Are we rich?

I know almost no one who would say “Yes, I am rich.”

Here’s a fact: the US Census reports that the average income in the USA between 2006-2010 was $52,000. Some of you might read that number and think to yourself, I would be loaded if I had that much.  Others would not be able to stay afloat.

Rich is relative.

So how do we decide who are the haves and the have nots?  ((But hold up a second…why are we even talking about this?  Well, the next section of James is about rich people.  Brace yourselves by reading James 5:1-6 ahead of time.  He’s let some strong words fly already, and this passage might feel like a flamethrower in the face.  James talks about it, so we’re going to talk about it, melting flesh included.  Now back to the question…))

Check out this thought-provoking article using recent world stats.  Who are the haves and have nots?  I think you’ll be able to decide for yourselves.  Take note of the comparison between the poor in the USA and the rich in India.

Before we come to hear this teaching from James to the rich it is vital that we make the leap from seeing ourselves as just barely making it America to seeing ourselves as wealthy by world standards.   So read the article and let’s discuss: are we rich?

Knowing and doing what God wants you to do…easy, right?

Did you ever wish God would visit you, in the body of Morgan Freeman, and tell you what he wants you to do?

Like this.

I have wished for that, even the Morgan Freeman part.  But it has never happened.  Well, not quite like that.

Does God still speak?  In this past week’s sermon James talked about how our plans for the future should be “God-willing”.  Makes you think, “Thank you very much, James, for making my life more confusing.”   How many of you have wondered how we find out what God wills if he rarely visits us like he does with Evan Baxter?  We had a great sermon discussion about this on Sunday, so let’s continue it here.

What are you waiting for?

Over the last few weeks on Facebook people have been posting errant pictures from the movie Back to the Future.  The occasion is the so-called “Future Day”, the date that Doc types into the time machine, when he goes to the future.  As a kid I was, and as an adult I still am, fascinated by the various conceptions of the future we find in literature and film.  Flying cars, light sabers, time travel.  What are you waiting for in the future?  By asking that question, I’m not just referring to technology.  Perhaps you’re waiting for a dream to come to fruition.   Maybe a relationship to blossom.  Maybe a pain to be healed.  Let’s discuss!

Taking back our words

This post is late because I was away for the first half of the week enjoying Dads & Lads camp with my son at Twin Pines.  It is a kid’s paradise.  Twin Pines has a variety of camps, and they still have room this summer.  Check them out here.  But now to discuss this past Sunday’s sermon.

I really appreciated all the input, and some of your stories made it in the sermon.  We had a lively and helpful discussion in our sermon discussion group following the sermon.  Perhaps you want to keep that going.

How can we not just manage our sinful talk, but instead have a Spirit inspired change of heart?  As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Enemies of God, Friends with the world…or just sin management?

Thanks to those of you that joined us for the sermon discussion on Sunday, it was excellent!  Let’s keep the discussion going.  Have you been thinking more about what James wrote?  Post your comments below.

As I have thought about the sermon, and all of James, one of my concerns is that you are getting the idea from my sermons that God only cares about sin management.  Dallas Willard used that phrase a lot in his book The Divine Conspiracy, which I highly recommend.   Yesterday, I found out about a blog post called “dear Pastor” which, as you can imagine, had me interested from the beginning.   Let’s discuss that too.

Read this to see if you have hidden pride!

I’m reading Rachel Held Evans‘ book (by the way, if you don’t follow her, you need to!) Evolving In Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned To Ask The Questions (Zondervan, 2010), and I just came to a great story she tells that illustrates well what James is talking about in 4:4-10.  Before I share the story, let me set it up.  In the passage we’re going to study on Sunday, James is talking about how pride can turn us into enemies of God.  But pride is so hard to grab a hold of.  Look at the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, and you’d never find them admitting to struggling with pride.  And yet it is pretty obvious to us, isn’t it?  Could the same be said of us?  Is it possible that we have pride and hardly know it.  Like Jesus was an outsider who critiqued the religious elite of his day, sometimes we need people from a different viewpoint to tell us how we come across.  On page 201, Evans gives a response from a coworker she had invited to church:

Listen, I respect you and your commitment to your faith.  Really, you’re one of the nicest Christians I know.  It’s just that I’ve had some pretty nasty run-ins with your conservative evangelical cohorts and I don’t think I’m cut out for that lifestyle.  I’m not into hellfire and damnation stuff, and I’m definitely not into this submit-to-your-husband stuff.  I can’t imagine telling my gay friends that they’ve got to force themselves to be straight, and I can’t imagine voting for a guy like Bush just because he’s pro-life.  Now, I’ve got no problem with Jesus.  But it seems to me that if evangelical Christians were the only ones to have God all figured out, then they would be the kindest, most generous people around.  No offense to you, but in my twenty-plus years in this business, I haven’t found that to be true.  Most Christians I know are only interested in winning arguments, converts, and elections.

Let discuss!  Are we more like the Pharisees than we’d care to admit?

July 1, 2012 – James 4:4-10 – Is God your enemy?

For our church newsletter and website, I write a brief introduction to each sermon.  My goal is to pique interest in the sermon.  Here’s what I wrote:

Who are your enemies? Have you ever thought that God is your enemy? James says, even though you would strongly say “No”, you might be fooling yourself. God just might be your enemy. Sound impossible? Come join us to learn more.

How do you feel about this?  What questions does it raise in your mind?

A blog to discuss sermons and books

I am starting a blog.

I am conflicted within about starting a blog. Why do I feel so uncomfortable about it?  Feelings aside, I paid for the blog.  Just as clicking the “Submit Payment” button on the marathon registration website led to months of training and ultimately a painfully wonderful four hours, I am hoping for a similar result with this blog.

I know that I need some goals for the blog.  Initially I have two:

First, I would like this to be a forum for my church to discuss sermons further.

Second, I would like to discuss books.

Here goes.