Handbook for an Active Faith

In the news this weekend was the story of a man, Jon Kramer, who discovered two library books in his parents’ old cabin, both 40 years overdue. They were guidebooks that had helped the family develop a lifestyle around nature and an appreciation for the outdoors. Simple and practical books of great use and, apparently, great value, Jon decided to pay $1552.30 to cover the nickel-a-day late fees. Along with the check, he included a letter requesting to keep the books on loan with the promise of a similar payment after another 40 years.[1]

jonkramer-40yearsoverdue

This story helps us understand why the New Testament book of James has continually been a favorite among Christians. First and foremost, James is a practical book. A book in which we can immediately see the need and put into use. A book  scholar Robert Gundry calls “a manual of Christian conduct that assumes a foundation of faith.” (474)

The first verse of James introduces us to a transformed life ready to spur other transformed people into actively living out their faith. The message of James is that genuine faith must become evident in how we live and what we do. Faith doesn’t sit the bench, there are no armchair Christians or couch-potato disciples.

So the question is, how is it going to be lived out? How will this guidebook help us to develop a lifestyle around active faith and an appreciation for not only hearing the Word, but doing it? If we hear God and become doers of His will, what will this mean for our church?

David A. DeSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament, has an incredibly insightful list of which he says “the church that receives James’ word and takes it to heart will be characterized by the following traits.” For the sake of brevity I’ve summarized his list below:

  • Our knowledge of God will shape our community.
  • Our speech, actions and ambitions will be like Jesus.
  • We will have a consistent witness through kindness and charity among ourselves and toward the world.
  • We will resist the tendency to value people according to what they have, where they’re from or what they look like.
  • We will welcome the poor and filthy along with the wealthiest donor.
  • We will help members find healing for their strife.
  • We will use the wealth and resources of our church to reflect God’s priorities instead of secular financial wisdom.
  • We will seek to restore the sick and the sinner.[2]

I’m excited for what God has in store for our church as we engage with James between now and Easter. My hope is that we won’t keep our faith to ourselves, but we will get out there.

 

[1] http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-man-pays-1-500-late-fee-for-library-books-borrowed-in-1970s/408867025/

[2] David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, Intervarsity Press, England: 2004, p 839.

Time keeps on ticking away, ticking away…

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. – Albert Einstein

Image

Time is often seen as our enemy; rarely our ally and always a kind of governor or manager overseeing what we do. We waste it, we blame it, and can never quite capture enough of it to be fully satisfied. For each person has but 24 hours a day and seven days a week: no matter whether you’re in the 1% or 99.

I have not been posting these past couple of months because of my own battles with time. I hope to begin again, and even post some simple things (like sermons) in the future, but right now… I just can’t find the time.

What has been taking up this time, you say? Well, all the regulars of course… being a husband, a dad, work, preparing sermons, trying to have friends and even (occasionally) trying to exercise. But on top of all that… we bought a house. And well… one day I will share the story of this house buying process (a testament of God’s greatness and unmerited favor toward us, ie “grace”), but let me just say this… it took a lot of time. And as we work to restore and repair and renovate… it will take time. And as Rebecca is 3 days past her due date with our new little one on the way, we will be spending some serious quality, family time.

Now, I have not experienced the sort of fear and devastation expressed by David in Psalm 31, but let me (and you) say with him:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;

Psalm 31:14-15a

Sure, we can wrestle with time, but we serve the God who made it; and who has our time in His hand. Praise God that we have Him to trust in! Let time not be a battle but an exercise in our faithfulness to the One who made us.

And so… I must again bid you farewell. Hopefully it won’t be too long. And to you it may not matter, but it has mattered greatly to me, and so I look forward to my next post… whenever that may be.