Week 10  Day 1                                    From War to the Will of God                                      James 4:13-17

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”       John 14:6

 

James begins chapter 4 talking about war with God.  He ends it talking about the will of God.  These two themes are very much related.  When believers are out of the will of God, they get into trouble.  They are in a constant battle.  Not being in the will of God damages our relationship with Him.  The turmoil with God also hurts others.   We see several examples of being out of God’s will throughout Biblical history.  In each case, it not only hurt the person, but those around him.  1) Lot- He moved into Sodom and brought trouble to his family.  2) David committed adultery and brought trouble to his family and his kingdom.  3) Jonah disobeyed God and almost sent a shipload of heathen sailors into a watery grave.  In each case, there was a wrong attitude toward the will of God.  In each case, they were focused on themselves.

Rick Warren tells us in the first sentence of “The Purpose Driven Life” – ‘It’s not about you.’  It all starts with God.  The apostle Paul was out of God’s will for the first part of his life.  When he turned his life over to Christ, he instructed us; “because we are united with Christ, we have received and inheritance from God, (we have become God’s inheritance) for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.”  (Eph. 1:11 NLT)

Our constant challenge as Christians is to be in God’s will.  The will of God comes from the heart of God.  God’s will is an expression of His love for us.  This is the place to start.  It is common to be afraid of God’s will.  People feel that God might ask them to do something dangerous.  In reality, the dangerous life is not ‘in the will of God,’ but out of the will of God.  The safest place in the world is right where God wants you!  We don’t need a roadmap for life.  Jesus is the Way.  As we follow Jesus one day at a time, He will keep us in the center of God’s will.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Lord, I will follow you even if I don’t know where You are leading.

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Week 10  Day 2                                    What is God’s Will?                                                    James 4:13-17

“Jesus replied, “if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…”     John 14:23

 

When people seek to know and do God’s will, many ask the question. What is God’s will for my life?  One of my seminary professors, Gaines S. Dobbins, used to say, “If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer.”  Sometimes we assume every question is legitimate.  However, when we ask the wrong question, we may find an answer but remain disoriented to God and His activity.  Always check to see whether you have asked the right question before you pursue the answer.

What is God’s will for my life? is not the right question.  I think the proper question is, What is God’s will?  Once I know God’s will, then I can adjust my life to Him.  In other words, what is it God is purposing to accomplish where I am?  Once I know what God is doing, then I know what I need to do.  The focus needs to be on God, not on my life!

When I want to learn how to know and do God’s will, I can find no better model than Jesus’ life.  During His approximately 33 years on earth, He perfectly completed every assignment the Father gave Him.  He never failed to do the will of the Father.  He never sinned.  Would you like to understand how Jesus came to know and do His Father’s will?  Read John 5:17, 19-20.

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.  I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.  Yes, to your amazement he will show him even great things than these.”

This Scripture is a model that describes a love relationship through which God accomplishes His purposes.  Watch to see where God is working and join Him!

“Experiencing God.”  — Henry Blackaby.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, What is your will?

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Week 10  Day 3                                    Obeying God’s Will                                                     James 4:13-17

“If the Lord will”        James 4:15

 

“If the Lord will” is not just a statement on a believer’s lips:  it is a constant attitude of his heart.  “My food,” said Jesus “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)  Paul would often refer to the will of God as he shared his plans; “I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.”  (Romans 1:10)  Paul did not consider the will of God a chain that shackled him.  As a true believer in God’s grace, Paul knew it was the key that opened the doors and set him free.

It is God’s will that we yield ourselves to Him (2 Cor. 8:5).  It is God’s will that we avoid sexual immorality (1Thess. 4:3).  All Christians should rejoice, pray, and thank God (1 Thess. 5:16-18).  Every commandment in the Bible addressed to believers in part the will of God and must be obeyed.  But God does not call each of us to the same work in life, or to exercise the same gifts and ministry.  The will of God is ‘tailor-made” for each of us!

The secret of a happy life is to delight in duty.  Enjoy the journey!  When duty becomes delight, then burdens become blessings.  “Your decrees have been the theme of my songs wherever I have lived.”  (Psalm 119:54 NLT)  When we serve God because we have to we may accomplish His work but we will miss the blessing.  Our attitude should be ‘We get to do it!’ not ‘I have to do it.’

The benefits of doing God’s will are; you enjoy a deeper fellowship with Jesus Christ (Mark 3:35).  You have the privilege of knowing God’s truth (John7:17), and seeing your prayers answered                                   (1 John 5:14-15).  The Christian who knows, loves, and obeys the will of God will enjoy God’s blessing.  His life may not be easier, but it will be holier and happier.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer. Father God, my desire is to do your will and to finish your work. (John 4:34)

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Week 10  Day 4                                    Life- Uncertain and Short                                           James 4:13-17

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?”      James 4:14

 

We know that James was a man who knew his Scripture.  In verse 14, James is teaching about the uncertainty of life.  It is based on a Scripture written by Solomon, who received his wisdom from God and was the wisest man ever to live. (1 Kings 3:9-12) “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” (Proverbs 27:1).

The businessmen that James was writing to (us included) were making plans for a whole year when they could not even see ahead into one day.  They were very confident in themselves: “We will go.  We will stay a year.  We will buy and sell and make a profit.”  They were successful in the moment.  They had an ego problem.  EGO stands for ‘Edge God Out’ and that is exactly what they did.

Their attitude is very similar to the farmer in the parable that Jesus teaches in Luke 12:16-21.  The man had a bumper crop; his barns were too small.  He decided to build bigger barns and have greater security for the future.  “And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come.  Now take it easy!  Eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:19)  What was God’s reply to this man’s boasting?  “You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.”  (Luke 12:20)  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The brevity of life; “you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  (Jas. 4:14b)  This is one of the themes of the Bible that is repeated over and over.  To us, life seems long and we measure it in years, but in comparison to eternity, life is but a vapor.  It isn’t that life is so short; it’s that eternity is so long.  Since life is so brief, we can’t afford merely to ‘spend our lives’, and we certainly do not want to ‘waste our lives.’  We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal.

Life is uncertain.  Life is short.   Jesus is certain.  Jesus is forever!

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father God, help me to number my days, enjoy each moment with you.  (Psalm 90:12)

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Week 10  Day 5                               Why Do We Neglect Life’s Warnings?                              James 4:13-17

“What is your life?”            James 4:14

 

I know life is not easy for you.  I’ve been pastoring long enough to know we all have our problems.  Don’t kid yourself.  I think of a couple in our congregation whose child died in the womb just days before his birth.  Understandably, they were so hurt. Their hearts were troubled.  But when the wife gave her testimony several months later, she was able to tell our congregation that she had learned “not to confuse God with life.”  Life consists of the things that happen to us, the many experiences that we have, good and bad.  Life is filled with heartaches, failures and disappointments.  But God is much bigger than life.  Along the way, God posts warning signals, directional arrows, caution lights and stop signs.  But often we rush right through life without paying attention to God’s signs and signals.  Still, we fail to realize our potential.  Hope is held hostage.  Dreams are deferred.  Longings are left untouched.  Passions are not pursued.  Potential is not realized.  Ministry is not mobilized.  We mistakenly think we have all the time in the world to figure out if God has any plans for us and what God wants from us.

God speaks to us through the prophet: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)   God has plans for you.  Don’t go through life without proper thought of tomorrow.

James raises the question, “What is your life?”  We may not understand all we would like to know about life, but we do know that God protects us now and provides for our future.

I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.

I don’t borrow from its sunshine, For its skies may turn to gray.

I don’t worry o’er the future, For I know what Jesus said,

And today I’ll walk beside Him, For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand;

But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.

 

From “Just James”   by V. DuWayne Battle

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Thank you Jesus for walking with me today.

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Week 10   Day 6              Less is More – WILLINGNESS   Reflection                                      James 4:13-17

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow, read James 4:13-17

Less is More – WILLINGNESS

 

Pray for our church staff this week:

  • Brittany Vernon, Bridge Director
  • Clayton Knight, Worship Associate
  • Sarah Gardner, Weekday Education Director

Week 9  Day 1                         Reflect on ‘Journey with James’                                  James 4:10-12

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”    Romans 12:2

 

Our Journey with James has been amazing, informative, eye-opening, compelling and soul-searching.   James’ letter to the early Christian church, and to us, has challenged us immensely.  Are we authentic in our faith?  Are we just going through the motions?   As we begin the final four weeks of our journey, take a few minutes and reflect on your personal   ‘Journey with James’.  What have you learned about James that you didn’t know before?   What have you learned about your faith that you did not know?  How have you grown?

As we reflect, it is fascinating for me to visualize the relationship(s) that James and Jesus had.  The first relationship was them growing up as half-brothers.  What was their relationship like when Jesus and James were youngsters?, teenagers?,  young adult men?   What was it like around the house?   James knew Jesus, but he did not yet have a personal relationship with the living God.

Next is their relationship during Jesus’ ministry.   We know that Mary knew Jesus was the ‘Son of God’, but James and the rest of his brothers and sisters thought Jesus was out of his mind.  (Mark 3:21)  What would you think if your brother began a movement and proclaimed he was the Savior and Redeemer?   Do you think James went to Mary and said; “what is going on with Jesus?”  If he did, did Mary try to explain it to him?  James knew through Scripture that a Savior was coming… but my brother!!  He was seeking the truth, it was right there in front of him, but he couldn’t see it.

The final relationship is after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.  James was one of the first people Jesus personally talked to.  What was said?  We can now see why James was so passionate in his ministry.   The power of James faith was formed when he realized he had grown up under the same roof as the ‘Son of God,’ witnessed Jesus’ ministry and didn’t believe, saw Jesus crucified, and then met with the risen Lord personally.   He understood the ‘miracle!’  He now loved Jesus so much he would die for Him.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Reflect and pray.  How has your relationship with Jesus grown?

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Week 9  Day 2                          Sound Familiar?                                                          James 4: 10-12

“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.”     Leviticus 19:16

 

James was a man who knew his Scriptures!   He was a scholar of the Old Testament.  Beth Moore said it best; “Trying to read James without the Old Testament is like trying to sift the white out of a bag of bleached flower.”

