Reaching Out or In?

James 1: 25-27 (the message)
     But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God–the free life!–even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
     Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

I am stuck this morning on these verses!  I am beginning to learn when God is saying “whoa! go back and listen to what I’m saying” because if I try to keep reading past the particular verse it’s like I lose my focus.  So, this morning as I read the verses above I believe perhaps God is truly working a message into my life this week…a reminder…a very important truth that is so easy to drift away from.

Is my “religion” hot air?  The scripture above is very clear about talking a good game vs. reaching out.  I can’t get past it!  Am I one of those people who knows the lingo, can talk the talk, spout out some Bible verses, do some “do-gooder” type stuff for which others pat me on the back but in the deepest places of my heart it’s just learned behavior?  Have I been raised in church-world with a sincere respect and  belief in God but lack a zeal and passion in my life for others? 

As I read the verses above I see where James says if you catch even a glimpse of the free life, even out of the corner of your eye, you will be a man or woman of action..and that you will find delight and affirmation in it.  God’s love and the freedom He gives us is so unbelievable that even a mere glimpse transforms us into persons of action…reaching out to the homeless and loveless in their plight.

Sticking with my “being real” vibe for this blog…some months ago I reached a place in my life where I was “done” with the average Christian experience.  I mean that is mostly what I had…I believed, went to church, prayed sometimes, read my kids a Bible story at night.  I did love God and wanted to make sure my girls knew God loved them, but I was I guess you could say dissatisfied.  I just had this “thing” in me that as a Christian it had to be better/more life-changing  than it was.  I was annoyed with my own gossip, judgmental heart and selfishness.  I was discouraged because every time I “tried” to be a better Christian I seemed to fail miserably…which in turn just led back to the status quo.  I knew I was “saved” and would go to Heaven, but really I wanted my life to make an impact for Christ and I generally just didn’t see it happening.  I really don’t know exactly why…I just remember realizing that as I was judging my neighbors (literally) I was consumed with pride:  I was more spiritual, a better mom, wife, citizen…better everything!  I remember God finding a way to speak into my life and say…”Instead of you being on the defense with people who don’t know me, why don’t you go on the offense and reach out to them?  Instead of being so worried they may affect your kids, why don’t you let your family affect them?”  It was around this time I finally reached a place in my life that I decided I am going for it.  I clearly remember my thoughts…”I’m going to screw up sometimes but I am determined to know God.”  Somehow, God took that and set me free from this idea that I have to be perfect to know Him…that I have to perform well and overcome all of my character flaws in a week.  The last 10 months or so of my life have been amazing.  Not because I turned into Mother Theresa but because as I determined to know God, regardless of my issues/sins/flaws, He has in fact met me every step of the way.  Sometimes with the sweetest moments of His presence, sometimes in amazing times of insight/understanding of His word, sometimes with a painful/humbling bit of correction (like this past monday morning).  Always as I am real with Him.

So, in my journey I now find myself having to face this question…am I reaching out?  Have I let my passion turn inward…passion for what God does for me next?  What plans He has for my family?  Has my passion for God funneled into how it affects my life only?  On Monday He reminded me of what walking in His Love truly looks like, on Tuesday I was confronted with the many “forgotten ones” at the rest home, and today I read about “hot air religion” vs. “reaching out.”  I don’t think God is telling me I’m full of hot air this morning, but I do think He wants me to ask myself am I reaching out, in a practical way, to the homeless and loveless?  This scripture is painfully clear…am I talking about it or am I doing it?  Do I acknowledge the needs of others from a distance, content to write on my blog about it, or do I reach in a little deeper and extend myself in some way?  Do I thank God for the blessings of my life and pray for those less fortunate but stay oblivious to ways I may be the answer to the very prayer I am praying? 

Perhaps it is time for this determination in my heart to grow outward.  Perhaps it is time to take an honest look, however humbling, and ‘test the mettle’ of all I profess about God’s Love.  I don’t think God is telling me to open a shelter or move to Africa…but I think He is asking me to ask myself…does my Faith reach out or is it always reaching in?

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