Archive for July, 2009

Faith Expressed Through Works — James 2:14-26

Chapter 2 Verses 15-16:

When making application of a Bible passage it is wise to always begin with context.  James’ illustration of clothes and daily food takes on more significance when we realize that he was writing to a group of refugees—individual’s chased from their homes because of religious persecution.  They had faith—faith enough to leave their homes for Christ.  They did not have jobs, food, shelter, clothes, or a network of friends.  James is telling these desperate, heroic Christians that their faith must continue to be expressed through rallying together in the midst of poverty, instead of saying “every Christian for him/herself.”  As each one found a job they were to care for the group and not just say, “I’m sure God has something good in store for you.  Just trust Him.”


Chapter 2 Verses 18-20:

“Faith and Works”

Some of us are naturally thinkers.  Others of us are naturally doers.  Some of us prefer to emphasize grace; others truth.  God does not give us the freedom of balancing one another out.  We are to strive for a balanced expression of Christ’s character in each of our lives.  This requires self-awareness.  Use the chart below to provide some “laundry baskets” to sort out your life.  Consider those areas of faith (i.e., trust, knowledge, hope, etc…) in which you are both strong and weak.  Do the same with works (i.e., service, humility, sacrifice, etc…).

Faith                                                        Works

Strengths

Weaknesses


James 2:22

What does it mean for faith to be perfected (i.e., made complete) through works? I believe it is helpful here to consider the metaphor of a seed.  A good seed will bear fruit.  If a seed is planted and it does not bear fruit, it was either a bad seed or a pebble confused for a seed.  When the seed bears fruit, it results in more seed.  Both seed (faith) and fruit (works) begin to flourish.  If we hoard or emphasize either to the exclusion of the other, we lose both.  If we only stockpiled seeds, they would go bad and we would starve.  If we consumed all the fruit, we would have no seeds to plant.

Go back to the chart on faith and works.  Play a matching game.  Draw a line between a particular expression of faith that motivates a particular work.  Do the lines connect between strength-stength, weakness-weakness, or strength-weakness?  What aspects of faith are needed to motivate your quadrant of works/weakness?  What expressions of works would make your faith weaknesses more tangible?

Why Humility is Doubly Important in Marriage

James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Most people who are married have turned to their spouse and said, “You don’t act this way around anyone else” or “You don’t treat anyone else this way.”  Occasionally it is meant as a compliment, but more often than not these statements are meant to infer, “I am getting a raw deal.”  There are many explanations for this phenomenon, but in this post we will examine one explanation with two faces—the absence of humility.

Face One: Refusal to Live in My Weaknesses

Have you noticed that we spend the majority of our day operating in areas of specialized training, well-practiced skills, and personal interests?  Then we come home.  When we get home we are asked to do a wide variety of tasks, many of which we have no particular passion for or interest in.  It is these tasks that we do to love and serve those we know best, while those we are least committed to get our fine tuned excellence.

The response we too often give is to draw back from, neglect, or grumble about these tasks that are not our strength.  We may call it insecurity, but it is more often a form of pride.  “If I cannot do it with excellence and receive affirmation, then I will not do it at all or with much effort,” is our logic.  “I get to operate in my strength all day long and know how to succeed in that world.  If I am not sure that I will be a success, then I will not try.”

It takes great humility and the heart of a servant to live in the area of my weakness for the love and welfare of another.  When we are willing to live in our weakness for the benefit of others, God rewards this humility with more grace.  This grace is realized when we resist the pride (“I should be good at whatever I do”) and take joy in imperfect (yet growing) service.

Face Two: Refusal to Accept My Spouse’s Weaknesses

There is humility in action.  Then there is humility in expectation and evaluation.  We move from the paralysis of fear rooted in an expectation of personal excellence to the mantra, “Haven’t I already told you that” or “How many times have you done that and still not gotten it right?”

The pride has mutated.  The pride now says, “I would have been able to do that, so you should be able to do that.”  Whereas before pride was holding me up to a level of elevated expectation, now pride raises my ability or expectation as the standard for you to meet.  In both cases, the absent effort or harsh tone is rooted in “I should” or “I could” (pride).

