Tuesday, July 31, 2007

James, Chapter 4

We have been on quite a journey through the first three chapters of the book of James. In chapter four we will hit on two major topics. We will see the importance of being submissive in front of God, and we will briefly touch on the dangers of being boastful about tomorrow. Being submissive before God assures that we are in line with His will, and ultimately that is what we all seek in this life.

As we discussed yesterday, part of God's will is heavenly wisdom, which prevails over earthly wisdom because it is what God wants us to do instead of what the world wants us to do. Earthly wisdom is selfish, while heavenly wisdom is selfless. How we gain that heavenly wisdom is by being submissive before God. We must make sure that which we ask for in prayer is in tune with God's plans. If we are in step with God, then we will be given what we want and all the tools needed to accomplish His work. That is what I desire for my life, and for this blog specifically.

    "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." – James 4:7

Part of resisting the devil is submitting to God's will. As long as we are doing God's will the devil holds no power over us. The leader of a small Bible study my wife and I, a gentleman named Micah, has a theory that as long as we have our focus on God we are incapable of sin. It is when our focus is away from God that we become open to the temptations of sin. As humans though it is a constant struggle within ourselves to submit to God's will. We have our own ideas and our own plans that we think is best, even if God has other ideas. We think in terms of the way the world works, and not in the way that God works. As the author says in verse four, the ways of the world are not often in concert with God's ways.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." – James 4:4

I don't believe this verse is telling us to sever all ties with the world, because that would not be working on concert with the great commission to go and make disciples of the nations. This is where many Christian groups go wrong, by taking a verse like this and using to form their own exclusive clique in which they shun those who are not part of their group. It is when we become a friend of the way of the world, not the world itself in terms of individual people that we fall into danger. We are still to reach out and befriend unbelievers because that is our commission. We must remember that we are to, "hate the sin and love the sinner," in this case. The sin is the corruption of a broken world, but the people that are sinning are those that we must show compassion to.

There is a person that very personally and painfully wronged me a little more than a year ago. I have spent many nights wondering just what would happen if I met this person again. The human in me, the one the world would agree with, wants nothing more than to beat him within an inch of his life. It's not even about getting revenge. It's about causing this person pain and making them feel only a small part of the hurt they caused me. I know many people that would not fault me for feeling this way, but I know it is wrong because it is not want Christ wants and requires of me.

What Christ requires me to do is love this person and pray for them, even though it is among the hardest things I have ever done. My desire to beat this person centers on my own selfish wants, and it is not what God wants for the greater good. In a simplistic perspective, God wants this person to come to Christ and my attitude does not advance this goal, so it is wrong. This is much easier said than done, however, and each person has their own situation that has similar consequences. We must reject hostility toward God and all attitudes that promote that hostility while still loving individual people as God loves them.

The final four verse of chapter four talks about boasting about tomorrow. This is not to say that we aren't to plan for the future. Much of the book of Proverbs talks about the benefits of preparing carefully for the future. This is merely a warning to show us that God is ultimately in control of our lives, and we are powerless to work against his plans. We can have an idea of what we want to do, but if God has other things in mind for us then we will find that there isn't much we can do but go along for the ride. In the end his plans are better anyway.


  1. How do resist the devil? In what ways do you see him working in your life at the moment?
  2. In what area of your life do you find the need to submit to God?
  3. What is the difference between planning ahead and boasting about tomorrow?

Monday, July 30, 2007

James, Chapter 3

The first two chapters of James have told us much about practical living as a Christian. We have seen the result of perseverance in the face of temptation, the importance of acting in faith, and the dangers of showing favoritism. What we see in the third chapter is an explanation of the most dangerous part of us, our own mouths.

    "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." – James 3:2

I welcome the person that has never said the wrong thing to e-mail me and take over this blog. Of course, I am not expecting my inbox to inundated with requests. As we see from the rest of the first part of this chapter, man may be able to tame animals, but he cannot tame his own tongue. At the same time we can create beautiful works of praise with our mouths, we can also cause unspeakable damage with just one misspoken word. Hitler rose to power in Germany based on his mastery of words and the ability to incite a crowd with them. He accomplished untold evil with his gift of oration, evil that may not have happened if he was not an accomplished speaker. While we find that our own words aren't nearly as evil as his, we still can cause much trouble with our tongues.

With our words we lie, we cut others down, we speak out of bitterness and in deceit. What we say reflects what is in our heart, and we must learn to control our tongue and use it for its potential for good, not for its potential for evil.

"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and itself is set on fire by hell." – James 3:6

We cannot dwell solely on the bad that can come from the tongue, as then we would forget all the good. The pastor at the church my wife and I attend is a gifted orator, and merely with his words and the passion that he puts behind them he can captivate a room. He also recognizes that the purpose of his oration is to represent Christ and put His case first. As a result, he will do or say anything to advance the cause of Christ. While the tongue can be used for evil, it can also be used for praise, worship, and evangelism. It is that which is in our hearts that controls what we say.

