That’s a Lame Inheritance

1 Peter 1:18-19 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

That’s a lame inheritance

When I think of inheritance, I think of good stuff.  I hear about those stories of people inheriting homes or thousands of dollars or an old teapot.  Okay the last one is pretty lame.  Now imagine getting a package in the mail.  Attached is a note that explains that a distant relative has passed away and that the box you are about to open is the inheritance that has been left to you.  You are so excited!  You shake the box a little; it doesn’t make any noise.  Oh! It’s probably a check.  I wonder if it is hundreds or thousands or *gasp – millions?   And the box looks really nice too.  It is wrapped to perfection like someone took the time to make a good presentation.  You take a deep breath and carefully… who’s kidding who?  You rip into that sucker!

Wait a minute.  It’s empty.  Did the check fall out?  You start looking all around to find nothing.  Is this some kind of a cruel joke?  Are you kidding me?  The note said that this is my inheritance, but the box is EMPTY!

In today’s scripture, Peter tells his audience that their forefathers handed down to them an empty way of life.  Now that’s a lame inheritance!  Empty life?  But Peter doesn’t leave it at that.  There’s good news.  Jesus Christ paid a price for the emptiness.  He didn’t use silver or gold – that’s not going to help anybody.  He poured out his life so that you could have one.  He emptied himself so that you could be filled.  So even though this world has left us nothing, we can focus today on the fact that Jesus left us everything.  And because of that, our inheritance is great!

Shopping Catastrophe

James 5: 19-20 19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Shopping Catastrophe

I went grocery shopping the other night.  I know that doesn’t sound all that eventful, but it was, I assure you.  First of all, I had all the kids with me.  Yes, four kids ages 22 months to 8.  I went to the store for one item – butter.  Bethany was home making dinner and we were out of butter and so I volunteered to run to the store.  All the kids wanted to go with me, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt.  I grabbed the grocery ad on the way out the door and headed off.  When I arrived at the store, I noticed there were some other things we needed and they were in the ad, so I might as well grab them.  I swung by the bakery and got cookies for the kids, so they were happy and quite well behaved.  But LeeAnna decided after a few minutes that she didn’t like the cart, the store, me, etc.  So she starts crying and I decide to grab a few more coupon items and make my way to the register.  We wait in line, she is crying.  We unload the cart, she is crying.  We check out, she is crying.   Then it happens: I hand the coupons to the cashier and they don’t work.  She says, “are these from this week’s ad?”  Apparently they were not and I grabbed an old ad or something.  So here I have some bagfuls of overpriced items, a crying baby, and an unsympathetic cashier who was trying to close down and go home for the day.

I can’t believe I messed that up.  I didn’t want all those items anymore.  I had like 4 packages of $4 butter and there was no way I was paying  that price – cranky LeeAnna or not.  So I start handing stuff to the cashier to take off.  But I still needed butter.  She’s not offering any help.  So I grab LeeAnna and run back to get butter in the $2 price range.  I am not sure what was more frustrating, my total failure at shopping the correct ad or the cashiers complete disregard for my predicament.  She offered no help, she offered no condolences.  She just stood there and looked at me like, “what are you gonna do?”

As I reflected on situation, I do realize that I messed up.  But it  would have been really nice if she would have offered to go grab another butter or do anything remotely sympathetic to the situation.  It would have been nice to have had help remedying the situation.  Then it dawned on me this morning as I was reading James chapter 5.  It’s one thing to point out someone’s failures (sins), but it is an entirely different thing to help that person out in their sin.  And by help out I mean help them remedy the situation, help them with the solution.  We are not to be Christians who point out sin, we are to be Christians who show people the solution.  And James tells us that this is a very good thing.  When we turn others from the error of their ways, we save them from death and cover them with the same grace that covered us in Christ Jesus.

Can’t we all just get along? NO!

James 4:4,7 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Can’t we all just get along? NO!

Okay, so I fully realize that the titles of the blogs the last couples days are getting really long.  I will work on that.  I tell you what, this James guy really tells it like it is, doesn’t he?  It’s kind of shocking, really, to grab your morning coffee and sit down for an encouraging time in the word.  Then James jumps off the page and smacks you across the face!  Maybe Peter will be nicer to us when we start 1 & 2 Peter soon.