Patience is rooted in humility.  Patience accepts that imperfection, error, inefficiency, and incompleteness are not beneath me.  That is humility.  When we extend this form of humility to our spouse (and children) we are incarnating the grace of God.  God rewards this dispositional obedience (yes, obedience to God can be as much attitude as activity) with more grace.

When we put these two faces of humility into practice we experience a home where the atmosphere is marked by the grace of God and we experience the redemptive joy God intended in a Christian marriage and family.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

Standing on Level Ground at the Cross — James 2:1-13

Chapter 2 Verses 1-3:

In how many arenas can we show favoritism? In verse one James declares favoritism sin.  In verse two he begins “for suppose” or “for if.”  James is giving one particular example of what God declares wrong.  In order to thoroughly apply this passage, we need to think about more than money.  We can show favoritism based on money, education, power, attractiveness, personality, sense of humor, family heritage, height, weight, age, race, gender, occupation, and a long list of other criteria.

Why is favoritism so wrong? We could look at its cultural and relational effects, but I believe it is more to the point to say that favoritism is disruptive because it is heresy.  Favoritism, at its root says, certain qualities make one person more valuable than another.  There are some aspects of value (righteousness) that some people can contribute to God’s kingdom for which others are deficient.  This is a character-based form of works righteousness.  It assumes we (or at least some of us) have something we can contribute that makes us more worthy of God’s acceptance.  It cheapens grace, by saying there are some people who need more grace than others.

How do we battle this temptation to favoritism? First, we recognize diversity without making value judgments.  I Corinthians 12:7-11 recognizes that we are all gifted differently, but affirms that this is by God’s design, for God’s purpose, and should increase (not decrease) unity in the Body of Christ.  When we “grade” people based upon non-moral characteristics, then we are in fact “grading” God.  Second, we must have a mental economy based upon faithfulness not productivity.  This was Jesus’ point in Matthew 25:14-30 “The Parable of the Talents.”  Each servant was proportionately judged on his faithfulness not competitively based upon the performance of others.  We must recognize that every strength has accompanying weaknesses, every asset comes with time consuming responsibilities, and every ability brings burdens with its opportunities.  When we begin to rank these gold (five talents), silver (three talents), and bronze (one talent) we increase the likelihood that men and women will hide their gifts in fear, shame, or insecurity.  While, at the same time, we set those up who have the “high gifts” to fall to pride.

Chapter 2 Verse 5

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit”

James sounds a lot like his big brother when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3).”   We could spend our time trying to figure out this “paradox of poorness,” but instead let us accept that those who recognize their poorness (by whatever criteria) are blessed because their dependence upon God is more constant and pervasive to life.  Now the question becomes, “How do we take on more of this attribute?”

  • Live on less than you make. Besides being discouraged by Scripture (Prov 22:7), debt tends to reveal that we are relying on stuff in unhealthy ways.
  • Look for ways to complement others. We have a strong tendency to judge people by our strengths instead of their own.  This causes a negative attitude and makes it feel like we have “arrived.”
  • Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Those of us who do not judge others by our strength tend to judge ourselves by others strength.  This is the opposite side of the “have” versus “have not” dynamic.
  • Regularly do things you are not good at. When we only do things we like and/or are good at, we lose a sense of our need for grace and weakness.  This also usually means we are forcing others to live in our preferences instead of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Regularly give or volunteer your strength. We can often view our strengths as “ours.”  This sense of ownership makes us prideful and territorial.  Our strengths are gifts given by God for us to steward for His glory.  Giving or volunteering our strengths is a good way to remind ourselves of this.
  • Use complements as an opportunity to praise God. Praise can be as simple as saying, “God has given me great joy in doing [blank].  I am glad to know I was able to be a conduit of God’s blessing by using His gifts.”

“Doing” the Christian Life — James 1:19-25

The blog entry “Communication with Our Desires on the Table” provides a relevant communication exercise that a Sunday School teacher or pastor would want to consider when teaching this passage.

Chapter 1 Verses 19-20:

What was it that would have made James’ readers angry?  Why did James’ readers need to hear “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”? James’ readers had to flee their homes due to persecution in Jerusalem.  They were now in the process of rebuilding their lives.  The shock was wearing off and the anger was settling in.  This was unfair and wrong.  They missed their home and extended family.  They were starting over when they should have been getting ahead.

