Sunday Morning

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It’s Sunday morning and you’ve just arrived to church.  You are 10 minutes early, like always, and have taken your “scriptural” seat.  Looking around you’re surprised when Adam Smith walks through the door.  Last weekend he got drunk out on his farm according to his youngest boy, Jake.  You see the eyebrows raising of your fellow brothers and sisters and know they’re as surprised as you are.

Buzz Buzz.

Your cell phone vibrates.  You have a text from Jane who sits a few pews behind you.

Jane:  Don’t look now but Susan just slipped in the back.  The Lord may be coming back today!  Ha.

Susan Amos?  Oh my goodness. You grew up in the youth group with Susan and at last count she was on her fifth husband, but you’ve heard lately that the man she is currently with isn’t her husband.

This will be an interesting Sunday morning.

Announcements start.  Then you pick up your song book.  “How Great Thou Art” – one of your favorites.  You lift up your voice in unison to sing to your Savior.

A figure slips in quickly and quietly, head down, and sits at the end of your row.  You can’t believe your eyes.  John Williams.  His pants are pressed, shirt and jacket tailored, the man is made of money.  That’s probably how he got out of the murder charges filed against him last year.  Yea, he’s on his second wife and her husband died last year after going on a hunting trip with John.  This is a Sunday morning for the books.

Your phone is buzzing incessantly by your side.  You’re sure after church you’ll have 1000s of texts.  You bet Rita, Jane, and Margie are all as shocked as you are.  Is it Christmas?  What are all these people doing here on the SAME Sunday?!

***

Sometimes I am shocked by Christians and the way we behave.  I read my Bible and think constantly – what if these people showed up to church today?  Now, I go to a wonderful congregation where I truly do not think this would be the reaction (the above conversation) but I still hear conversations like this all the time.  It is sad.

The first example I gave – “Adam Smith” did it sound familiar?

Turn to Genesis chapter 9:

20Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
26He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
27May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”

Noah?  The same Noah mentioned here in Hebrews 11?

7By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Yep, the same one.

Okay okay, all he did was get drunk – once.  That woman, Susan, she’s not in the bible, is she?

Let’s go to John 4:
16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

28

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Yep, “Susan” met Jesus.  And SUSAN brought people to Jesus.  A sinner.  Crazy, huh?

Okay, okay.  But there is nooo way “John” is in the Bible.   Well, I saved my favorite for last.  Do you remember King David?  The man after God’s OWN heart?   The adulterous murderer?

Turn to 2 Samuel 12:

1And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
7Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

13

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

I want to say something important here – I am not condoning sin.  Neither did Jesus.  I am saying that the Church is made up of sinners.  We are a sinful people who are constantly making mistakes.

What if, instead of talking about “Adam (Noah)” we gave him a hug and told him how good it was to see him this morning?  What if we really meant it from the bottom of our hearts?

What if, instead of texting about “Susan (the woman at the well)”, we held her hand, prayed for her, and told her that we understand how hard life is – but we are here for her?  What if we helped her know Jesus more intimately?

What if, instead of gossiping about “John (David)”, we helped him see his sins, as Nathan did, and prayed for him?  What if we encouraged him?  What if we helped him leave his life of sin?

James 5:

19My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This isn’t a post about condoning sin – this is a post about helping, encouraging, and being better Christians.  This is a post about being Christ-like.  Let’s stop calling ourselves Christians and gossiping behind our brethrens back.  Let’s stop looking down on others because of their sin and instead find ways to encourage, love, and help.

Stop worrying about my tattoos and start worrying about my soul. Stop looking at my piercings and instead look at my heart.
Take my hand. Pray for me. I’ll pray for you.

Everyone you meet is fighting a spiritual battle. Don’t let the devil win.

 – Anna Maynard
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Radical Christianity

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I have an obsession with the book of James. Maybe I am way off base but I feel like James and I are kindred statements. Possibly because he makes giant, soul searching statements that shake you to your core. He isn’t someone to read if you want to be a “comfortable” Christian. If you want to examine yourself, strip away what you think Christ wants from you, and then fill yourself with a fervent passion to change all aspects of yourself, to be a true radical Christian… read James.

