Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Greetings


Joyful Greetings
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove


“This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!”
– James 1:1 (NLT)

I absolutely love vacationing on the Hawaiian Islands! Sunshine, warm ocean breezes and vibrant blue waters are a soothing balm to my to frazzled mainland soul. Conversely, the zesty pineapple and sweet mango revive my taste buds during winter’s lull in fresh produce at home. It is a sensory feast that contrasts the gray days of home.

While I delight in all the tangibles, it’s the Hawaiian “Spirit of Aloha” that I desire most. This spirit of aloha is a lifestyle of love and unity. The Hawaiian word “Aloha” is associated with “Hello” and “Goodbye,” but also means love, kindness, compassion and grace. So when greeted with, “Aloha,” it is more than an acknowledgment that we see each other. The heart behind the word says, “Friend, together we share the bounty of this earth. I am grateful it is this way. May there be friendship and love between us!”

I want in on that.

It turns out, the early church also had a single word of greeting that included in its meaning, not only love, but the good news of Jesus Christ! This word, “Greetings,” in the Greek, is “chairein,” actually meaning “rejoice!”

My favorite use of this word occurs in James 1:1 (NLT) (italics are mine): “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes” —Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!”

Rejoice!

There are two amazing things about “Rejoice” as a greeting here. First, James describes himself as being a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ ... and he is happy about that! James is writing to Jewish refugees and suggesting joy!

The context of the Jewish people in those days was that they went from being slaves in Egypt to slaves of the Roman Empire (with some rescuing in between). They were accustomed to living in slavery and were desperate for freedom. Not only that, but their own Jewish laws kept them in a state of works-oriented, religious slavery. Ouch and double ouch ouch! 


I relate to living in slavery to the expectations of the culture I reside in. I relate to being tethered to the works mentality and the lies that I must produce to be of value. That’s why I desperately want escape...to Hawaii...or frankly, any other culture but the one I feel stuck in!

Secondly, James continues, post-greeting, to encourage believers by suggesting they should consider the trials they continue to encounter as “opportunity for joy.” Wait, what?

According to James 1:2-4 (NLT), he says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

How on earth can I be rejoicing when I feel cut to the bone?

James reminds that while we reside physically in a world that hurts us, God is using that hurt to heal us. When we allow God to work in us, we’re making headway in His Kingdom, rather than squirreling in a cage. Not just for Heaven’s sake, but here on Earth too.

Jesus Christ came to set us free from the law and from living a single life to living an infinite one! To live in Jesus’s name is to live life His way ... happily tethered to good deeds and in love with all life. Unified with God and unified with man. That sounds like paradise! I think I feel the sun and taste pineapple on my lips! 


Apparently, I forgot the culture my faith brought me.

What if we change our greeting? What if we lead with a salutation that is encouraging, both to ourselves and our neighbors? A salutation that reminds the truth of the Spirit of God? Would you see rainbows on your dreary days?

Let me be the first. Friend, rejoice!

~*~
Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior.

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel, and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

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