What James does so powerfully is he teaches us the Law in a way we can understand it!  He learned the Old Testament daily as a boy and young man.  The awesome part is he also spent years growing up with Jesus.  That is one of the reasons why this book is so important to us.  He shows us how the law given in the Old Testament is relevant and living through Jesus Christ.  We can see where he learned from the Old Testament and also learned from Jesus.

James is talking about slander.   “Brothers and sisters, do no slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.”  (James 4:11a)   One of the main points addressed here is that James is speaking to believers.  He is speaking to us.   This is not the first time James has given us a lesson that relates to our speech and our tongue.  He definitely knew that everyone, Christians in particular, are guilty of saying things about people that are not encouraging.

The Greek term translated ‘slander’ in the NIV also means ‘criticize’ (HCSB) and ‘speak against’(NASB)  The original word doesn’t leave us room to excuse ourselves.  We can simply be telling the truth.  However, to James, and to his brother Jesus, if it was said critically or against another person, it was sin.

Does this sound familiar?  “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.”   James Old Testament reference to James 4:11-12 was Leviticus 19:16 NLT.

My mother never read the Bible, but she taught me James in a simple way; “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  This is another example of simple vs. easy.   The command is simple, but it is not easy to obey.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Help me Father God, If I can’t say anything nice today, help me keep my mouth shut.

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Week 9  Day 3                          Crucified by Christians                                                James 4:10-12

“Do not speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.”     James 4:11a NLT

 

Welcome, please come in. I’ve been looking forward to your arrival.  Thank you. Please take this chair.

I have come here because…because…I am one of those Christians who have been grievously mistreated by other believers.  I have found it very difficult to deal with this, and even more difficult to fully recover.  I am here in search of help that might lead to my complete healing.

Shattering is it not?  Perhaps one of the greatest shocks a Christian will ever know is to discover that fellow Christians can be cruel.  Nonetheless, though is seems to be a fact, it is not well known, nor easily accepted.

The discovery that Christians can be cruel to Christians has destroyed the spiritual part of many a believer’s life.  Few things, even the loss of a loved one, affect one’s life so profoundly or so painfully.  The damage is quite often unfathomable.  I would dare say that a truly vicious attack on the part of one believer to another leaves most Christians so hurt they never fully recover.  Yet, full recovery is possible.

It is good that you have come.  Let us trust that you will be one of those who does recover.  And fully so.  Even more than recover.   Have there been many others who have been mistreated so severely?

A good question.   Yes, mistreated, abused- so severely that it amounts to a crucifixion.  Sometimes even a public crucifixion. There was John Huss, Latimer, Tyndale, Wycliff, the maiden Joan, John of Prague…ah, the list seems to be quite large. But the list is largest in your day; it seems there are many such goings on in your time.  Nevertheless, the pattern has been pretty consistent, dating all the way back to, well, the cousin of Jesus.  I have observed that in all these crucifixions each person feels that few others have been so unjustly treated.

Chapter 1.  “Crucified by Christians”   by Gene Edwards.

 

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father,  open my eyes to the destruction of evil words.

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Week 9  Day 4                          Beware of Criticizing Others                                       James 4:10-12

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”    Matthew 7:1

 

Jesus’ instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, “Don’t.”  The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known.  Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it.  The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized.  The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding.  It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood.  Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others.  Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical.  This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time.  You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.

There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus.  If I see the little speck in your eye, it means I have a plank of timber in my own.  (Matt. 7:3-5)  Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me.  Every time I judge, I condemn myself. (Romans 2:17-24)  Stop having a measuring stick for other people.  There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation.  The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning.  After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us.  I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

June 17.   “My Utmost for His Highest”    by Oswald Chambers

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Pray Matthew 7:1-2.  Father, judge me the way I judge others.

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Week 9   Day 5                         James & Paul on Judging Others                                   James 4:10-12

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.”    James 4:12a

 

Paul is credited with being the dominant force in the New Testament.  No person, apart from Jesus, shaped the history of Christianity.  Paul took the gospel across the Roman Empire.  As a result, he wrote many letters.  These letters make up a majority of the New Testament.  Even though James wrote just one short chapter, he was a major player in the early church.  He was THE major player in Jerusalem.   Paul gets much more attention and credit for his powerful letters than James.  Many assume that Paul and James each wrote with a different tone.  As this journey with James has progressed, it is evident that Paul and James were on the same page.  They complimented each other.

Read what Paul had to say about judging others.  “So why do you condemn another believer?   Why do you look down on another believer?  Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”  (Romans 14:10 NLT)  Paul asked the weak Christian, “Why are you judging your brother?”  Then he asked the strong Christian, “Why are you despising your brother?”  Just like James, Paul is saying that both strong and weak must stand at the judgment seat of Christ.  They will not judge each other- they will be judged by the Lord.

Two of the most famous Christians in the Victorian Era in England were Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker.  Early in their ministries they were good friends.  Then they had a disagreement.  Spurgeon judged Parker as unspiritual because he attended the theatre.   Spurgeon smoked cigars and was condemned for that practice. Who was right?  Who was wrong?  When it comes to questionable matters in the Christian life, can’t dedicated believers disagree without being disagreeable?    Warren Wiersbe stated; “I have learned that God blesses people I disagree with!”  When Jesus Christ is Lord, we permit Him to deal with His own as He wishes.

“We judge others who have different sins than we have.”

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.    Heavenly Father, take away my critical spirit so I can see everyone as you see them.

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Week 9  Day 6                          Less is More – JUDGING  Reflection                          James 4:10-12

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 4: 10-12

Less is MORE – JUDGMENT

 

Pray for our church staff this week:

  • Audrey Robinson, Interim Preschool Director
  • Kim Kocikowski, Director of Operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 8   Day 1                                 The Cause of Conflict                                                  James 4: 1-10

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?”   James 4:1

 

James is a great teacher.  He learned from the best; Rabbi Jesus.  As he begins this chapter on what causes conflict (especially in the new church) he uses an excellent teaching method.  He asks a penetrating question to get his audience to ponder what he wants to share with them.  “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from?  Do you think they just happen?  Think again.  They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.  You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it.  You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”  (James 4:1-2 MSG).

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  (Psalm 133:1).  Brothers should live together in love and harmony.   However, it just doesn’t happen that easy.  Lot caused a quarrel with his uncle Abraham (Gen. 13).  Absalom created a war for his father David (2 Sam. 13-18). Even the disciples created problems for Jesus when they argued over who was the greatest in the kingdom (Luke 9:46-48).

James admonishes us that the disruption that each of us causes is not because of our zeal for a noble spiritual or religious cause.  The real cause is our own personal struggles with hidden desires related to power, pleasures and profits.  This is the Cause of Conflict!

There is a battle that rages within us.  It is a struggle that we hear Paul talking about many times.  We want what we do not have.  We covet what is not ours.  And we become disturbed when we do not get it.  In this time of consumerism and extreme commercialization, we buy what we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.  The result is a lot of frustrated people in the world and in the church.  The result is not surprising, we quarrel and fight.  The bottom line – when a man is fighting with himself, he is apt to be at odds with others as well.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father, reveal the battle that rages inside me.  It causes conflicts in my life.

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Week 8   Day 2                                                Answered Prayer                                                          James 4: 1-10

“You don’t have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…”     James 4:2-3

 

Selfish desires are dangerous.  They lead to wrong actions; “you kill, covet, quarrel and fight.”  (James 4:2)  Selfish desires also lead to wrong praying.  “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures,” (James 4:3)   When our praying is wrong, our whole Christian life is wrong.  It has been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.

James mentions the three most common problems in prayer.   1)  We don’t ask.  2)  We ask for the wrong things.  3)  We ask for the wrong reasons. (James 4:2-3)   Here are some tough questions:   Do you talk to God at all?  When you do, what do you talk about?  Do you ask only to satisfy your desires?  Do you seek God’s approval for what you already plan to do?  Our prayers will become powerful when we allow God to change our desires so that they perfectly correspond to His will for us.  John teaches us:  “Dear Friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.”  (1 John 3:21-22)

When we have the right desires, our prayer will be answered.  To pray effectively:

  1. ASK IN FAITH.   “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed in the wind.   James 1:6
  2. PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME.  “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask, and you will receive it, and your joy will be complete.”  John 16:24
  3. PRAY ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL.  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”    1 John 5:14
  4. HAVE NO UNCONFESSED SIN IN OUR LIVES.  “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”  (Psalm 66:18)

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father,  may I come to you with the right desires, thank you for teaching me to pray in your precious son Jesus’ name.

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Week 8  Day 3                                         The Cure For Conflict                                                           James 4: 1-10

“Submit yourselves, then to God.”    James 4:7

 

James is a man who practices what he preaches!   He has taught us that we are not to just be ‘hearers of the Word’, we are to do what it says.  He continues to convict us that if we have faith in our Lord Jesus, our actions will reflect that love.  So, after placing before us the cause of conflict- the desires that battle within us- James provides the key to a reliable cure for conflict. He teaches us how to do what he says.

The remedy is quite simple.  Here is what we need to do;

  • We need to submit ourselves to God.   (v.7)
  • We need to resist the devil. (v.7)
  • We need to come near to God. (v.8)
  • We need to humble ourselves before the Lord. (v. 10)

You can study Scripture for hours.  You can dive into the Greek.  You can drown in the Hebrew.  What make James such an effective communicator and teacher is that he is very good at taking the complex and making it simple.  We all have a major issue within us that causes conflicts, and James gives us 4 steps to correct it.

However, making it simple does not always make it easy.   In this case, James gives us 4 simple things to do to correct conflict in our lives.  When it is broken down like this, we say; “I can do that.”  When the steps don’t easily work, we begin to realize that simple does not mean easy.  Simple means it was explained in a way we can understand it.

We need a partner to help us take something that is simple and make it easy.   The partner is Jesus.  “We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength” (Phil. 4:13).  We don’t have to do anything, just abide in Him.  When we abide in Him, and He in us,  we can bear much fruit (John15:5) –we can submit, resist, come near to him and humble ourselves,  because God is doing it through us.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, I want to form a partnership with you.   Work through me.

