don’t be a bed head

“Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like.” (James 1:23-24 CEB)

Over the course of a lifetime, a great many American women will spend one full year looking in a mirror. They are careful students of themselves. Why? They have a singular purpose in mind: to make whatever “adjustments” they deem necessary to their appearance. This is of tremendous importance to them. Of such value even, it could be argued that for many, their life revolves around this activity.

Now picture this. A woman gets up in the morning, bathes, puts on her makeup, dresses, and then proceeds to head out the door to go to work – never touching her hair all day long. She washes, dries, and cuts it as needed, but otherwise does nothing with her hair. Imagine her appearance. Imagine the looks and comments she receives. Now imagine her doing this every day for all of her days. She’s a lifelong walking, talking case of “bed head.”

Ludicrous to consider? “Never would happen,” you say?

James says a great many of us, men and women alike, do just that. We carefully listen to, read, or think about the word of God, the “mirror,” and then do nothing about changing our way of living to bring it in line with what we experienced in the word. Bam!

Think I’ll brush up a bit today.

“Listening to the word and then not living it is like studying your face in a mirror and walking off from it while forgetting to do anything about what you saw.” (James 1:23-24 DSV)

Father, in the name of Jesus, help me to connect my brain with my behavior today. Amen.

must

“You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.” (James 1:22 CEB)

You ought to do it. It’s a rather humbling exercise. I’m talking about reading, deeply hearing all of the sentences in Scripture that speak directly to us as followers of God that make use of the word “must.” Here’s a small sampling from the New Testament. I will warn you first: you might be tempted to skim through them. Don’t. Read each one carefully, letting them soak deep into your mind. As you do so, ask yourself over the reading of each of them, “Am I living like this is a necessity of life, like the air that I breathe or the food that I eat?”

“… you must not oppose those who want to hurt you.” (Matthew 5:39)

“… humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” (Matthew 19:6)

“… you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

“All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

“Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.” (Luke 17:4)

“… the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant.” (Luke 22:26)

“Whoever serves me must follow me.” (John 12:26)

“Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13:34)

“Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

“If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” (Acts 14:22)

“… we must help the weak.” (Acts 20:35)

“You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

“All these things must be done to build up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

“… you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always …” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor …” (Ephesians 4:25)

“The peace of Christ must control your hearts …” (Colossians 3:15)

“The word of Christ must live in you richly.” (Colossians 3:16)

“Everyone who confesses the Lord’s name must avoid wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

“… you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

“… the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“Marriage must be honored in every respect …” (Hebrews 13:4)

“… you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.” (1 Peter 1:15)

“… you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith …” (2 Peter 1:5)

“You must live holy and godly lives …” (2 Peter 3:11)

I told you it would be challenging. But there’s one more to consider. All of those statements hinge on this one:

“Don’t be deceived. Listening to the word isn’t enough; you must live it.” (James 1:22 DPS)

Father in heaven, your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. In me. Today. No matter what. Amen.

this went thru my mind

Capital punishment: * Capital Punishment: Dying a Slow Death? by Scot McKnight and * Death Interrupted by Shane Claiborne.

Economy: 28% – Recession Takes Its Toll on Household Wealth (Pew Research Center).

Marriage: 5 Ways to Kill Your Marriage by Jim Martin.

Poverty: Five Misconceptions About Poverty in America by David Beckmann.

Sexuality: What’s A Christian Response To Chaz Bono? by Tim Spivey.

Time: 5 Ways to Redeem Your Ride to Work by Trevin Wax.

Worship: “Our Children Don’t Get Anything Out of the Service”: Worship as Training for Life by David Fitch.

welcome!

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Sept. 25). This guide flows out of the sermon that I’ll preach that morning. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To rekindle our desire for, time with, instruction by, enjoyment of, and living out of the word.

Scripture

“Then he said to me: ‘Human one … eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. He said to me: ‘Human one, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.’ So I ate it, and in my mouth it became as sweet as honey.’” (Ezekiel 3:1-3 CEB)

“Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.” (James 1:21 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. What makes you come to feel a part of things when you walk into a room full of strangers?

2. Share with us the experience of one of the warmest ‘welcomes’ you’ve ever received.

Dig

These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with some of the sermon’s primary Scripture texts.

1. Why is humility the essential first step to letting God’s word do its work in you?

2. Note the order: jettisoning bad behavior followed by welcoming the word. Thoughts?

3. From what all is the word able to “save” you?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. If your habits with his word are like the weather, what’s your current trend or forecast?

2. What portions of God’s word are easiest for you to welcome in? Most difficult? Why?

3. Which is the bigger test for you: welcoming the word inside or welcoming it to your ways?

4. Pool together the ways you’ve found most helpful in welcoming God’s word into you.

5. Complete this sentence: “I find myself actually going on to live the word I know when __________.”

6. Many have “seasons of wordlessness.” If you’ve had such, what were the causes? Cures?

7. A brand new Christian points at a Bible and asks you, “What do I do with this?” What would you tell them?

8. How would you have us specifically pray for you in regard to God’s word these days?”

absolutely nothin’

“This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:20 CEB)

Alright everyone, you’ve got twenty seconds to brainstorm a list of what all anger has done for you in your life. Ready? Go!

