Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Lent 2021 (Page 3 of 10)

March 19, 2021 – Faithful activity

Today’s Bible Reading

Read James 2:14-24

What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.—James 2:16-17

More thoughts for meditation

In Romans 6, Paul tells us that our free gift of eternal life is not a license to sin. James in the above passage makes the point even stronger, suggesting that if we have faith, but it doesn’t bear faithful fruit and outcomes, our faith is dead. That is to say, if we continue to labor for deadly wages, instead of for faithful activity, we really are not expressing the transformation that occurs because of allegiance to Christ.

James argues that true faith is full of faithful actions. And we are truly servants of righteousness, also translated as justice, then we will indeed fulfill that righteousness through faithful action and work. As we enjoy the bounty of God’s grace, we must remember that even though our work didn’t not earn us the favor, the results of our transformation is faithful action and activity. Our action occurs as a result of an overflowing of God’s love.

Ultimately, James is arguing that our faith needs to have material outcomes and consequences. It has to really matter. He is saying it’s not enough or us to “believe,” the gift we receive does far more than simply change our minds or our beliefs , it changes are behavior and our action, too.

Suggestions for action

It can be easy to revert to the ways of sin and death because of how we have been conditioned by the world even after we receive the free gift of Christ. It’s true that we are fully assured of our salvation because it is not a matter of our own labor, but that doesn’t excuse us from disciplining ourselves in the Way of Jesus. James is saying it’s not good enough to say we have faith, we need to demonstrate it. And we need to demonstrate it in a material and knowable way. The work of our Compassion Teams is an example of faithful activity, they lead us to overflow God’s love and help to make our faith really real. Today, pray for them one-by-one.

March 18, 2021 – Do not worry

Today’s Bible Reading

Read Matthew 6:19-43

And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth.—Matthew 6:28

More thoughts for meditation

The Sermon on the Munt is one of the main teaching opportunities for Jesus, and it is one of the primary discourses in Matthew (a Gospel oriented around Jesus’ discourses). It is a cohesive teaching. But the translation committees of many Bibles divide the teaching into topical sections—which can be convenient for easy searching, but compartmentalizes the teaching too much. So today, read the full passage above without headings and see how Jesus links it all together.

He starts by warning against storing up earthly treasures because we end up storing them in our hearts that way. And then he proceeds to tell us that our corrupted hearts mean we serve an alternative master (see yesterday’s post about loyalty to God), and we can’t serve two master. We’ll love one and hate the other (this is why in Romans 6, Paul says that we are no longer mastered by sin, we are mastered by Jesus).

And then comes the longer section on not worrying. Jesus ties worrying to our desire for treasure and money. We seek after it because we’re worried we won’t have enough. So our pursuit of money and treasure through labor indicates our lack of faith. God knows what we need and God will provide for us. We ask for what we need and seek God’s kingdom and justice, and all of these things will be given to us.

Suggestions for action

Jesus says “Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?” Jesus knows that our fear and worry motivates our working for treasure and money. But despite all of that work under the sun, we find out that it’s pointless, because eternal life has already been granted to us. Our worrying, and our working, doesn’t add more to our life, as if our lives are wages for good work. Jesus gifts us eternal life for free, changing our relationship to work, treasure, and money. No longer does fear or worry dominate us, but rather, we rest assured, knowing the God will honor her promises.

 

 

March 17, 2021 – Nothing is to be gained

Today’s Bible Reading

Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

But when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had worked so hard to achieve, I realized that it was pointless—a chasing after wind. Nothing is to be gained under the sun.– Ecclesiastes 2:11

More thoughts for meditation

Ecclesiastes is one of the last books that is written in the Old Testament. Sometimes we describe it as the culmination of Hebrew wisdom, written as a reflection of the storied history of God’s People in Israel. It is a radical text that asks existential questions about God and life in general. The teacher here is telling us about how they enjoyed all of the pleasures of the world and worked under the sun to collect them, only to find out that upon reflection, it was all useless, pointless, “a chasing after the wind.”

I think the teaching here rings true today because a lot of labor is a chasing after the wind. We don’t need to work on gaining more because we’ve been gifted everything by God. What does God ask from us in return? Not work or labor to justify ourselves—because our justification is freely given. God asks for allegiance and loyalty. In the Old Testament, the worst thing Israel can do is work for their protection and wealth by allying with an enemy of God or a competing nation.

God asks for loyalty and allegiance, and offers protection and provision in return. And when we fail, God offers us a way back, never holding our wrongs against us, even if we incur consequences as a result of them.

Suggestions for action

The salvation that is freely given to us by Jesus is the final expression of the generosity that God has always demonstrated throughout history. God’s love endures forever and is freely given to us. We don’t collect it by laboring under the sun; such labors are pointless. We can bask in the pleasure of God’s grace without working for more of it. Perhaps we can imagine our laboring for approval and pleasure to be disloyalty to God, since God already provides all we need. If it works for you, discipline yourself to toil less knowing that toiling for love is no longer needed because our Heavenly Parent provides all we need already.

Today is Patrick Day on Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body blog. See what God says to you through this famous evangelist.

March 16, 2021 – Last will be first, the first will be last

Today’s Bible Reading

Read Matthew 20:1-16.

“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’  So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.” – Matthew 20:15-16

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven, or really the King of Heaven, is like a vineyard owner who hires help throughout the day and compensates them equally regardless of the amount they worked for. This might seem like it cheats the workers who labored all day, but they’ve agreed to the amount to begin with, so it is not exploitative. Rather, it is generous. The vineyard owner collects the ire of those workers, however, and he assertively replies that it is his right to be generous with what belongs to him.

Jesus is saying that the generosity in the Kingdom of God works the same way. Our salvation and our liberation is not tied to our work. We don’t get more of it because we toiled for longer. That’s because it isn’t our work that causes us to earn our salvation here. Good work may follow salvation, but it isn’t why we have it.

This important to understand because it is easy for us to development resentment against people that we don’t think are doing their fair share of the work. Or to believe that our work has indeed earned us favor with God.

Suggestions for action

In the parable, the vineyard owner goes out to the market and finds people and invites them into working the land. God invites us into the work of the Kingdom and assures us that salvation follows. Try to keep separating the gift of salvation from the work of the Kingdom. This is no easy task, which is why Jesus spoke so much about it. Today, ask God to free you from judging others you deem less worthy of salvation. Pray that you are freed from the burden that your work is what saves you, pray that you can keep receiving the gift of salvation.

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