Dig Deeper: Daily Devotional
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? — James 2:1-7
Here, James focuses on the judgments the church was making between rich and poor, and the tendency he saw for members to manipulate their interactions with those they perceived to have something to offer. Like with anger, making distinctions between people — playing favorites — comes from a misunderstanding (or misuse) of our calling in Christ. As Christians, we are called to love — to respond to all people with the mercy and grace we have received.
So, who impresses you? When a stranger enters your world, what are your immediate thoughts? What is your motivation in beginning and maintaining a relationship with them? Compare your thoughts and motivations to Jesus' interaction with us. Equal value is bestowed upon all who are called by Jesus. If you saw everyone as Jesus does, would that change any of your relationships this week?
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the brokenhearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see ...
(lyrics from "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath)
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. — James 3:17-18 (ESV)
Have you ever said or done something harsh and immediately wondered "Where did that come from?!"
Scripture tells us that what comes from God is good, constructive and available in plenty. However, if you're running on empty, you have little positive to offer to others. In fact, what you do give is likely to come from a dark and empty place. That's why Dr. Hunter reminded us that we need to regularly refuel at the Source of Life. Take an honest inventory of your emotional and spiritual reserves. What do you need to do today to enliven and restore your soul?
Spirit of the Living God,
Fall fresh on me.
Break me, melt me
Mold me, fill me.
Spirit of the Living God,
Fall fresh on me ...
(lyrics from "Spirit of the Living God" by Daniel Iverson, 1926)
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. — 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
Anger is divisive. Unfulfilling. It never quite gives us the satisfying solution we were looking for .... To use Dr. Hunter's altered paraphrase of the line from Forrest Gump: "There are NEVER enough rocks." Yet, we've all had times in our lives when we've flailed like Forrest's Jenny — hurling rock after rock at our problems in the hopes of finding resolution. It doesn't work. And, more often than not, it makes things worse.
Anger doesn't construct a solution. To the contrary, it destroys relationship. Take a moment to think about who sparks annoyance, frustration and anger within you. How often has your anger gotten you exactly what you wanted? How often are those desires aligned with God's — the embodiment of love in relationship and service to others? What would it look like for you to put down your rocks and "plant a blessing, not a bomb" in your relationships this week?
Lord, You’ve told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, even as You found it in Your heart to love us when we were Your enemies. Show us how to love those who are against us, do good to them, and pray for them, even when they wrong us. May we be as merciful and compassionate as You are, God. (Riette Woods)
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. — Ephesians 4:26-27
When contemplating how to personally apply the message of this past weekend, it may help to put anger in perspective. Anger is a secondary emotion — it's an outward expression of another emotion we are experiencing internally. We often default to an anger response because it makes us feel somewhat in control of an otherwise chaotic situation. Sometimes it feels like a more manageable emotion than the alternatives — sadness, disappointment or fear. When analyzing our anger tendencies and triggers, it might be helpful to ask "What's really underneath this moment's anger?"
An unrighteous anger is, in some sense, a recreation of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge was an outward expression of an internal unrest with not being God ... not being the center of the universe ... not being in control. Their actions stemmed from an entitlement issue. It was a matter of pride AND a refusal to trust the plans, purposes and presence of their Father God.
Can you relate? In what ways could you humbly trust God today with that which normally elicits an anger response within you?
Let this past weekend's call to worship from Psalm 145 be your prayer today:
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. — James 1:22-24 (The Message)
We can't read Scripture and not see the truth about ourselves — that we are a dichotomy of flesh and spirit — immersed in a depth of sin and yet buoyed by the intense beauty and potential that God designed within us for great things. Yet, how often do we forget those truths and fail to respond accordingly? Why? What other "truths" are we embracing that fuel our inertia?
Today, take a minute to remember who you are. Look in the mirror, stare yourself down and remember Whose you are. Think on your favorite Scripture and claim His truths as valid and right and worthy of acting upon. Hear the truths and embrace them with a confidence in who you are — a child of the Living God — and go walk out your faith in power today!
From Psalm 139:23-14:
Examine me, O God, and know my mind;
test me, and discover my thoughts.
Find out if there is any evil in me
and guide me in the everlasting way.
This weekend's message is part of the "Back to Basics: Practical Discipleship" series.
Historically, Lent was a time when the church went back to basics — rediscovering the essential truths of living out their faith together. This Lenten season, we’re doing the same … and making it personal. Beginning a journey through James, one of the most practical books in the Bible, we’ll be hearing from multiple voices with varying perspectives on the Scripture that teach us what it looks like to grow as a disciple of Jesus.