The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Devils, Distance, and Drawing Close ~ James 4

hand-of-god-1383050-1280x960On Sunday we looked at another pretty challenging teaching of James, but also one filled with hope and promise.

James writes this, ““So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you”. (James 4:7-8)

James is sharing that the heart you respond to God with, is how he will respond to you. That if you are open to God, seeking God, humbling yourself to God – he will draw you close. But if you are pushing him away, fighting him, and rejecting him – God honours our freedom but still seeks to care and have compassion for us.

So James reminds us to check our hearts, to see if they are pushing God away, or opening up to him. 

James also reminds us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. And as I’ve said before, even if you don’t believe in the devil, you’ve experienced him. In the Bible the devil is the source of accusation, fear, and someone who actively seeks to separate ourselves from God. The truth is we have all felt accusation, and fear which separates us from God.

James wants to remind us that this doesn’t need to be so. That if we just were to resist the accusation, the guilt, the fear, the separation, the devil would flee and we would move closer to God. That if we would but draw close to God, he will draw close to us and the devil must flee as we move closer to God.

We ended up with a pretty clear main idea, that we need to repent and rely on God. 

God promises to be there with us, to push away the devil, accusation, guilt, and fear but we need to repent and rely on him. As long as we are going our own way, as long as we assert our independence, as long as we pretend we don’t need him – he can’t help us. He can’t help us when we are resisting and pushing him away.

So on Sunday to make this real, we did something I don’t often do. We did an altar call. We invited people to simply come forward who wanted to physically say to God ~ I need you in some area. And that was it.

But sometimes we need to do something tangible to connect with God. And the truth is we are all broken and need God, so we can all use with doing something tangible. 

So if you are in the place where you need God today – do something tangible. Maybe kneel, maybe write out your needs, maybe ask someone to pray. But do something, because God’s promise is that if you move closer to him, he’ll move closer to you.



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to repent and rely on God.

Teaching Points:

  • “God gives what he demands” – Augustine
  • God will respond with the heart you have for him.
  • One of the primary roles of Satan is to separate God and people.
  • Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.
  • How often do we try to go it alone and hide our flaws?
  • We live with a lack of light, because we refuse to rely on him.
  • We need to repent and rely on God.

Adult Discussion Questions:

“The reason we struggle isn’t because we can’t overcome our failures, but because we are too proud to ask God to move.”  What do you think of this statement? Have you experienced the truth of these promises: that God WILL come near as we come to Him in true humility, and that Satan WILL flee from us as we resist him? What do you need to repent of? Confess? Get clean from? Admit? (Remember, this is how James says we come closer to God – it is crucial in our relationship with Him) About what things are you too proud to admit the truth? (Our pretending prevents God from working) How can you practically turn from these things and rely on God, beginning today?


Discussion Questions for Young Families

Have you ever needed help with something, but you didn’t want to admit that you couldn’t do it alone? How can we come to God today, letting Him be the one that helps us through our weaknesses and failures?

Challenge for the Week: To repent and rely on God…today.

Humility and the Devil

anybody-listening-1563751-639x852On Sunday we are going to be exploring James 4.

James 4 has lots of wonderful things within it, and also lots of challenging things. The area I want to focus on is this verse:

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you”. (James 4:7-8)

I want to focus in on how we can draw close to God, on how we can be free from Satan – the source of accusation, fear, and separation. I want to look at how we can find life by moving closer to God.

The trouble is that to do this we need to admit that we need God. And admitting our failures is something most people struggle with, myself included. I don’t like to think that I’m broken, flawed, or in need of much. I don’t like putting myself in places where my lack of knowledge will be revealed – which is why I never go to hardware stores or near tools. But the truth is that we all have flaws, and that there is a beautiful promise of God. That if we would but humble ourselves, admit our need, move away from fear and guilt of the devil, towards God, we will find him drawing closer and closer.

And I’m not sure about you, but this is something that I want in my life.

So why not join with us on Sunday to discover how it can happen in yours.

Why Being Real Matters So Much, and Why Its So Hard

Being real matters to me. That doesn’t mean I’m good at  it (I’m trying though), but that it deeply matters to me. I don’t know how you can have trust without authenticity ~ and trust is the currency of relationships.