(Seriously. Do it. What are you still reading for? I’ll be here waiting for you when you’re done.)

Okay, time’s up. What’d you come up with? Here’s what snapped to my mind as to what all my anger has done for me across my years:

  • loss of focus
  • stupid choices
  • hurt feelings
  • strained relationships
  • sleepless nights
  • wear on my teeth
  • lifelong consequences

Now looking at that list, my first thought is how I ought to thank God that’s as bad as the list gets. My second thought is while thanksgiving would be good, that wouldn’t diminish the absolute ugliness of any of the seven things that did make my list, would it? Truth be told, if I could erase just one, any one, of those seven items from my life, my life would take a leap forward for the better. I know you could say the same for whatever you came up with on your list.

So, anger. What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’! Say it again … in prayer.

“Why? Because rage can’t do the work of God’s goodness.” (James 1:20 CEB)

Father in heaven, whatever on earth am I thinking to ever put the reins of my life into the hands of anger? In the name of my Savior, Jesus, forgive me of my foolish ways. Eradicate any and all wrong anger from my life. As you cleanse me of all that does not promote your goodness, I rededicate my heart to my Lord’s powerfully peaceful and patient ways. Amen.

journey through James (10): twenty questions on James 1:19-27

This coming Sunday morning at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 1:19-27. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: “welcoming your working out of his will and word.” To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty questions with which to wrestle.

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.

You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.

If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. (James 1:19-27 CEB)

1. Build a list of all the contrasts or opposites that you pick up on in this passage.

2. From vs.19-27, list the things in which we often “blow it,” be it by doing wrong or leaving good undone.

3. Brainstorm a list of reasons as to “why” Christians should do the specific things mentioned in vs.19, reasons other than the one specifically mentioned in vs.20.

4. Of the three matters named in vs.19, which would you say you’re best at? Worst at? Why?

5. Given these Christian’s specific tests and temptations (vs.2-18), what sort of moral filth (vs.21), growth in wickedness (vs.21) or reckless speech (vs.26) can you imagine coming out of them? What link might caring for orphans and widows and steering clear of worldly contamination (vs.27b) have as well?

6. “… man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness.” (1:20 Phillips) How do Christians sometimes confuse or equate their not-so-righteous anger with doing the right thing by God?

7. What could happen if we did all the good described here (vs.19-27), but did it without “humility” (vs.21)?

8. How is it that the word is able to “save” Christians? (vs.21b)

9. In what ways do we Christians tend to make “big talk,” but are small on delivery? (vs.22-24)

10. What in this text (vs.19-27) says to you that “forgetfulness” (vs.24) is more than “memory lapses?”

11. If someone “studies” the perfect law (vs.25), what are they doing to “welcome the word” (vs.21)?

12. How is it that what we’re bound to – “the perfect law, the law of freedom” (vs.25) – actually frees us up?

13. Aside from verbal encouragement (vs.22-25), what can a church do to help its members turn their beliefs into real action?

14. In your own words, sum up the three things James has warned us about being misled (vs.16-17,22,26)?

15. We live by “law” (vs.25). Given the context, why might it be important to use this specific word, “law?”

16. What are some of the blessings you’ve seen solid Christians enjoy (vs.25b) because they “walk the talk?”

17. What connect do you see between knowing God as our “Father” and what follows that description? (vs.27)

18. “True devotion” consists of much more than the two matters James mentions in vs.27. Given the context of their tests and temptations, why do you suppose James chose these two items to note?

19. Using only this text, what can we do to actively “keep the world from contaminating us?” (vs.27b)

20. What other passages in the Bible come to your mind as you read this passage (vs.19-27)?

what could be

“Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.” (James 1:19 CEB)

If we all deliberately and diligently disciplined ourselves to become quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry with everyone, all of of the time, how many:

  • prescription medicines could be eliminated?
  • trips to ER could be made unnecessary?
  • encouraged could remain encouraged?
  • mental illness could be side-stepped?
  • ostracized could be welcomed back?
  • estrangements could be reconciled?
  • unbelievers would come to believe?
  • discouraged could be encouraged?
  • disagreements could be resolved?
  • hurt feelings could be assuaged?
  • friendships could be benefited?
  • callused could be resensitized?
  • strangers could be befriended?
  • church splits could be healed?
  • murders could be prevented?
  • prayers would be answered?
  • prisoners could be set free?
  • children could be nurtured?
  • marriages could be saved?
  • suicides could be averted?
  • customers could be kept?
  • conflicts could be ended?
  • stress could be reduced?
  • wars could be avoided?
  • sick could healed?

Only God knows, of course. But let’s seriously try to find out. Like we never have before. Come what may. For life.

“All of us need to keep these three things in mind at all times: be in a hurry to hear others, be slow to speak your mind, and even slower to get steamed.” (James 1:19 DSV)

Heavenly Father, all you ask of me is to do as you do. In Jesus’ name, give me your strength to do so. Amen.