August 3, 2009
Reading in DeYoung and Kluck's Why We Love the Church and Kluck's chapter that is an open letter to his 5-year-old about church just made my eyes cloud up. Two reasons, really. First of all, because it's a great expression of all that's both good and bad in church, and the effort of a parent to help their child understand what's important about church is worth dealing with the bad. Second, because often great things are passed from fathers to sons in letters. I still have one from my dad from when I made Eagle Scout. I've never known quite how to tell him thank you, but one of the times I've been most worried about losing 'stuff' was when I looked through my Eagle Scout scrapbook and that letter wasn't there. I've found it since then. I should probably put it in my fireproof lockbox. I think I will. It's much more valuable than the stock in there. And I'm not sure the savings bond issued on the credit of the United States is really worth much anymore either.
From John Chrysostom (preacher in the early church. Also a bit of a trouble maker, sometimes good, sometimes not so good.): Let us, therefore, not cling to fleeting things, which slip away and depart, but to those which are enduring and immovable. Not cling to fleeting things, though the world recommend them, though they have great apparent usefulness, but let us cling to the enduring, immovable. Let us cling to God. Lord, my God, help me as I strive to cling to you, and grow this church to cling only to you, and not to anything else!
OT Reading: Genesis 32:22-32 →Jacob sends ahead all that he has, both material and personal. He sends his wife that he doesn't care much for, the two additional women he has fathered children for, and the wife he loves very much. He sends all of his children. He remains alone, to spend the night considering what he will say to his brother after these 20 years. For 20 years, Esau has been living without facing the consequences of giving up his birthright. Jacob's return will be costly to Esau, and they both know it. They have to realize that. And Jacob knows that, after 20 years, Esau is bound to have many who are personally loyal to him. Chapter 31 showed Jacob didn't have enough warriors to even confront Laban. What will he do with Esau?
That's not really the problem Jacob has to deal with. Instead, someone shows up and wrestles with Jacob all night, until the dawn begins to break. There's debate about whether this is an angel, a vision, or Jacob wrestling with God Himself. I'm not sure myself. What I know is that Jacob limped away from this encounter a changed man. He showed the physical marks of this wrestling match for the rest of his days, and took up a new name, Israel. Which then went on to be the name of the nation that brought forth the Lord Jesus Christ. What do I wrestle with? I wrestle with self-doubt, with striving to please others, and with my own inadequacy. If I surrender to these, I'll never be what God intends, I'll never attain to the name He gives.
Psalm 143:4 →Today, my spirit feels overwhelmed. Yet I will do as David did, as we see in Psalm 143:5 →I will remember the days of old, the goodness of the Lord. I will meditate on the work of God, think about the greatness of what He does. I will stretch out my hands, and hope in You, o God. For you alone are my strength and my shield, my help and my salvation.
Psalm 86:10 →You are great! And You do wondrous deeds: do not neglect that God, in Himself, is great. There is reason enough to praise Him in His essence and being. Yet we also see His deeds. There's all the more there!
Proverbs 3:3 →Loyalty and faithfulness are connected to wisdom. Are we showing that? Do we in our churches act that way? Do I act that way in my life?
Proverbs 3:4 →Do the right things, and the favor will come. I need to stop seeking the favor of man. For that matter, I shouldn't seek the favor of God, rather I should do what's right. Then, what favor I am do will arrive.
Proverbs 3:5 →How often do I spend my time trying to figure out why something would be God's will? Why did God want me to do this or that, why did I have to spend time here or there....guess what, skippy? Ain't my job to figure that out. Trust the Lord, lean not on my own understanding. Do His will, follow His word.
Proverbs 3:11 →Do not loathe the Lord's discipline: let God teach. Let His word correct. Listen to His people, let them guide you in accordance with His word. Grow from it.
Proverbs 3:27 →Don't withhold good from someone it is due, someone with true, legitimate needs. If you can help, help. Don't delay it. But this doesn't mean that you have to hand over your wallet to everybody that sits by the door at Wal-mart. Really. Note the to whom it is due . While we should err on the side of helping too much, don't be stupid. And don't be an enabler. And don't equate all requests. A hungry family trumps a cheerleading fundraiser. A church group trumps a sports team. Something teaches God's word trumps a positive community experience. Help who you can, but help what's most important.
James 2:14-26 (Lifeway Sunday School, Explore the Bible series this week) →We tend to de-emphasize works, for fear someone will think they can earn their way to heaven. However, works are essential. Just as we expect newborn babies to start breathing, toddlers to learn to walk, and various growth markers along the way, we as believers ought to start working for the kingdom as soon as we are born again. If your faith doesn't result in works, is there any faith there? Not likely.
I think vv 15-16 are from a story James heard happen in a church. We do it too. We know tangible ways to help, but fall back to the “we'll pray for you” position. Praying is good, and necessary. But help out if you can! If you know where the jobs are, say so. Go ahead and take the risk of being involved.
vv. 18-20 →Show your faith, because we can't see your heart. We like to point out that “God knows my heart.” Yes He does. People don't, but they know your actions. If you have faith, you will have actions people can see. Even demons, who oppose God's work, react visibly to their knowledge of God. Do we? And are we willing to learn?
vv. 21-26 →I think James shows a knowledge of the book of Hebrews here. He takes some examples from the Hebrews 13 “Faith Hall of Fame” and points out that the faith they are commended for resulted in actions!!! The illustration of body/spirit to faith/works is valuable here. Our works are the body that our faith is carried in. The body may struggle, just as our works struggle, but the spirit moves on, stays strong. Our faith can be the same way.