Jealous Longing

I received one of those phone calls you pray to get at 10PM last night. I was watching the Giants lose a heartbreaker when one of my friends called. I have been praying for his faith walk for the past two years. He has been distracted by life and hasn’t really exhibited an inclination to follow God much more than giving Him a passing nod at dinnertime prayer.

But his opening line to me on the phone was this: “I’ll cut to the chase, I really haven’t cared about God’s will, I’ve wanted things on my own terms. But I see how that has led me down a terrible path. I’ve been miserable. I’ve let my family down, and worst of all, I haven’t cared about what God thinks.” He went on to say, “Well, that changed yesterday.”

Bill, my friend (not his real name), has been in a court battle over a half million dollar tussle with another businessman. The disagreement has gone on for more than four years. Each time that I talked with Bill he returned to that episode and continued to grind on how this issue is unjust and evil.

But Bill then told me that his wife shared with him Matthew 6:14 from her daily devotional yesterday. “If you forgive others, the Heavenly Father will forgive you.” Bill knew what he had to do. He picked up the phone and called the other businessman’s attorney and said that he was forgiving the other man. Bill acknowledged that in legal terms that didn’t mean anything but that he was interested in getting on with his life. He offered to settle the claim by both agreeing to donate the money in question to charities of choice.

The other businessman called back five minutes later and agreed to the offer. Bill was stunned. He realized how much energy had gone into vitriolic behavior over the past four years and realized that his enmity has taken him far off course.

I could hear it in his voice. He was more peaceful that I have ever heard him. Amazingly, I was studying James 4 for my sermon this Sunday and it spoke of the quarrels among people juxtaposed against God’s jealous longing for our own good. God wants to bless us with more grace but our pride gets in the way from receiving it. I shared that with Bill and we ended the night with a calm sense of God moving in a big way.

I love how God’s plan comes together.

Addicted to Chaos

This week’s sermon reference: James 3:12-18 (Two Kinds of Wisdom)

My son’s job as an EMT recently reminded me that there are people who are tasked with moving toward trouble rather than away from it. While called to the scene of an auto accident, Erik was put in danger by a runaway truck that narrowly missed the accident vehicles as well as the emergency personnel that were tending to the chaos.

Peacemakers like my son are a rare breed.  They come into a scene of conflict and chaos and inject clear thinking, firm but servant-oriented influence. At the same time they face the very real prospect that their efforts will be turned away or rejected.  Then the peacemakers must go home and decompress from the insanity of chaos and live a normal life.  A rare breed indeed.

James’ admonitions found in chapter 3 invite all disciples to see themselves as peacemakers in a world addicted to confusion and dissension.  People of faith, by nature, should test their ambitions and interests in order to regularly be convinced that they are, in fact, part of the solution to peace rather than disturbers of it.

Withdrawing and moving to some metaphorical mountain wilderness and taking pot shots at a world gone mad has no place in the Christian ethic.  Neither does running into the middle of the conflicts of life and acting like the essential ingredient.  Christ has done that and it is our task to provide the peace and calm of a balm applied into the life of the hurting.