Joey Sparks
26Jul/120

The Easiest To Blame

The easiest people to blame are:

  1. Those who are bigger than we are and
  2. Those with whom we don't have a close relationship.

As you can expect, the bigger someone is, the easier they are to blame.

  • Governments. The bigger the political level, the worse they are.
  • Big banks, credit cards, Wall Street.
  • School systems, Boards of Education, Superintendents, school administration and staff.
  • Hospitals, Healthcare providers, insurance companies, drug companies, doctors.
  • TV shows, movies, musical artists, celebrities, news media.

I wouldn't dare suggest these always display responsibility. The bigger the stage, the greater the responsibility (Luke 12:48). They'll be held accountable for how they've occupied the world through their large influence. Which means our finger-pointing is ultimately pointless.

Blame (by FatBusinessman Flickr CC by nc sa)

The other group whom it's easy to blame is composed of those with whom we are not very close.

To test this, did you object to any of the groups I mentioned above?

If you are an educator, because of your personal passions, relationships with other educators, and your view "behind the scenes," you may object that any overall scholastic shortcomings are the fault of the system.

If you work in the healthcare industry as a nurse, doctor, or sales rep, you may be slower to gripe about your industries' shortcomings.

How many spouses in close-knit, intimate, and trusting marriages frequently blame each other? It's hard to play the "blame game" within a thriving relationship.

What does all this mean?

There's no one bigger than God. So it's easy to see why so much blame can be cast his way (James 1:13-15). Whether it's for natural disasters, a cancer diagnosis, the sudden loss of a loved one, or the rock-bottom crash of irresponsibility, it's easy to pin our trials on God because there's no one bigger. There's nothing we can do to change God's "bigness" (Psalm 139:7-12). From day one, he's forever been the Creator, Provider, and Loving Judge.

But we can close the loophole of blame by drawing closer to him daily (Hebrews 10:22; James 4:8). The more intimate we become with his heart and mind, by staying in his word and talking to him in prayer, the more we see his infinite wisdom, mercy, love, and compassion. We won't allow ourselves to blame him because we recognize his complete perfection.

Constantly drawing near to him forces us to see that He Himself has done everything possible to win us back (John 3:16; Hebrews 7:25). The only way we blame God because He seems far away is because we've distanced ourselves from His love and provision.

Blame is useless at best and destructive and debilitating to personal responsibility at worst. There are a multitude of practical reasons to eliminate it from our hearts and tongues. As we continue pruning, we must draw near to God daily to remind ourselves that He's in control. And thus, we have nothing to blame.

12Jul/120

2 Reasons “The Blame Game” Doesn’t Work For Sin

Blame is funny.

We're often tempted to blame someone or something else for our shortcomings and mistakes. We hope, that by successfully shifting blame, to avoid punishment and accountability.

Not only is the "blame game" deceptive--because no one or nothing is responsible for our lives except ourselves--but it cripples progress. Once we convince ourselves we've shifted the blame, we've also given up control to fix the problem. Those who rely on blame instead of responsibility create a prison where improvement is impossible.

We can attempt to blame other people at every turn, but we always face the truth that we can't change others. We can try to blame external circumstances, but then we find out we can't change those either.

Courageously accepting responsibility grants the possibility of freedom. Only those grounded in responsibility and accountability make great strides of improvement and growth.

It's sad that many would rather wallow in negative situations than accept responsibility and thus be empowered to improve them. As Christians, we should not allow this attitude to thrive.

And we cannot allow it to exist when it comes to temptation and sin.

You only have yourself to blame (by higgott Flickr CC by nc sa)

James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." I almost think James anticipated a response to that statement something like this, "Well, it'd sure be a lot easier to endure temptation if that same Lord would stop tempting us to get us to give up!"

So James says in verses 13 and 14, "Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."

It is impossible to blame God for temptation and sin. Just as it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2), it is impossible for God to be tempted, and thus to tempt us. Not only is it futile to cast blame at God's feet, how dare us do so in light of all he has done and all he promises!

God wants the best for us. We must develop a trusting attitude toward him and his word that dares not blame him for shortcomings, mistakes, and sin.

It is impossible to blame anyone or anything else. Instead of listing everyone or everything we cannot blame, James tells us the source of temptation: our own desires. You and I cannot successfully blame anyone or anything else for sin because it all starts in our own hearts. We are "tempted" to sin because it, in some way, appeals to us individually. Temptation, and thus sin, are controlled and guided by our own selfish desires.

Bummer? Maybe, if we're lazy. But not if we truly want to change things.

Jesus' power has defeated the strangling power of sin and death (1 Cor. 15:56-57). And he gives us the opportunity to obey him instead of our own desires. If we destroy, suppress, and manage our earthly desires, we can successfully navigate the labyrinth of temptation in this life. It will never be easy. But it will always be possible; provided we accept responsibility and cut out the blame.

23Nov/110

Words of Wisdom: Ask for It!

