Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Submit Yourselves, then to God

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Just me - just like you - life's a journey

James 4:7-10 (NIV1984)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Join me as we study through this verse. 
My first step is to pray, so lets do that together. Lord we are here today seeking you in this quiet space. Lead us by your Holy Spirit as we study your word. Help us to see what we need to get out of it for today that will help us or help someone we will encounter during our day.  Lord help us to not just gain head knowledge but to see some way that we can apply your word to our lives today. 

So I started in my Bible and flipped open to the book of James. I love the book of James all through it I have underlines for verses that encourage or stretch me. This verse is no exception. It is easy to gloss over it at first glance. On a side note you don't have to read chapters and chapters to be in the word daily. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, pick a book and read until something speaks to you. Then take that passage and study it and think of ways that you can apply it to your life. Maybe even commit it to memory.

One of the things I do is to think about what some of the words in the passage. To do that often you need to think about the time period they were written in. Who was speaking and to whom where they speaking. 

We are in the book of James, my bible says it is most likely written by James the Lords brother. We know from other stories that the town of Nazareth, filled with friends and family members of Jesus had a hard time believing that this guy Jesus was anything special. Check out Mark 6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. So James was a bit late to the party but I am glad he decided to "submit" and believe that his brother, or close relative was indeed the Son of God.

Yikes can you imagine if people started believing your brother or cousin was the Messiah come to save Israel. Today they would be hauled off to the mental heath ward. Yep just another crazy. Some of the things God calls us to do are pretty crazy by the worlds standards. Don't for get o'l Noah who was told to build an arc because some weird stuff called rain and flood was going to happen. Sometime the stuff God speaks to our heart is a stretch. Don't forget Joseph and his dreams and how many long years he carried those dreams in spite of slavery, and prison and seemingly impossible odds. In then end God did what he had shown him as a young man. It was many many years later. Don't just dismiss the seemingly impossible. We serve an awesome God. His ways are not our ways and his timing generally does not match up with ours.

There are some other guys named James who might be the author of this book. 
James Son of Zebedee: an early disciples of Jesus, James Son of Mary, the one at the tomb. James Son of Alphaeus: A Tax Collector? James Son or Brother of Judas or Jude.
So for our purposes we are not going to go too far down that rabbit trail. In my mind the idea of it being James the brother of Jesus resonates with me. The historian Josephus mentions him as such while talking about Annas the high priest and his doings. "
"Annas thought he could have his own way. Calling forth the members of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and others with him. He accused them of violating the law, and ordered that they should be put to death by stoning." 

I find it particularly powerful that this guy who likely grew up with Jesus could come to a place of saying "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." Can you imagine the massive heart change that must have taken place in his life. I mean really if one of your family members started to say they were even called of God, you might take issue with it. "Who do they think they are, getting all high and mighty?" Some of you may be experiencing that kind of resistance from your family members as you begin to take a step of faith to follow God's call or your big dream. In the book the Dream Giver by David Wilkinson calls those folks the border bullies. Great book by the way - you should read it. So for our purposes today James was very likely one of the former border bullies of Jesus who at some point became a believer and went on to become a leader in the early church. I have to think he must have wrestled with being double minded about believing Jesus. I think about my own siblings and cousins, I've seen them up close and in every day and ordinary life. We don't get much of a glimpse in to Jesus' young life. We know according to Luke 2 that at age 12 he had gotten separated from his family while traveling. "After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed. I gotta think that might have been a bit hard to take as a sibling.

 Well I have run off in a direction that I did not anticipate going but I'm going to stay with it.  I have to trust that we prayed and that this is the Holy Spirit leading. I have to trust that it is going to speak to someone who is reading. Clearly there is plenty of room for you to dig deeper in this passage than I can possibly cover in one post. I'd love for you to share what you find as you dig into this passage.

