Sunday, July 13, 2008


Pastor Shannon warmly welcomed us, followed by a time of worship led by the worship team.

Today's Scripture readings were from Isaiah 55:1-13 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

Pastor began his message by congratulating us. "Congratulations for your achievement. You have been recognized. Yes, YOU."

He playfully noted the recent selection of YOU -- with a mirror on the cover so you can see your face right there beneath the Time masthead -- as Time's Person of the Year.

The whole of society is rife with you-stuff. YouTube, MySpace, I-Tunes.. so why not You as the Person of the Year.

Nowadays, you can sit in your underwear in your Lay-z-Boy, writing on your blog space anything you want, with readers as vast as that which used to be accessible only to the New York Times. People from anywhere in the world can read YOUR opinions on YOUR blog.

Today's sermon was drawn from James 4. Interestingly, the word "you" appears nineteen times in the first four verses, so there is no mistaking whom the writer is addressing. James essentially wants to highlight for his Christian readers what the You-niverse looks like with You at the center.

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

In this passage James addresses Christians who are fighting, and identifies the root cause in verse one. Interestingly, the Greek word for "desires" is the same from which we obtain the word hedonism. This battle within, this battle in our desires, is at the root of our problems.

Even in infancy, we see its early development. The baby cries out for milk, for its own needs to be met, caring only for itself.

In the previous chapter James has already mention envy and selfish ambition. Here he amplifies this with the statement "we kill and covet."

The world appears to affirm that we can become successful by being prideful. Arrogance is an ingredient in success. Pride is often part of self-serving gains.

But James cuts right across this. In your selfcenterdness, do not think you can manipulate God with your prayers. You are not the center of the universe. There is only one true center.

4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

We sometimes get so caught up in our little story that we miss the big story. It's not about me.

In verse 14 James reminds his readers how small and powerless we really are. "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

God is the Creator, and we are the created. It is comforting to know that that this Big God is crazy about us. God created us for a relationship with Him. But the unvarnished truth is that we're guilty of adultery against Him. Anything that is 1st before God on the throne of our hearts is spiritual adultery. God will not share the throne of your life with anyone or any thing. Hence, James urges us to humble ourselves.

It's hard to admit we don't have it all together. Most importantly, where is your consideration of God in all your planning, in your career or job, in your family?

Humble yourself, James writes. Fall on your knees in humility.

6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

There are many classic hymns with the theme of total yieldedness to God. "Have Thine Own Way" -- with its well known metaphor "You are the potter, I am the clay"-- is one of many. We don't have a lot of raised hands in this church perhaps because of associations with the charismatic movement, but the lifting of hands does have meaning. It is the universal sign of surrender.

There was a successful businessman who once came to pastor and said, "I need God to wreck my life in order to get re-oriented, recalibrated, back to where I need to be with God." Humility is the starting place.

Pastor Shannon noted that if we set up a screen at the front of the church, and we had our ten deepest secret sins projected upon it and exposed to all, we'd be truly humbled, shamed and broken. There would not be a dry eye here.

Let's take to heart our need to put God back in His rightful place.

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