Jealousy + Selfishness = Total Mess

One of the most validating things about God and his word is that it works. God loves to give his kids solutions. We usually have to wait a bit to see the result of our actions. But every action in life has an accompanying reaction. And when we get a clear picture of the effect of something, we can then go straight to the cause of that very thing. That's the picture we get in James. We see both the cause and effect of something that create an absolute mess. God gave us a statement through James that is incredibly didactic. "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice."

God has never been more clear. If we work this problem backwards we can see the origin of destruction and work to remedy the situation. The effect is truly nasty. We don't need the Greek words for "disorder and every vile practice". Disorder paints a picture of chaos. Emotional, relational, spiritual and many more areas of our lives can lose all order and the world feels like it's coming unhinged. Then there's something more sinister. "Every evil practice", is humanity at its very worst. This is any action that brings harm to someone. It's the commonly practiced evil that tears away at imperfect, yet undeserving, people. Gossip, embellishment, slander, betrayal of confidence, and any other vice that tears people down, is just pure evil.

But what drives this crazy behavior? "Jealousy and selfish ambition", is all it takes to tear a person apart, an organization apart, or even tear our nation apart. This is where the guessing ends. If we see "disorder and every evil practice", it can surely be traced to "jealousy and selfish ambition". What this gives us is two practical insights: 1. Don't worry about jealous people, they'll come unwound soon enough and others will see it. You don't have to say a thing. 2. When we see lack of order and evil creeping into our life and relationships, we need to take an honest look and confess any jealousy or self focused ambition in our own lives. 

The cause and effect are clear. Maybe you need to keep your head down and mouth shut while the consequences of someone's jealousy comes to fruition. Or maybe you need to take a look for any jealousy in your own life before is steals your joy. Either way, it's God's work of grace. Let him have all of us, so we can have all that is in him.

James 3:16

Our Finest Hour?

I have a couple thoughts pounding in my heart as I watch the sickening news of two massacred officers in NY and juxtapose that with good friends who have truly felt the lingering effects of racism.

We have more than a race issue, we have a sin issue. And sin divides people without respect to color alone. But God's word illuminates our real problems, it's relevance is staggering. The scriptures apply to national social issues, relational conflict of any kind and personal battles that rage in our heart and mind. I believe there are at least two lessons for all of us.

1. Where we have "disorder and every evil practice" we have clear evidence of "envy and selfish ambition" (James 3:16). When we try to lift ourselves up, build a career or establish a platform that feeds disorder, it reveals a flawed motivation. We can't diminish or rationalize any action that causes disorder and evil. Disorder can be calmed when we stop distorting truth, gossiping and feeding anger. This is true at every level and each of us have been party to or victims of someone's personal agenda.

2. God loves "justice, mercy and humility" (Micah 6:8). Calling for justice without equal parts of humility and mercy, can only foment vengeance. We don't do vengeance well at all, it's God job alone. This is why we all benefit from growing in grace and truth. Humility alone leaves us weak and always capitulating. Mercy alone is absent of truth and breeds enabling. Justice alone creates a frenzy and is dividing.

There is a vacuum of hope today. We have a golden opportunity to spread the message of redemption and reconciliation. I've been awakened to the shocking reality that our nation is relatively unreached with the gospel of life and liberty. Just recently I had the joy of sharing Christ with a group who had no real idea what Jesus can do. Let's live and share the good news. Our nation's finest hour could be just ahead.

God loves clarity and hates your confusion...

God loves clarity. There may be times when we're in a God ordained fog bank, but that's the exception and never the usual. Scattered thoughts can happen but God never intended for us to live disoriented. God wants to clear up the confusion. Disorder and confusion are like cousins, and at the root of it all is something that's tough to talk about, but vital that we stop to consider.

The simplest way to capture the problem with confusion is to see it as the result of pressing. Pressing is what we do when we want something but are unwilling to wait on God and slow the timing to match God's timing. The clearest passage on confusion, or pressing, is James 3:16. "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." When our "want" button is getting hit more than our listen button, we're destined for confusion. Jealousy and selfish ambition are ways we press, and when we press we experience "disorder" and "every evil practice" - confusion sets in and chaos can follow. 

Confusion is on a continuum. It can range from slight to extreme but if left unresolved it almost always digresses into deeper shades of grey. The solution is rather simple but requires some discipline. The pressing has to stop. When we feel like confusion is setting in or already grabbed us by the throat, we need to stop and surrender the "wants" - stop pressing. 

Do a "180 Now". Whatever level of confusion you may be feeling, stop to consider and let God search out any pressing toward a want in your life. Moving boldly with God is great but pressing into the darkness when we have no illumination or direction from God, gets us lost and confused every time. You can do this. Stop in the confusion and backtrack to a place of peace and listening to God. When pressing and confused, don't press harder, reach out to God and slide to the side of the road without slipping off the path. Let all wants go and watch bring clarity and order back into your life once again. God loves us more than to put us on a treadmill of tangled confusion. Stop and let God clear up all the confusion.

James 3:16