Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No Finger Wagging

Have you ever had someone wag their finger in your face for something you did or didn't do, including how you did it? Maybe you've done this to someone else, or maybe, just maybe, you've figuratively done it to yourself—you know, calling yourself stupid or dumb or kicking yourself for something you said, did, or even forgot to do. And then you let the feelings surrounding it continue to fester and grow more distasteful. I think this is a tendency that many of us struggle with to some degree and maybe more so at some times in our life than others.

A favorite passage of mine concerning wisdom and direction, especially during trials is James 1:5, which reads, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” In this verse I see several things about how my God helps me during times of trial and confusion. The first thing I know is that if I ask Him for wisdom He will give it. I don’t have to beg or hope against hope that He might decide to do so. The Bible says that He will give it, and it goes even further to say that He will give it generously—meaning NOT STINGY! This may come through insight in our time of prayer, hearing His voice, affirming us through His Word—the Bible, or through wise counsel and maybe even setting up circumstances. He is not limited in how He gives wisdom, and we are told as His children that He will give it.

The next thing we know about how He gives wisdom is that He gives it without reproach. This means that He will not put us down, belittle us, or wag His finger in our face. Our God loves us perfectly and this includes how He gives us His wisdom. I know as a father there are some times I have dealt with my kids in ways that neither of us have felt good about afterward, and there are other times when I’ve put my arm on their shoulder or come alongside them and helped or instructed them, finding that it goes much better.

Having said this about my children, I also have seen in them and in myself times when we did not want to listen to the wisdom which was shared. This is generally because it was not what we wanted to hear or it did not nurse our hurt, and then we continued in our struggle often bouncing back and forth between the competing options—including “no hope” or “nothing anyone can do” as an option.

God understands this as well. James continues with a caution concerning how we handle this wisdom from God. We read in verses 6-8, “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

The caution is this: If you are going to ask God for wisdom, then listen to what He tells you! It’s that simple. If He has spoken to an issue in Scripture, know that Scripture is His Word, and obey it. Don’t try to manipulate it to suit your own desires. If you play this game you will start bouncing around and tearing yourself up with the competing options. In doing this, you are no different that a person sitting in a boat with no method of escape (oars, motor, etc.) as a storm sets in and the water gets very rough—tossing you around. James uses the analogy of the waves on the beach when a storm sets in. These waves grow tremendously in size and power, causing destruction even to the shore or anything else in their path. This type of person, James says, really shouldn't expect anything from God simply because He won’t listen to Him anyway and God knows it.

As I read these words of Jesus’ half-brother, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ disciples on the sea with Jesus sleeping in the boat as recorded in Mark 4:37-40. “And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?’”

Sarah writes today about trusting God. Rather than trying to find another way and saying, “But God, you don’t understand…,” say as we read in Proverbs 3:5-6 (personalized paraphrase), “I will trust in my Lord with all my heart, and regardless of what other voices might say including my own, I will listen to Him and follow Him in all of my ways knowing that He will direct my steps.” And when God directs my steps he does so with wisdom that is without limitation, knowing past, present, and future fully all at the same time. When things get confusing, go to our God who does not get confused and ask for His help.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (7/31)

Trust Me in the depths of your being. It is there that I live in constant communion with you. When you feel flustered and frazzled on the outside, do not get upset with yourself. You are only human, and the swirl of events going on all around you will sometimes feel overwhelming. Rather than scolding yourself for your humanness, remind yourself that I am both with you and within you.

I am with you at all times, encouraging and supportive rather than condemning. I know that deep within you, where I live, My Peace is your continual experience. Slow down your pace of living for a time. Quiet your mind in My Presence. Then you will be able to hear Me bestowing the resurrection blessing: Peace be with you.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

“… And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” John 20:19

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