In early 2003, while in college at FHU, we had our social club officers' retreat at a house on Kentucky Lake. We arrived late Friday evening, so we didn't see the lake until Saturday morning. When we awoke to see it and its surroundings, we were amazed that the lake's surface was totally frozen. Prior to that morning, every time in my life I had seen a body of water, it was always moving. But not this time. It was still and it was solid. I always think about that lake when I read James 1:5-8.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The first clause of the passage reflects some of James' almost-sarcastic humor. Who, exactly, does not need more wisdom? The "if" sounds as though it's a limiting condition, but realistically, it's a universal statement. Everyone needs more wisdom.

http://flic.kr/p/286Zm

http://flic.kr/p/286Zm

What are we asking for when we ask for wisdom? We commonly think of wisdom as more than just knowledge. It's the practical application of knowledge. Another concise definition I've heard is, "Wisdom is the ability to see potential results before making decisions."

During what situations, then, should we ask for wisdom? The easy answer is, "in everything." But the contextual answer is that of trials that test our faith and reliance upon God (1:2-4). We need the Lord's guidance, direction, and peace when our souls are tested by life's hurdles. Trials easily become watershed moments; we either draw nearer to God and His people, or we push away from His goodness. Thus, we especially need wisdom in the face of trials. So we must ask for it. Additionally, the verb in the Greek emphasizes the process of "keep on asking." We need wisdom continually, thus we must ask continually.

God guarantees that he gives wisdom. But it's not a blank check. Notice how we are supposed to ask: without reproach, in faith, with no doubting. This is where it hits us the hardest. It's easier to simply ask for wisdom than it is to confidently ask for wisdom.

James illustrates our doubting with the simple, but common, sight of water. Its waves are continually driven and tossed, he says, by the whims of the wind. Their direction, strength, and frequency are determined by forces beyond their control.

We will encounter countless storms, criticisms, and confusions in this life. But we cannot be controlled by them. We must be confident, trusting, and solid as we ask God for direction and guidance.

22Nov/110

Amanda’s Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

  • 1 box Butter Cake Mix
  • 1 small box chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Canola/Vegetable Oil
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 6 oz chocolate chips 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease and lightly dust bundt pan with flour
  3. Mix first 7 ingredients until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick is clean when inserted in center of cake.

James tells us, "Count it all joy...when you meet trials of various kinds." It's difficult to "label" tough times, tragedies, and discouragement as anything that's good. Yet James tells us to consider those opportunities as "joy."

Though difficult, he does not expect us to do something this extreme without any assurance about future results. In fact, the very reason he says we should "count it all joy" is that we "know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (Jas 1:3). He points to the foundational principle that testing and proving our faith will always lead to strengthening it into faith that lasts. He then instructs Christians to, "let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Jas 1:4).

http://flic.kr/p/GjwLz

http://flic.kr/p/GjwLz

We can know with certainty about the connection between trials and steadfastness, but we must let it take place. This is the second of James' imperative statements in this letter; yet it is one that we must allow to happen in our own lives. We can't force it to happen. We can't fast forward to a time where it's already happened. We can't negotiate the length of time in which it happens. We can't eliminate the pain accompanied with the trial itself while it happens. But we can--and James says we must--target our attitudes in a godly direction because of our conviction and the assurance that it does happen.

Enduring trials will never be easy. They rarely, if ever, taste good on their own. We must continually mix them with healthy attitudes and heavy doses of God's promises. Then, despite our skepticism and short-sightedness, we must allow the oven of time, faith, and God's providence to deliver the sweet steadfastness of trusting Him. Delicious.

15Nov/110

The Truth About Trials

When we find ourselves in the midst of a "trial," we often focus on the trial itself. We commonly believe several myths about trials:

  • They're always someone else's fault. (Another person, God, the devil)
  • We are the only one experiencing trials. Our trials are far worse than anyone else's.
  • Once we become Christians, trials happen less often, don't hurt as much, or stop altogether.
  • Once we deal with a significant trial, all future trials disappear or become really easy to handle.
  • Removing or ending the trial will eliminate all pain associated with it.
  • If we can just fix all the problems we're facing, we can be happy.

The Bible is clear we must address problems for which we're responsible. But we commonly shirk responsibility for those things and focus our energy upon fixing things we cannot.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/xtrarant/2207094409/

So don't miss James' first imperative statement--one of many--in his letter. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (1:2). Before we can "count it all joy" when we face them, we should observe a few truths that counter the false assumptions we believe about trials.

  • Christians are not immune to trials ("my brothers"). In fact, the trials for these Christians resulted directly from their commitment to Christ.
  • We will face trials ("when you..."). He didn't say "if you..."
  • We will continually face trials. “Trials” is plural.
  • We won't face the same trial/trials over and over ("trials of various kinds").
  • We aren’t the only ones facing trials. It was written to Christians in the first century and has applied to everyone since. We may feel alone at any given time, but that doesn't mean we are alone in our struggles.

We must exchange our dependence upon misbeliefs for confidence in the truth. Once we do, we can begin to "count it all joy" when we face trials.