James 2

James 2 starts off with ideas of justice and fairness, looking at the idea of favouritism. In the Roman period, rich people were given a higher legal status and generally treated better. This behaviour was not, however, Biblical, so James was condemning it.

Furthermore, James explores the idea that God gives the poor a rich faith and they also will inherit the kingdom. This reminds us of the famous words of Jesus that it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God. It makes me wonder how many church goers activity associate with the poor (I don’t mean soup kitchens)? Why is the church always seen as a place where you dress your best and make sure your face is clean and scrubbed? I feel like we have perhaps lost sight of the idea that churches are meant to be messy, difficult and inclusive. I wonder whether the desire for propriety has robbed us of something far richer.

Verses 12-13 are somewhat reassuring to me. As a teacher I always struggled with the conflict between judgement and mercy. My bent is always to be merciful, but others can be a bit more exact in their application of the rules. The idea that mercy triumphs over judgement is helpful. Also, that is definitely seen in the cross of Jesus Christ: God’s mercy triumphed over judgement; Jesus had to endure an agonising death to ensure it would happen.

James’ statement about needing deeds may seem on a surface level to contradict Paul’s teaching of faith leading to grace rather than our deeds leading to grace. However, they are all a part of the same process. Our faith causes us to receive an underserved grace. This grace is transformative and powerful, resulting in a passionate, fruitful outworking of the Holy Spirit’s activities in us. This is the deeds aspect. Therefore, our faith needs to have deeds too.

Reflection Questions

  1. How does the church integrate and welcome people from all walks of life?
  2. How do we prevent the “Sunday best” culture in our churches?
  3. How do I get the balance between judgement and mercy right?
  4. What deeds are there in my life that show the fruit of grace?

Colossians 4

Colossians 4 has some further instructions. These include prayer, watching and thanking. Then the instructions turn to the work of evangelism: pray that the gospel spreads, praying for those who preach it to be clear, being wise towards non-believers, making the most of opportunities, considering your words and how they proclaim the gospel, having the answers.

Then the letter ends with specific greetings and words of encouragement. What amazes me is the level of the care between the believers. Paul had never actually met the believers in Colossae but here he is writing a long letter. There are also so many connections and people Paul commends, that it suggests that there was some sort of network. Furthermore, they just seemed to want to know news from other churches. In the UK, often other churches don’t really know what each other are doing. Here in Cambodia, especially among the expat churches there seems to be more cross-over. However, there is perhaps a lack of unity among local believers and denominations, which is sad. It’d be nice to see this level of care between different congregations here.

Colossians 1:1-12

I love that many of Paul’s letters start with prayers of thanksgiving for the people it’s addressed to. It’s much nice than our usual, “How was your holiday to Majorca? Colossians is no exception in this.

Colossians talks about the gospel and I really love these verses:

… In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world — just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

Verse 6

I love that Paul is talking about the gospel having a power to be fruitful and to grow and spread. I pray that this continues today so that every tongue and tribe may know the gospel of Jesus.

And then again comes a really awesome prayer for the Colossians church.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Verses 9-12

That is one long sentence. However, those verses deserve breaking down a little bit. So these are things I’ve noticed:

  • Paul’s commitment to praying for believers. Not only does he write these prayers in his letters, but I believe him when he says he hasn’t stopped praying for them.
  • That God gives wisdom and understanding, not Wikipedia or CNN or clever books. We need the Holy Spirit in us for this.
  • This wisdom and understanding serves to glorify and please God. Anything that claims to be wisdom and understanding but doesn’t do that is just fake.
  • God causes our good works to bear fruit – not us.
  • God gives us knowledge of himself.
  • God strengthens us. And not just a little, he strengthens us with all power according to his glorious might. His might is indeed glorious – it made the whole world after all.
  • This power results in patience and endurance.
  • We should give thanks joyfully.
  • God qualifies us; we don’t qualify ourselves through our own efforts.
  • We share in the inheritance of holy people.
  • We belong to the kingdom of the light.

Wow, all that in three verses.

I’ll stop there for now, because the next section of Colossians 1 is great and equally packed. So, to avoid this becoming an essay, I’ll leave it there.

Bible in a Year: Day 8

(I’m writing these a bit out of order. I’ve been on holiday in Mondulkiri, so I’ve missed a few days on writing them up. However, I’m still ahead of myself by two days now. I’m glad I gave myself a bit of a lead. I want to try and gain it a bit further to give myself some grace. I’m shockingly bad at persevering at these things, so I’m trying to make it as easy as possible on myself.)

I love the idea in proverbs of parents handing down instruction to their children. There is something beautiful about having a Biblical and Godly heritage. I’m glad for mine.

I found the Matthew passage a bit depressing whilst reading it. It tells you not to worry, to seek the Kingdom of God first, and that the road ahead is narrow and only a few find it. I’m now worrying about not worrying and whether I’ve found the right path or not. Often people who get desperately lost do so because they think they’ve been going the right way for a good while, only to realise that they were on the wrong path all along.

Have a borne good fruit? Am I one of the people Jesus will recognise on the day or judgement or not?

I am full aware that I’m not a perfect Christian. I’ve already failed at reading the Bible everyday this year and we’re not even a week in. How am I capable of walking the right path?

However, I’m reminded of the following verses:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, I think there is a healthy measure of despair when it comes to this. It helps you learn to lean on God. For it is Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith, not us. Sometimes, I give myself a tick-list of how to “get my act together” as a Christian, but I need to realise that I have to give that responsibility to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I just need to take each day as it comes and rely on the God who works in me to will and to act.

Dear God,

Help me to rely on you. Work in me to will and to act in order to fulfil Your good purpose.

In Jesus’ holy name,

Amen