Do You See It?

Seek It

Do you see it?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard this scripture quoted many times, you’ve probably even read it many times.  What I want to know, is if you see and hear what I’ve missed?  Let’s read it again, only slower.

“Religion – that God our Father accepts – as pure and faultless is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Yep, that’s what I’ve heard quoted time and time again over the years.  What a wonderful God we serve!  He cares for each of us and wants us to love each other too.  He wants us to look after each other, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, to mow the lawn and visit the lonely.  Meet the need!  Doesn’t it feel good when we get to do so?

But, did you see it?  It’s so often overlooked or just never said.  We read the verse.  We quote the words.  We have it quoted to us.  Though like in the above, it’s rarely said in its entirety.  We often stop reading before the “and,” or if we do read it our minds have already stop listening.  Why?

For those of us who have heard it regularly, I think we’ve been conditioned to stop before the “and” because we think we already know the verse.  Our human nature kicks in and we’re already onto wanting next.  I mean, ok, take care of widows and children who do not have parents.  Now, tell me something I don’t know!  I also think we fail to see and hear the “and” because it’s the hardest thing to do.  Giving a meal to a hungry person or hugging a child is easy compared to what else is required of us.  Then again, maybe we stop hearing it because we simply don’t want to, or it just doesn’t fit in with our agenda we’re trying to push that day–if ever.

Here it is, the “and,”

“and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

WHAT?!  Yep, it’s really there!  I read about eight different translations and they’re all the same.  How does keeping “oneself from being polluted by the world” fit in with looking after orphans and widows?  It does tie in, because the worldview is for us to do anything and everything that makes me feel good about me, and to be or become whatever will gain me social accolades.  Sure, feeding hungry children can get you those accolades, but then the heart’s motive is selfish (polluted) not God pleasing.  Try saying you believe in and long to live by the Ten Commandments today.  See how the world responds to that.  They will be quick to point out where you fail, treat you as if you are a lesser species, and many will call you intolerant, even if you are caring for the needs of others.

God knows that for us to have a pure heart, we have to have our heart right with Him.  If we allow the world to pollute us with its ideologies, then He can’t pour Himself through us to love those in need around us.  Sin will erode our minds and harden our hearts toward God and others.  It will hinder us from experiencing all the tenderness He has for us and dampen our ability to give and receive sincere love.

We’re told in verse one that James was writing to the Christians, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  So this tells me, a Christ follower, that I am vulnerable to the sins of this world and must guard against its deception.

We’re reminded in verse fourteen, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” The New Living Translation states it this way, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.”

It is my responsibility to “keep from being polluted by the world.”  I will only have myself to blame if I don’t.  The temptation will look and taste good for a moment.  It’s enticing!  But, it will soon become bitter in the stomach and poison the body, leaving us unable to care for the needs of others.  What goes in will come out, so we must stay on guard!

Am I the only one who has failed to see the “and” in James 1:27?  It makes me wonder how many other ands, therefore, ifs, or buts I’ve missed.  How many times have I put a period on a verse where there’s only a comma?  It may just be time to revisit a few of our favorite verses, those we think we already know, and the words surrounding them.  God’s word is alive!  He is always speaking!  We will hear Him if we’ll pause to truly listen, and see.  It’s our responsibility.

How do we stay on guard against the pollutants of this world?  By filling ourselves with the entire Word of God, all of the ifs ands and buts.

~Shannan

~ Lord give us sight ~

It’s Not My Job To Clean Up Someone Else’s Room!

Reflection - John D. Austin

A truth smeared is a lie.

I am grieved.  Many of us have become so quick to compromise the truth in hopes that we will not appear judgmental.  Being judgmental and choosing to live according to God’s words are two different things.

We should not compromise God’s word for the mere comfort of others.  His word and His statutes have not changed.  We most certainly are called to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, but love is not the act of agreeing with someone or making people comfortable in their wrong living.  Extending grace and being an enabler of wrong are not one in the same.  Sincere love must sometimes correct.