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Week 8  Day 4                                                     Sit, Stand, Bow                                                          James 4: 1-10

“He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’   James 4:6        Proverbs 3:34

 

James uses Solomon to teach us that the cure for evil desires is humility.  His pop quiz for genuine Christianity this week is “What does a humble Christian look like?”  In today’s world, humility is hard to find.  The country song says it best; “O Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!”     Chuck Swindoll gives us three ‘postures’ to encourage us to exercise the discipline of humility.

  1. We need to SIT on promoting ourselves.  If we’re meant to be discovered and used in a significant way, God will bring it about.  Sit on the temptation to promote yourself.  Trust God to promote you when He determines that the time is appropriate.  When He calls you, then rely on His calling and obey His Word.  Many times, God will use others to promote you.   We have all heard the saying, ‘don’t blow your own horn, let others blow it for you.’

 

  1. We need to STAND up for others.  We can encourage others to be humble by being sensitive to them in their needs.  “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.”    (Phil. 2:3-4 NLT).  Think of the least liked or most obnoxious person, or that person who has made a royal mess of life.   How can you become a servant to that person?

 

  1. We need to BOW low before our God.  Accept His disciplines; don’t resist them.  Acknowledge His deliverances, which came from Him.  “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.”  (1 Peter 5:6 NLT)  Give Him all the praise and when you begin to feel anxious under the weight of His mighty hand, drop to your knees.  Pray.   The discipline of humility is an act of faith, and faith is never easy.

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Pray Psalm 25:9.  “He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.”   Father, I humbly come to you, teach me Your way.

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Week 8   Day 5                                            Declaration to Discipleship                                             James 4:1-10

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”     James 4:8

 

How do we draw near to God?  By confessing our sins and asking for His cleansing.   Do you think the person below was close to God?  Did he just read the book of James, or did he do what it says?

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  I have the Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast.  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made.   I’m a disciple of His!  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.  I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t  have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach all I know, and work till He stops me.  And, when He comes for his own, He will have no problem recognizing me…my banner will be clear!”

The Christian who wrote these words definitely made the transition from declaration to discipleship.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Pray James 4:8.  Father, I desire to come near to you so you will be near to me.   I wash my hands of my sins so that my heart will be pure for you.

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Week 8   Day 6                                  Less is More – CONFLICT    Reflection                      James 4:1-10

 

What is the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement of Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 4:1-10

Less is MORE – CONFLICT

 

Pray for our church staff this week:

  • Theresa Dickens, Children’s Minister
  • Toshi Mlyasaki, Senior Adult and Care Pastor/Japanese Pastor

 

Week 7   Day 1                                 Where To Get Wisdom                                                James 3:13-18

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.”  (Prov. 4:7)

 

Wisdom was an important thing to the Jewish people.  They realized it was not enough to have knowledge; you had to have wisdom to be able to use that knowledge correctly.  With the tremendous amount of information and knowledge available to us today,  the ability to use it wisely is extremely important!   We all know people who are very intelligent, close to being a genius. They are unable to carry out the simplest tasks of life.  People can program computers but they cannot manage their own lives.  In sales, there are people who can make a perfect score on a test demonstrating that they know everything there is to know about a product…but they can’t sell it.

James continues to speak to people who want to be teachers of the Word. (James 3:1)  It is not enough simply to stand before people and say words; you must have something to say.  This is where spiritual wisdom comes in.   Knowledge enables us to take things apart, but wisdom enables us to put things together and relate God’s truth to daily life.  All of us have heard preachers and teachers who say many good things, but they somehow miss the heart of God’s message and fail to relate truth to everyday life.  It is this kind of ‘knowledge without wisdom’ that James is writing about in James 3:13-18.  He is contrasting true wisdom and false wisdom.

Wisdom is a widely used word.  If you ask 100 people to define wisdom, you would probably get 101 answers.  In Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth, he gave us the best understanding of wisdom.  It is simple.  It is to the point.  He identified the Lord Jesus Christ as wisdom embodied.   “God has united you with Christ Jesus.  For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ has made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.”  (1Cor. 1:30)

Where do we get wisdom?  The same place we get ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life!’ (John 14:6)   Wisdom is Jesus.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Lord, thank you for giving me wisdom, thank you for giving me Jesus.

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Week 7   Day  2                                               The Good Life                                       James 3:13-18

“Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  James 3:13

                                                                                

‘Life is Good’ is a New England based apparel and accessories company.  It was founded in 1994 by college students Bert and John Jacobs. They designed and sold T-shirts out of their van in Boston, and college dorms on the East Coast.  After 5 tough years, they hit it big and became famous for their optimistic T-shirts and hats.  Today, there are over 900 items which feature a smiling stick figure named Jake and the registered trademark “Life is Good.”   The reason the company is so popular is simple, they have coined a phrase that everyone loves to hear.  What’s interesting  is that they don’t tell us what the good life is!

We all want the good life.  What is the Good Life?   James gives us the answer to that question.   “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13)   After living under the same roof with Jesus, and after years of studying the words of Solomon in Proverbs, James tells us simply that ‘the good life is living out your Christian faith with wise, humble deeds!   When your faith is grounded in Christ, and your actions are Christ-like, you will live the good life.  You will be wise.

There are two types of wisdom and origin determines outcome.  Worldly wisdom will produce worldly results; spiritual wisdom with give us Godly results.  When the wisdom of the world is in control, you see envy, strife, boasting and deceit.  There is a great deal of fleshly promotion and human glorification.  (Jas. 3:14)

The true spiritual wisdom that comes from Christ is characterized by meekness, purity, peace, gentleness, compliance, mercy, good fruits, decisiveness, and sincerity.  (Jas. 3:17)  When God’s wisdom is at work, there is a sense of humility and submission, and you want God to get all the glory.  You have no desire to compare yourself with any other Christian, because you see only Christ- and compared to Him, all of us still have a long way to go!

Wear a ‘Life is Good’ T-shirt and share what the Good Life really is!

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father, develop in me Your pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere wisdom.

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Week 7  Day 3                                  Authentic Wisdom From Heaven                                            James 3:13-18

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure..”    James 3:17

 

In contrast to the wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and devilish, James described a ‘wisdom that is from above and pure.’ (Jas. 3:17).   “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).  As Christian’s, we look up to heaven for all we need.  Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), just as our Father is in heaven (Matt. 6:9).  Our treasures are in heaven, not on earth (Matt. 6:19).  We are born from above (John 3:1-7) when we trust Jesus Christ.  As a believer, our home is in heaven (John 14:1-6) and our hope is in heaven.  We set our affection and attention on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1-4).

What is the Christian’s wisdom?  Do we look to the philosophies of the world?  No!  To begin with, Jesus Christ is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24). In Jesus Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).  The first step toward true wisdom is receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior.

The Word of God is also our wisdom.  “Behold, I have taught you decrees and laws…Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations.”  (Deut. 4: 5-6).  The Scriptures are able to make us “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15).

In James 1:5, we are taught to find wisdom through believing prayer.  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God.”  The Holy Spirit of God is ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ (Eph. 1:17), and He directs us in the wisest paths as we trust the Word and pray.

The origin of true spiritual wisdom is God.  To get our wisdom from any other source is to ask for trouble.  There is no need to get the counterfeit wisdom of the world, the wisdom that caters to the flesh and accomplishes the work of the devil.  Get your wisdom from God.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, guide me to look up for my wisdom and not be influenced by this world.

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Week 7   Day 4                                                Envy and Self-Ambition                               James 3:13-18

“…what is that to you?  You must follow me.”   John 21:22

 

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote this wisdom-packed letter to instruct and encourage the Jewish Christians.  These Christians were around Palestine, but they also had been dispersed after Stephen’s death. They were scattered as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria.  They were living in difficult circumstances (Acts 8:1; 11:19).   He was concerned about the practical issues they faced.  He encouraged them to be genuine, not artificial in their faith.   James didn’t know it at the time, but God’s plan was that this letter be as meaningful and pertinent to us as it was to them.

His message is that a patient and enduring faith will get us through rough times.  He teaches a simple point that pervades the entire letter; if we claim to be followers of Jesus, it should make a practical difference in how we live every day and how we treat one another.  He has no time for words without deeds.  The key for James and for us is to always be humble before God, to draw close to Him, because He loves to draw close to you.

We need to draw close to Him when we realize that ‘envy and selfish ambition’ is not wisdom from heaven but inspired by the devil. (3:14). It is easy for us to be drawn into wrong desires by the pressures of society and sometimes even by well-meaning Christians.  By listening to the advice; “Assert yourself”, “Go for it,” “Set high goals,” we can be drawn into greed and destructive competitiveness.   Seeking God’s wisdom delivers us from the need to compare ourselves to others and to want what they have.

We learn the wisdom of not comparing ourselves with others from Jesus.  In John 21:21, Peter asked Jesus how John would die.  Jesus replied that Peter should not concern himself with that.  We tend to compare our lives to others, whether to rationalize our own level of devotion to Christ or to question God’s justice.

Jesus responds to us as he did Peter: “What is that to you?  You must follow me.”  (John 21:22)

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father God, deliver me from envy and comparison.  Set me free from this burden.

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Week 7    Day 5                                         Solomon’s Wisdom                                                           James 3:13-18

“I will give you a wise and mature heart.”    1 Kings 3:12

 

When Solomon received his kingdom he said to God “Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?” God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response. And God said to him, “Because you have asked for this and haven’t grasped after a long life, or riches, or the doom of your enemies, but you have asked for the ability to lead and govern well, I’ll give you what you’ve asked for—I’m giving you a wise and mature heart. There’s never been one like you before; and there’ll be no one after.”  (1 Kings 3:9-12)

The wisdom God gave Solomon:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NIV)

 

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2 NIV)

 

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10 NIV)

 

Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well. (Proverbs 23:23 NIV)

 

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father. (Proverbs 29:3a NIV)

 

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. (Proverbs 3:7 NIV)

 

Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. (Proverbs 9:8, 9 NIV)

 

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. (Proverbs 11:30 NIV)

 

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1 NIV)

 

Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart. (Proverbs 17:28 MSG)

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father, inspire me with one of these truths that I need today.