How does this context help us apply this passage? James was writing to people whose anger was prompted by a righteous cause.  Rarely are we angry and believe we are wrong, but James’ audience truly knew they were right.  Yet James still gives this advice.  Too often we assume that anger with a righteous cause is righteous anger.  If this were true, James would not have needed to pen these words.

What was James trying to get his readers to see, understand, and do? James’ readers were not in the same cities as those with whom they were angry.  If they remained angry with every pagan who might pose a threat, the Gospel would have been trapped.  Their anger would “not accomplish God’s righteousness.”  They must listen to their new neighbors and resist the urge to quickly interject when fear was aroused (and it would have been if you had already been run out of town for your faith once).  Pagans would not understand why these people were refugees for Jesus.  If the dispersed Christians were argumentative and defensive, trying to plead their case to their new neighbors, then relationships (conduits of the Gospel) would have been closed before they had the chance to open.

What do I do with this when I am trying to apply it with someone who did hurt me? James’ readers were tying to obey this passage by not allowing bitterness to spill over onto innocent new neighbors.  Does that mean I don’t have to listen and be patience with my rude and inconsiderate spouse, child, boss, parent, neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc…? No, I am afraid we do not get off the hook.  Honor remains the same.  Understanding the context helps us see that this passage applies even to our righteous anger.  As we see the context of the passage, it allows us to see how clearly this passage does apply to many of the “exception clauses” that come to mind.
Chapter 1 Verse 25:

Becoming “Doers of the Word”

One of the ways that we become forgetful and casual in our Bible intake is when our method of study becomes routine and mundane.  We go through the motions and remember what we read as much as we remember making our morning coffee or brushing our teeth.  A variety in our biblical intake increases our retention.  The following chart is designed to help you brainstorm different types of intake for each level of study.

Level of Study                 Scripture                          In what ways can Bible study be implemented at this level in your life?

Hearing                        II Tim. 3:14-15
Reading                          John 17:17

“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” D.L. Moody

Studying                         II Tim. 2:15
“Our age has been sadly deficient in what may be termed spiritual greatness. At the root of this is the modern disease of shallowness. We are too impatient to meditate on the faith we profess… Rather it is unhurried meditation on gospel truth and the exposing of our minds to these truths that yields the fruit of sanctified character.” Maurice Roberts
Memorizing                   Psalm 119:9-19

“While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth.” Donald Whitney

Applying                          James 1:22-24

“All too often people rush to the application stage and bypass the interpretation stage: they want to know what it means for them before they know what it means!” Richard Foster

Living in Christian Freedom — Galatians 5:1-15

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Chapter 5 Verse 1:

In what ways do Christians frequently think about the will of God that creates a sense of fear? Often we can think of God’s will as a needle in a haystack.  There are things we know that are outside God’s will (sin; negative commands; “do not”) and things we know are in God’s will (positive commands; “do”).  However, many Christians live in fear of missing something hidden within those parameters (which car, house, job, school, activity, etc…?).  Part of the Christian liberty Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 is the freedom (even the responsibility) to choose based upon our God given talents and interests those matters that are not delineated by God’s negative or positive commands.

Chapter 5 Verse 2

“A Yoke of Slavery”

Where there is slavery, there is a yoke.  Where there is a prisoner, there is a prison.  This is so much easier to grasp when the bondage is physical, but in Galatians 5 Paul is not speaking of a physical bondage.  The “yoke” was made of wood and placed on the neck of an ox, but the yoke made of guilt, fear, insecurity, or doubt (“yoke emotions”) is embedded in the heart of God’s children.

Galatians 5:1 echoes Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  The question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I experience condemnation in the form of yoke emotions?”

First, we should examine our heart, life, thoughts, and relationships to discern whether there is sin to be repented of (I Cor 11:28) or discord to be made right (Matt 5:23-24).  Based upon the context of Galatians 5 we will assume the primary problem is not here.

Second, we should examine the beliefs that undergird our yoke emotions.  This is where Paul was challenging the Galatians.  If certain laws and rituals are necessary in addition to faith in Christ, how do we know which ones and on what do we rely when we break one of those?