I’m becoming increasingly burdened by the many pastors and evangelist who are choosing to preach only half of the truth now.  We have permitted an atmosphere of comfort and tolerance for so long that we now have a spoiled society.  Had my parents chosen not to correct me when needed, I could have been hit by a car because I felt like running into the street to get the ball I was playing with.  Had they not set boundaries in place to keep me safe, I may have been bitten by the dog that looked as cuddly as my favorite stuffed bear.  They knew and understood the dangers around me, and they loved me enough to let me kick and scream when I didn’t get my way.  They set me free from so much harm by allowing my little feelings to be hurt for a moment.  It wasn’t healthy for them to simply be my friend and make me happy, they needed to walk in the role of being my parents.  Despite our feelings, we need our Pastors to shepherd us more than give us another feel good message of why we’re ok.  I would not have been ok had I been allowed to run into the street or pet the fluffy puppy.

I did not like my parents when they grounded me or spanked the little padded bottom God gave me.  I certainly did say “spanked”.  It hurt too, and I’m better for it!  I ran away from home when I was 5 years old because I got so angry at not hearing what I wanted to hear from them, and for not being allowed to do whatever I felt like doing.  I made it all the way to the end of the driveway.  I was really mad when my mom offered me a quarter to call when I was ready to come home.  Ugh!  Saying “quarter” makes me feel old and I don’t like that much either, but the reality is I grew up with a pay phone on just about every corner.  There’s a lot in life that we will not care to face, but truth is truth and denial of the truth will not change it.

Who likes being told no?  Who likes to feel the pain of disappointing another person?  Who likes when the spotlight exposes a less than desirable attribute within themselves?  Not many that I know, but we may never wrestle with ourselves to be a better us if we never have to feel these uncomfortable moments.

If we are trying to win a popularity contest rather than being a true conduit of the Word, then we must ask ourselves why?

Isn’t the one accusing me of being judgmental also casting their own judgement on me?  Why is it ok for the mainstream media to accuse me of being intolerant when they’re the ones using their positions of power to achieve their agenda?  All the while, I’m not being given the same platform but told I should keep my beliefs to myself so others do not feel bad.  What about the way they make me feel?  I don’t believe it’s my lifestyle choices that are making others feel bad or judged, as much as it is their own internal struggle between right and wrong?  Jesus said He is “the light of the world”.  When you shine a light in a dark room it exposes all that’s in it, the good the bad and the ugly.  It’s not my job to clean up someone else’s room or to be their judge.  Only the owner of the room can decide what to do with the stuff inside.  It’s also not my fault if the flashlight I am caring with me exposes what they own.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.  So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.” – Hebrews 4:12-14

“It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.”  Ouch!  This tells me that choosing to live right is not always going to feel good, but it will produce good if allowed to.  Trying to win the approval of everybody may prove deadly to the one we allow to run into the street.  Truthfully, living under the facade of being “non-judgmental” is more about keeping me comfortable.  It’s more about my feelings not the other person.  It’s more about being self-centered than tolerant.

Sincere love is willing to risk hurt feelings for a moment to potentially save another from something that could cause a life-time of pain.  If I see that you’re about to step on a bee, wouldn’t you want me to tell you?  I sure would want you to warn me of potential pain.  If you tell me about the bee but I still choose to step anyway, then that’s my choice and I will have to feel its sting.  Once you’ve warned me you are no longer responsible for where my foot lands, but I’m going to be really upset if I find out you knew and did not tell me.

Of course you would tell me about the bee!  Ok, what if I was cutting myself?  About to drive after drinking too much?  About to throw away my beautiful family by having an affair?  Would you offer counsel?  Would you at least ask me a few questions to try to make me think differently before I make such life altering decisions?  Or would you justify your silence with the fear of not wanting to appear judgmental?  These questions bring me to my conclusion, that by me choosing to remain silent, it’s more about me staying likable rather than making someone else comfortable.

To warn someone of a potential danger, with the possibility of laying down my own life’s comfort, is not being judgmental – it’s love.

“Love is not self-seeking…it always protects” – 1 Cor. 13

One more thought to ponder.  So often I hear the excuse, “Well who am I to judge?  I’m not perfect.”  Well duh!  Only Jesus is perfect, but He still calls us to love our neighbor as ourself.  How do you want to be loved?  With truth or tolerance?  Maybe the first person we need to be truthful with is ourself?  Then we will be able to love truly.

May God give us the courage to always walk and speak in love.

~Shannan

The whole truth and nothing but the truth, for truth is what sets us free.