So how do we make sure that our tongues are not used for evil? We do this by making sure that Christ is always in our hearts. When we focus on our inner life and clean up what's inside us, and trust me, it can be messy, the tongue will then take care of itself. When we reap only bitterness and discord, then a harsh harvest will come of it.

The brief second part of chapter three discusses the different kinds of wisdom in the world: earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Earthly wisdom contains our selfish ambition, and can be our undoing. Earthly wisdom serves only our own needs and wants, and not the needs of our Father. With earthly wisdom there is often a price, and that price comes at the expense of ourselves or others.

Heavenly wisdom, however, is pure as it says in verse 16. Heavenly wisdom accomplishes nothing but good, and while it also benefits others, it elevates us as well. Think of heavenly wisdom as an all-reward, no-risk proposition. The problem with this though is, at the time, it may seem like we need to risk a lot. What we value in this case is often some type of earthly wisdom. We must be prepared to part with it in order to achieve something greater, which is often heavenly wisdom. This heavenly wisdom, if we knew exactly what it was, would make for an easy choice at the moment of choosing, but it is hidden from us because God wants us to act in faith. With heavenly wisdom comes the promise of faith, and as we saw in chapter 2, faith requires action.

The reward in all of this, of course, is doing what God wants us to do. Nothing in life feels better than when we are working in tune with the heart of God. We get in that zone and even if we don't have all the answers, everything just feels right. That is what I equate with writing this blog. I am not sure why I am supposed to do it, or what ultimate purpose it will serve, but I know it is what God wants me to do right now. I feel like I am working right in line with what God wants me to do, even though a regular job isn't anywhere on the horizon right now. It's very exciting to know that He is going to accomplish something with this that I could never hope to accomplish on my own.


  1. What is truly on your heart? How does it reflect what you say?
  2. If the tongue cannot be tamed, what is the point in trying to control it?
  3. What do you see in your life as earthly wisdom that is getting in the way of heavenly wisdom?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

James, Chapter 2

Welcome back. I hope everyone had a good read with the first chapter of James yesterday. I cannot promise that I will be updating this every day, but I will do my best to come here at least three times a week. I also know that I didn't exactly quote tons of scripture yesterday, but part of studying the Bible is actually reading it so I encourage you to get into the Word yourself and see what it has to say. I am far from perfect and still only one man, so what you see in the Word can be something totally different from what I see. I am certainly far from an authority on it! I also welcome any insights in the comments sections from the chapters that I am focusing on, and I'll leave the comments open so other readers can draw from them.

The first part of our second chapter of James warns us about the dangers of showing favoritism. This carries over not only toward people, but toward what laws and commandments we choose to break. Think about your own life for a moment. How many times have you drawn a conclusion on someone just based on their appearance? How many times have you showed favoritism to someone based on their wealth? Sadly, we live in a society that tends to pamper people's feelings if they are wealthy, and because of this they can get away with everything. Seeing one CNN report on how much of a tragedy Paris Hilton's brief stay in jail will tell you that.

"If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here is a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor at my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" – James 2:3-4 NIV

I am not advocating drinking and driving, but it sadly happens every day in America, yet this one person, for the sole reason she has money we are supposed to pity her and laud her on how brave she is for staying in jail. What? She is lauded, while others are condemned, all because of her status. I use this only as an example, and not to condemn her. The Bible also teaches forgiveness, and if she has truly mended her ways then that is a very good thing.

This section of James also tells us that no sin is greater than another.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." – James 2:10 NIV

I know I am far from perfect, but that is beauty of what Christ gives us. A common misconception of Christians is that we are perfect once we decide to follow Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our own humanity will always get in the way. Sure, once we follow Christ we are to aspire to be perfect, but anyone who has seen me at a Purdue football game will see I am far from it. Especially if the opponent is God's supposed team in Notre Dame! Christ met us in the middle of that imperfection and makes us perfect where we need to be perfect, in our hearts. As long as we have Him in our hearts it is enough to overcome our own weaknesses. He sees past our failings and uses them as a chance for us to learn if He is in our heart.

This brings us to the second section of the chapter dealing with faith and deeds. This part also connects us with yesterday's lesson in that we must act in faith. I again reference my own life here, but only out of convenience. My aunt has had Multiple Sclerosis for many years, and the disease has made her very bitter. While many people have fought the disease and used rehab to still lead productive lives, my aunt basically has curled up and let the disease control her to the point that she has been in a nursing home years and cannot even feed herself. A few years ago my father got her started on a new treatment that was showing some promise. Her condition was improving, and had she gone through the rehabilitation process to build up muscles that had not been used in years, she could have possibly made a dramatic recovery. She did not do this, however, as she expected the treatment to cure her and wouldn't listen to those who told her that if she hadn't used her legs in more than a decade, then she would have to rebuild the strength in them. As a result, her recovery plateaued, and she eventually regressed because it wasn't automatically given to her. She wouldn't do the work she needed to do.