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Week 7  Day 6                                  Less is More – WISDOM – Reflection                       James 3:13-18

 

 

What was the most important truth of Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 3:13-18 and review this weeks’ devotions.

Pray for our church staff this week;

  • Jamie O’Dell, Discipleship Pastor
  • Lee Brewer, Student Pastor

Week 6    Day 1                                   Calling All Teachers                                                                 James 3:1-12

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  James 3:1

 

Today’s devotion is dedicated to Bible teachers and aspiring Bible teachers. Beth Moore is recognized as a preeminent Bible teacher.     From her years of experience, Beth shares what she calls land mines that go with the territory.

Beth advises; “Aside from Rabbi Jesus, no teacher masters teaching.  As Bible teachers, we deal with a text that will neither submit to us nor shrink to our view of it.”   Bible teachers we should be aware of:

  • The temptation to teach more than we know.  (1 Timothy 1:7)
  • The capacity to mislead.  Any leader is capable.  (2 Peter 2:1-2) (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
  • The capacity to be misled.   Teachers are not the only ones who can mislead. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
  • The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.  Seek the filling of the Holy Spirit.  (John 7:16,18) (Jeremiah 45:5)
  • The demand for self-discipline.  A good teacher has to study.  Hard.  One of the signs of a teaching gift is an unexplainable thirst to study followed by the difficulty of keeping what you learned to yourself.
  • God often likes to teach the bigger lesson to the teacher.  Many lessons will be taught to you before they are taught through you.

But what if you are called to teach?  If God calls a person to teach, in the words of Romans 12:7, “Let him teach.”  To shrink back is disobedience.  If Jesus has summoned you, you must go!

Amid every challenge I’ve mentioned, plus failing sight from a thousand footnotes, digestive problems from anxiety, and a dozen other teaching-related maladies yet unshared, I would not trade one moment of this wild ride for anything in the world.  I’ve had to type at times with one hand so that I could put my other hand in the air in praise.  I discovered true worship with Moses.  I found my freedom with Paul.  I danced before God’s throne with David.  And I’ve found Jesus through them all.

Teach, teacher!  But fall to your face before it knocks you there.   – Beth Moore

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father God, inspire me to be a better teacher of Your Word. (Teacher)   Father, are you calling me to teach?  Encourage me, let me hear your voice.

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Week 6    Day 2                       James Learns About the Tongue                                                         James 3:1-12

“He is out of his mind.”  Mark 3:21

 

In the first two chapters, James used the word ‘we’ only once (Jas. 1:18).  All other references so far have been to ‘you,’ to ‘my brothers,’ and to ‘my dear brothers and sisters.’  Suddenly in chapter 3, we see James use the word ‘we’ five times in verses 1-9.   James puts himself alongside us saying: “We all stumble in many ways” (Jas. 3:2).  Could it be that, of all the reprimands or corrections in the entire letter, this one about the tongue hits the closest to home for James.

How did James learn about the tongue, both good and bad?   He learned from several sources.  He learned it from listening to his older brother Jesus. When Jesus controls the tongue, we don’t have to worry about saying the wrong things – or even saying the right things in the wrong way.   “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Matt. 12:34)   “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (Matt. 12:37)

He also learned from Solomon’s warning; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  (Prov. 18:21)    James learned from David as he prayed in Psalms,  “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.  Incline not my heart to any evil thing” (Ps. 141:34).  Finally James learned it like all good lessons are learned.  He learned it the hard way.

Here is the circumstance:  Jesus had lived in the same immediate area with James and his family.  Jesus was a carpenter; he was poor and unknown.  Now, at age 30, he broke off from his family, abandoned his common employment, spent time in the desert, denied himself the common comforts of life, and claimed to be the Messiah who was expected by all the people to come with great pomp and splendor.

James and the family heard more of his conduct; his preaching, his appointing the apostles, his drawing such a multitude with his preaching.  They went to take charge of him, take custody of him, and restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind, He has lost his senses, He is beside himself”   (Mark 3:21)

When Jesus came and spoke to James immediately after the resurrection, James became an ‘ALL IN’ believer.  James realized he had told others that the Savior, the Son of God was ‘out of his mind.’   When you learn from experience, you really learn.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Forgive me Father for the wrongs my tongue has spoken.

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Week 6   Day 3                                                Fire                                                                              James 3:1-12

“The tongue also is a fire…”    James 3:6a

 

James 3:1-12 focuses on a very small part of the body, the tongue.   Warren Wiersbe describes this chapter in six words:  ‘The World’s Smallest but Largest Troublemaker.’  What an interesting way to say ‘Less is More!’   The lesson this week from James is ‘Less Tongue’   and   ‘More Control’

THE BAD!   James writes like Jesus talked.  He uses a lot of visuals.  He uses a powerful metaphor in verse 6 describing the tongue as a fire.  The tongue “pollutes, corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself on fire by hell.” (Jas.3:6)  No human relationship is protected from flaming tongues.

The NET Bible translates it this way; “The tongue sets fire to the course of human existence.”    These words remind us how many wars have been waged over words, how much prejudice has been passed down through generations, how much hate has been seeded into family lines, and how much slander has been planted by the old into the young.

The Message Bible says; “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

THE GOOD!  James and the other half brothers of Jesus, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, began uniting with the disciples in prayer (Acts 1:14).  James was almost certainly among those at Pentecost  on whom these “tongues, like flames of fire” came to rest (Acts 2:3).  Suddenly, they began to speak in the languages of those who’d come to Jerusalem from many nations, and “each one heard them speaking in his own language” (Acts 2:5-6).

We see that the human tongue can be lit by either source: Heaven or hell.  God can draw people to the gospel by enabling us to speak in ways they understand or our tongues can cause people to run in the opposite direction.  It can bring comfort and courage.  It can bring destruction and death.  We have a choice which fire lights our tongues.  Don’t forget – the default setting leans south.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, may the Holy Spirit control the fire of my tongue.

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Week 6 Day 4                                                  Water                                                        James 3:1-12

“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?   James 3:11

 

In James 3:9-12, we see another metaphor; the Bible portrays the tongue as a spring or fountain.   The  types of water described are ‘fresh water’ and ‘salt water.’   Greek scholars define the words as ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter.’   “Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?”  (James 3:11)  The Greek translation of the word fresh or sweet is ‘glykos.’  It is very similar to our word glucose. The Greek word for bitter is ‘pikros.’

James was a devoted Jew and he was raised to love the book of Moses.  James may have been thinking of Exodus 15:22-25 as he began writing his epistle.

“Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.  Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter.  Therefore, the name of it was called Marah.  And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”  So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree.  When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”                         (Exodus 15:22-25 NKJV)

We can be rescued by God from our Egypt and still be filled with bitterness.  We have all been hurt and offended.  We have all been misled and misused.  We make excuses to keep our ‘whirlpool of bitterness’ churned up within us.  But there is ONE, Jesus Christ, who can plunge into our pool and make our water sweet.  He alone can fill us through and through with His Spirit and purify the murky water and make it crystal clear.

Sometimes we don’t realize we have bitterness inside us until something foul springs like a fountain from our mouth.   Jesus pinpointed the source in Matthew 12:34: “The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”   Is it time for the fresh work of Jesus in the wellspring of our hearts?  Our heart is where the loss, the betrayal, and the abuse hit.  Jesus is our Healer.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Examine my heart Lord; reveal bitterness to me before it comes out of my mouth.

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Week 6 Day 5        Twelve Words That Can Transform Your Life                                    James 3:1-12

“The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life.”    Proverbs 10:11

 

If you use these words and sincerely mean what you say from your heart, you will find that God will use you to be a blessing and encouragement to others.  There are only twelve of them, but they work.

“Please” and “Thank You.”   When you use these three words, you are treating others like people and not like things.  You are showing appreciation.

“I’m sorry.”   These two words have a way of breaking down walls and building bridges.

“I love you.”    Too many people read ‘romance’ into these words, but they go much deeper than that.  As Christians, we should love the brethren and love our enemies.  “I love you” is a statement that can carry tremendous power.

“I’m praying for you.”   And be sure that you are.  When you talk to God about people, then you can talk to people about God.  Our private praying for people helps us in our public meeting with people.  We should never say “I’m praying for you” in a boastful way, as though we are more spiritual than others.   We say it in an encouraging way, to let others know that we care enough for them to meet them at the throne of grace.

Yes, the smallest but largest troublemaker in all the world is the tongue.  But it does not have to be a troublemaker!  God can use our tongues to direct others into the way of life, and to delight them in the trials of life.  The tongue is a little member, but it has great power.

Give God your tongue and your heart each day and ask Him to use you to be a blessing to others.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Lord, help me use my tongue to be a blessing to others.

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Week 6  Day 6                         Less is More CONTROL – Reflection                                James 3: 1-12

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement of Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 3:13-18

Less is MORE – WISDOM.

 

Pray for our church staff this week;

  • Joey Rodgers, Senior Pastor
  • Art Fulks, Executive Pastor/Worship

Week 5  Day 1                                       Bible Bible on the Wall                                                            James 2:14-26

“and regardless of what else you put on, wear love…”    Colossians 3:14a (MSG)

 

James continues to teach us to be authentic and genuine followers of his ‘big-brother’ Jesus. He has guided us through trials, temptation, listening, doing, and favoritism.  We have learned to not just hear the Word, but do what it says.  We are to live it!  How we live reveals what we believe and who we really are- ‘whose we really are!’  We have also learned the glass mirror reveals what we look like on the outside. The bible mirror reveals the true image of our heart.  James’ new message is ‘what role does faith and works play in the Christian life?’

What does a genuine believer look like?  How are we to dress?  What clothes should we wear?  Television ads tell us we should ‘dress for success.’  ‘Clothes make the man.’  Using a metaphor of clothing, Paul commands the Colossians and us, to put on new ‘designer’ clothes.  This is how we are to dress for ‘Jesus success!’

“Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with His label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.”  (Colossians 3:9-14 MSG)

 

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Lord, what are you saying to me as I look in the mirror and bible?

