Last week, we started a new sermon series called Life Hacks and if you weren’t with us we want to make sure that you understand what a life hack is, it is not a way to hack into your bank accounts, email, or social media. A life hack isn’t a bad thing, but a good thing that can make your life better. A life hack is a trick, shortcut, or skill that increases productivity or efficiency in any area of life. A life hack is a new way of doing something that is better than the old way. There has been a lot of conversation and even some controversy this past week about how to reheat left over pizza. I didn’t realize how passionately people take their pizza. There are those that use the microwave, those that use a toaster over, and those that use a skillet, and they all believe their way is the best way. Of course, there are also those who ask, what’s left over pizza? There is never any left over at our house.
There are life hacks in just about every area of life you can imagine; and so, let me share a few of them with you this morning.
1 – 16’ pizza is larger than 2 12’ pizzas
2 – Coffee Filters make good window cleaning cloths
3 – Coffee Filers can be used with popsicles, chips, hot dog holders
While these are fun and interesting, what we really want to explore is how to make our relationship with God stronger, so we are reading through the book of James which is a very practical book filled with life principles and helpful practices – or life hacks. So, let’s look at James 1:22-25.
I don’t know if you caught it, but God has just told us how to make life better. God gives us here the secret to experiencing a truly blessed life – not a life free from trials – we heard last week that that is just not possible. A blessed life isn’t a life without problems but a life where we can feel free and experience the power and grace of God through the problems, and God just said that if we do this one thing, we will be blessed. This one thing is – live out God’s word. James 1:25. Later James says it this way, faith without works is dead. James 2:26
Just reading God’s word will not strengthen our relationship with God. Just talking about God and learning about Jesus will not deepen our faith. A stronger faith and a deeper relationship with God calls for us to do something. Our faith has to turn into deeds, and activity, and a way of life. Now let’s be clear, we are not saved by what we do, salvation is a free gift from God given to us through Jesus Christ, but a blessed life and a vital faith comes when we put our love for God into action. To experience the life God wants for us and to feel really free and full – we need to take our love for God and do something with it.
If we say we have faith in God, and if we say that we love God, but do not love others in some real and tangible way, then our faith is dead and our love is cold. Faith needs action. Love for God needs to be seen in our love for others. The disciple John wrote, If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. 1 John 3:17-18. So, to deepen our faith we don’t necessarily need more knowledge, but obedience. To experience the life God wants for us we need more action, so let’s look at three things we can do to make this happen, our life hacks for this week.
1. Step Up. James 2:14-19. James is telling us to step up and do something. It’s not that we stop reading God’s word, learning about Jesus, and sharing our love and faith with God through words, it’s that we have put some activity with this. We need to love others in some tangible way, and we need to serve others here and now. We have to step up and do something.
James specifically mentions two areas where activity and service is needed and expected by God. James 1:27, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. God has always cared about those who have no one to look out for them in life and God has always called his people to reach out in love to help them.
Orphans need someone to step in and love them. They need someone to care for them and provide for them and widows are the same. In Jesus’ day, widows were women who have no one to care for them. Without husbands and children, they would have no financial or physical support, and since they didn’t have social security and pension programs, these women were vulnerable and in need. God called his people to care for those who had no one else to care for them. Today there are still orphans and widows in need.
Today there are 15.1 million double orphans, meaning they have lost both their parents. There are 140 million single orphans, meaning they have lost one parent, and 2.8 million are living on the streets or in residential facilities. In the US there are 427,910 children in foster care. 110,821 are available for adoption and the average age of a child waiting to be adopted is 8 years old.
Now let’s talk about PA. There are 14,766 children in foster care,
1,982 are waiting to be adopted, Here is the most troubling statistic, 746 children age out annually without a forever family. Within 2 years of aging out 80% of males are in jail, 75% of females are pregnant without a father of the baby in the picture. Now that’s not the troubling statistic, this is, in PA there are 15,539 Churches and the religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is to care for the orphans. If one family in every church in PA could step up, there would be no children in need and there would be over 1,000 families waiting to love and help a child.
In Centre County, there are always between 70 -75 children in the foster care program, but there aren’t enough homes. Recently 25 children had to be moved outside Centre County to be placed in a foster home, which means that those children had to move away from their schools, friends, and any family connections they might have.
One way we can all step up and help support orphans in our region is to do something very simple. Maybe this will be the first step up in serving for you, or maybe this will just be another way to step up, but for the next few weeks we are going to be collecting snack crackers, granola bars, to provide to foster children. Penn State is holding an open house for foster children to visit the campus and these crackers are going to be used as snacks given to the youth between activities.
Food insecurity is a big concern for children in foster care. If you don’t know where you are going to be living, you don’t always know where your next meal will come from, or when it will be, or what it will be, and so these kind of snacks provide support and hope for foster children. I want to invite us all to step up and provide some help and hope to foster children by bringing in some kind of snack over the next few weeks.
