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How do we get back on track with God? By repenting and putting God first, by being willing to make hard decisions rather than drifting when we meet with challenges and by walking by faith like Abraham, rather than walking by sight like Lot.
Jesus is the good shepherd. Biblical shepherds led their sheep from the front, and knew each one by name, and the sheep knew his voice. We are invited to come and feed. Good shepherds lead by example, protect the flock, encourage the whole church to be a shepherding community, anoint with oil, and lay down their lives for the sheep.
Abraham and Sarah saw famine and there were hard decisions to be made, but they also saw the grace and sovereignty of God. Living in God’s promises doesn’t make us immune to hardship, and the grace and sovereignty of God doesn’t mean we are free from sin and bad choices. God’s grace can come through very strange means - it sees the vulnerable and covers over all sins.
Abraham didn’t make the decision to move; it was God who took the initiative. Abraham was nobody special and was slow to obey God. Nevertheless, he trusted God, and we also should trust God even when we don’t understand what God is doing. So let’s follow Abraham’s example of a life a faith, a life of obedience and life of worship.
We need to learn how to lament. We can do this by using our own words or by using some of the lament psalms that have been given us to help us pray. We need to make a deliberate decision to turn to the Lord, bring our complaint to him, make definite clear requests, and choose to trust him.
God delights in restoring those who have wandered away. We should be a people of real concern, who care for those wandering from the truth; a people of real discretion in confronting them; and a people of real zeal for bringing them back.
James encourages us to pray. He tells us to pray for ourselves and for one another, and the sick are to call for the elders to pray for them. We are to come to God in faith, in repentance, in honesty and in humility.
Some of us may have been excluded for being Christians, whilst others may have experienced more intense suffering. James calls us to be patient, but he is not insensitive to suffering, nor is he telling us to be inactive. To cope with suffering, we need to learn how to lament. Our ultimate hope is the return of Jesus.
We should not put our trust or find our security in possessions. We should be rich towards God, and generous with our wealth. We should not be complicit in oppressing the poor by our shopping habits. God is not against us having money, but wants us to use wealth for his glory and his kingdom.
God is in control, and Jesus relied totally on God. James isn’t telling us not to plan ahead, but warning us against the arrogance of thinking we are lord of our own lives. If we don’t know God then we can know him today. If we do know God then we can trust him today.
If we focus on other people’s faults, we don’t keep our eyes on what we should be doing. We shouldn’t judge others because when we do, we are looking in the wrong place with a wrong attitude, we are putting ourselves above the law, and we damage church unity. We should deal with our own faults, loving others instead of judging, and remembering that it’s up to God to judge.
We mustn’t have a domesticated view of Jesus. He is exalted in heaven, and our appropriate response is one of worship and repentance. He is also enthroned, and so we should live as a community of kingdom people. And he is also active, pouring out his Spirit. We may be in Lockdown, but Heaven is still open.
Many of our desires are good, but we are looking in the wrong place to satisfy them. We need to remember to ask God. God gives us his Spirit, and we are invited to humble ourselves and draw near to God.