Sunday, October 31, 2010

Enjoying A Lack Of Shelter

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.

Oct. 31 – Enjoying a lack of shelter

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy." James. 1:2 (NLT)

This is one of the most counter-intuitive and profound verses in all of Scripture. It goes against all conventional wisdom and all earthly desires. It goes against the grain of every religion except the one that has a crucified Messiah at its heart.

Ordinary humans can understand “Look on the bright side,” “The glass is half full not half empty,” or, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but James is stretching us far beyond naïve optimism or toughness. He is talking about every trouble as an opportunity for joy. He is talking about shelter as something we can joyfully live without!

The normal human assumption is that trouble threatens life and shelter protects it, but James tells us just the opposite. When our shelter breaks down and trouble strikes us, the trouble promotes our life instead of taking it away. In other words things are not what they seem. This may be the most fundamental truth of the Season of Shelter.

The cross was not what it seemed. No one watching the Messiah die that afternoon could see what was really going on. They were totally preoccupied with what they thought the crucifixion meant—that Jesus had lost his shelter, his life, and his future as the Messiah. In reality something else was happening. As we saw two weeks ago, he was laying down his life rather than losing it. As we see now from James, laying down our shelter opens a great joyful future rather than prevents it.

James lets us in on the secret of how this works and why people miss it. Trouble does not seem to promote life. It is not the “parent” of life. However, it is the grandparent. Trouble is the parent of endurance, and endurance is the parent of life. “For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow,” (Jas. 1:3), and, “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (v. 12) The sequence is trouble, endurance, (crown of) life.

The difference between reality and appearances becomes even clearer when we look at James’ other trio of grandparent, parent, and child in the same chapter. “Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.” (v. 15, NET). Desire, sin, and death.

How different this reality is than what seems to be true to most people! Human desires are usually seen as natural, healthy, even God-given. Indulging or fulfilling a desire seems to be the way to a good life. Stifling or repressing a desire seems to be a bad idea.

James assumes that some human desires are evil. He explains that the evil ones only seem to lead to life because of the time lag between indulging the desire and reaping death as a consequence. An evil desire is not the parent of death. It is the grandparent. In between is sin, and it takes a while for sin to become “full grown” (v. 15). A tiny tumor or a lion cub may not seem to be a danger, but a full grown one is a killer.

These are literally matters of life and death. In both cases what seems to be true is an illusion. Let our Season of Shelter not be a quest for an illusion of shelter but for real shelter that leads to real life.

Welcome: Welcome, Jesus, scarred Savior of the world! Stay with us and shelter us not from scars but from confusing what is real with what seems to be real.

Affirmation: I will treat James 1:2 as if the Lord meant me to live by it. My troubles are not mysteries but opportunities.



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