James 4 – Internal Desires

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Practical Theology, which is one of the main themes of the book of James, doesn’t simply have to do with what we do outwardly as we live out our faith.  Though that is a big component of it, James has already pointed to the fact that what happens outside of us, our actions, come from what is happening inside of us.

Here, he draws on that theme, even more, when he points out that much of the fighting, quarreling, and division that is present in our lives comes from the internal desires that we have not being fulfilled.

Now, some of these desires might be good things and are worth standing up for.  But what James is referring to here is actually the negative things, the things we covet or want.  We may get these things confused for those things that we need, forgetting that God always provides for the things that we need.  When we lose our perspective like this, the little things seem to be way more important than they actually are and we make a big deal out of them, fighting and quarreling about things that are really non-issues.

How do we overcome this?  James tells us to submit ourselves to God and resist these temptations.  When we do this, the devil will flee from us.  He makes it sound so simple…

However, the reality of what James is saying here brings us back to the very core of our identity in Christ.  We are those who are unable to save ourselves, unable to free ourselves, and unable to provide for ourselves; WE NEED GOD.  James calls us to a life of daily dependence on God for our protection and provision.

While future planning is not necessarily a bad thing, as Christians we are called to do it through the lens of daily dependence.  We do not do things under our own power, but because of God’s provision and blessing in our lives.  This is the essence of practical theology too, that our lives would daily reflect our full dependence on God alone.



Mark 6 – Abundance

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If there is one thing that we could say defines America, it would be that we pride ourselves on having more than enough.  Maybe this is not something we like to claim, but the reality of how we act, what we own, and how we eat shows this to be true.  We don’t like to rely on anyone for anything.  Americans fulfill their own destiny, provide for themselves, and create their own abundance.

Jesus, however, creates a different picture of abundance; that of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It isn’t a picture of self-help books or 3-step guides to a better life, neither is it a list of rules and regulations you must follow to earn their keep, it is an image of full and complete dependence on God who provides far more than we could ask or imagine.

Our Savior provides food, more than they could possibly eat, out of scarcity.  Yet the lesson that is meant to be taught here is not one of physical nourishment, but rather the nature of God’s Kingdom which is illustrated in the following two narratives as well.

In all three cases, Jesus provides for the needs that they have.  This, I believe, is the true nature of God’s Kingdom economy, full provision.  There is never scarcity in the Kingdom of Heaven and never need.  God provides for it all at every moment and Jesus shows this as He provides for physical nourishment, safety, and healing.

The catch, if you could call it that, is our trust and dependence.  While the feeding of the 5,000 did not depend necessarily on the disciple’s trust in Jesus’ ability, nor did the calming of the storm, but healing, like that of the women in the previous chapter, happened because of faith, trust, and dependence on Jesus.



Matthew 18 – All the Wrong Questions

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We often get caught up in pursuing what we think is most important.  In our pursuit, we inquire and investigate how we can achieve these ‘important’ things in our lives.  Today, at least, we can know that we are in good company.  Jesus’ disciples also had their priorities a little mixed up and we find them asking Jesus all the wrong questions.

As they see Jesus’ ministry growing and continued talk about the Kingdom of Heaven being near, His disciples begin to dwell on a common human question: “where is my place in this Kingdom?”  Jesus has called these 12 men to be His inner circle; they want to know who is going to be Jesus’ #2, His go to guy.  More importantly, they want to know how they can become that person, something accented by Peter’s question later in verse 21.

Jesus’ response turns the usual notions of importance on their head by pointing to the true concern of God in His Kingdom.  Unlike the dominions of men in which power and authority are things to be taken and exercised over others, the Kingdom of Heaven concerns itself with but one thing: that those who are not a part of it are found and welcomed in.  He illustrates this point through teaching and a parable.

It may seem backward, caring for the one lost sheep amidst the 99 that aren’t, or emphasizing forgiveness and reconciliation rather than holding a grudge (a form of having power over someone) and revenge, but this is the way of God’s Kingdom; it’s how God’s economy works.  Those who would find life in Christ must lose their own; we must die to ourselves daily.  Here and only here, when our dependence is on God, do we find true freedom and our place in God’s Kingdom.