 

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Week 5   Day 2                        James and Paul – Joined by Faith            James 2:14-26

“James, Cephas and John… gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.”  – Paul (Gal. 2:9)

 

After Paul’s miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus, he received the gospel ‘by revelations from Jesus Christ.’   (Gal. 1:12)  God called him to preach ‘among the Gentiles.’  (Gal. 1:16) However, it took 17 years before Paul, who was accompanied by Barnabas, to finally come to Jerusalem and meet with Peter, James, and John – the leaders of the church at that time.   They recognized that Paul had been entrusted to preach the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter was called to preach to the ‘circumcised.’ (Gal 2:7)

Paul stated; “James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given me.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”   (Gal. 2:9-10)

What an example of faith – ‘teammates for Christ!’  The miracle is their different backgrounds and callings.  Paul and James had the vision of the new church of Jesus Christ.  They saw the value of true fellowship.  Paul wrote; “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)  Together, they became teammates to spread the ‘Good News’ of Jesus Christ.  They were bound by FAITH.

Paul and James had tremendous messages about faith!   Paul teaches, “It is by grace you have been  saved, through FAITH… it is the gift of God – not by works, so no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  James teaches, “What good is it…if a man claims to have FAITH but has not deeds?  FAITH by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14, 17)

If you are not a Christian, Paul is teaching you that you can’t earn your salvation, it if a free gift from God for your FAITH in Jesus Christ!   If you are a Christian, James is telling you that your ‘works’ (deeds that spring from genuine faith) are your ‘proof of FAITH,’ not a means of salvation.  Dynamic FAITH obeys God and proves itself in daily life and works.   FAITH without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, grow my faith more today than yesterday.

 

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Week 5  Day 3                                     The Workroom                       

James 2:14-26

“Apart from me you can do nothing…”   John 15:5

 

Before long he asked, “Do you have a workroom in your house?”  Out in the garage of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it.  Once in a while I would play around at making a few little gadgets, but I wasn’t producing anything substantial.

I took him out there.  He looked over the workbench and the few talents and skills I had.  He said, “This is fairly well furnished.   What are you producing with your life for the kingdom of God?”  He looked at one or two of the little toys that I had thrown together on the bench and he held up one to me.  “Is this the sort of thing you are doing for others in your Christian life?”

I felt terrible!  “Lord, that’s the best I can do.  I know it isn’t much.  I’m ashamed to say that with my awkwardness and limited ability, I don’t think I’ll ever do much more.  “Would you like to do better?” he asked.  “You know I would!” I replied.

Well, first remember what I taught you; ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5)  “Come, relax in me and let my Spirit work through you.  I know you are unskilled, clumsy and awkward, but the Spirit is the Master worker.  If he controls your heart and your hands, he will work through you.  Now turn around.”  Then putting his great strong arms around me and his hands under mine he picked up the tools and began to work through me.  “Relax.  You are still too tense.  Let go – let me do the work!”

It amazes me what his skilled hands can do through mine if I only trust him and let him have his way.  I am very far from satisfied with the product that is being turned out.  I still get in his way at times.  There’s much more that I need to learn.  But I do know that whatever has been produced for God has been through him and through the power of his Spirit in me.

Don’t be discouraged because you cannot do much for God.  It’s not our ability but our availability that’s important.  Give what you are to Christ.  Be sensitive and responsive to what he wants to do.  Trust him.  He will surprise you with what he can do through you!  “My Heart-Christ’s Home.”  – Robert B. Munger.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Lord, help me be sensitive and responsive to what you want me to do.

 

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Week 5  Day 4                          What is Faith?                                                                                    James 2:14-26

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.“   Hebrews 11:6

 

The book of James is believed to be the first written book of the New Testament.  It was probably written in A.D. 49, prior to the Jerusalem council held in A.D. 50.  The only other book written before the Jerusalem council was Paul’s letter to the Galatians, written in A.D. 49 from Antioch.  So it was James, the half- brother of Jesus, who broke the 400 years of silence!  When Jesus met with James privately after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7) He may have said; “You know what?  James, you are going to be the first one to pick up your pen.”

James set the bar for writing pretty high!  He is tough, which is an understatement.  James is teaching us how we are to genuinely walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but after 5 weeks of lessons, he is tramping on our toes so much we can hardly walk.

Faith is the key doctrine in the Christian life.  The sinner is saved by faith (Eph. 2:8-9), and the believer must walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and whatever we do apart from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).

James tells us that true saving faith is something that can be seen and recognized; a changed life.  “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”  (James 2:18)

The life of faith says, “Lord, You have said it, it appears to be irrational, but I’m going to step out boldly, trusting in your Word!”   Until we know Jesus, God is merely a concept, and we can’t have faith in Him. But once we hear Jesus say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) we immediately have something that is real, and our faith is limitless.  Faith is the entire person in the right relationship with God through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father God, I seek to exercise a true saving faith in Your Son Jesus!

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Week 5  Day 5    What do Abraham and Rahab have in common?                                                   James 2:14-26

“…do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”   James 2:20

 

Dynamic faith is faith that is real, faith that has power, faith that results in a changed life.  The first step to a changed life is a changed heart.  We need to change from the inside out. How do we do this?  We don’t. The Holy Spirit does.  The Spirit changes us from the inside out. (2 Thess. 2:13)

It is like popcorn.  When we put popcorn in the micro wave, we don’t heat the outside of the kernel.  There is a microscopic dot of water on the inside of the kernel. The heat from the micro wave on the dot of water produces steam.  The steam creates pressure on the inside of the kernel.  When the pressure gets so strong, the kernel POPS!  You no longer have a kernel.  You have a nice big puffy piece of popcorn.

The same principle works with us.  The work of the Holy Spirit heats us up from the inside – our hearts.  After the heat of the Spirit works on us, we POP – we change.  We are no longer our old kernel (self).  We are different.  We are a new creation in Christ.  Our change came from the inside, not the outside. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV)

James described this true saving faith.  It is based on the Word of God. We receive our spiritual rebirth through God’s Word (James 1:18).  We receive the Word and this saves us (James 1:21).  “So Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ.”             (Rom. 10:17)

James used Abraham and Rahab as illustrations of dynamic saving faith, since both of them heard and received the message of God through His Word. You could not find two more well-known and different Bible persons!  Abraham was a Jew; Rahab was a Gentile.  Abraham was a godly man; Rahab was a sinful woman, a harlot.  Abraham was a friend of God, Rahab belonged to the enemies of God.  What did they have in common?  Both exercised saving faith in God.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  “Search me, O Lord, and know my heart…”   (Psalm 130:23a) Change me.

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Week 5  Day 6                         Less is More FAITH – Reflection                        James 2: 14-26

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement of Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 3:1-12

Less is MORE – CONTROL.

 

Pray for our church staff this week:

  • Brittany Vernon, Bridge Director
  • Clayton Knight, Worship Associate
  • Sarah Gardner, Weekday Education Director

 

 

Week 4  Day 1                                  The Deity of Christ                                         James 2: 1-13

“Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.”   James 2:1

 

Favoritism is the theme of verse one, but before James gets there, he gives us a tremendous lesson in ‘The Deity of Christ.’

James uses his knowledge of the Old Testament to explain the divine being of our Savior Jesus Christ.  James 1:1 introduces Jesus as his ‘kurios’ and ‘khristos.’   Jesus was his master and messiah.  In James 2:1, he teaches his Jewish Christian brothers and sisters that Jesus is ‘Our Glorious Lord Jesus Christ’.   James references Jesus many times, but these two verses are the only times he uses Jesus’ name.  They are both powerful!

James shows us what a great teacher he is.  He uses the Hebrew word ‘shekinah’.  In other words, Jesus is the (shekinah) Glory of God!  In the Old Testament, God’s glory dwelled first in the tabernacle (Ex.40:34-38) and then in the temple. (1 Kings 8:10-11)  James is teaching that God’s glory now resides in Jesus. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Today, the glory of God dwells in the believer individually “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  (1 Cor. 6:19)

What a powerful message to a young church trying to understand Jesus!   What a powerful message to us!

Why it is so important to James that we don’t miss the ‘shekinah of God’?   Why is he so passionate that we don’t miss Jesus, the living glory of God?  Because James missed it!  ‘IT’ was Jesus and He lived under his same roof and he missed it!  James scorned it, disbelieved it, and probably was jealous of it.  He wants us to understand the deity of Jesus as God.  His message to us – ‘DON’T MISS IT!’

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  We thank you for Jesus, THE Glory of You!

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Week 4  Day 2                                       A Simple Test                                                            James 2:1-13

 

“He was despised and rejected by mankind…and we held him in low esteem.”   Isaiah 53:1-3

 

James wanted to help us practice God’s Word, so he gave us a simple test.  He sent two visitors to a church service, a rich man and a poor man.  He watched to see how they were treated.  The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God.  We cannot – and dare not – separate human relationships from divine fellowship.  “If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar.  If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?  The command we have from Christ is blunt:  Loving God includes loving people.  You’ve got to do both.”  (1 John 4:20-21 MSG)

The religious experts judged Jesus by their human standards, and they rejected Him.  He came from the wrong city, Nazareth of Galilee.  He was not a graduate of their accepted schools.  He did not have the official approval of the people in power. He had no wealth. His followers were a nondescript mob and included publicans and sinners.  Yet He was the very glory of God!  No wonder Jesus warned the religious leaders, “stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24)

James witnessed how the religious experts judged Jesus.  He treated Jesus much the same way.  He was a victim of favoritism himself.    Sad to say, we often make the same mistakes.  We tend to judge people on what we see outwardly rather than who they are inwardly.  We cater to the rich because we hope to get something out of them, and we avoid the poor because they embarrass us.

Jesus did not do this and He did not approve this.   He instructed us to walk by the Spirit (Eph. 5:16) and love people unconditionally as He loves us; through grace!  We are to exhibit the benefits of our faith in Christ – the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22)

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.    Father God, open the eyes of my heart to see others as You see them.

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Week 4  Day 3                                  Hearers, Not Just Readers                                          James 1:19 – 27

 

 

We tend to imagine the first-century Christians with leather-bound Bibles in hand, but this was not the case. Not only were books rare and expensive, but only a small percentage of the population could even read.  (The majority of that tiny number was male).   The literacy rates in first-century Roman Palestine ranged from about 3 to 10 percent.  Publishing a book in the ancient world meant providing one or more copies of a work, each copy made separately and by hand!  A first-century Christian ‘read’ a book by listening to someone else read it out loud.

