Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Growth in Listening" - Ken Wagoner

I am currently reading the biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and since it is 965 pages long, I believe I will be reading this book for a long time. What I have found fascinating so far in the first 260 pages is the countless number of times Grant, who was a very humble man, was ridiculed, denigrated, slandered, and mocked by family, friends, and foes.  He certainly had his share of failures. But, I have lost count of the number of times he overcame these attempts to remove him from a variety of different positions of authority.  And in almost every case of proving his critics wrong, the reason for not being relieved of duties was his ability to accomplish what he was trained to do as a military leader. His actions were so overwhelmingly positive and produced many of the early northern victories of the civil war, they could not get rid of him. His actions spoke louder than his words.  

In my work with Chinese scholars I am meeting with two Chinese scholars who are young but eager in their growing Christian faith. Recently, I asked both of them to describe some of the important reasons they became a Christian. Both of them articulated a good faith in what God has graciously done for them, but both of them also pointed to seeing something in other Christians they knew they wanted to have too. They were encouraged in seeing others live their faith in daily life.

Some of historical critics of the book of James thought this book gave too much emphasis on doing good works, and not enough on having a solid faith  Most of these arguments have been dismissed, and the recent sermons from both Doug and Scott have clearly focused on the foundational grounds of our  faith centered on not what we do, but what our heavenly Father has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But our text this week from James begins this letter’s appeal to us to live out what has been accomplished for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ so others may see this and be encouraged to follow Jesus. Tim Keller writes this about our response to the Bible: Because the Bible is the Word of our creator, it is our soul’s “owner’s manual.” The things it commands are the very things we were created to do.” It is when we read what we are commanded to do, and we realize we fall short of doing them, that we begin to feel uncomfortable with the scriptures. Being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing. What is important is how do we respond when we begin to feel uncomfortable with what we have been commanded to do. Hopefully this Sunday, we will begin to deal with those things outside of our comfort zones, and begin to realign ourselves with realizing how God created us to live. I am privileged to be with you this Sunday, and would you join me in praying “The words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer.”  

Here are a few thoughts to ponder as we gather together for worship this Sunday:
  1. In James 1:21 we are instructed in the type of attitude we are to have in receiving God’s Word.  What is this attitude?  How are you doing in this in your daily life, and in your corporate life?
  2. In the illustration of seeing oneself in a mirror (James 1:22-24), the word “look” is used three times.  Why is this word used more than once, and what does it mean?
  3. What does James mean when he refers to the “perfect” law (verse 25)?  Look at Psalm 19 for some insight in this.
  4. James 1:26 is one of the first “practical” issues of life addressed by James addressing the use of our tongue.  Why do you think he starts here?