He makes statements about suffering being a blessing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

That is how he starts out his letter. Yes, that is only the beginning. Who starts out a letter with saying to consider suffering and trials a blessing? James, that is who. He is radical.

We think of being radical in a negative way. I don’t mean it that way at all. Merriam-Webster defines radical in this way:

very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary

: very basic and important

: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

James was different from what is tradition and ordinary. He was a Christian, and Christianity is of the upmost importance.

James warns us against the sin of partiality in James 2. He then goes on to tell us how faith, without works, is dead. They go hand in hand folks, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:18-20

This should be an eye opener for us. James is being radical again. He is telling us we can’t simply believe and be saved. We also can’t “work our way to heaven”. We have to show our faith BY our works. We have to be true Christians who not only mean what they say, but do what they say. We can’t preach and not act out what we preach.

In chapter 3 he tells us how dangerous our words are. He compares our tongue to a fire, a small light that in any given moment of carelessness can set a forest ablaze. James tells us to bridle our tongue for it is a small member of our body, yet it “boasts of great things”. Chapter 3 is where I struggle daily, but James, by the inspiration of God, has called ME and YOU to be radical. So I am working on taming my tongue.

Chapters 4 and 5 are where I fall in love with James. It is where he tells us that making friends with the world makes us enemies with God. Whoa. Radical? Right. But for James that is mild. Here is where he gets really radical, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” What? Okay, so as Christians we get the whole no pre-marital sex, no drunkenness, no stealing or lying, we can’t murder or commit adultery, but James is taking this a step further. James through the inspiration of God is telling us that we are not even to SPEAK evil against our brethren.

Chapter 5 is a real doozie from this radical Christian. James begins with a warning to the rich. He basically tells us that storing up for ourselves here on earth is not going to get us to heaven. In fact, it will do the opposite. Storing up for ourselves here leaves us with nothing but moth-eaten materials and a selfish heart. The selfish won’t be inheriting the kingdom of God.

So, why am I bringing up the book of James in this blog? As I look toward our mission trip next month to Tanzania, Africa I am seeing how much I need to change my life. I want to become more radical, like James, but with the heart of David. I have skipped a couple of verses from James that I want to bring up now. These verses don’t just apply to our upcoming mission trip but to the mission field right outside our own door. Let’s change the world, brothers and sisters, let’s become radical Christians.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

I am going to be radical here, so listen up. I do not care how many times you sit your fanny in a pew. I do not care if you believe in God. If we are not out taking care of the orphaned and the widows, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and living the words that we preach… then that fanny in that church pew isn’t going to get you to heaven, and neither is your belief. We have to get out into the world, whether it be at school, work, or Africa and BE Christ to this dying world.

How are we going to do that? James has already told us. We need to count our trials as blessings. They are shaping us for our battle against the dark forces, so that we can overcome the evil one. These trials are pushing us one step closer to our goal of eternity in heaven. Rejoice!

We need to start taming our tongue. Out of the same mouth we bless God, we curse our brethren. This has to stop. Instead, let’s fill our mouths with God’s word, with praises, and with blessings. Let’s be a joy and light to others.

Here is a hard one, here is where we really have to be radical. Stop trying to be rich. Stop working your life away for earthly gain. God will provide the necessities, food, shelter, clothing. Everything else we don’t need! Instead let’s use what we have stored up and help those around us. Let’s feed and clothe the world, let’s house and love the orphans, let us give until it hurts!

God has called us to be radical. To set our eyes on things above and never look back. How are you going to do that? Tanzania has changed me and I have not even been there yet. Read the book of James and be transformed.

I will leave you with these last words of James. Here is how James ends his radical book:

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20

How many sinners are you willing to save from death? Let’s start today.

-Anna Maynard