So here’s the picture today: you’ve got these two friends.  They don’t really like each other.  One of them is this straight-laced perfect superhuman.  The other is always getting into trouble, always sidetracking you and oddly likes to watch you fail.  But you have some sort of relationship attachment to this friend so you keep him around.  One day you are all driving in the car together on a road trip.  You are on a long stretch of highway and it just seems to keep going and going and going.  You are starting to think you are lost so you ask your friends what to do.  The nice, perfect, always do everything right friend says, “just keep going straight on the road.  We will get there eventually.”  The other friend however, disagrees.  He wants you to take the next exit.  Surely that will be the right way and even if it isn’t there will surely be something fun to do along the way.  An argument ensues.  Fists are flying and these two friends let each other have it.  They actually hate each other!  That’s when you chirp in, “can’t we all just get along?”

The answer?  NO!  This is a picture of what happens when we try to befriend the ways of the world and the ways of God simultaneously.  James tells us that friendship with world is hatred towards God.  In other words, well I think James put it bluntly enough, so paraphrasing shouldn’t be necessary.  But somehow we have decided that in order to remain comfortable, we should try to maintain our friendships with both God’s ways and the world’s ways.  Here’s the problem, while it may seem naturally comfortable, it is very spiritually uncomfortable.  So what do we do?  James tells us to submit to God and resist the devil.  I once heard the word “submit” defined as this: to stand under another’s power.  Standing under God’s power will give us the strength to resist the enemy and he will flee.  In fact, he MUST flee.   God cannot and will not “get along” with the devil.  That’s a friendship that just can’t happen.  So let’s stop trying to make it happen.

The last thing you need is a shipwreck

James 3:3-6 3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

The last thing you need is a shipwreck

Alright, thank you James – tell us how you really feel.  Geesh!  Set on fire by hell?  Isn’t that just a little over the top?  I guess the guy really drives the point home though.  The tongue is a powerful thing.  It has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).  We also know that the tongue speaks out what is going on the inside (Luke 6:45).  But the tongue is the ultimate security checkpoint.  It is the last line of defense.  Let’s say you are in a fight.  Okay I know that no one ever has a fight (insert sarcasm here), but just pretend with me for a moment.  Your worthy opponent – otherwise known as “spouse” – has given the death blow to your argument.  But then it comes, the perfect comeback.  It is a good one too, it will certainly cut him/her to the core.  It is a hit below the belt, an attack on character, and will surely end the discussion.  So here it comes out of the heart, into the mind, and has one more checkpoint to get through: the tongue.  What will you do?  Will the tongue let death come out or will self-control win out?  I think it all comes down to a matter of practice.  Say what?

Yes, practice.  Does your tongue have life-giving training?  Has it learned to be a good security guard?  Let’s go with James’ boat analogy for a moment.  When I was in my early twenties I spent a lot of time on the water.  My parents had a ski boat that they let me take out with friends whenever I wanted to.  What were they thinking?  Anyhow, I was a good driver.  I could safely navigate the waters, pick up a skier, do water donuts… er, I mean drive calmly and responsibly.  The hardest part of driving the boat in my opinion, however, is the docking part.  You know, that’s when you are coming to the dock and you have to make that smooth parallel parking kind of approach.  Here’s a boat that only goes in forward and reverse, yet you have to figure out how to come in sideways. And I was good.   Why was I good?  Practice.  But all that practice came in calm waters.  If I would have tried to learn in windy conditions, I would have blown it every time.  But practicing in calm conditions enabled me to master the landing even in the wind.  Now recently I was driving a boat and was very out of practice.  My dock landing wasn’t so pretty.  I could have used some practice.

Now back to the awesomely bad fight and the amazing comeback nearing your lips.  You are in choppy waters now.  The winds are blowing and there is a storm raging on the waters of life.  Did you learn how to steer the boat when the waters were calm?  Have you learned to develop your finesse with the rudder when the conditions were good?  I suggest that if you haven’t learned to control what comes out of that mouth when things are calm that you get a start on it.  Because when the winds start blowing and the storm starts raging, your boat is going to be all over the place.  And the last thing you need right now is a shipwreck.

Faith Needs Gears

James 2:17,22 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  22You see that [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

Faith needs gears

What if your car didn’t have a transmission?  How far would it take you?  Thinking about this scripture this morning made me think of a car that doesn’t go.  Faith would be like the ignition.  It is what gets fired up.  The engine get revved up and makes lots of noise.  Surely this car is going to tear up the road.  But the driver can’t figure out how to put it in gear.  What a useless act of non-driving!  I don’t know anyone who would use a car for the sole purpose of starting it and sitting in neutral.  Cars are supposed to go somewhere.  Cars need gears.