What I mean by that is that without trust relationships don’t work, and they actually aren’t relationships. Without trust relationships devolve into contracts, conversations, or mutually aligned interests but they aren’t deeply committed friendships.

Which brings me back to authenticity. Because trust is based on being real, authentic, and true. But being authentic is hard in today’s world. It’s hard to be true. It’s hard to be content with who we are, and to be real about that. I read other people’s Facebooks and want my life to be as cool as others. I read other people’s posts about their kids and wish my kids said deeply spiritual things. Instead Hudson said at Sunday School, when they were discussing the burning bush, that if Heatwave (a Firetruck Transformer) was there he would have put it out. Yep that’s my son – thinking about dousing Moses’ burning bush.

But what’s the point? The point is that even though it can be tempting to puff up our lives, to embellish, to become jealous, and to wish we were something different or more – it’s not worth it.

It’s not worth it if you want true relationships. It’s not worth it if you want things that last. It’s not worth it if you want your life to mean something. Because in the end the only thing that matters are relationships. And those are all built on trust, and being true and real.

So while at times I wish Hudson was deeply spiritual, the truth is he loves Heatwave and Transformers. And while sometimes I wish my life was as “cool” as other people’s seem to be, the truth is I’m pretty content with my everyday rhythms staying at home and watching Netflix with Krista.

The point I’m trying to make is that being real is hard, but it’s worthwhile. 

So the next time you’re tempted to be anything less than real, muster up the courage and let people see the real you. The person who doesn’t have their house, parenting, or life put perfectly together. Let people see the real you, trust in you, and in the end your life and theirs will be better for it

Pretending in Leadership

926343_45454100Dan Rockwell, tweeted this a few days ago:

Pretending we know more than we know is one reason we don’t know more.

And that is absolutely true. Pretending we know more than we know isn’t one reason we don’t know more – it’s the reason.

To say, “I don’t know” is one of the least accepted things in our culture. Especially in business, leadership, and in theology today. To say “I don’t know” is tantamount to saying, “I’m not a real leader, an expert, or capable”.

But this pressure to pretend and posture in our culture is killing our leadership and influence.

Another way you could to put it is this: arrogance is killing our leadership and growth.

Or as the Bible puts it, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”.   Proverbs 11:2.

The point is that if we want to grow, if we want to learn, if we want to lead well’’, pretending has got to go. Arrogance has got to go. We need to learn to grow humility, to learn from those around us, and to be okay with saying “I don’t know”. And as we do this not only will we become better leaders, but better people.

The Leadership Principle of “I Don’t Know”

??????????John Cotton Dana once said, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

I would agree with that, and also say, “Who dares to lead must never cease to learn”. Because the truth is that leading, and teaching require learning at their core. Leadership is nothing you are “born with”, it’s something you are taught. Knowledge is something you gain as you learn. So both teaching and leading flow out of a posture of learning.

  • The person who refuses to learn, refuses to grow.
  • The person who refuses to learn, refuses to improve.
  • The person who refuses to learn, stops moving forward and will soon move backward.

I think that’s all pretty straightforward, but here is the leadership or learning principle that flows from this that is hard. To be a good leader and a good teacher requires learning. This also means it requires saying, “I don’t know”. And this is what is hard for teachers and leaders.

They are used to being looked up to as the person with answers, with direction, with knowledge and skill. It is hard when you are in that position to say “I don’t know”. But being able to say, “I don’t know” is the fundamental posture of a learner. It is required to learn, to admit you need to learn. So here is the paradox or difficulty: to be a good leader means being a learner, which means admitting you don’t know things.

And this is hard, because we have somehow built up the expectation that our leaders and teachers would “know everything”. That if they were to admit that they don’t know we see them as an example of weakness rather than strength. But saying “I don’t know” isn’t a weakness; it’s a requirement to be a good leader and teacher. It requires self-awareness to know what you know, and know what you don’t. It requires courage to admit the limits of who you are. It requires humility to continue to look to others as well for direction, support, and growth.

The point is that if we want to be good leaders and teachers, it means being a great learner. And that means we need to get good at saying, “I don’t know”.

Ridding Pride From Our Lives

On Sunday we tackeled the topic of pride. This is a hard topic because to be honest, in general, I think we try to live with balanced pride. We don’t want to live without it. We don’t want too much of it, but we also don’t want to get rid of it from our lives.