To assist in identifying this underlying belief(s) give attention to the emotional triggers: time, place, your actions, people, preceding events, etc…  What significance or history do these things have?  What “law” are you following in their presence or whose acceptance are you seeking / earning by keeping that “law”?

Third, we should understand how the Gospel transforms this belief.  Paul was not against circumcision as a Jewish custom, but only as a pursuit of God.  Chances are your “yoke” will either reveal a practice you have given undue significance in the pursuit of God or something / someone you have begun to treat as a god (idol).  Seeing this allows you to strip off the “yoke of slavery” (repent) and return to the freedom of Christ (faith).

Chapter 5 Verses 3-4

Why would getting circumcised obligate someone to keep the entire law? Imagine this scenario: a parent has a child with a 4.0 grade point average (perfect) and says to their child, “When you get your grades up I will buy you a new car.”  Nothing can be added to a 4.0.  There is no “up.”  If the obviously well-studied child tries to improve his/her grades, no amount of studying will result in any progress.  Nothing can be added, so the effort to improve will result in infinite exhaustion.  We have the righteousness of Christ by faith in His work on the cross.  If we seek to add to it, our efforts would be caught in the same exhausting trap of trying to improve upon perfection (see Isaiah 64:6 for another refute of salvation by works).

Chapter 5 Verse 7

Why would Paul ask a question that he and his audience already knew the answer to? Paul and the Galatians knew it was the Judaizers who caused the conflict.  In this case, the answer is found in Paul’s objective.  Paul was more concerned in this letter to win the Galatians than he was to attack the Judaizers.  The Judaizers were (or had been) friends to the Galatians.  Paul wanted to focus upon the Judaizers actions, values, and beliefs more than their persons.  If Paul were seeking to evangelize the Judaizers or writing a letter to them his purpose would be different.  Here Paul did not want to allow the allegiances that develop in relationships to cloud the evaluation of sound doctrine on a matter as important as salvation.  In what situations might we find ourselves in a scenario of being more concerned about winning one person than refuting another person or group (i.e., a teenager with questionable new friends) and what can we draw from Paul’s example in Galatians?

A Christian View of Suffering — James 1:1-8

Chapter 1 Verses 2-4:  

“A Progression for Redeeming Suffering”

James 1:2-4 is very similar to Romans 5:3-5.  Paul and James provide an almost identical view of what a believer should expect God to do in the midst of suffering.  The following steps contain a guided reflection to assist you in using these passages to guide and encourage you in the midst of suffering.

Step 1:
Rejoice in Your Suffering

This rejoicing is not celebration.  However, our first instinct in suffering is often shame.  Shame is reclusive.  It excludes people.  Rejoicing is social.  It invites people.  Suffering is not our fault.  Suffering is bad things happening when it is not the consequence of sin.  Therefore, Paul and James are encouraging us to resist withdrawing in shame during suffering.

Step 2:
Simply Endure or Persevere

Initially victory is merely resisting accepting defeat.  Suffering usually begins with a body blow that wants to sap our will to endure.  The basic act of not giving in is an act of faith in the God who redeems.  At this stage we await our deliverer (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Step 3:
Develop Maturity (James) or Character (Romans)

Now God moves us from resting in Him to acting like Him.  We may have prayed for deliverance in step 2, but now we look for God’s methods of responding to our suffering.  It is wise at this time not to get lost in the “why” question.  God may not reveal “why.”  Questions that we can more profitably find answer to are “What would God have me do in this circumstance?” and “How can I serve God in the midst of this adversity?”

Step 4:
Experience Joy (James) or Hope (Romans)

The joy and hope are not stemming from the circumstance, but the activity of God and the opportunities to know/serve Him.  We have walked through this dark season with the Body of Christ (step 1).  We have seen God sustain us in more than we were capable of enduring (step 2).  We have grown in our ability to rest in and emulate God’s character (step 3).  The goodness of that progression energizes our heart (step 4).  We are now in a position to enter in with someone else at step 1 with the comfort we receive (II Cor 1:3-5).

