What We Do For God

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 17.9-10
9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies. 
“ ‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you:

Reflection: What We Do For God
By John Tillman

When we feel thankfulness towards people, it is natural to want to do something for them in return. This is the motivation David has in wanting to build a “house” for God.

“I have a house,” David thinks, “surely God wants one too.” It’s a natural thought for someone who spent years running for his life, living in caves and tents. Permanency and place are a comfort David has not often known. He longs for a more permanent sense of God’s presence.

God eventually allows David to plan and Solomon to build the Temple. However, God emphasizes that he neither needs nor desires a “home” and tells David that, rather than David building a house for him, God will build one for David.

As well meant as Solomon’s Temple was, it was insufficient. It became corrupted. It failed. It was deservedly destroyed. We cannot build a house for God any more successfully than David did. Our hands are also bloody. The generations following us will likewise be sinful. 

How often do we keep trying to build God a house? How often does he say to us, as he said to David, “No. I will build a house for you.”?
I will plant you and protect you.
I will cause you to bloom and grow fruit.
I will walk with you through darkness.
I will lay a table for you amidst your enemies.
I will prepare a place for you to be with me.
I will come and bring you to myself.

Every house has a builder. The house we are destined for is one built by God. (Hebrews 3.4; Isaiah 62.5) To enter it, we will have to put on the righteousness that is won for us by Christ. Nothing we have built will enter it.

What we might do “for God” cannot compare to what God has done. And, at times, what we do “for God” turns out to be just something else for ourselves. Rather than attempt to do great things for God, we should simply do godly things for others.

Do we want to do something for God? Then we should do it for the least of these, the brothers and sisters of the lowly Jesus. (Matthew 25.40, 45) When we do things for the least of these we are doing those things for God. These acts of worship are the Temple, the “house,” God desires to build as his church.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I love you, O Lord my strength, O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. — Psalm 18.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 17 (Listen – 4:14)
James 4 (Listen – 2:25)

Read more about Prayer of Devotion from the USA
Give me the courage and strength to follow Christ’s example, and to share the abundance of my blessings, now and forever.

Read more about Wake-up Call
Don’t push “snooze” on the alarms sounding in these passages. Their intention is not to terrify us, but to guide us to action.

Mind Your Manners

Scripture Focus: James 4:1-2a
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

Reflection: Mind Your Manners
By Jon Polk

Outraged by people who keep cutting in front of him to use the pay phone at a Chinese restaurant, TV’s Seinfeld character George Costanza loudly proclaims to no one in particular, “You know, we’re living in a society! We’re supposed to act in a civilized way.”

Even neurotic, self-absorbed, slacker George gets it.

James focuses his attention on the conflicts and quarrels that apparently plagued the early church in Jerusalem, where he was the leader. He pointedly announces the source of the discord: selfishness and greed.

James proclaims this is the root problem behind all of our disagreements, “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

We live in a culture driven by marketing and promotion. Children want the trendiest clothing. Teens desire the newest tech devices. Adults fight for the best job in order to drive the ultimate car and live in the biggest house.

We live in a culture driven by outrage and offense. A word misspoken can set us off. The tiniest misstep can result in a cavalcade of online abuse. We want our rights protected regardless of the impact it may have on others.

We want to be right and we want others to know we are right. We want to get what we desire and we want others to provide it for us. We want our world to work on our terms and provide for our needs.

We’re selfish creatures. James is right in stating that the conflicts that arise between us start from the sinful conflicts that exist deep within us.

One of the most famous presidential quotes in US history is from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Regardless of political preference, we understand the selfless sentiment that Kennedy expressed during an anxious time in US history.

Too often in life, business, politics, and society, selfishness and it’s cousin greed reign supreme rather than the Christ-like virtues of selflessness and generosity.

According to James, the antidote for our selfish desires is found in humility and submitting ourselves to God. (4:6-10) Living together in a civil society requires that we exorcise the demons of selfishness and greed that often motivate our behaviors. We cannot live as double-minded people, attempting to both serve God and satisfy our own cravings.

Instead… ask not what your God can do for you. Ask what you can do for your God.

From John:
I offer a deep, heartfelt thank you to Jon for this series on James. It was not only insightful but came at a time at which a significant break from writing was needed. Thanks for taking on the challenge! May we prepare our hearts to give thanks this next week of Thanksgiving in the US, and may we all look forward to the soon-coming first week of Advent. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.—Psalm 85:10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 17 (Listen -4:14)
James 4  (Listen -2:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chr 18 (Listen -2:36), James 5  (Listen -3:01)
1 Chr 19-20 (Listen -5:02), 1 Peter 1 (Listen -3:53)

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Read more about Greed and Envy
It is in Christ that we will find the compassion to overcome our cynicism and the generosity of spirit to overcome our jealousy and greed.

Read more about A Christian Response to Offense
Our culture is unable to bear offense and simultaneously unable to bear forgiveness.