Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Discrimination (James 3) (James 2:1-13, Matt 5:3, Proverbs 30:7-9)

"Red and yellow, black and white we are precious in His sight"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

I read this part of James and thought, "Why me?"  I don't want to even think about discrimination.  The word makes me cringe.  It's been a weapon for so long in America.  People are afraid to call a terrorist a terrorist because it might be discrimination.  It was awesome to hear that people from a Muslim Mosque reported suspected terrorists to Canada : )  We should all be so alert, in our Churches too.  My husband is a Therapist in a Nursing Home.  He works with co-workers of all sorts of nationalities.  I took the photo above for an event his group was having.  

God loves variety.  You can tell from all the different animals, flowers, colors, landscapes, and people.  Even the weather is always changing.  I love His creativity.  He must've given me a bit of His creativity.  I am always busy at something.  It'll be awesome to see His work in the Heavens.  

These verses in James, refer to showing preference to rich people who come to Church.  I've actually seen this in some of our Churches today.  The one who donates the most gets to say what's what.  Interesting isn't it?  This is like medicine, hard to swallow but really good for us (me) to consider.

James 2:1-13

1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
James went so far as to say by discriminating we are actually judging people.  It's evil to consider a poor person of less value than a rich one.  This applies to a person's gender and race as well.  Sometimes it seems we get so caught up in the word "rich", we forget the meaning.  There was a time when it wasn't uncommon to hear someone say, "You sit on the floor;  the rich people get the pews."  

We sometimes feel if we associate with what we think is cool, we will be like that.  But really it's just pretending and wrong.  We don't often think about how the rich get rich, just that it would be nice not to be poor.  They usually make their income more important than anyone or anything else.  Many wealthy people have worked very hard and saved money.  But, if you're not bringing in enough money, you're just not of value.  As always there's exceptions.  Some give lots to help others and do good things.  Others get inheritances.

5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
Reading this is surprising to me today.  I've known this all along but guess it never registered.  When I was a little girl my Dad was talking about different people's value.  "This man is worth millions and that one is a billionaire."

I got so excited I asked my Dad, "Daddy what am I worth?"
He got silent.  Then he said, "You're worth more than money.  There's no dollar value on you."

I believed it.  Even after working in high paying jobs, I realized I was worth more than all the problems offices bring.  Hard to enjoy your income, if you put in 13 hour days.  I've heard of a lot of people moving on to other careers.

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

God is so amazing : )  He doesn't see us as dollar value or net worth.  Those who are poor or struggling financially are the ones who need faith the most.  They are the ones most likely to pray from the bottom of their hearts.  Often they are the ones with the most compassion because they know how it feels.  If it weren't for my hard times, I wouldn't have ever become a Christian at all.  Like it says in verse 5 "God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith."  

He provides our needs.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  Matthew 5:3
Check out Agur's prayer from Proverbs:

Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches-
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
and say, "Who is the Lord?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God. 
Proverbs 30:7-9

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stop, look & listen (James 2) (James 1:19-27, Psalm 141:3)

"Listen before you speak"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

This verse makes me uncomfortable, and I have to laugh at myself.  That's me!  I need to slow down and listen before I speak.  After the tragedy in Boston, someone told me it was Muslims that did it.  I know that's too broad of a statement; I have American Muslim friends.  We all really need to get the facts before assuming we know.  I'm grateful it's being handled that way.  I wrote a prayer at the end of this post for Boston and those affected. This violence is frightening.  But we will walk on in faith.  America is our country, independent, home of the brave, land of the free.  "God bless America!"  Our forefathers faced much more than this.  Some are my ancestors.  I'm still here.

I was raised in Southern California.  We lived by Huntington Beach, not too far from Los Angeles.   All the nationalities and races were there.  It was the 1960's.  I went to an experimental, progressive school across the street.  They measured your IQ, but wouldn't tell you what it was.  Would've been nice to know, maybe I would've payed more attention in school.  We weren't allowed to "tattle" or tell the teacher about other children's misbehavior.  I received the citizenship award for a few years.  Then I was told I couldn't have it again. It was time for someone else to get it.  Not sure why only one person got the award. 

At the time, the pollution was so bad we had smog alerts.  We weren't allowed to go outside and play.  We also had to do bomb alert drills. We were taught to "drop and cover," under our desks if a bomb was dropped or an earthquake came (yikes!).  By 5th grade, teachers weren't permitted to discipline children at all.  A girl shot rubber bands at me while the teacher silently sat, and watched.  It's good to be an adult now.  So when should we speak up and when should we be quiet?

As I read James, what came to mind was the saying we heard as kids about crossing the street, "Stop, look and listen."  Don't jump to conclusions and start babbling (blush).  Pay attention.  I've always imagined Jesus as the ultimate listener.  I can see Him sifting through all the sounds around Him, a sigh, tears, laughter, words...

James 1:19-27

Be quiet while angry.
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Don't speak when your completely and totally angry.  There's that red faced, bulging eyed anger that we all experience at times.  The first thing that comes out is usually something we'd really not want repeated.  I usually take a breath and ask the Holy Spirit for words to say.  Sometimes I just march off and try to calm down.  Breath...  Honestly though, the Holy Spirit helps the most.