Chapter 1 Verses 5-7:

What do you pray for most?  Is it wisdom? One way that we can determine what is most valuable to us is by assessing what we pray for.  James has just discussed the progression by which God redeems suffering.  If suffering is to produce endurance, then maturity, and finally joy, then it makes sense to pray for wisdom.  It is more in keeping with God’s purpose in suffering for us to pray for the wisdom to respond/steward the moment well, than it is to pray for God to remove the circumstance.  It is not wrong to pray for God to remove the circumstance, but if we are not maturing in wisdom then we missed one of God’s primary intentions.  Why was James so hard on those who doubted? Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  When we doubt God’s faithfulness in giving wisdom and redeeming suffering we distance ourselves from the source of our wisdom and redemption.  The problem with doubt is that it represents distance.  We begin to look for alternative answers to our dilemma.  We are no longer seeking God and wisdom.  We are seeking relief and escape.  These short-cuts are self-sabotage.

Chapter 1 Verse 8:

What are some common examples of being “double-minded”? Being double-minded is most often revealed in pursuing good things in unwise or destructive ways.  We are pursuing “Godly things” in dysfunctional, self-defeating ways.  Then we feel like God let us down (James 1:13).  One example would be demanding respect.  Respect is a good thing. But once we demand it, respect is less satisfying when we get it.  Another example would be begging for love or affection.  Love and affection are good things.  But once we beg for them, they are less satisfying when we get them.  We enter into a cycle of diminishing returns.  We feel like we are doing what’s right, but our methods become more severe, desperate, and unwise.

Preparing for a Group Study of the Book of James

Preparation is the key to success.  This is just as true in Bible study as it is anywhere else in life.  In the coming weeks we are going to spend many hours in personal study, listening to teaching, and discussing the book of James.  The question is, “Are we ready to receive what God has for us in this great book?”
I want to suggest several things that would help you prepare for our study of James.  If you will commit to preparing yourself for our study with one or more of these, I believe it will greatly enrich the personal benefit you receive from James and corporate benefit we receive from the discussion.

  • Read through the book of James once per week while we study it together. You can download the book of James to print out on 7-8 pages of paper double-spaced and with extra wide margins.  This will allow you to read the book as a letter (how it was written) and make notes all over it (those you like you add to your Bible).
  • As you read through the book of James keep in mind that James is writing to a group of Christians who are refugees for their faith.  They left their home, extended family, work, language, and culture rather than forsake the name of Christ.  They are hurting (emotionally, relationally, financially, physically) and angry.  This letter is James’ encouragement and instruction to them.  Often with the practical nature of the book of James we forget to read this book in light of the historical context of its recipient.
  • Review the handout of topically arranged memory passages from James.  Identify one or more that fit you and commit to memorize them.  As we study through the book of James pay particular attention to how James is “setting the stage” for the passage(s) you are memorizing.  This will allow your Bible memorization to be enriched by a more complete understanding of the context of the passage that speaks to your need.
  • Pray at least once per week for me, as your teacher, and my time of preparation.  Ask God to use our time of study and discussion to expand your understanding of and ability to apply (live out) the book of James.

Bible Memory Verses for James

Below are passages to memorize from the book of James based upon various life struggles and family roles.  Use this not only to assist you in strengthening the discipline of memorizing Scripture (Psalm 119:11; Hebrews 412-13), but also to prepare your heart for this study.

  • Those who are in the midst of suffering (1:2-4, 12; 5:7-11)
  • Those who are seeking to live with greater wisdom (1:5-8)
  • Those struggling with pride or identity is in “stuff” (1:9-11; 4:6; 5:1-6)
  • Those struggling with temptation (1:13-15; 2:10-12; 4:17; 5:19-20)
  • Those who struggle to rest in the goodness of God (1:16-17)
  • Those who need to work on conflict (1:19-21, 26; 3: 2-12; 4:1-10; 5:12)
  • Those with more “head knowledge” than practice (1:22-25; 3:13-18)
  • Those who neglect the call to care for others in need (1:27; 2:15-17)
  • Those who favor or seek favor those with status (2:1-7)
  • Those trying to evangelize the pseudo-religious (2:19)
  • Those who struggle to evaluate sincere faith (2:14, 20-26)
  • Those who struggle with control issues (4:3-16)
  • Those who live with as “that’s none of your business” motto (5:16)

Psalm 119:11
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” & Contentment

Introduction to the “Living Worship” Series

Verse 1:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing; Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing; Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet; Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise His name – I’m fixed upon it; Name of God’s redeeming love.

