“Look in the mirror!”
As a child, I was an outdoor kid. I rode my bike from sunrise to sunset, coming inside for meals alone. My bike became a horse with ropes tied to the handle bars or a motorcycle with playing cards attached to the spokes to make that motorcycle-like noise as I rode. I also parked the bike to play with the kids in the neighborhood, mostly boys, who ran hard, got sweaty and dirty in the Oklahoma sun. I had fun and didn’t care what I looked like—until mom would see me and say, “Go look in the mirror and clean that face and comb that hair!”
These days, as soon as I get up in the morning and come to my senses after coffee, I look in the mirror and think of those “don’t care” days and smile. As an adult, I do care enough not to be offensive to someone else. So, I look in the mirror each morning, with a frown and a bit of disgust, until I can clean that face and comb that hair!
An introduction to James—Eugene Peterson, The Message
“When Christians believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business—and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners.”
“Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church.”
“So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with in the community of believers.”
“The letter of James shows one of the church’s early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care. Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential. Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that, it is skill in living. For, what good is truth if we don’t know how to live it? What good is an intention if we can’t sustain it?”
“According to church traditions, James carried the nickname “Old Camel Knees” because of thick calluses built up on his knees from many years of determined prayer. The prayer is foundation to the wisdom. Prayer is ALWAYS foundational to wisdom.”
As we read the book of James together, may we first fall to our knees and ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is “skills for living” as defined by the world. God’s wisdom goes much deeper, higher and wider; for His knowledge and thinking is far above what anyone on earth can think or imagine. Ask God for wisdom. We will begin to see more clearly what He sees from His perspective as we daily seek Him.
James 1, The Message
I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus, writing to the twelve tribes scattered to Kingdom Come: Hello!
Faith Under Pressure
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
Act on What You Hear
19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
22-24 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.
25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We are also in need of the Lord Jesus and His Holy Spirit to help us look in the mirror of our hearts, minds and souls to see what needs to be cleaned up and made holy before God before we begin each day.
Active faith means determined obedience to what God wants accomplished each day. (See also Romans 12:1-2).
Faith under pressure shows us how real and active our faith in God really is. We learn who we really are with lessons for growth with every trial and circumstance beyond our control.
We must always pray to the Father, “He loves to help”, and stands ready to come to our aid when we ask. Want wisdom, skills for living and managing what God has given to us? Ask Him. He will give more than we could think or imagine!
Look in the mirror—get cleaned up—ready to serve our Master at the mere nod of His head, wave of His arm or whisper of His voice to our souls.
“…whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
Continue to grow an active faith in me, from the inside out, that does what you want when you want it. Help me to look in the mirror and see what you see that needs cleansing—all that is offensive to you as well as a hindrance to others seeking you. Give me your wisdom, insight and understanding through the trials of this life. Renew a right Spirit in me. Restore the joy of your salvation working in and through me. Thank you, Lord. I need your counsel every hour. Give me more that a glimpse of you today.
In Jesus Name, Amen