Have you ever taken the time to listen to the Bible? There are several ways.  There are tapes, DVD’s, and you can listen online.  A favorite is through a free APP call YouVerse.   You can also access an audio Bible  at http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/.  There are several versions and professional readers to choose from at no charge.  For today’s devotion, choose a source and listen to the entire book of James.  It only takes 15 minutes.

  • While the verse and chapter divisions are helpful as we study each week, there is an amazing payoff to hearing the message uninterrupted without an artificial break.  Much can be said for the compelling cohesiveness of hearing an entire epistle or Gospel in one sitting.
  • Since our society relies so heavily on written and visual forms of communication, it is refreshing to absorb and process information entirely by hearing.  Silently listening to the Scripture read or recited uses a different learning muscle.
  • The vast majority of the earliest Christians would have heard James’ words read aloud.  As we have learned this week, in 1:22 James himself indirectly mentions the ancient practice of hearing texts read aloud when he commands his readers to be doers of the word and not just hearers (as opposed to readers).

To seek an additional blessing from these 12 weeks of teaching, living and praying the book of James, listen to the entire book and imagine being a member of the early church.  They lived in an oral culture that favored the spoken word rather than the written form of language.

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father, we praise you for your Word! ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Week 4   Day 4                                 The Law of Liberty                                                        James 2:1-13

“Do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”         James 2:12

 

James contrasted two attitudes: showing mercy to others, and refusing to show mercy.  If we have been merciful toward others, God can be merciful toward us.  However, we must be careful not to twist truth into a lie.  It does not mean that we earn mercy by showing mercy, because it is impossible to earn mercy.  If it is earned it is not mercy!

Mercy and justice both come from God, so they are not competitors.  Where God finds repentance and faith, He is able to show mercy.  Where God finds rebellion and unbelief, He must administer justice.  It is the heart of the sinner that determines the treatment he gets.

We shall be judged ‘by the law of liberty.’  ‘Why did James use this title for God’s law?

  • When we obey God’s law, it frees us from sin and enables us to walk in liberty.  (Psalm 119:45)
  •  Law prepares us for liberty.  A child must be under rules and regulations because he is not mature enough to handle the decisions and demands of life.  He is given outward discipline so that he might develop inward discipline, and one day be free of rules.
  • Liberty does not mean license.  License (doing whatever I want to do) is the worst kind of bondage.  Liberty means the freedom to be all that I can be in Jesus Christ. License is confinement; liberty is fulfillment.
  • The Word is called ‘the law of liberty’ because God sees our hearts and knows what we would have done had we been free to do so.  The Christian student who obeys only because the school has rules is not really maturing.  What will he do when he leaves school?  God’s Word can change our hearts and give us the desire to do God’s will, so that we obey from inward compulsion and not outward constraint.

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Lord, we thank you for Jesus who delivered us from the law to liberty.

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Week 4  Day 5                                  Problems with Partiality                                                            James 2:1-13

 

For God does not show favoritism”     Romans 2:11

 

Immature people talk about their beliefs, but the mature person lives his faith.  Hearing God’s Word and talking about God’s Word can never substitute for doing God’s Word.  The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God.

 

MEMORANDUM

 

TO:                        Jesus, Son of Joseph, Woodcrafters Shop.  Nazareth

FROM:                  Jordan Management Consultants, Jerusalem

RE:                        Staff Aptitude Evaluation

 

“Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization.  All of them have now taken our battery of tests, and we have evaluated their results with our professional staff of psychologists and vocational aptitude consultants.

It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.  They do not have team concept.   We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.  Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership.  The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.  Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.  We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew, the tax collector, has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.  James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.  He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places.  He is highly motivated, ambitious and innovative.  We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man.  All the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.”

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Lord, open the eyes of my heart to reveal any favoritism I may have.

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Week 4  Day 6                                  Less is More GRACE – Reflection                  James 2:1-13

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement of Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 2: 14-26.

Less is MORE – FAITH.

 

Pray for our church staff this week:

  • Audrey Robinson, Interim Preschool Director
  • Kim Kocikowski, Director of Operations

Week 3 – Day 1                Being, then Doing                    James 1:19-27

 

“if you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…”    John 15:5

 

The beginning of a new year is an exciting time.  First, we reflect on the past twelve months.  Was it a busy year, or was it productive?   Next is the task of preparing a New Year’s resolution.  How can we make this year better than the last.  As we begin setting our goals for the New Year we ask ourselves ‘What am I going to DO this year?’   As a follower of Christ, there is a more important question we should ask first; ‘Who am I going to BE this year?’

The book of James was written to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”  (James 1:1)  These Jews, who were new believers in Christ as James was, were scattered to all parts of the world due to persecution.  When they scattered, they took the gospel with them.  These new believers needed direction, they needed Truth.  As their leader, James sent them a critical message.   The message was how to transform from doing the Law to believing the Truth.  Jesus did not tell us He would show us the truth, Jesus said, “I AM THE TRUTH” (John 14:6).  What a paradigm shift!  The Messiah was not the ruling king they expected.  Jesus was a humble servant!

James, like all the authors in the bible, thought he was just writing to a specific group of people.  God knew he was writing to all of us.  James 1:19-27 is just what we need.   As we begin the year, the book of James, especially these nine verses, give us a guide to help us answer these two questions; 1) Who do I need to BE?  2) What does God want to DO through me?

  • Be quick to listen.  (19)
  • Be slow to speak. (19)
  • Be slow to become angry.  (19)
  • Be Godly, not worldly. (21, 27)
  • Accept the Word. Jesus (21)
  • Listen to the Word.  (22)
  • Live the Word (22)
  • Be free and blessed in the law.  (25)
  • Be careful what you say.  (26)
  • Take care of the needy, orphans and widows.  (27)

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Lord, who do you want me to BE?  What do you want to DO through me this year?

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Week 3 – Day 2                             3 Step Plan            James 1:19-27

 

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”  -   James 1:19

 

Scripture tells us that James was the first born to Mary after Jesus and He had 3 other brothers; Joseph, Simon and Judas, along with at least two sisters.  (Matt. 13:55-56)   The name James is the English version of the Old Testament name Jacob.  The Greek translation is Jacobus.  James was Jewish to the bone.  He wrote his letter not as a ‘Jewish Christian’ but as a ‘Christian Jew’.   James was writing with full hope that the Jews as a whole would turn to Christ.  At this time, Christianity and synagogue were not yet separated. Jerusalem was still as Jesus knew it.  It was the center of Christianity as a religion and as an organization.

In verse 19, James addresses his fellow Christian Jews as ‘my dear brothers and sisters’.  What he had to say was so important, he said to take note of it.  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

Why is this verse so powerful?   Because James is giving us a precise three point plan to BE obedient to God’s greatest command – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matt. 22:35-39).  Scripture gives us three ways to grow our relationship with God and man;

  1. Improve our listening skills.  W.A.I.T.  Why Am I Talking?   When spending time with God and friends – listen to understand, not to reply.
  2. Control our use of words.  “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)   You have to love v. 28; we don’t even have to be wise to seem wise.  All we have to do is keep silent and hold our tongues.
  3. Control our anger. James does not refute anger is a plausible emotion.  He refutes a quick temper as a holy conspirator toward a righteous life.  This anger sits in our heart and builds into a deep bitterness and a hostile resentment.   Temper is a valuable thing.  It is a shame to lose it.

Peter was slow to hear, swift to speak, and swift to anger; and he almost killed a man with his sword.

 

 

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer. Which of these three do I need to focus on?  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Week 3 – Day 3            Quit Kidding Yourself               James 1:19-27

“think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed..”  – Rom. 12:3

As James and Jesus grew up together, do you think they used to kid around?   As they played and hung out together as kids and young men, did they play tricks on each other?   Did they deceive each another for fun?   Most siblings and friends do that.   As we become adults, kidding can become a problem… we learn to kid ourselves.

James’ ‘pop quiz’ on authenticity in this week’s text is on the dangers of self-deception: “deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22); “deceives his own heart” (James 1:26).  If a Christian sins because Satan deceives him, that is one thing.  But if he deceives himself, that is a far more serious matter.

Our challenge to become genuine believers is to make sure we are not fooling ourselves concerning our Christian walk.  In our busy world, our focus easily moves from our faith to our flesh.  We want to “grab the bull by the horns rather than grab Jesus by the hand.” (Pastor Joey)   We think we are spiritual when we aren’t.   The mark of maturity is when a person faces himself honestly, knows his strengths, and admits his needs and weaknesses.

Paul teaches us how to do that.  “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3)   In other words, if you think too highly of yourself, you will not see your need for other people.  If you think too lowly of yourself, you will not feel worthy to allow yourself to be used by God.  But, if you think accurately about yourself, you will be a perfect candidate- not only to receive love but also to give it in the way God designed.

By being genuine, we understand ‘who we are in Christ’ and ‘who we are not in Christ.’  We will not be like “someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”  (James 1:24).

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Heavenly Father, instruct me to think and know myself in accordance with the faith you have given me.

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Week 3  Day 4             Know, Hear, Listen, Obey       James 1:19-27

 

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”   James 1:22

 

James is saying it is not enough to hear the Word; we must live it.  We kid ourselves with the idea that hearing a good sermon or Bible study is what makes us grow and receive God’s blessing.  It is not the hearing but ‘the doing’ that brings the blessing.  We mark our Bibles, but our Bibles never mark us.  If we think we are spiritual because we hear the Word, then we are only kidding ourselves.

 

Why is listening and then obeying God’s Word difficult?  It is a process that requires change.   How can we make the change from hearing to doing?  Consider:

  • KNOW.  If you look up ‘busyness’ in the dictionary you will see a picture of Satan.  Busyness is destroying us, our families, and our relationship with God.  We are too busy to build relationships with Jesus and others.  We must allow unhurried time to “Be still and KNOW that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)
  • HEAR.  Understand there is a difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing is passive.  Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear.
  • LISTEN.  This is the key.   Listening is hard!  It is active.  You must choose to participate in the process of listening.  Simply put, listening is hearing with a purpose – to understand what we hear from God.
  • OBEY.  Submit to God through His Word and by His Spirit. Do it!  Live it!