Verse of Discontentment:
Each new day I long for something; Hoping it will fill my heart
Desire drives me, peace forsaking; Yearnings cause my mind to dart
How many times I’ve thought “If only!”; God would give me what I ask
God’s patient with hearts so stony; Free me from repeating past

Verse 2:
Hither to Thy love has blest me; Thou hast brought me to this place
And I know Thy hand will bring me; Safely home by Thy good grace
Jesus Sought me when a stranger; Wand’ring from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger; Bought me with His precious blood

Verse of Contentment:
Resting fully in Your blessing; Desires ring with fresh “thank You’s”
For the first time now I’m seeing; What has been in clearest view
Every good thing flows from Your hands; Discontentment blinds my eyes
Now I’m free from my heart’s demands; Joy is contentment’s surprise

Verse 3:
O to grace how great a debtor; Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter; Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

DEVOTIONAL:


“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
& Our Battle for Contentment

In a culture that is so marked by affluence that it might well be called “a land flowing with milk and honey” we struggle to be content.  Often like young children three days after Christmas we are so saturated with blessings that we begin to grumble.

As we think about God’s blessing and our battle for contentment, it is helpful to consider the context in which Paul discusses grumbling in I Corinthians 10:9-13 (emphasis added):

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In discussing grumbling Paul emphasizes the faithfulness of God.  A lack of contentment is a passive-aggressive way of calling into question whether God has been good and faithful.

In the application lyrics to this song the key points being emphasized are (1) that discontentment is a distortion of reality based upon the demands our heart and (2) that contentment unlocks the door to the only source of lasting and true joy.

The Christian Life in Community — Galatians 6:1-18

Chapter 6 Verse 1:

What are the errors that we fall into that prevent us (the church) from being as effective as we ought at restoring fallen believers? I believe there are errors on both sides of restoration which hinder the church.  On the aggressive or prideful side, we can tend to play “sin cop.”  We can become more focused on eradicating sin than upon seeing sinners redeemed.  This can take the forms of legalism or truth without incarnation.  On the passive or neglectful side, we can view those areas of life in which we feel are “no one else’s business.”  It is uncomfortable and awkward to address these areas so we avoid them or pretend they do not exist.

Chapter 6 Verse 1:

To see Paul develop the posture/attitude of those who seeking to restore others further, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

Chapter 6 Verse 3:

In how many ways can comparative thinking distract and/or distort the way we think about life, ourselves, and our relationship with God? When we compare ourselves to others we inevitably create some type of “scoring system.”  This system assigns value or usefulness to each individual.  From that point forward all of life is about what we have (or don’t have) to offer.  We lose sight of the fact that God created us to receive glory from how He uses our strengths and weaknesses.  Once we fall into comparative thinking we will either succumb to pride or insecurity.  It is only when we capture Paul’s mindset in Galatians 6:14 that we are able to live with a Christ-centered confidence that is neither prideful nor insecure because (finally) life is not about us.

Chapter 6 Verses 7-9:

“Becoming a Balanced Sower”

There is so much to sow.  Sowing to the Spirit involves everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).  There are more “good things” I “ought” to be doing than can be done in a single week.  And God is not mocked.  If I neglect sowing in one area of life, there will be a lack of harvest in that area.  What can I do?

It is important to maintain two key things: (1) priorities and (2) balance.  There needs to be a hierarchy to my relationships and activities.  There also needs to a breadth.  Too often we choose to only emphasize one of these wise sowing principles.  We become so committed to the top priorities that life loses balance or we are so diversified in our activities that priorities are never enacted.  And then the harvest comes.

Use the chart below to begin to think through the priorities and balance of your life.  Prayerfully consider how God would have you sow during your current season of life.

Life Area                                     Rank                             Hours/Week                           Key Changes            Bible Study/Prayer

Church/Fellowship

Marriage

Family

Work

Sleep/Rest

Hobbies

Financial Management

Evangelism

Serving Others/Giving

Household Chores

Other