Don't cuss or swear, be quiet instead.
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
To me this speaks of using cuss words or bad language.  Those words are still in my mind ready to pop out.  Wish I never learned them.  It's a challenge to fill our hearts with God's Word, memorize scripture.  Learn to step away from a fight and pray.  To be meek is to be quiet, gentle and humble.  Not so easy without the Lord's help.  Reading and writing this reminds me of how I talk to my husband at times.  I have some work to do.

Do the Word of God, don't just think about it.  Challenging right?
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
This raises some flags in my heart.  What have I done lately?  Do I stop, look and listen to those around  me?  I try and speak to those in the grocery store if I'm next to them.  I pray for those I see in pain or a wheelchair.  What if I asked the Lord to show me who I should help?  See with His eyes and hear with His ears. Hmmm.

26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Verse 27 is one of my very favorite verses.  I became a Christian on my own.  I prayed that if God was real He'd show me the true Church.  A few weeks later I was invited to a Southern Baptist Revival by next door neighbors.  I accepted the Lord as my Savior.  But I had no idea how to read the Bible or what it was like to be a Christian.  So when I read verse 27, I was so relieved : )  In fact, one of my first ministries was visiting an elderly widow in a Nursing Home.  It's so simple, help each other out.  Look after those in need.

Then there's this verse:
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips."
Psalm 141:3

After a few years I got to leave my first school.  We moved, and I went to a normal school.  I saw someone get paddled for the first time (besides my big brother).  It was so fun!  I learned embroidery. The girls gossiped and giggled.  I began to learn things.

Dear Heavenly Father,
I lift up those in Boston to You.  I pray You will heal them of the horrible images.  Please comfort those who mourn.  I pray Your Holy Spirit will guide the doctors in helping the injured.  Help them find strength and courage under all of this stress and ugliness.  Please send the angels to supervise, hold hands, and wipe tears.  Let Your hand be with them.  For nothing is impossible for You Father.  My hope is in You.
In Jesus Name, Amen

At this point, I think the authorities would appreciate it if we stop, look and listen for things out of the ordinary around us.  Maybe we could prevent another tragedy.  Prayer is always good : )

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Temptation (James 1) (Genesis 3:1-8, James 1:12-18, 1 Corinthians 10:13)

"I was thinking of chocolate; but, I got tempted and ate it... Sorry!"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Ok, so I've been praying the Lord would guide me to ways to earn money.  Instead, my husband got 3 new job offers that pay more money.  Thanks be to God!  He started the best job this week.  I'll still keep working (this blog is my ministry).  The transition is a bit scary.  This verse comes to mind:
"6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;"
Philipians 1:6 NKJV

When Jesus was taken captive, Peter denied Him 3 times. Jesus never gives up and forgave him 3 times.  I can sure understand why Peter was tempted to deny Christ.  Swords, torches, soldiers, angry words all filled the area.  I'd be scared too. 

I think for me, other than fear, temptation comes down to not being easily satisfied or content.  There's always a better car, nicer houses, lots of stuff...  Then there's giving up.  I remember one time when I gave up on my faith.  I yelled to God, "Why won't You help me!  I just want to graduate from college!"  Then the still small voice whispered in my heart, "You have two choices, either believe and trust in Me, or be miserable.  It's up to you."

I chose faith.  It seemed so obvious. : )  I graduated in 1983.  I'm back to reading through the book of James.  It's a short book with a powerful punch.  I started it before the Easter Story.  In order to understand temptation, it helps to take a quick look at Adam, Eve and God.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"

2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Adam and Eve's innocence and freedom did die.  Their fellowship with God was split.

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:1-8 NKJV
People still try and hide from God.  It must've been such a heartbreaking moment for Him.  Jesus is the sacrifice to bring us back to His presence.  No shame, forgiveness.

As a woman, I confess.  I just have to know.  Someone hints at a secret, and I MUST know what it is!  Eve certainly left a lasting impression...  Of course fig leaves didn't satisfy for long, we have so many clothing stores now it's crazy.  You do notice it was the woman who went shopping for clothes first right?  Satan or the devil, is the serpent responsible for the fall of man?  Or was it man's fault?  What if they had simply trusted God and believed His Word?

James 1:12-18

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 
There are actually 5 crowns in the Bible, the crown of life, rejoicing, incorruptible, righteousness, and glory.  Each crown is a reward we will receive in Heaven.  When we are able to endure temptation, we will receive the crown of life.  I can understand that.  Giving in to temptation brings a guilty conscience, suspicion, looking over our shoulders, not a happy, content life at all.  Sin brings death, steals our joy and peace.  For example, adultery destroys marriages and hearts.  Things are never the same for people when a marriage is broken.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
God's intention was for us to live in innocence and peace.  He walked in the garden and enjoyed Adam and Eve's company.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve had no shame.  They lived happily with each other and the animals.  This verse is so comforting.   Temptation comes to all of us- we're not alone.  It's not just me.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Cor 10:13 NKJV