Apparently faith needs gears, too.  It doesn’t do a whole lot of good just sitting there.  There is some doing that needs to be done.  The example that James uses here in chapter 2 is that of Abraham.  Now Abraham had faith in God; he believed the promises of God to be true.  But his faith also had action to it.  He…don’t try this at home… took his son up a mountain to sacrifice him if that was what God wanted him to do.  That may sound tempting to some of you this morning, but I am pretty certain that’s not your faith step for the day.  I digress.

Abraham had faith and Abraham had action.  Believing in God is a good thing, but we are called to be “doers” of the Word.  So then, faith needs to be activated with action.  It needs to be shifted into gear.  Maybe it is first gear for you today, maybe it is second and maybe it is even fifth.  But faith has to go somewhere.  If it doesn’t, James is telling us that it is as good as dead.  So no faith funerals today, please.  Lord God, make my faith come alive in you!

Unwanted Pregnancies

James 1:13-15   13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Unwanted Pregnancies

Let’s just get this one thing straight: God doesn’t tempt us or make us suffer so that we will learn our lesson.  God doesn’t give cancer to teach endurance and joy in suffering and He doesn’t cause relationship strife to see if your marriage has what it takes.  He doesn’t put a bottle in the hand of an alcoholic and He doesn’t increase the rain on the depressed.  God does not tease and taunt His children.  It’s like a guy saying, “I am going to go to the strip club with some buddies tonight.  I know God is testing me to see if I have a lust problem, but I am going to be strong and not lust while I am there.”  Excuse me while I barf.

But we get confused about all this.  After all, we just finished reading Hebrews and in chapter 12, verse 7 it says “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”  What is that supposed to mean?  Let me tell you – hardship comes.  It is inevitable.  Sometimes we make choices that get us out from under God’s covering.  Sometimes life just happens, economies stink and people are mean.  Hardship comes and if we can learn to ask the Holy Spirit how to grow from it then we just might.  God may even use the circumstances of life to show us the discipline and correction we so desperately need.

James, however, wants to set the record straight.  He is telling us that most of our trouble comes from our own evil desires. We get ourselves into these messes. When we begin to  blur the boundaries of right and wrong a mess ensues.  Don’t go blaming God for that!  Giving into the desires of the flesh is what started this whole mess with Mr. and Mrs. Adam & Eve.  (Thanks a lot guys, but even if you would have done well, someone else would have blown it along the way, I’m sure.)  When we allow those desires to fester and go left unchecked, something unpleasant happens – an unwanted pregnancy.  And that unwanted pregnancy of unchecked desire is a snot-nosed little brat named Sin.   Sin is a horrible kid.  She breaks everything, ruins relationships with people you like, wets the bed, has temper-tantrums, disobeys, and doesn’t even eat her vegetables.  Oh, but it gets worse.  Sin grows up and has an another unwanted pregnancy, thus giving you a grandchild.  But this child’s name is death, and I think you can figure out what kind of a kid Death is.

The bottom line is this: we cannot let these desires and temptations go left unchecked.  We need to do what II Cor. 2:5 says and “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  And while we are at it, let’s stop blaming God for the mess we are in.  He isn’t the tempter and He isn’t the problem.  He is the SOLUTION!

Personal Bodyguard

Hebrews 13:6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Personal Bodyguard

When I first entered  into the scary world of High School as a freshman, I hadn’t yet hit that major teenage growth spurt.  I was going to a new school where I knew almost no one and it seemed like an intimidating place to be.  Here’s this scrawny little freshman walking the halls with big, hairy senior monsters who were sure to be planning my demise at any moment.  Who knew what they were planning, but I was sure they were planning something.  You know what I needed: a bodyguard.  Sure that would have looked weird, but definitely would have been convenient.  I would have settled for a friend who was a bully or even a thug.  I just needed some protection, man!

Sometimes we go through life feeling like the little guy too.  We could really use someone to fight our battles for us, someone to make sure that no matter what, we would be safe.  There’s just something about having the peace of mind that harm won’t be coming your way.  Here in Hebrews 13:6 it says that the Lord is my “helper.”  Now this word helper isn’t talking about someone who holds gets your coffee for you in the morning.  It is talking about someone who comes to your rescue in a time of need.

Today we need grasp the truth that the Lord is our helper and there is no need to be afraid.  When life gets overwhelming and we become scared, just say this with confidence.  “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?”   The answer: nothing.  You have a personal bodyguard, ask him to protect you today.