Tuesday, December 9, 2008

James Isn't Bitter Is He?

"You adulterers! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility with God? So whoever wants to be a friend of this world is an enemy of God. Or do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says that the Spirit that God caused to live in us jealously yearns for us?,  But he gives all the more grace. And so he says,

“God opposes the arrogant
 but gives grace to the humble.”

Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable, mourn, and cry. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James 4:4-9

Now there is a red carpet welcome. It’s stuff like this that keeps the Bible fresh. In what other book would you find the author calling the reader an adulterous, double-minded sinner who needed to mourn his own depravity? I haven’t read many lately. If I did come across one, I don’t think I’d give it a favorable review. But this is our book, the centerpiece of our existence, and we have a mandate to like it, so I’ll stay positive here.

James was writing to some church goers who had become a bit contrary with one another. He takes the tone of an old man reprimanding some neighborhood truants who had just thrown a rock through his window. We have to believe that he isn’t all bitterness and guile, that deep down inside he loves those kids – he just has a funny way of expressing it.

I feel like he’s a bit over the top here, a bit brash, a bit uncool. But I have to admit he makes a strong point. The kids have screwed up royally; they have crossed one of the most ominous of lines in the cosmic conversation – the line where humility meets arrogance. James witnessed this misstep and came unglued for the entire world to see. He understood that this is one of the most fundamental issues in the God-man relationship. When arrogance creeps into the heart of man there is no grace. Grace, the cornerstone of Christianity, gives humanity access to God. But where there is arrogance there is no grace, thus there is no access. James was justifiably upset.

The centerpiece of this passage is conveniently off set for us, it is a paraphrase from Proverbs 3:34.

“Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he shows favor.”

To scorn is to mock. God doesn’t care for those who take shots at him or his kids, nor does he like know-it-all’s and rule makers. He has a heart for the broken.

Remember, James is a church elder writing to his church goers, not a street preacher screaming at innocent shoppers. This message is for Christians more than it is for the non-believing. Be mindful of your heart.

I have been thinking about this for some time. Pursuing humility is absolutely central to a healthy relationship with God. A lot of things can get us into trouble in life, but this arrogance thing is a pretty big deal. When it comes down to it we don’t have much figured out, we definitely don’t have it all together. In truth, we are really doing the best we can with what we have. It is a rare thing to come up with pocket aces, but when we do let us not forget that God has stacked the deck and he’s playing with a royal flush every time. Humility, pursue it at all costs and you’re sure to stumble into the favor of God.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Parlor Mob

Here's a nice breather from all of that heavy philosophical talk you have come to expect from this blog. This album should be purchased by everyone I know and everyone they know. Justin and I discovered this band about a year ago and our lives haven't been the same since...While you're in the Christmas/Consumer spirit buy one of those books that are randomly presented on the right side of the screen. A little literature couldn't hurt that bad.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clark Griswold: King of the Road

Life is more mysterious than it is concrete. Ask a wise man questions about purpose and meaning at five year intervals, and you will get different answers each time. We grow, we mourn, we change, we error, we lose, we cry, we graduate, we sleep, we win, we sing, we breathe, we multiply, and we ruin. And when we have done all of these things we cycle through again, feeling this time we surely know how it will work.

Liken life to cross country travel. If you drive on the main route long enough you will begin to recognize patterns. Congestion, merging lanes, changing speed limits, seasonal landscapes, accidents, etc. The road while continually changing remains strangely the same. Staying on it long enough will give you the delusion of expertise. You become so familiar with the way the road works that you consider yourself a guru. You stamp the side of your trailer with a “king of the road” sticker. You begin filling in the blank states of your trailer-side map with colorful versions that speak of conquest and you wait for the next obstacle to dodge. The once difficult obstacles become commonplace and the highway lulls us into a royal stupor.

Then comes your first 3 am detour, like Clark Griswold in East St. Louis the initial feelings are fear and self-protection. It is these rare turns that become the milestones of our lives. No neat sticker can communicate what happens during those strange and unplanned exits. But the exits are what make us. Our purpose, our personhood, our life is meant to be lived off of the road.
To celebrate the seasons when all was according to plan is not wrong, it is incomplete. The challenge of life is the centerpiece of its greatness. Our ability to embrace the challenge is proportionate to our ability to realize those lofty concepts of purpose and meaning.