You have come to a place of believing and following Jesus. There are points in our journey with him that we must take a step of faith to do the things he is calling you to do. "Submit: This requires a willing act of accepting the authority of God. We are under His authority whether we submit to it or not. Here “submit” means “to obey.” ~ Reformation Study Bible  

There are times when it is easy to let close family bully us. Its not that they don't mean well, they do. They care about you and don't want to see you get hurt. In my coaching studies one of the reasons people need life coaches is because they don't have the emotional attachment of a family members or a close friends. They can help you sort out what is best for you. While a person may be able to talk to a friend or a family member it is hard for friends and family members to set aside their own interests. When you make a big change its going to affect them. Much as they might try to be impartial its hard. You tell them for example, that you want to go to Africa and be a missionary they immediately are thinking, "oh no I'll never see my grand kids."  

One place you may need to work on submitting to God can be regarding family members. 
It may be hard for them to believe you have really changed and that this time you are really serious about following Christ. They may have seen you waffel over the years, it may take time for them to accept that this time you really are serious. It is in those times that you must do what it is that God is calling you to do even if at first you don't have the support of family. Jesus did not have the support of his family early on. Its pretty clear his family did not always understand  John 7:3-5 (NIV1984)
Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

I love this one from Mark 3:21 (NIV1984)
21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Your family may think you have gone over board on this Jesus stuff.  They may think they need to come and take charge of you. There are times when you must stand your ground and submit to God. 

Sometimes even believing family members may choose to distance them selves from you because you have chosen to take a stand on some issue or take a leap of faith. I'm not saying that you should ignore the council of family members, some are truly wise and some know you very well and are able to speak wisely into your life. Here's the reality - you alone will stand before God on that final day. You will have to give account for what you did with the gifts and talents and the life he gave you. Are you going to stand there and say.."yes I know you told me to do ____ but my family thought it was a bad idea." Who is your Lord? Who is it that knows you better than you know yourself?  Seek first the Kingdom of God... 
 Mark 10:28 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Here's a bit of cool news by the time we get to Acts his family is pretty much on board and and are among the first Christians. Acts 1:14 (NIV1984)
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Well I'm not sure who this is for - it is not something that I am currently dealing with but the Holy Spirt has lead me to write this and so I must trust that it is speaking profoundly to someone. It may mean that you need to step up and support someone in your family who is trying to take some wild step of faith. It might be you who needs to step up and take that step of faith even though your family does not understand. Our verse today ends with the words "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. We need to walk humbly before God and family, friends and other skeptics. It often takes time for God to give us a ministry platform. 

Sometimes we even have to push past our own self doubt - even David wrestled with the feeling of "who the heck and I and who is my family" Here's the real quote from 1 Chronicles 17:16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? Honestly that is where I often get stuck. Who the heck am I that God would choose to use me. Sometimes I need to stand up and accept that he does indeed desire to use broken vessels. It still surprises me when people tell me they are reading along and that what I am writing is encouraging and challenging them. People say how talented and special I am and I look in the mirror and see ordinary. I have to realize that there is part of me that is still broken, much like someone who suffers from an eating disorder looks in the mirror and only sees fat no matter how emaciated they have become. I don't know why, I trust the Lord will heal that broken part in his time. For the time being I have to stand on his word and push past it. I have to stand up and accept that God has put something in me that he is now choosing to pour out in this way. For me submitting is pressing beyond my self doubt and doing things like writing these posts. For me submitting is being open and honest about my journey and my struggles. To talk about how He has helped me to overcome and to trust that somehow He will use my thoughts and words to help someone else. For me that is very humbling place to stand. I am always conscious of James 3:1-2
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, able to keep his whole body in check. he is a perfect man. I think of myself more as an encourager than a teacher. I do see that more and more He is lifting me up and giving me a growing platform of people who are being encouraged. Thank you for reading and thank you to those of you who take the time to stop me and tell, or write me notes. Your encouragement means a lot to me. 

Lord, Thank you for leading us by your Holy Spirit. Thank you for what you brought up in this particular post. You know where each reader is and where each one needs to move more towards you and what ground in each life needs to be submitted and to come under your Lordship. Help each one to move closer towards you and to take those next steps of faith to submit to you in their life. To you be the glory and praise for ever, Amen. 



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