Stop The Rain
James 5:13-20 • July 29, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
We do not believe in the power of prayer. If we are versed in church speak or have spent our time in church spaces, of course, we will pay due to homage to prayers place in the life of a Christian, but if we believed in it’s power to our core, then why do we not pray more? Why do we not put prayer in its place as the greatest instrument at our disposal? Listen, because we do not believe that it is as effective and effectual as we say that we believe—myself included. Yet it is prayer, throughout the scriptures and in countless accounts throughout history, that has produced the impossible through its power. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful. James | Stop The Rain | James 5:13-20
Wait On Him
James 5:7-12 • July 22, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
We have no patience for anything...especially in the midst of difficulty. Everything must be now, and most often on our terms. In categories as far reaching as food service to relational expectations, now is the only answer we know. And for Christians, it shows most clearly when we show not patience for God to step in and sort out our circumstances or solve our problems. We would rather take the reigns, feign control, and power through, rather than wait for God to do what He will, working always on our behalf. The call from James, though, cuts through our tendencies, and points us to a better way—Be patient through your difficulty; the Lord is coming—the Lord is near. Wait on him with patient confidence, He will never fail to keep His word. James | Wait On Him | James 5:7-12
Money Can't Save You
James 5:1-6 • July 15, 2018 • Pastor Doug L. Nelms Jr.
The El Escorial is the historical residence of the King of Spain. It was commissioned to be built by King Philip II of Spain, and the architect was Juan Bautista de Toledo. Together they oversaw its construction as a monument to Spain’s role as the center of the Christian World It was almost entirely paid for by Spanish conquest. While many of the colonizers' search for gold came up empty, Spain’s did not. It is estimated that during the Spanish colonization of the Americas over 180 tons of gold and 16,000 tons of silver was stolen. While there is no way to get an actual number, it is estimated that between 10-25 million indigenous people lived in the land we now call Mexico at the beginning of the Spanish conquest. By it’s close only 2 million people remained. Last year 1.57 billion of them were sold last year. They are one of the key methods by a substantial portion of the world to engage one another and essentially the most socially acceptable addiction. The production of these devices, regardless of maker, lends itself to some horrifying circumstances. Every smartphone has a measure of the mineral coltan in it. Coltan is mined in places like the Congo and the jungles of Brazil and has funded the genocidal warlords of the Congo to the tune of at least $25 million dollars. In many places, it is essentially slave labor that mines this mineral. It has been compared to the blood diamond trade. In the assembly of these devices, the injustice of child labor. In a CNN article, none of the major manufacturers of cell phones could say with certainty that child labor had not been used in the production process. While rightful fire and fury towards the colonizer rise up within us when we hear of their economic pillaging, that same anger ought to illuminate the same sin within our own hearts. Our self-interest and convenience outweigh our desire for justice and equity. But as we will see in this text, the Bishop has a great many things to say about the oppression that can come from the economically advantaged. That the accumulation and consumption of wealth carry with it a great responsibility and judgment from the Lord. God judges sinful self-indulgence and its accompanying injustice. James | Money Can't Save You | James 5:1-6
Hate It or Love It
James 4:1-12 • July 1, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
We want the pleasures of this world irrespective of God. Or, for the Christian— we want the pleasures of this world and the blessings of God. We want to do what we want, and still have God be pleased. We want to enjoy life by our own rules, and still have God approve. We want God in our lives, insofar as He does not impede on our personal pleasure or demand too much control of our cravings. There is a war within us at all times, and when we feed our base cravings, chaos personally and corporately is the only possible outcome. If you take just a few moments to consider, I am sure you will agree. What will we do, because James is quite clear: Our cravings for the pleasures of this life—if unchecked—will cultivate hostility toward God and conflict with others. James | Hate It or Love It | James 4:1-12
James 3:1-12 • June 17, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
