You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4:2-3
If James says there is a wrong way to pray, a wrong way to ask, then it follows that there is a right way to ask, a right way to pray.
God’s reception of and interaction with prayer is conditional. One condition to God not hearing your prayers is envy.
Envy affects fellowship with the body and fellowship with God. Envy causes you to murder, fight and quarrel – even if you only do so in the hypocritical confines of your own heart. Envy causes you to demand things from God that are self-serving and self-glorifying.
You cannot be an envious, ungrateful, quarrelsome and covetousness person and expect God to listen to you. He will not. Envy is a discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions or qualities. It’s not just wanting what someone else has but envy leads to negative feelings about the person and your own circumstances. Bitterness. Ingratitude. Inordinate longings. Strife. Quarrels and fights. Envy unsettles relationships and it unsettles prayer. Envy creates negative feelings about the person who has what you are coveting. It’s hard to prefer another or to think well of others when you hate them for what your coveting. Envy grabs hold of our desire for a better spouse, better job, more money, less belly fat, better cars, jobs, friends, families, homes and jobs and inspires a host of unholy thoughts and actions in response.
Proverbs 11:12 “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.”
The one who sees the circumstances and character of his neighbor as fodder for criticism, instead of prayer, lacks sense. To be wise is to see as Christ sees. To minimize the worth of your neighbor; to belittle them, is to say something profound about yourself, not something meaningful about your neighbor. Self-righteousness, arrogance and unwarranted spiritual pride are all tied up in the belittling of neighbors.
A proper judgment of your neighbor – understanding that your neighbor is created in God’s image, is a being in the process of sanctification, is a blessing to be received, served, built up, thought well of – is true wisdom. Continue reading “Using Your Eyes Correctly”
We were all captive to the power of Satan; in sin we walked and in death, we lived. We were captives in Adam and God appeared in the flesh, fighting our captors that enslaved us. As it says in Eph 4:8, Jesus led captivity captive and gave gifts to men.
God so loved the world he gave. And when God gives, the vessel in which he pours his blessing is always overwhelmed. That is how we became the friends of God, believers. That is how we came to be here today, we were overwhelmed by God’s grace. It was stronger than our sin. God’s mercy was more potent and powerful than our selfishness. God’s compassion was stronger than our feeble shield of self-righteousness. Our resistance of empty darkness was no match for God’s infinite light. And with joy and loving-kindness we were overpowered, disarmed, ruined – remade. Continue reading “Vessels Cleansed, Filled and Shattered”
Now you may be wondering why I use both selfless and sacrificial. We often use these words interchangeably as if they mean the same thing, or nearly the same thing. But selfless acts are not necessarily sacrificial and sacrificial acts are not necessarily selfless. To be selfless is to have no concern for self. Now, focusing on others is great, but it can easily be done out of manipulation. For example, a lot of times I do things that are selfless so that the selfish thing I am about to do goes over a little easier. It’s a “look your shoes untied” strategy that can be very effective. People distracted by your kindness are less likely to notice the extreme selfishness you display.
Now, technically, doing something nice or beneficial for others is selfless. But if it doesn’t cost you anything than it’s not the kind of selflessness that Jesus displayed. Another problem with selflessness is a weird kind of “martyrdom” that people needlessly submit themselves to. This is the person who can’t say no and lets you walk all over them. Others can’t so no until they they blow up or they never stop talking about how selfless they are. Its manipulation. Again, not the kind of selflessness Jesus demonstrated. Continue reading “Look Up and Look Out”
All the signs of Jonah point to Jesus. The signs that reveal Jesus’ presence in our lives are sacrifice, death and resurrection, God’s word and Repentance that leads to life. Are your lives defined by these signs?
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh as the representative of God’s people to do the work of God. We will see next week that Jonah’s flight from God was consistent with kind of prophet he was. Jonah and Israel did not understand that their mission was not separate from their life as the people of God. That was the lesson Jonah was learning to teach Israel. It’s the same lesson we need to learn.
Your mission is not separate from your life as the people of God. I can ask all kinds of questions about missions. How many of us are foster parents? Support a missionary? Visit lonely old widows tucked away alone in retirement homes all over the Puget Sound. But our problem is more fundamental than that. Why would we want to add to our church? How are we doing loving the people we already have? How many different families have you had over in the last two weeks? The last two months? The last two years?
We don’t reach out to the world because we do so poorly reaching out to each other. Reaching across the street starts with reaching across the pew. I know you do not have an affinity with everyone. And being nice is not the same as loving people. You may not feel animosity toward anyone in this church but how many people’s welfare in this congregation would you say you are passionate about? We think that because we are polite to the bank teller and the barista and are courteous drivers that we are loving people. We think if we ask someone how work is going while standing around the cookie table or make some amusing comments about baseball in passing conversations that we are loving people. But love is defined differently by Jesus. Continue reading “Be a sign that points to Jesus”
Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
This is where the Christian Faith begins. This is the paradigm of your relationship with God. It requires that you do not have closed off spiritual, emotional and private relationships but relationships that begin in your heart and end at the four corners of the world. It begins privately and intimately but extends through your hands to your neighbor, town, county, state, country and world.
This is God’s program to perfect creation. It’s the overpowering force. It’s you responding in the only appropriate way imaginable to His instigating love; with total abandon, complete surrender, utter adoration and all engrossing subordination.
Heart, soul and mind don’t consist of compartmentalized aspects of life, but here signify the total self; the whole man.
This command becomes the engine, the roadmap, the structure on which your life’s work is built. It becomes the modas operandi. The beginning, the end and the content of life. This is the sum total of who you are and what you do.
This command, applied to your life, becomes the antithesis, cultural mandate and great commission in action. This is the chief command from which all obedience is derived. It’s the fountain head of culture, ethics, science, theology, art, family, community and meaning that pleases God.
This requires proximity and consists of productivity and praise.
It is important to understand that Nineveh is the capital of Assyria which is public enemy number one in Israel’s eyes. God uses prophets to lead people to either repentance and righteousness or destruction. Of course Jonah is nervous. What if Nineveh and Assyria actually repents, when northern Israel hadn’t in 150 years? Who would be the instrument of God’s judgment against who? We know what happens of course. The judgment of unrepentant Israel comes a few generations after the book of Jonah. By who? Assyria destroys northern Israel. The judgment associated with Jonah is the spirit of God departing from northern Israel to rest on the repentant Assyria.
Assyria’s attack on Israel comes after hundreds of years of God struggling with his wayward people. Covenantal presumption is death. It is the judgment of Israel that God uses to bring the good news to the nations. This points forward to the same situation in Jesus day, but then, God uses the rebellion of Israel as a means to save the whole world. God punishes His people for its complacency. The Lord’s kingdom does not remain with the unrepentant, presumptuous or proud.
It’s like giving a bb gun to a young boy for his birthday. How many times are you going to discipline him for shooting his brothers or birds or windows before you simply take it away? How much recklessness will you allow a 17 year old to commit with an automobile? These seem like reasonable situations for discipline, but surely God doesn’t reject his people! God does reject the self-righteous and presumptuous; those who say Lord, Lord and yet know nothing of doing His will in the world. How long will the kingdom of God remain with those who use God’s grace as an excuse to live sinful, worldly, self-centered lives? Continue reading “A proclomation of Hope”