James tells us not to be on friendly terms with the world: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (4:4). It is as though he is saying, “Don’t you get this? Don’t you know this yet?” He goes on to finish the verse: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
He is not being very diplomatic here. He is not trying to strike a bargain between God and the world so that we can be chummy with the world and still be on good terms with God. It’s all or nothing. We have to think of this as a war. The world is the enemy. If we are consorting with the enemy and wearing its uniform, then God is against us. If we are friends with God and wearing His uniform, the world is against us. Which way do we want it?
The Apostle John tells us the same thing: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
So here we are living in the world, which is just where God wants us, and the world’s apostles and evangelists are forever preaching and pushing their agenda on us. Are we listening to them? Are we a captive audience? Are we being “conformed to this world” or are we being “transformed by the renewing” of our mind (Rom. 12.2)?
How do we become conformed to this world? It comes of listening to the world and Continue reading ‘Time for a Falling Out’
I must have learned the little song about “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” (complete with hand motions) way back in my Sunday school days. It’s so familiar that we can (at least I can) miss some very important details. It comes at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Let me repeat the text here for reference:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The first thing to notice is that Jesus is using this metaphor of the two houses to describe two kinds of people: those who hear Him and do what He says, and those who hear Him and and do not do what He says. Our first question ought to be, “Hear Him say what?” Since this passage comes at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, it is safe to say it applies to the whole thing. If we hear the words of His sermon and do them, we are building a rock-solid house. If we hear the words and brush them off, we are putting ourselves in a mighty dangerous position. Continue reading ‘Two Houses’
Have you ever noticed that when people self-describe they’re almost universally wrong?
Well ok, perhaps I’m being a bit pessimistic with “almost universally.” Suppose we re-phrase that into something a little less off-puttingly negative. I’m going to take another stab at it, and this time I’ll be much more encouraging and optimistic.
Have you ever noticed that when people self-describe they’re very often wrong? (I think that was much more delicately and tactfully phrased.)
I don’t mean when people say things like, “I just finished reading a book on gardening,” (which I did, coincidentally) or “I cleaned the bathroom today,” (which I ought to have), but more when they say things like, “I’m just a really ___________ kind of person.”
This can manifest itself in anyone from the marriage counselor who’s had 4 divorces (“Seriously! I’m an expert on this! Let me offer you some life-coaching!”) down to the lovely and well-meaning woman who always brings that rather revolting casserole to church potlucks because she’s convinced that it’s her specialty. (“I just knew that everyone would be so disappointed if I didn’t bring my famous Nevada Pie with extra kidney beans!”) And then of course everyone at the potluck takes a helping because no one wants to hurt her feelings, and mothers plop a serving onto their offended childrens’ plates while shooting them That Warning Look . . . and the poor deluded woman goes home perfectly satisfied in the knowledge that her Nevada Pie is treasured and loved.
I’ll never forget the man who announced that he was the “musically gifted brother” in the congregation, Continue reading ‘Curlers (and stuff)’
Sometimes when you have the best of intentions and begin to confess old sins, you bump into resistance and stall out. It’s like cleaning the garage that I mentioned in the last post. You may spend a couple of hours in there and start to make headway, but then you give up and tell yourself you’ll get to it later.
When it comes to putting things right with other people, we can find many reasons to put it off for another day. What is it that stalls us out?
1. Pride stalls us out. If we confess our sin to our friend, we tell ourselves, then they will look down on us. It will blow their image of us. What will they think of us?
2. Fear stalls us out. We might lose our job or our standing or our position. The consequences are just too great.
3. Laziness keeps us from confessing. It’s just too much trouble, and it will take too much time.
4. The cost is too great. If we confess our sin, we might owe a hefty amount of money that we don’t have. Continue reading ‘Resistance’
This post is in answer to a comment/question addressed to Bekah on her post called “A Little Moralizing.” Here’s the question: How do you take care of old (unconfessed) sins that go back several years?
I think it’s very helpful to sit down with a pen and paper and just write them all down. One at a time. Name them the way God does. It’s amazing how many other things might come to mind as you do this. But just keep writing until you can’t think of any others. Now remember, these are the sins you have not yet put right. I am NOT saying to write down all the sins you already took care of. What a drag that would be.
Next sort them out. For example, let’s say you listed about five different times you were unkind to your mom. Sort them into the mom pile. Do the same with everything. Many of these sins will require a phone call or an email or a letter of apology. Maybe all of them will. Don’t get discouraged or distracted by the size of the pile.
After sorting them out, you must seek God’s forgiveness for each offense. Something like this: “Lord, I was unkind to my mom last spring when I told her to quit calling me. I was disrespectful and I dishonored her, which I know you hate. Please forgive me.” Go through the list even if it takes a while. Then when you’re finished, ask God if there are any more. If more come to mind, add them. If nothing else comes to mind, then thank God for His mercy and forgiveness. Continue reading ‘Confessing Old Sins’
So here’s a little something that you didn’t actually want to know about. I stepped on a piece of glass the other week. Just a tiny little shard – I didn’t even notice it when it happened.
Yes, I know you’re gripped. Dying to find out the end of this story. “Did she get it out I wonder? Did she find the tweezers?”
Well no as a matter of fact. I kinda vaguely knew there was something in my foot but I only noticed it if I stepped on it in just the right way. I was busy. It’s Christmas. And finals week. And all that. I didn’t even have time to actually let this little glass shard bubble up into my conscious thoughts. I sort of figured I would leave it alone and it would work itself out. Plus it’s in one of those awkward corners of the foot which you can’t get a good look at, no matter how you contort yourself.
Don’t worry. I’m coming to a point. As dramatic as this all is, and as much as this is a worthy tale in its own right, I’m working up to a metaphor so bear with. Continue reading ‘Some Moralizing’