Your tongue will control the course of your life—but you, alone, cannot control it. Perhaps you find that to be an overstatement, and yet if we were to do the digging, through every failure or success; thriving relationship or floundering one; moment of incredible joy or moment of incredible sadness, there is a high probability that your tongue, or someone else's, was either front and centre, or at the very least periphery but proximate to causing or catalysing those moments. With its ability to shift a mood and a moment by saying the right thing at the right time or the wrong thing at the wrong time, the tongue can change the outcome of a situation, disintegrate the cohesion of a community, ruin the good name of an innocent person, or give a good name to one who does not deserve it. Slander or Celebration. Gossip or Good News. Grace or Aggression. The tongue has the power to produce either in a moment, and the power we cede to it will control the course of our lives. It is vital we wrestle with this truth today for many reasons, but most certainly and importantly because of our own negligence and blindness. We think we are in control of what we say most times, so We rarely consider the weight of our words, or the power of our tongue. James | Fire Starter | James 3:1-12
James 2:14-26 • June 10, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
“Just Believe” “Pray the Sinner’s Prayer.” “Nominal Christian.” These are phrases and ideas borne out of the further misinterpretation of a tortured priest who just wanted people to be free from paying for their salvation and trying to pray their loved ones—already dead—into heaven. These encapsulate well the world of Easy Believism, and Creedal Intellectualism that have come to characterise “faith” in the U.S. I remember quite well the first time I heard good, guilt laden, “just believe and pray this prayer” preaching. I was participating in aRevival. There is nothing inherently wrong withRevivals; I have been a part of some amazing Revivals. But on this night, as one of the speakers finished up his message, his voice crescendo in force and urgency, as he charted the course of hypothetical situation after hypothetical situation, all leading to the imminent death—within the span even of that very night—of every student in the room. They were then posed this question—where would your soul go, if you died tonight? Sufficiently afraid of hell and death, the solution seemed incredibly promising at the moment, “just say these words after me, and you will be saved.” The issues with this approach are many, not the least of which is that a fear of Hell cannot transform a heart. More salient though, is this display is endemic of an American Faith in which Professions are high, but the inconsistencies we see, particularly in Evangelicalism, are higher. This display is endemic of the inactive intellectualism of other streams of faith, which says it “believes” but behaves in ways that do not coincide with Jesus’s own teaching. How is that of 245 MillionAdults in the U.S.,173 Million identify as Christian, while much of what it means to be Christian is largely ignored? How is it that Christians, on the whole, are seen by those who arenot as duplicitous, fake, and no different in many ways than themselves? How? Why? Simple. We believe it is enough to just believe. James | Faithless Faith | James 2:14-26
James 2:1-13 • June 3, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
If you have been with us so far then you know that James has covered a great deal; encouraging this young church that God had something extraordinary for them on the other side of their trial—blessing and life. He encouraged them that God only gives good gifts, and that they were in danger of letting their trial transform into temptation, which could be ruinous to their lives. James reminded them that faithfully following Jesus meant that they could not simply hear the word and nod in agreement to what it said, but that they must do what the word says—and this is best expressed in being completely unstained by the irredeemable aspects of the culture around them and displaying active compassion for the dispossessed of society. Religion, James writes, that the Father loves is marked by justice and holiness; equity and piety. James, pushing them toward a lived word, expressed in active compassion and personal piety was a precursor it seems to his addressing an even greater issue. It seems that many in this early church community, much like in the Colonial community of European Servants and African Slaves, decided that for a little bit of status; for a bit of favour, or potentially some upward mobility or acceptance; or perhaps because of some of their own self-loathing, are willing to dishonour other impoverished people; willing to discriminate against their own, to show favouritism to their oppressors. James is appalled. They are being completely hypocritical. They were ready to rise against their oppressors in anger, and lose sight of True Religion, but then they turn around and speak and act without mercy toward one who is like them, while trying to impress their oppressors. This of course should go without saying, but Discrimination of any kind is inconsistent with faith in Jesus. James | Discrimination | James 2:1-13
Finding My Religion
James 1:19-27 • May 27, 2018 • Pastor Doug L. Nelms Jr.