 

A genuine Christian life isn’t about performing a set of rules and regulations.  It begins with a personal relationship.  It is to KNOW God, HEAR His voice, actively LISTEN to what He is saying, and OBEY.  Do it!   Finally, our ‘doing’ may not always show up in physical activity.  The initial act of obedience might be waiting upon the Lord or setting our minds upon His faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Be still so you can know, hear, listen, and obey. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Week 3  Day 5                              Live It!                  James 1:19-27

 

“and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out”   James 1:25b

 

After three weeks, we are ready to close the first chapter of James.   We have taken pop quizzes on trials, temptations, and ‘is our faith authentic or artificial when we encounter God’s Word?’   James has not held any punches.  He shows his leadership skills by being blunt in his message, yet loving in his delivery.  James began his letter with the word

 

“Greetings” and he continually addresses his audience and us as my dear brothers and sisters.  His verse 1 greeting in the Greek is ‘Chairen’ (Ky-Rein).  He is saying to us; ‘Joy to you’ my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

 

Verse 25 is where the rubber meets the road.   We love promises.  James gives a powerful biblical promise to those who want to be blessed.  (Does this sound like the beatitudes?) “The one who looks intently into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does.”  (Jas. 1:25 NET)

 

This promise is conditional upon not just being a listener, but DOING IT!

 

All of James can be summed up in 2 words – Live it!

  • To the degree we believe it, we really do live it.  Our living tells what we believe.  It is not what we say, but how we are living that conveys our true walk of faith.’
  • You’ve got to live it out!  That’s where freedom is.
  •  It’s not about how many bible studies we have done, or how many great sermons we have heard.  It’s are we taking the scriptures and messages and doing what they say?”

 

It’s all about change.  If we are not changing out of the impact from the Word of God, then we have become a ‘forgetful listener.’

Focus on the Word of God.  Let it impact us.  Do what it says and live an abundant life in Christ!

 

 

 

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father God, help me to listen to your Word, and do what it says more today than yesterday!

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Week 3 – Day 6

Less is More – TRUTH    REFLECTION                    James 1: 19-27

 

What was the most important truth or Scripture you read this week? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 2:1-13.

Less is MORE – GRACE.

 

Pray for our church staff.  This week:

  • Theresa Dickens, Children’s Minister
  • Toshi Mlyasaki, Senior Adult and Care Pastor/ Japanese Pastor

Week 2 – Day 1:          Facing Temptation                   James 1:13-17

Jesus answered, “It is written in the Scriptures…”   Matthew 4:4,7,10

 

James 1:13 tells us a couple things.  First, we will be tempted.  This imperative from James is similar to what he told us about trials.  It’s not a matter of if we have trials or temptations, it’s when!  Second, God does not tempt us.  Satan tempts us.

Jesus came to earth to show and teach us how to live and how to handle temptations.  Jesus refused to use power.  He wanted to teach us how we can respond to temptation, rather than react to it.  We learned this lesson in a message we heard from Pastor E.V. Hill at Promise Keepers.

Matthew 4:1-11.   Jesus, after fasting for 40 days in the desert, was tempted by Satan.  Satan always seems to tempt us at our weakest times, especially during trials.  Jesus was weak at this time because he had fasted for 40 days.  To put it simply, Jesus was hungry!

The devil said; “If you are the Son of God, tell those stones to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (v. 3-4)

The devil said; “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”  Jesus answered, “It is written, do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (v. 5-7)

Finally Satan said, “I will give you the world if you bow down and worship me.”  Jesus said, “away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (v. 8-10)  In other words, Jesus went to the book of Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:13, 6:16) and came out with Scripture, and every time the devil opened his mouth, Jesus threw Scripture in his mouth.  Jesus did not show the devil his power because we couldn’t do that.  Jesus did not say ‘devil be gone’ because we couldn’t do that.  Jesus hit him over and over again with Scripture.  Guess what happened?  The devil ran! (v.11) Guess what?   We can do that!  Jesus taught us the importance and effectiveness of knowing and applying Scripture to combat temptation.  (To view E.V. Hill message; Google E.V. Hill Hit Em)

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer using a scripture verse to fight a temptation.

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Week 2 – Day 2:          Praying through Temptation   James 1:13-17 

 

And lead us not into temptation… Matthew 6:13

 

The Power of Prayer!  You can tell someone about it, but the real power comes from the Holy Spirit as we talk to God personally through Jesus Christ.  How should we pray about temptation?  Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer, a pattern of prayer to follow daily.  When He taught them (us) to pray, (Matthew  6:5-13) he did not say this is what you should pray.  He said this is ‘how’ you should pray.  Of the 52 words that Jesus used to teach them, 13 of them were “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”   Jesus was telling us that temptation is a major challenge.  25% of how we should pray focuses on temptation.  In other words, Jesus is instructing us to pray “Father, keep us out of the war!”

The temptations we face are a test.  The word used in Matt. 6:13 for ‘temptation’ is translated ‘trial’ or ‘test’.   We know that throughout our lives, we will face tests.   Tests help us demonstrate what we know, and some give us the opportunity to show whether we can apply or put what we have learned to practical use.  It is like a driver’s test to get our driver’s license.  There are two parts.  The first is a written test to see if we know what the rules are.  The second part is the driving test to see whether we can apply those rules as we drive.

God tests us for the same reason.  First, to show whether or not we know the rules we are to live by as His children.  Second, whether or not we have learned how to live by those rules.  We all know that testing is necessary in our Christian lives and can’t be avoided.  However, Jesus said we should ask that we not be tested on a daily basis, even though the tests may be for our good.

We see that the power of prayer is based on us asking.   God’s desire is for us to ask and then trust and depend on Him for everything.

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer.    Father, keep me out of the war today.  I want to depend on you for everything.

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Week 2 – Day 3:          Needing Accountability            James 1:13-17

 

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.   Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

As we deal with temptations, we must remember that Christianity is not a solo sport.   It is a team sport.   Jesus taught this to his disciples when He sent them out for the first time, “Calling the Twelve to Him, He sent them two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.”  (Mark 6:7).   As a body of believers, we are to stick together, encourage and support each other.  “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”   (Heb. 10:25)

When Solomon became king, he asked God for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-12), and he became the wisest man in the world (1 Kings 4:29-34).  He studied, taught, judged, and wrote.  Kings and leaders from other nations came to Jerusalem to learn from him.   In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Solomon teaches us how important it is to fellowship with other Christians.  These friendships provide ACCOUNTABILITY to deal with temptation.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.   If one falls down, his friend can pick him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!   Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”   (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

When we face daily temptations remember, one cord can be easily broken.  Two cords give more strength.  But three cords woven together is not easily broken.  Solomon teaches us how to deal with temptation, and also gives us a beautiful picture of friendship!

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Father, surround me with strong friends (cords) so that I will not easily be broken.

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Week 2 – Day 4:          Fleeing Temptation                  James 1:13-17

 

But you, man of God, flee from all this…    1 Timothy 6:11a

 

Some think Christianity is a passive religion that always advocates waiting for God to act.  But we must have an active faith, obeying God with courage and doing what we know is right.  This requires action on our part. Paul uses active and forceful verbs throughout his writings to describe the Christian life: pursue, fight, take hold and flee! The modern word for flee is RUN! Consider Paul’s advice:

 

  • When facing sexual temptations, Paul doesn’t say think about it. He bids us to “FLEE from immorality.” (1 Cor. 6:18)
  • Idol worship was a major problem in Corinth.  Today, anything (homes, jobs, sports, toys) we place ahead of God is an idol for us.  Paul nicely instructs us “Therefore my dear friends, FLEE from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14)
  • Those who want to become rich bring temptation upon themselves and are caught in a trap.  They want many foolish and harmful things that ruin and destroy people.  The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left the faith because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselves much sorrow.  But you, man of God, run away from all those things…” (1 Timothy 6: 9-11 NCV)

 

Finally, we have Joseph’s example.  He avoided Potiphar’s wife as much as possible when she made advances toward him.  “One day he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there.  She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, ‘Sleep with me!’  He left his coat in her hand and RAN out of the house.”  (Gen. 39:11-12 MSG)

When you unexpectedly find yourself in a tempting situation, GET OUT FAST!   Don’t think you can stay in the situation but not give in.  The key word here is fast.

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Father, open my ears to hear you say ‘RUN’ when…

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Week 2 – Day 5:          Avoiding Temptation               James 1:13-17

 

Don’t think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.   Romans 13:14

 

Chapter One

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.

I am lost…I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out

 

Chapter Two

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend that I don’t see it. I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.

 

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,

My eyes are open, I know where I am

It is my fault. I get out immediately

 

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

 

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

 

By Portia Nelson

 

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer.   Identify a place, thing, or person that tempts you and ask God for help. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


 

Week 2 – Day 6:          Reflections on Fortitude           James 1:13-17

 

What was the most meaningful truth or Scripture you read this week?

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Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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Read James 1:19-27 in preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow;

Less is MORE – TRUTH

 

Pray for our church staff.  This week:

  • Jamie O’Dell, Discipleship Pastor
  • Lee Brewer,  Student Pastor

A Journey with James

 

For the next 3 months, our pastor will be leading us in a step by step, verse by verse journey through the book of James.  The theme of this series is Less is More.  Praise God!   What an awesome way to begin the New Year!   Written by Jesus’ brother, there is no better book of the Bible to teach us how to be an authentic follower of Jesus. In Romans 12, the apostle Paul encourages us that the victory is the journey.  He said; “BE transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” The key to this statement is BE an authentic follower of Christ, not DO an authentic follower.  We look forward to who we will BE on April 1, after 12 powerful weeks of teaching from God’s Word.

