Saturday, July 26, 2008

Guidance ~ James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. ~ James 1:5

James is writing a pastoral letter to encourage those who are facing trials. He is really speaking to all of us because we are all facing various trials in this broken world. James wants them to see that all their trials, large and small, are testing their trust in Heavenly Father.

As we go through trials we are faced with the choice to live as if Heavenly Father is good, active, and present or to act as if He isn't hearing us, caring about us, and able to bring good out of this struggle. James reminds his readers in the first paragraph of his letter that we can trust that our trials will add up to joy because as we count on The Father and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Through them our confidence in is strengthened and they will bring us to completion through The Atonement. Jesus has made us truly perfect, able perfectly to receive His life and love for us. We will be filled with His fullness, lacking in nothing.

When we are in the midst of some difficulty, it can be hard to see beyond the immediate circumstances. James encourages his readers to go through their trials looking at the endpoint, where all of one's life is going. Heavenly Father is taking us to the point of being "perfect and complete". Nothing less. This is what these present struggles will add up to as we count on Him to be at work in our lives.

In the end we will lack nothing. But now, in the midst of struggles we may be lacking something, namely, wisdom. Wisdom for what? Well, if we look at what precedes this verse, it would seem that James is talking about wisdom to get through the trials. I am sure you have at times, like I have, struggled to know how to pray or what to do in the midst of trying circumstances. It is not usually immediately apparent to me what decisions to make when I am "under fire". Behind the struggle to know what to do is a lack of wisdom about God. In trials, we can easily forget who God is. We wonder if He really is good, or interested in us.

"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." ~ Mosiah 4:9

James assumes that we are likely to lack wisdom to get through our trials. So he encourages his readers to ask God and assures them that wisdom will be given them. God desires that we are wise, for wisdom enables us to walk through life in confidence that we are participating in His good work in our lives and in the lives of others. But where do we begin to find wisdom? James does not say to seek wisdom first about our particular trials. He wants us to start somewhere else.

James includes in this verse a short description of the God he is telling them to ask. He tells them about this God of whom he is a servant. God "gives to all men generously and without reproaching." Now why does James include this here? Why doesn't he just tell them to ask God and He will give it to them? He is reminding them of the character of God because this is the very thing about which they are lacking wisdom and they might be tempted not to bother asking God. If I am unsure that God cares for me in my circumstances, then I am less likely to ask help of the only one who can really provide it. James knows they are struggling with their faith and so he lovingly builds it up by reminding them of the truth of who God is.

First of all, God is a God who gives. God is a giving God. That is who He is, not something He occasionally does. Who is He? He is the One who gives. In the midst of trials, we are tempted to forget this. Maybe we worry that He is a God who mostly takes. We wonder, will God give anything to us now? Can He?

Secondly, God gives generously. We may believe He will give, but wonder how much. Is God a stingy God? Is it His nature to give begrudgingly? No, James says. He not only gives, but is generous. God delights in abundance. This section reminds me of the story of the shepherds in Luke. Really one angel would have been sufficient for the shepherds to get the good news of Jesus' birth. But God sends a whole company to sing and praise, for a group of forgotten shepherds on a hillside. I am so glad James reminds me of this generous God, because it isn't easy to see this about Him when I look at some of my trials. I need to be reminded again and again of His true character, seen most clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Thirdly, God gives generously to all. When we are struggling, are we often tempted to believe, yes, sure God gives and is even generous--just not to me. I often notice what I think is evidence that God is giving more to someone around me than He is to me. Does He really see me, here, in this time of trial? Does He play favorites?

Lastly, God gives without reproach. This is wonderful to remember. I need not fear God's reproach. Will me make He "pay" for His generosity? Will He upbraid me first for my lack of faith, or my puny obedience before He is gracious? Will he make me feel like I wished I had never asked or that this will be the last time I ask? I have to admit, I find this amazing because I see in my own heart that I often desire to reproach first before I will be giving. Most of us want to make sure that our children really are sorry, or that our husbands know how much they have hurt or disappointed us. God gives without reproach? Unbelievable! You have to be kidding!