This is just one simple thing we can all do, but maybe God is calling you to do more. Maybe you are the family who can love and care for a foster child. On Sunday June 30th at 9:30, Hillary Harris, the director of the Orphan Care Alliance for Centre County, will be here to share with all of us how we can help support children. There is more we can all do, but if you are hearing God call you step up in this way, I want to encourage you to be there.
Whether we help orphans, widows, our family, friends, neighbors, or strangers doesn’t matter, we just need to step up and do something. Help feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick and hopeless, care for the widows and orphans. Just step up and do something.
2. Step Back. Not only do we need to step up, but we also need to step back. James 1:27 - keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Keeping ourselves free from the pollution of the world means we work to pull ourselves back from sin. We might need to make sure our language is filled with grace and not harsh criticism and put downs, and we will be talking more about our language in a few weeks. We might need to make sure the media we consume is honoring to God. Do the programs we watch, the music we listen to, the games we play, and the websites we surf honor God and fill us with good things, or are we filling our minds and hearts with trash?
Philippians 4:8, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
It’s not just what we see and say that can pollute our lives, it can also be what we pursue. When all we are trying to do is get more in life, more money, more status, more resources, more things, then we have become polluted by the world. When we are trying to get our own way, no matter the cost, we have become polluted by the world. While justice is often a worthy goal, there are times we might need to let go of justice in our own lives to offer forgiveness and extend God’s grace. There are times when we know we are in the right, and we could move forward to pursue that right, but God might be calling us to extend mercy and offer forgiveness instead.
Which leads us to our relationships with one another. We need to examine how we are treating our family and friends to make sure that we are honoring them and not seeking to use them. Are we truly loving one another as God in Christ Jesus loved us? If we are not seeking the wellbeing of those we love at all costs, then we have become polluted by the thinking of the world, a thinking that tells us that we are always the most important person in the room.
#3 Step Out. The third step in putting feet to our faith is to step out of what is comfortable and easy. We need to step out of what is safe and learn what it means to truly sacrifice. How is God calling us to give in ways that will really push us and challenge us? The first mission trip I went on was outside my comfort zone. I didn’t know any of the people going and I am not a very handy worker when it comes to tools, but I went and learned how to tear up floors and strip a trailer down to the metal frame. But more than that, I was blessed to be able to meet some amazing people, in fact, the pastor and his wife who led the trip were Barb Reed’s parents.
When I first started as a pastor and wasn’t making a lot of money, had student loans to pay off, a car payment, and other bills, I wasn’t sure about the whole concept of tithing, but I stepped out and gave 10% back to God through the church, and I have never regretted it. Today, I continue to ask God what % I need to give because I have been blessed to be able to give more, and at times I have heard God say, Andy you need to step up and give more.
For some, the sacrifice might be in giving time to God in service to the church. The sacrifice might be getting outside our comfort zone and work with children, or commit to the next mission trip, or buy a case of peanut crackers, or maybe you are the family that is positioned to take in a foster child and bless a child in Centre County. God is never satisfied with us just stepping up and stepping back, God always calls his people to step out and sacrifice. Jesus said, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23.
If we are going to listen to God’s word and obey what it says, there will be a shift that takes place in all of our lives, we will go from having a casual relationship with God to a radical relationship with God. We will develop a relationship where we will do all that we hear God calling us to do, and where we love like Jesus. And what does the love of Jesus look like? It looks like the cross.
Jesus gave himself willingly, completely, and sacrificially for us and now we are called to step out and give sacrificially for others. In what ways is God calling you to give sacrificially? How is God calling us to move into a more radical relationship? What does it look like for us step out? I guarantee that if we are willing to listen to God and look to him – God will show us.
The life principle we find in James is to put our faith into action. When we do, we will experience the blessing of God. And here’s how we put that faith to work; we
Step Up and do something
Step Back from the world
Step Out to sacrifice and give.
Life Hacks – Doers
Life Principle: Faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26
- Read James 1:22-27 and 2:14-26)
- Step Up
- Find one way to put your faith into action.
- Support foster children by providing snack crackers or granola bars. (thru June 30)
- Learn more about the needs of foster children and families on Sunday, June 30 at 9:30 AM.
- Volunteer to visit our shut-ins.
- Read Romans 12:1-8. Find a practical way to use God’s gifts in your life.
- Step Back
- Read James 1:27 and Philippians 4:8.
- What activity do you need to step back from to improve your heart, mind, and life?
- Invite your family, friends, or church family to support you in this change.
- Take time in prayer each day asking God to help you keep your heart and mind fixed on Jesus.
- Step Out (Sacrifice)
- Reflect on a time when you made a sacrifice for someone else. What did you experience?
- How are you being called to move from a casual to a radical relationship with God, the church, and the world?
- Take one small step forward in this relational change.