Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good News, Cute Kids, and James 5

This post is heavy.  There's just no way around it.  :)

So I'll start with good news . . . our homestudy is done!!!  Multiple copies are on their way to my house and as soon as we get our immigration fingerprints, we can send in our dossier paperwork and officially be put on the waitlist.  Woo Hoo!  You don't know how ready I am to be done with the paperwork part!

And how about cute pictures to offset the intensity to come?  These are a couple of my kiddos that capture their personalities so perfectly!  My mom got them these Easter outfits so I was busting a sweat before church trying to get a good picture.  Ava, firstborn all the way, is posing beautifully at the beginning while Grayson runs wild each time I try to snap the pic.

Then we digress to the point where Ava takes charge and decides that she will hold Grayson next to her so we can get this photo shoot done.  And Grayson was having none of it!  I'm so blessed by my littles . . . even their firecracker personalities!

And now to the intense part.  Have you read Hebrews 4:12-13?  No?  Well here it is . . .

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

So painfully and beautifully true.  And what I continue, by God's grace, to experience as I spend time in the Word.

I've been reading James the last three weeks with my accountability partner . . . good stuff.  There has been a lot that James has challenged me on, more than I'll get in to here, but nothing has hit me as hard as this little verse . . .

"You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."  James 5:5

Did you cringe?  I do.  Every. Single. Time.

The heading in my Bible at the beginning of this part says, "Warning to the Rich."  Pretty clear rebuke of the rich there.  When I hear the word "rich," I like to think of someone else.  I immediately get an image in my mind of someone who has more and makes more than me.  They are rich.  Not me.  Do you know what we make?  Most people wouldn't put us in the "rich" category.

Yet there are millions of people who would absolutely do just that.  The live on less than $2 a day and I'm a rich person if there ever was one.  We have a home to live in, stuff to fill our home, food to eat every day, two cars, plenty of clothes, electronics, and even a little money in the bank.  Most definitely rich.

So my first step was to quit thinking that these verse apply to other people and let them fully wash over my rich heart and life. 

I do not want my life to be characterized by luxury and self-indulgence when there are so many others who are literally dying of need.

Have you noticed that this is becoming a trend with my time in the Word?   Me too.  It is everywhere in the pages of Scripture. 

I've prayed again that my life would not be about accumulating more stuff, but that I would live instead in generosity and self-denial.  That I would take my blessings that are purely by God's grace and would use them to be a blessing to those in need. (That's Psalm 67:1-2 in action)

It does not proclaim the Gospel or life up the One who gave His all if I am living "fat" while others are dying of starvation.

So that right there was enough to again rock my world and send me to my knees.  But that wasn't it.

I learned in Secret Church a few weeks ago that I forget to look at the bigger and deeper picture as I study the Word.  David started teaching about the three levels of David and Goliath and I was like, "Hold up.  Three levels?  Aren't we just talking about a boy and a giant here?"

Nope.  There is the boy and giant.  Then the nation against nation.  Then it is really all about Jesus.  Three levels. 

I will tell you that reading to Ava from the Jesus Storybook Bible has helped me immensely at seeing how Jesus is the center of every story.  Yes, I just admitted that I'm learning something from my 3 year old's Bible!  It's true though.  Ava's bouncing all over the bed, but I'm having some good Bible study during family worship. :)

Anyway, I realized that I often take the Word at face value and forget to dig deeper or pan out for a wider look at how it applies.

So as I meditated on James 5 with this in mind, I applied this verse in terms of the Gospel.  And then it got real.

By God's grace, and grace alone, I was born into an American family who are followers of Christ.  I heard the Gospel early and often and was born again as a young girl.  I've certainly had my moments years of rebellion, but God has taken me to a place of spiritual growth and depth that I never expected and, again, had done it completely by His grace. 

But am I living a life of luxury and self-indulgence when it comes to the Gospel?  

I've got religious freedom and I am so thankful for it.  But do I wallow in it?  Do I just live at ease in my freedom with Bibles all over the house, church twice a week?  Millions of brothers and sisters have no such luxury.  Most don't own a Bible and many don't even have the Word in their own language.  I can see three Bibles right now from where I'm sitting at my desk.  Luxury.

And self indulgence?  Got that one covered.  I could (and do) spend a lot of time in a myriad of ways on my personal spiritual growth.  Now before you start yelling at the computer . . . I'm not saying that spiritual growth is bad.  I obviously love reading and studying the Word and think that should absolutely be a part of each day.  But sometimes we just take the "good" and get fatter and fatter with Jesus, not giving any of Him away.   

How many Bible studies, ministries, church services, spiritual growth books, blogs, articles, etc. can we take in before we simply explode from our gluttony? 