Do we give without reproach?

"Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just."~ Mosiah 29:12

"And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged." ~ Moroni 7:18

Could the fact that we make others fear our reproach be why we don't trust God to give without reproach?

This section reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. When the Father sees his wayward son, still a long way off, he runs to him and embraces him. He cuts his son off as he is in the middle of his little speech and orders the servants to honor his son. What amazes me is not just what the Father says, but what he doesn't say. If I were the Father, I would have wanted to hear just how sorry my son was before I welcomed him back. I would be tempted to make him earn, so to speak, my mercy, by his groveling. James knows his readers might be tempted not to turn to God for wisdom in the midst of their trials because they fear His reproach. So he takes the time to remind them of the true heart of their Heavenly Father.

God desires to help us to grow in our ability to count on Him as we walk through the difficulties that are inevitable in such a broken and lost world. We need His help even to have the faith to count it all joy. We do not have wisdom on our own. I am thankful for this letter that we are reminded that God is a giving, loving Father, ready to provide us with the wisdom we need to grow in our ability to receive from Him the life He has for us. I admit that asking for wisdom is not always the first thing I do in a trial. I may focus so much on the trial and wanting it removed from my life that I do not ask God to help me see how He is present and working. I am thankful though, that He is drawing me to ask for His help and ready without reproaching me to give it.

I hope this reminder of God's character gives you hope again and a desire to ask for His wisdom as you go through the daily trials you face.

My affirmation for today:
Freely expressing the wisdom of Spirit, I am guided in right ways.
As I drive through unfamiliar territory to reach my destination, I may use a global positioning system--a GPS. Such an electronic guide provides me with information quickly and efficiently.
I have been created, however, with an inner GPS--God's powerful spirit--which safely guides me through the twists and turns of life. When I need to make a decision, when I seem to have more questions than answers, or when I just want assurance that I am on the right path, I trust the wisdom of Spirit within to guide me.
I am one with the wisdom of God, which is my assurance of being guided in right ways. My inner GPS is true and unfailing, giving me an opportunity to express the wisdom of Spirit in all that I do.

Blessed Be.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Respecting Other Faiths

At Sacrament Meeting yesterday, our speaker was a High Councilman from our Stake. I know he meant well. He was talking about missionary work and gaining a stronger testimony though referring non-members to the Elders for investigative purposes. Something we should all do.

The main body of his speech focused more on what was wrong with other Churches, how they are missing out on the True Gospel, etc. If I had been a non member sitting in that sacrament meeting, I would have been highly offended and never came back. The speech rang of eliteness and self righteousness. Yes, there was some humility as the Brother bore his testimony. Some tears, no doubt heartfelt.

We need to be careful and be repectful to other religions. I wonder how many Mormons that have been raised in the Church, have ever even attended another Church. I feel blessed that I am a convert, and had to search for the Church. I read many other philosophies, attended many Churches and had a lot of contact with people from other faiths, religions and cultures. I was truly searching, and sometimes still do. Often when I have a need or a question that I am praying about, a Buddist saying will answer my prayer.

We must remember, there is Truth everywhere, and Heavenly Father loves and respects us all. He doesn't love us more because The Gospel has been restored and we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We must honor and respct other religions as Sacred. We must remember that we are role models for The Church, not only outside of the building, but inside the Chapel also. You never know who is sitting there.

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts."
~ Cochise "Like Ironweed" CHIRICAHUA APACHE
"Come into my heart this morning. Allow me this day to live in the now. Help me to see all the beauty You have created in all things.
Let me know myself.
Today, as I make mistakes, let me see them as lessons. Guide me. When I see others make mistakes, let me honor them for where they are. Let me realize that they are Your children and only You, my Grandfather, knows what is really going on. When my lips move, let the words be Your words. "

Allow me to have the courage to speak Your truth.