Sunday, October 26, 2014

This week's lesson (October 25-31): love and the law

. . . as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? . . . has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? -- James 2:1-5, NIV.
Think what it's like to be Superman's cousin . . .

The one who's not-so-super.
  • You're not faster than a speeding bullet (though you can generally outrun most dogs).
  • You can't leap tall buildings in a single bound (though you're pretty good getting over a chain-link fence). 
  • And you don't get to hang around Metropolis; no, you've been assigned to Cleveland (with the occasional foray into Buffalo).
In short, you're not the biggest and the best -- and while your cousin's out there saving the planet, you're dealing with a rash of vandalism in the community gardens you've been trying to set up on the east-side of town.

So guess who gets all the attention?

Guess who gets all the praise?

And guess who gets discouraged -- who feels like quitting, who wonders why they bother doing anything when somebody else can do it faster, higher, and with super-snazzy special-effects?

Then again, little things still need to get done.

Cleveland still needs some help; Buffalo too.

And even if you're not a super-hero like your cousin -- yes, even if you don't get all the attention, all the fame, and all the endorsement contracts that he does . . .

We want you to know that we still need pretty-good-heroes like you.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This week's lesson (October 18-24): being and doing

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead -- James 2:14-17, NIV.
Maybe I'd get more done if I cared less.

Like all good right-thinking people, you see, I am concerned -- deeply concerned -- about a number of issues.

Like nuclear proliferation.

The growing prevalence of diabetes.

The increasing fragility of blue-collar families in this country.

The acidification of our oceans.

And world peace.

Unfortunately, I've never really done anything about any of these things -- not because I don't care, you understand. No, I care about them all -- so much so, that it's difficult to pick just one; so much so that I really don't know where to begin.

Then again, the people who get stuff done -- the people who actually make things better?

They don't seem to care about all the things I do. No, they focus on one or two issues -- one or two things they really care about . . .

Like nuclear proliferation.

The growing prevalence of diabetes.

The increasing fragility of blue-collar families in this country.

The acidification of our oceans.

Or even world peace.

But whatever it is, they devote all their time and thought and money to that one, small issue . . .

And ignore all the rest.

To be sure, they don't have my breadth of concern; no, I care about about a lot more things than they do.

But when it comes to getting things done?

Who cares what I think?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

This week's lesson (October 11-17): enduring temptation

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed -- James 1:13f, NIV
I can explain.

And yes, I've made some "mistakes" -- but you need to understand that everything I've done wrong was not really my fault.

No, it was all the result of low blood sugar.

Or society.

Or maybe it was the neighbor's dog -- but at any rate, there's a perfectly logical explanation for everything I've done . . .

And once you've heard my explanation, then I'm sure you'd agree that it clears me of any guilt or blame.

Really.

You don't believe me?

Why not?

Granted, my excuses for my sins may not seem all that believable to you . . .

But how do they differ from your own?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

This week's lesson (October 4-10): the perfecting of our faith

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything -- James 1:2-4, NIV.
How difficult could it be?

I'd already done the Bloomsday Run a half-dozen times or so -- that's 7.46 miles . . . so when my eldest daughter suggested I try a half-marathon,

I agreed.
  • It was only 13.1 miles, after all.
  • That's less than twice the distance of the Bloomsday Runs I'd already done.
  • And just as everyone is brave (until they're in battle), everyone is smart (until they take Geometry), and everyone is good-looking (until they have a photo taken for their driver's license), I though I was fit enough to finish a half-marathon . . .
And I was.

Barely.

But as James notes, trials (and half-marathons) are a reality-check; they are a quick way to strip away any illusions we had about ourselves -- and as such, they have a nasty way of reminding us just how much we lack, just how much we need, and just how far we still have to go.

In short, they remind us that we still need a Savior.

And that's not always an easy thing to do.