There are millions of people that are unsaved.  But beyond that there are 2 billion people that are unreached.  Never heard the Gospel that is the ONLY way for them to be declared righteous before God.  Never heard.  People dying daily in the sin that separates them from their Creator while a way has been made for them to live with Him forever.  It's just that no one has shared this life-saving message with them.  We haven't gone.  I haven't gone.

My heart has been pierced that I can so often get full on Jesus, but then rest in my salvation in luxury and self indulgence.  I'm safe.  What else do I really need to worry about?  Now I don't actually say that, but isn't that what my lack of urgency with the Gospel communicates?  That I'm all that matters.

Oh that I had God's heart for those who are perishing.  His love that would propel me out of luxury and into generosity and humility for their sake.  His love that would lead me to deny self so that others may know their Savior.

I shared this on facebook earlier today, but I had the best conversation while playing with Ava today.  She had a bunch of papers and started pretending that they were tracts and she was out telling people about Jesus (pretty sure I never played that as a kid!).

I asked a few questions as we talked, but her schpeel went something like this . . .

"This is a paper that tells you about Jesus.  He is a man.  And God.  I don't know how that works.  He made everything.  See this phone?  He made it.  He died on the cross for our sins.  But he isn't dead anymore.  3 minutes later he was raised from the dead and the angel said he's alive.  He can raise you from the dead too.  So now do you believe?  Good.  Then take this paper and tell someone else about Jesus."

Other than being a little quick on the draw about how long Jesus was in the tomb, it was a pretty good proclamation of the Gospel if you ask me!

And later as I prayed, thanking God for my sweet girl, I prayed that she would not waste one single moment of her life in luxury or self indulgence like her mama has.  I prayed that her urgency and pure love for others would remain and would be the fuel that send her to the ends of the earth to declare God's love for sinners.  I prayed that my heart would yield to this Word so that Ava will grow up seeing generosity, self-denial, and disciplemaking in my life.

I'd love to hear if this Word pierces your heart like it has mine and how God leads you to submit to it . . . materialistically and with the Gospel!


  1. So beautifully said, Cole. I have been wrestling with this exact same issue in my life lately. It is what keeps me up at night. I loved your words in this post and thank you for sharing your heart!

    Also, CONGRATS on your home study being complete!! That is SO, SO awesome!!!!!! One step closer! :-)

    1. Thanks so much Jenny! Hope you are right behind me!

  2. Poor exegesis and way out of context. Platt has been called on this before. James condemns the rich who are rich because of their evil ways that neglect the"pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth... and the rich have "condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you".

    1. Thank you. I studied this verse in it's context and should have shared the context as well. That said ... I think the principle, from the context, applies quite well to me and others. We wouldn't say that you can only apply this Word to your life if you are a wealthy landowner, so I feel confident that the Spirit was in fact convicting my heart with these verses. These wealthy landowners accumulated their wealth at the expense of others. They sat and indulged in their treasure while the laborers in need were right in front of them. Like then, the divide currently between the wealthy and those in poverty is great, even among brothers and sisters in Christ. It shouldn't be so. I didn't say that wealth is evil. But that we shouldn't live with only ourselves in mind. We are blessed to be a blessing. I might should have articulated all this better in my post ... my apologies.

  3. Soooo...I'm not sure who "anonymous" is in the previous comment, but I would like to address him or her very politely. Please have the common courtesy and respect to use your name...maybe even list your email address....if you are going to throw out a critique. Let's even aim for a dialogue rather than a harsh critique that is masked behind anonymity.

    Mr./Mrs./Miss Anonymous, I'm Amanda. You can email me if you would like at
    amandanease at gmail dot com.

  4. So...I think your thoughts are so true and challenging. Thank you for sharing your heart and I am right there with you!! Praying that we all would wrestle with these things as we grow in deeper maturity and love for our Jesus. And YAYYY for your home study being complete! That is such a fun step!!!

  5. Cole, I think the application of your exegesis is just fine, as is Platt's. We don't have to be the direct and immediate recipients for the Word to be applicable to us. Otherwise, we would not be under command of the Great Commission. That's all I'm gonna say about that right now.

    Also, several of my professors always said they ignored anonymous complaints, and I think it is a good policy. By eliminating their identity, they remove any ability to dialogue and basically makes the conversation one-sided. Anonymity is best for reporting crime tips, not discussing theology.

  6. I have been working through this very thing in the past year or so. This was so refreshing and encouraging to hear! I often find myself trying to "strike a balance" but I have found there is no such thing (duh... Matthew 6:24). I know I was born in the US for a reason, but it certainly wasn't to be a comfortable Christian who puts value in things instead of God! Thank you so much!!

  7. Amanda- love your comment. So well said!

    I truly believe that the Word of God is His LIVING Word...when we read it, He speaks to us in our situation. It may be technically taken out of context...but that is the point, isn't it? To apply His Word to our lives right where we are.