To enhance this journey with James, we have been called to write a daily devotional.  Monday through Friday we will share insights into the author and the message he shared.  The devotion will end with each of us writing a 2-3 sentence personal prayer, asking God to help us trust and obey what He teaches us through His Word. If you have never written short prayers before, we encourage you to please try it.  It may be difficult at first, but keep at it.  Writing a short prayer is powerful!  When you write it down, you nail it down!   Then on Saturday we will focus on the meaning of – Less is More.  We will address three items for our growth:  1) What was the most meaningful statement or Scripture you read this week?  2)  Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.  Finally, we will pray for our Pastor and staff.   The ‘Power of Prayer’ is our greatest tool!

“Father God, keep us in Your Word, living Your Word and praying Your Word each day.  Teach us, lead us, guide us and grow us daily as a community of ‘ALL IN’ followers of your son Jesus Christ.  May we enjoy our journey with you daily by living your two greatest commands; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’  In the precious and holy name of Jesus we pray.  AMEN!”

I look forward to serving you alongside of our pastor.

 

Dick Bowley

Week 1 – Day 1:          Look… Trials                          James 1:1-2                 

James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ…

 

One of the blessings you receive when you go on a mission trip is the bonding relationships you build with your team.  When you eat, sleep and live with others for a period of time, you get to know them.  Most importantly, you see their hearts as you serve God by serving others.  You really get to know someone when you live with them.

This is what is so exciting about beginning our journey with James.  Would you rather learn what it takes to be a genuine follower of Christ from someone who traveled with Jesus for 3 years, or from his brother James who ate, slept and grew up with Him for 30 years?  Living in a small town of 400, with a family of at least seven, (Matt. 13:55-56) Jesus and James had a unique relationship only brothers could have.

Growing up, can you imagine how confusing it was for James?   Jesus didn’t just seem perfect to his kid brother, he was perfect!  During Jesus’ 3 year ministry, think how difficult it was for James to understand how his brother performed miracles.  It got to the point where James and his brothers even said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ (Mark 3:21)  James was an unbeliever.  He couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

After the resurrection, Jesus handpicked exactly who He would reveal himself to.  Jesus appeared to those individuals who needed Him the most.  He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-8), he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (1 Cor. 15:5).  “Then he appeared to James” (1 Cor. 15:7)

What a picture of grace!  Jesus met privately with his brother to personally connect with Him. He allowed James to comprehend what he couldn’t understand for the previous three years! This encounter with Jesus transformed James and he became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  James gave and lost his life for his Savior.  James is the perfect person to teach us about being an authentic follower of Christ!

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer. Tell Jesus you love Him and want a growing, genuine relationship with Him.

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My prayer:  I love you Jesus!  Thank you for your unconditional love for me.  In the next 3 months, I pray I will grow daily in my walk with you.  Teach me through James to be an authentic disciple. Amen


 

Week 1 – Day 2:          Trust in Trials                        James 1:2-4

 

Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned last year?  What were the circumstances?  Was it during a time of victory, adversity or hardship?   Most often our greatest lessons occur as a result of a trial. What a paradox! We don’t like trials. We don’t plan them.  We wouldn’t wish them on our worst enemy. We don’t want to experience them again.  But, after all is said and done, we wouldn’t trade the experience because of what we have learned.

After his brief intro in verse 1, James doesn’t waste any time giving us our first lesson in genuine followship.  He says, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance and patience.  (James 1:2-3)

If that’s the first lesson, we’re not sure we want to hear the rest!   James is right about one thing.  He doesn’t say ‘if’ we have trials, he says ‘when’ we have many trials.  We can relate to that.   He also refers to many trials because he knows they come to all of us in many forms.  From people-related problems to problem-related people, anything goes.  A child gets sick, a close friend or family member dies, a co-worker gets the promotion we thought we had or the checkbook is empty on the 25th of the month.   These are just a few of the hardships that strip us, beat us up, abandon us, and leave us half dead.

How can we find joy in trials?  It is really not difficult at all… it’s IMPOSSIBLE!  We can’t do it.  But we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. (Phil. 4:13)   When a circumstance occurs and Satan turns on the heat, we must let God control the thermostat.  The situation is not the issue – it is our TRUST in Jesus!  A trial is not something to be tolerated, but a trust to be treasured.  When we respond to the circumstance in Trust, rather than react to the circumstance in our flesh, we can experience joy.  There is no joy in the situation, only in our dependence on Him.

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Identify a trial in your life. Ask God for strength to experience joy as you depend on Him.

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My prayer:  Father, you know I’m going through a tough time with ____________.  I pray for strength and courage to trust you because I know that in all things, you are working for my good. Amen.

Week 1 – Day 3:          Resources for Trials                 James 1:5-8 

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…

 

When we are going through trials we pray.  After a while our prayers seem vanilla.  We repeat our desire for help, money, good health, and a job, whatever.   We are very adamant about what we want.  However, only God knows what we truly need.  The early Christians to whom James was writing had problems with their praying also. What should we pray for?  How do we pray?  One of the reasons James became a pillar in the early church was his devotion to prayer.  Tradition has it that James spent so much time in prayer that he was nicknamed ‘Camel Knees’.  James gives us three resources for our trials; PRAY for WISDOM with FAITH.  (James 1:5-8)

WISDOM is not just information or knowledge.  The wisdom James speaks of is the ability to judge and evaluate sorrow and joy from God’s perspective.   God doesn’t give us a map.  He gives us a guide, the Holy Spirit.  As we Trust Him, the Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom of knowing how and when to apply what God says in His Word.

God already knows what we need.  Why do we always have to ask in PRAYER?   God wants us to TRUST HIM.  We know He is a mind reader and a provider.  The role God relishes most is Father.  He wants us to connect with Him as our sole and holy source for all things in life.  The word ‘ask’ in verse 5 is in the present tense so we are invited to ask as often or for as much wisdom as we need. (See Mt. 7:7-8)

After telling us to ask for wisdom, James tells us how to ask – in FAITH.  Faith receives more than it asks.  We do not have to be afraid, for God is anxious to answer, and He will never scold us!  To make his point, he compares a doubting believer to the waves of the sea, up one minute and down the next.  The greatest enemy of answered prayer is unbelief.

Write and pray a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Pray for wisdom with faith and confidence.

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My Prayer:   Father, you know the tough decisions I’m facing concerning _____________.    I pray, Lord, for wisdom to discern and evaluate my situation.  I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to make the decisions as you would direct me.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Week 1 – Day 4:          Humility Reigns                       James 1:9-11

 

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  James 1:9

 

God’s goal for our lives is maturity.  It would be a tragedy if our children remained little babies.  We enjoy watching them mature even though maturity brings dangers as well as delights.  Many Christians shelter themselves from the trials of life, and as a result, never grow up.  God wants the ‘little children’ to become ‘young men,’ and the ‘young men’ to become ‘fathers’ (1 John 2:12-14)

James, along with Peter and John, were the pillars of the early Jerusalem Church.  The issues they faced as leaders were similar to what we face in the church today.   Money and social status were causing problems. (See James 2:1-7, 4:1-3, 5:1-8).   When these three gave Paul and Barnabas their blessings to spread the Good News to the Gentiles, all they asked of them was to ‘remember the poor’.  (Gal. 2:9-10)   Scripture refers to the poor or poverty-stricken from Genesis to Revelation.

In James 1:9-11, James applied the maturity principle to two different kinds of Christians: the poor and the rich. When testing comes to the poor man, he lets God have His way and rejoices that he possesses spiritual riches that cannot be taken from him.  When testing comes to the rich man, he should also let God have His way, and he rejoices that his riches in Christ cannot wither or fade away.  In other words, it is not your material resources that take you through the trials of life: it is your spiritual resources.  The cross of Christ lifts up the poor and brings down the high.  The cross is the great leveler of men.

Whether we have little or much by the world’s standards, we must live in submission to God and under His influence.  Whether we’re rich or poor, we should rejoice that God has authority over us and is using our poverty or prosperity to keep us humble and determined not to glory in our earthly condition, but in God’s provision.

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer. Thank God for good and bad times.

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My Prayer:  Father God, what a crazy week this has been.  I have had mighty highs and terrible lows, and that was all just yesterday.  Jesus, this is the day that you have given me. I praise you for the good times and the not so good times.  Amen.

Week 1 – Day 5:          Turning Trials into Triumphs James 1:12

 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial …that person will receive the crown of life.

 

James has not disappointed us in our first week of learning what it takes to be a genuine, authentic follower of his brother Jesus.  So far he has told us to experience joy in trials because God uses them to produce stronger faith.  James told us we need wisdom and to ask for it in faith and God will give it.  Finally, he told us that if we are poor God will lift us up, and if we are rich He will humble us.  All of these commands are based on us becoming less, and putting MORE TRUST in Christ.

Swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history.  He won 22 medals, 18 of them gold.   In a race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps’ goggles had become filled with water during his leg of a gold-medal winning relay.  After the race, Phelps said he couldn’t see a thing and had reverted to counting strokes- something he had done in workouts.  He remained calm and focused.  Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach, knew the power of learning from trials and adversity.   Bowman purposely stepped on Phelps goggles at a meet just two years prior and broke them.  It may have seemed like a senseless gesture at the time, but because of that trial, Phelps won the gold!

In verse 12, we learn the benefit of the person who perseveres under trials and adversity.  “BLESSED is the man who perseveres under trial, who has stood the test.  He will receive the crown of life”. In the early Olympics, the winner received a wreath to wear on their heads to declare their victory. Today, they receive the Gold!   When we are steadfast and TRUST God (our coach) through the trials of life, we are promised the joy and satisfaction of receiving God’s reward.  The gold that we receive as a Christian is eternal life.

Write a 2-3 sentence prayer.  Thank God for eternal life.

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My Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Guide me.  Show me how I can grow in faith through my trials.  Help me to realize that the trials I have today are the lessons that pull me closer to you.  I praise you for the Cross.  I am so grateful that I have already won the gold, eternity with you!  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

Week 1 – Day 6:          Less is More Reflection            James 1:1-12

 

 

What was the most meaningful truth or Scripture you read this week?  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response to God.

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In preparation for Pastor Joey’s message tomorrow read James 1:13-17. Less is MORE – FORTITUDE

 

Pray for our church staff.  This week:

  • Joey Rodgers, Senior Pastor
  • Art Fulks, Executive Pastor/Worship