So I began by exploring what pride is. Pride is really misplaced, perverted, and self-directed love. St. Augustine defined pride as “the love of one’s own excellence”. It’s love that is inward rather than outward. And in many ways that’s exactly what pride is: a vortex that makes all affection and love about you. Pride is self-interested and  self-centered.

So with this understanding why on earth do we want to have anything to do with pride?

I think the reason we still try to balance and have just enough pride in our lives is this: in our culture we believe we need pride to succeed. That somehow without pride we won’t have any self-esteem, ability, or success in life. On Sunday I made a different case that we don’t need pride to succeed, we need humility.

Pride is based on false premises. It promotes our perfection and hides our flaws. It self-promotes our preferred version of ourselves, regardless of how true it is or isn’t. This is why pride is never a basis for healthy self-esteem: because it’s never based on the truth.

Will Willimon wrote: “To tell you the truth, I can’t think of much that is wrong with a healthy – within limits – sense of Pride, other than that Jesus was against it.”

I think that’s true. So we dove into how if Jesus didn’t display pride, how we might live like him free from it.

Where we landed was pretty simple: turn down pride and invest in humility. Jesus, when we he was tempted by the Devil in the desert, had his pride tested, poked, and prodded each time. But Jesus didn’t give in. He turned down pride, and instead invested in humility

We ended with a few practical ways to do this. The first, turning glory back to God. So often we want the glory for ourselves, but the example of Jesus is to give it back to the Father. So we gave this simple challenge: track the goodness of God this week. Keep track of all that God does for us. As we recognize God’s involvement in our lives, we can give the praise and glory back to him. So our simple challenge was to sit down once everyday and reflect on how God has been active in our lives. This will remind us that our success is not all about us, but God living and moving in and through us.

So why not do that this week? It’s a great step to grow humility and root out pride.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to live with humility, and root out pride.

Take Aways…

  • Pride is the great sin. C.S.Lewis
  • Pride isn’t something to be shunned anymore, it is something to be embraced in our culture.
  • Pride is misdirected, misplaced, and perverted love
  • Pride is vortex that makes love all about you.
  • “Pride is the love of one’s own excellence” St. Augustine
  • Pride is a social sin In our culture we believe we need pride to succeed.
  • The answer to our self-esteem issue, isn’t pride but humility The inward manifestation of pride leads a person to be obsessed with others and how they feel about him or her. Michael Mangis
  • We’re supposed to instill pride in our children to make them stable people. But humility works even better. Fredrica Matthews-Greeen
  • “Jesus encounters the temptation to Pride with his rejection and with his silence” Will Willimon
  • We need to live with humility, and root out pride.
  • We need to grow in our gratitude to God Pride takes all the credit for success, and blames everyone else for failure. We need to flip this around.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? How has pride ever wrecked a relationship you’ve been in? In what areas or ways do you struggle with pride? How can you grow in humility? Will you choose to track God’s goodness?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about pride, and humility. Talk to them about being honest with who we are. But be proactive against pride, have them write out good things God has done for them this week. Have them make a picture, or share reasons for being thankful to God. The more they are rooted in that, the harder it will be for pride to take root.

Challenge for this Week Keep track of all the good God does for you this week

Healthy Pride? Is it Possible?

On Sunday we are looking at the last of our Seven Deadly Sins. We are actually going to be looking at a sin that I think we have a confused relationship with: pride.

In many ways we know that pride is a sin and awful. No one likes to hang out with arrogant jerks. We just don’t. And I’m sure if you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen a relationship, business, or connection wrecked because of pride. Pride has a way of wrecking things, we know this.

But I think in other ways we aren’t quite willing to live without pride. We try to instill pride in our kids. We post accomplishments on facebook with pride. We have pride in our companies, sports teams, or even nations.

The point is that while we don’t like people who have too much pride, we also don’t want to live without it.

So I want to dive into this confusing and complex topic on Sunday. I want to talk about how we can live free from pride, how we can give up on pride, and how we can find something better to replace pride in our lives.

Will Willimon wrote:

“To tell you the truth, I can’t think of much that is wrong with a healthy – within limits – sense of Pride, other than that Jesus was against it.”

I think it’s true. So it’s worth discovering about how to live without it…