The instruction and encouragement that Pastor James had shared so far has been simultaneously powerful, convicting and uplifting. He has been clear to his people and us as readers. We will endure trials, even oppression, but if we ask God for wisdom and endure them with joy, then we are promised blessing for our fidelity and a crown of life that cannot be taken away. Pastor James has also shown that though our attitude can turn a trial into temptation, that God is faithful. He is good and He does good. God is only and always good. But this young Messianic Community still has much to work through. Much like any oppressed community of people, who have suffered prolonged, severe oppression, violence was beginning to become an acceptable option in some of their minds. This though was not and is not an option for God’s people. James needs them to understand exactly what it means to live as an alternative society within the one in which they exist. If the default disposition of society is to react with violence and revenge to oppression, then James wants the community of Jesus to live in a posture that is reflective of the Kingdom of God, not the society around them. James gives them clear ethics and practice for how to live justly in the midst of injustice, as he surfaces and draws attention to the beauty and potency of the Kingdom Community. James | Finding My Religion | James 1:19-27
James 1:13-18 • May 20, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
We really don’t believe God is good… at least, not all the time. If we believed God good all the time , then much of our decision making, and choices; the very direction of our lives would be different —even for those of us who know we love Jesus. But our trust in Him vacillates, and trial only exacerbates that struggle to trust. If we allow a trial to consume us , because we look to it, rather than through it , then we will allow ourselves to slowly drift into the temptation to fight for control, or cope with the pain through sinful self-indulgence —and then lay the blame squarely at God’s “feet,” so to speak. You see greatest challenge to faith in God is not unbelief in God , rather it is unbelief in God being good. Rarely is the question, “ is there a Creator? ” More often the question is, “can the Creator be known; can the Creator be trusted? ” This is not a new set of questions, family. James’ first church community was struggling with the same. We learned last time that as we inevitably face trials in this life , and difficulties of every kind, that God will generously and single mindedly give to us the gift of wisdom in order to navigate it well; and though we learned through James’ writing that by leveraging this wisdom and enduring our difficulties with joy, we will grow in endurance that produces a perfecting work, that ultimately leads to a second gift of a crown of life and blessings from our very good God... It seems that many in the oppressed first century messianic community , to whom James was writing, are tempted to believe that God does not single mindedly give wisdom to those who trust Him. There, in their scattered state, far from the land of their forefathers , under economic oppression , they are tempted to believe that He is not only the cause of their difficulty, but the source of their sin. They are tempted to believe that God cannot be trusted, because He is constantly changing. They are tempted to believe that God is not good . James counters— God only gives good gifts. James | Generous God | James 1:13-18
James 1:1-12 • May 13, 2018 • Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr.
“If the letter of James were sent to the Christian communities of certain countries [today] that suffer from violence and exploitation, it would very possibly be intercepted by government security agencies. The document would be branded as subversive.” - Elsa Tamez Today we begin a rather lengthy, but I anticipate enjoyable, journey through the letter, James. What we have before us in this letter is a group of people going through it, suffering economic hardships at the hands of the wealthy and the temptation to either lose hope or sinfully regain control, and their Pastor is writing to them deeply concerned that as they go through it, they do so in a way that reflects who they truly are and what they say they believe. This quote fairly accurately captures the nature of James’ ancient words. His letter is powerful, unsettling and comforting all at the same time. I imagine this will speak to many of us, particularly those of us from cultures that have historically endured oppression. And yet, as those who have been drawn into a conciliated community through Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s generosity, even if we are not from a people who have been historically oppressed, we can enter into the narrative of our sisters and brothers because of our common communion with Jesus. As we explore James words, and the context in which they were written, we will find ourselves together wrestling with our perspective on wealth and poverty; the depths of Justice; public policy; how to endure difficulty well, and reward for doing so; wisdom in what we say and how we say it; preferential treatment and the nature of Justification, which is, for those of you who may not yet be Christians, what it means to be square with God. I hope that as we spend the summer wrestling with these words together, we will grow not just as individuals, but as a community, because this was James’ intent in writing the letter, and God’s intent in preserving it for us. James | Going Through | James 1:1-12