal life, throughJesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

That there? That is good news.

Every good thing comes from God who does not change. He doesn’t adjust himself to fit in.

“19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

The righteous life is not brought about by anger. The word brings life.

We can’t just listen to the words of God, we must act on them.

“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Have I ever looked in a mirror, saw a booger hanging out of my nose and just walked away without getting rid of the booger? What if Gods word shows us we have spiritual boogers? Do we leave them and go on with life or do we act to change the boogers?

(Be honest, did you just touch your nose? I did. I hate boogers. Spiritual or otherwise.)

“26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Are we about the real business of Christianity? Are we Helping those who cannot help themselves? And are we keeping ourselves from being polluted?

There is raw spiritual sewage that people are drowning in. Our job as Christians is to rescue them from the sewage without getting ourselves sick. I have had to check monitoring devices in our sewage lift station at work. One rule is to Keep our mouth closed, another is to keep our hands clean. Wash up after. Is there a spiritual application there?

Jesus help us. Keep us healthy as we go about the rescue.

Living counter-culturally

James 1

I said earlier that I would be studying Titus and 2 Timothy next but I read chapter 1 of Titus and it was so similar to 1 Timothy that I felt it may be better to take s one book detour. I felt compelled to read James. So James it is.

This was written by James, Jesus’ little brother. He was a leader in the Jerusalem church which was at the time, headquarters for the entire church.

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Right away we are slapped with 2 counter cultural statements. Be joyful when being tried and believe in someone we can’t see. Not only believe that they exist but also believe that they can do what you are asking of them.

There is so much in this chapter. That I will take two days to cover it.

The next statement is not only counter cultural but counter intuitive. Getting rich and having lots of stuff gives us a lower status as a believer than being poor.

“9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

The one who possesses lots of stuff is in turn possessed by the stuff. You have to take care of it, house it, maintain it, care for it. There is much to be said for a simple life. Living simply by choice is different than being made poor by circumstance. James says being of humble circumstances is better.

We have been poor. Even in our poverty, God provided everything we needed.

I am off subject.

“12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The trial that James speaks of here is believing in Jesus even if that means losing everything we possess, up to and including our lives, because we believe in Jesus. At that time in Jerusalem People were being told to renounce their faith or die. Many died. They would first lose their family, be thrown into prison, all of their belongings would be taken away and at the end of that they would face the question, do you believe in Jesus? If they renounced him they would get it all back. If they continued to believe they will be killed, by stoning, beheading or by crucifixion.

How is this like the world we live in today? It’s a reality for many Christians.

Here is what I believe. Jesus, he really lived, he really died, he really came back from the dead. He really ascended into heaven and he really is coming back to get us. He really is both fully God and fully man. He did all of that because he loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. His death paid for our sin, when he came back to life he showed his power over death.

This confession may cost me my life someday but it gives me eternal life from today onward.

Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’

Romans 10:9-13

The thing is that being a Christian does not guarantee me anything in this life, Not safety, not wealth, not health. “12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The crown of life, a life that is not extinguished with death. Living A life washed clean, no matter how dirty i have become, by the bloody death of Jesus. An eternity spent with the creator who loves me. A crown of life.

With love

Psalm 139

God is watching

“1 You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,

they would outnumber the grains of sand—

when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!

Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;

your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,

and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;

I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

God is watching, with love. Like a loving father watches over his toddlers God is watching over us.

God knows us. He is watching over us. Not to squash us like a bug, but to help us. He sent his only son Jesus to do what we couldn’t do. To pay for OUR mistakes.

God loves us. Even as I type these words I wonder if it it’s true for me. I think it is. I hate that about myself, that way I hold back In Doubt and fear. If God loves, If it’s true at all it’s true for me too, and you. God is watching over us because he is a good father and he loves us.

Creator and sustainer

Moon is out.

Psalm 136

“1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,

His love endures forever.

5 who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever.

6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,

His love endures forever.

7 who made the great lights—

His love endures forever.

8 the sun to govern the day,

His love endures forever.

9 the moon and stars to govern the night;

His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt

His love endures forever.

11 and brought Israel out from among them

His love endures forever.

12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;

His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder

His love endures forever.

14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,

His love endures forever.

15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;

His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;

His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,

His love endures forever.

18 and killed mighty kings—

His love endures forever.

19 Sihon king of the Amorites

His love endures forever.

20 and Og king of Bashan—

His love endures forever.

21 and gave their land as an inheritance,

His love endures forever.

22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.

His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate

His love endures forever.

24 and freed us from our enemies.

His love endures forever.

25 He gives food to every creature.

His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.”

The moon was God’s idea. The moon, he created it. He spoke into being. There once was no moon or stars but God created them and now they exist and we gaze at them and wonder.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Colossians 1:15-20

I give thanks to this God, my God who can create moons out of nothing and suspend them in nothing to brighten up my night.