The Epistle of James

What Faith Should Look Like

 

Sunday, August 27th, we started a journey through one of the most misunderstood, but most marvelous and meaningful, books in the New Testament, the Epistle of James. James is called a general Epistle, which means it is not written to a specific church community, but rather to the Christian Community at large. While it was designed to appeal to Christians in Jerusalem in 52 A.D., its message still speaks to us today with penetrating power and purpose. It offers wonderful words of wisdom for the Christian’s walk and witness.

This letter of James was written for the second stage of a Christian’s journey – the journey INWARD. The doctrine of justification by faith had already been established as the standard in the Christian community, and so James wants to take us a step further. He writes words of instructions on how our lives as Christians are to make a positive difference in the world. We are not working for our salvation – that has already been accomplished. Instead, we are working as an expression of our gratitude for the gift of salvation we have already received.

Unfortunately, James saw a gap between what the church believed and what the church lived out. The faith community was falling short of its goal. So the Holy Spirit inspired James, this half brother of Jesus, to write an “Instruction Manual” for the daily living out of the Christian Faith. His premise was that we must not only speak the Christian faith for everyone to hear; we must also try to live out the Christian faith for everyone to see and feel. For James, this faith depended not only on outward expressions (words and actions) but also on how far those words traveled on their inward journey to the heart.

On the 27th we looked at where James begins his teaching about the journey of faith. After he introduces himself as a servant, of the Lord Jesus Christ (not a celebrity because there are far too many of those around who make it all about themselves), he immediately tackles -head on – the reality of “troubles” in the Christian journey. Notice that James does not say “if’ troubles will come; he says “when.” He already presupposes that every human being, including the Christian, will experience trials, troubles and temptations in life. The biblical perspective on trouble is that it is an ever-present reality. James wants it to be known up-front that faith in Christ does not promise deliverance from trouble. As we look at this reality in verse twelve of chapter 1, we are assured that we can survive it–and even become stronger and more sensitive to the troubles of others. As believers, we understand that we cannot AVOID the times of darkness – they will come. But we also understand that our darkness is always followed by light, cross gives way to crown, death is defeated by Resurrection.

I would invite you to come share in this journey through the Epistle of James. You may not always like what James has to say, but it will help you understand what God wants to have your Christian faith look like as it is lived out in the world around you,

 

Pastor Surrey

Where is It Written?

One of the benefits of the Industrial Revolution in Sweden in the 19th Century was that it required more people who were educated enough to work in the factories and on the machinery used in them. The Swedish State Church helped greatly by making sure that people could read well enough to be to be confirmed in their faith by the church. But this had a somewhat unintended consequence. It also meant that people could read well enough to understand what the Bible was saying for themselves. Our movement came into being as people started to read their Bibles for themselves and began to question some of the things their pastors had taught which they felt were not really biblical. Their watch word became “where is it written?” Many of those old Swedes knew their Bible better than some of the so called “theologians” of that day. Reading their Bibles faithfully meant that they had a very good road map for how to live life and often showed a wisdom in life far beyond their secular educational level. Knowing their Bibles well meant they learned to live life God’s way and so they often found a joy and purpose in life that had been missing before. But today, we are discovering that many people no longer read their Bibles well enough to be guided by what it teaches, and are consequently paying a very deep spiritual and emotional price for their biblical illiteracy.

There is a story that I hope is apocryphal but which is probably truer than we would like to admit. A new pastor decided to look in on a children’s Sunday school class. The teacher introduced him and then said they were studying the story of Joshua. So he said, “Let’s see how much you have learned.” Then he asked, “Who tore down the walls of Jericho?” A boy named Johnny, who often was in trouble, quickly said, “I don’t know but it sure wasn’t me!” Taken aback, the pastor said, “Come on, tell me who tore down the walls of Jericho.” The teacher was quick to respond and said, “Johnny has his problems but if he said he didn’t do it, I believe him.” Flustered, the pastor went to the Sunday school superintendent to talk about the incident. She said, “Well, we’ve had trouble with Johnny before. Let me talk to him and see if we can get to the bottom of it.” Really bothered now, the pastor went to the church board and laid out the whole story including the response of the teacher and superintendent. A white-haired man thoughtfully stroked his chin and said, “Well, Pastor, I move we just take the money from the general fund to pay for fixing the wall and leave it at that.”

It is a funny story, but also more often true than we might like. We live in a biblically illiterate world which often leads to people making very bad decisions in life. Those bad decisions are compounded by others which often make matters much worse. Some of what pass for teaching in the church is more worldly in nature than people think. If we asked the question, “Where is it written?,” and then went looking ourselves, we would often save ourselves a lot of grief and heartache. How well do you know your Bible? And do you base your decisions in life on what it says? If you do, you might find that it makes all the difference in the world in terms of joy and purpose in life. By the way, “Where is it written?”

Pardon Our Dust

We are working on a new web page that is much more interactive and functional.  Please pardon our mess while we diligently work to get this put together and thank you for your patience with us!  Information from the previous website is still available here and you can find out more about us.  If you would like more updates on what is happening at First Covenant while this is happening please visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FirstCovenantofMoline/.  There you will find events and important announcements.