The same is true in our Christian lives, as once we have faith it is only the beginning and not the total answer. Yes the basic requirement to get into heaven is only that we believe and entrust our lives to Christ because we are all sinners seeking his forgiveness. Once we make that choice though, our faith truly begins as we then see the value of the other disciplines of faith such as prayer, worship, studying the Word, and silence. I will get into those disciplines more in depth another day, but they are the deeds that strengthen our faith.

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder." – James 2:17-19 NIV

You see, even Satan believes in God, and he's read the Bible to. It is what we do with it that matters. One final verse to share ends the chapter perfectly:

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." – James 2:26 NIV


  1. What are some deeds that you to accompany your faith?
  2. How is favoritism a problem when we show it in our lives?
  3. As a Christian, how are you not perfect?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

James, Chapter 1

I want to begin this new venture with an announcement, and that is that this blog is not about me. My past adventures into the world of writing have been centered on how I can advance myself and improve what I put down on paper, or in this case, in a computer, so I can further my career. That is not my intent in this case. While I know and accept this will help me become a better writer, because much like a knife against stone proper honing will always sharpen an edge, it is certainly not my intent in writing here.

I am only writing here in this new venture, because I feel strongly led to do so. Jesus told us in the book of Matthew to go forth and make disciples among nations. While I don't believe I will change the world with the words I write for this limited audience, I do believe that if I reach one person with what I have to say it will be more than worth the effort. All the glory taking from this blog, therefore, cannot be directed at me, but at Christ. He is the one that grants me strength each day to move on even when I don't want to. He is the one that has brought me to this place and put me in a position to talk about His life and the Word of His Father that is the Bible. It is He that I pray right now will work through this blog and the words contained it to work wonders. I am just the vessel, and the method by which the message goes out. It is up to Christ to give it strength and make it work.

I'll try to talk about a chapter per entry, and hopefully be able to write at least a little bit each day. Please bear with me since this is all in its early stages. I don't know exactly how this is all going to work out, but I trust that God will find a use for it. Without further ado, let's begin!

Lately I have been fascinated by the book of James. It's a fairly short book, being just five chapters and sitting just after Hebrews in the New Testament, but when I read it for the first time earlier this summer I was amazed at how powerful the book was. Since then I have re-read it twice more at a leisurely pace and I continue to be blown away by it. Perhaps I relate to it because much of what is in the book talks about practical ways to live life as a Christian. More importantly, it talks about how we can believe in Christ, yet still live our lives the wrong way. The first chapter is very straightforward in verse 22 as to what we must do.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word and does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." – James 1:22-24 NIV

It is not enough that we read the Bible and attend church, throwing our money into the collection plate for peace of mind. We have to actually do what the Word says! Now I know the bible says we have to do some pretty obscure stuff. Take a look at the book of Leviticus some time. They don't exactly carry turtle doves at the local grocery store in order to make atonement for sins. It's important to keep in mind that this is part of the Old Testament.

There is a major difference between both testaments. I tend to see the Old Testament as more of a historical record, and how the old system of laws did not work. This is all stage-setting for the New Testament, where Christ made all the old laws obsolete and showed that it was all about Him. Many of the basic principles remain the same across both sides, but the New Testament gives us a focus in Christ's life.

Most of the rest of the first chapter of James talks about facing temptation and gaining strength from it while doing what the word says. The first half of the chapter shows how we can gain strength from facing temptation in one of my favorite verses in all the Bible.

"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." – James 1:4 NIV

We face many challenges in our lives. Shoot, the last two and a half years of my life have felt long one long, never ending challenge at times. It is how we respond to those challenges that shape who we are. A prime example is a recent work assignment that I have had. It has been a struggle to find regular work since I got married and moved, but this week I was asked to cover some livestock shows for a county fair by a paper I had never even worked for. The shows themselves are boring as all get out, and I am only covering them because I need the work at the moment. I have then been faced with two choices: I could sit and complain about my assignment, gritting through it just to do it, or I could use it as an excuse to branch out and improve my writing. Instead of viewing it as hte low point of my journalistic career, I have used it as a springboard. The three articles I have written so far about boring livestock shows have been some of the best work I have ever created. I know they are not going to end up on the front page of the New York Times, but the development in my writing and the perseverance that Christ is instilling in me is letting me take a small step forward.

And taking small steps forward is what we must do each day.


  1. What does it mean to you to follow what the Word says?
  2. How have you learned from perseverance in the face of trial and temptation in the past?
  3. What does the first chapter of the book of James say to you?