Showing posts from June, 2018

Journal Entry ~ 06/30/18

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  - James 3:5 Our tongues may be small, but the power they wield is great. Our tongues can start wars, they can end marriages and friendships, cause dissension and division, destroy lives. The damage they cause go much deeper than injuries inflicted by other weapons. Anyone who has ever said, “Sticks and stones my break my bones, but names will never hurt me” knows in their hearts that isn’t true. It’s just something we say to help one another shrug off the hurt caused by words, but we all know how the damage caused by a hurtful word cuts us to the core, and can take so much longer to heal. Our tongues can cause death to another person’s soul.  But words can also bring life. With a sweet word of encouragement, a heart of despair can be healed, marriages can be reconciled and friendships strengthened. Our tongues can share Hope through the Gospel and bring

Journal Entry ~ 06/29/18

3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. - James 3:3-4 Controlling the tongue means both silencing it when necessary, as well as speaking gracious words that build others up whenever possible.  It is putting off harsh words filled with bitterness, anger, and jealousy that lead to dissension and division, and it is putting on words that demonstrate love, gentleness, kindness, are full of grace and mercy, and bring about peace and harmony. The words we are to speak are fruit of the Spirit that lives inside of us - they are not from our own power, but of His. Left in our own power, our words are self-focused and sinful, but when we allow the Spirit to move in us, our words spread His love and build His Kingdom.  No one is in control of their tongue, not entir

Journal Entry ~ 06/28/18

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. - James 3:2 I love the humility in this phrase, especially because it immediately follows the first verse that carries a warning about becoming a teacher. He is well aware of his own shortcomings as he says “we” all stumble in many ways. He does not consider himself to be better than his audience. I think many of us teachers are tempted toward superiority, and we have to consistently and intentionally check ourselves. It is a privilege to be given the role of teacher, but with that role, people will constantly look to you for wisdom and guidance. This can be dangerous if we step outside of the boundaries of the Spirit working through us. If we begin to dispense wisdom in our own power, we have given in to the temptation of superiority. I’ve found the only way to battle that temptation is to consistently stay in the Word. We know His Spirit, and

Journal Entry ~ 06/27/18

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. - James 3:1 I have just loved being submerged in the book of James again. Studying His Word has never returned void for me, but focusing on James always challenges me to spiritual maturity in ways that other parts of His Word simply do not. Chapter 3 is no different. I’m convicted by its truth every time I read it.  He starts the chapter with a word of caution to those of us who want to become teachers, bringing the weight of the position out into the open. Teachers are held to a higher standard because of the power and influence they hold over others.  This verse is not meant to discourage people from becoming teachers, but rather meant to encourage those of us who are instructing others to consider the weight of our influence. Some read this verse and use it to back their reasons why they are not called to be a teacher, or they dismiss it because th

Journal Entry ~ 06/26/18

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. - James 2:26 If we believe, but we do not have any action, our faith is not complete. If we act without any faith, our faith is not complete. In order for our faith to be perfected, we must have both elements - the belief and the action. You can’t be saved by a faith that has no action - that faith is useless. Faith without works is dead, just as our body with the spirit is dead. If our faith is to become all that God intended for it to be in our lives, there must be equal parts action and faith in our lives.  There are many who profess a saving faith in Jesus Christ in this world. They wear a cross around their neck, they attend weekly church services and they even make Facebook posts with scripture, all the while the world around them is hurting. People are grieving the loss of loved ones, wresting with the gripping disease of addiction or anxiety, losing their homes and their security, st

Journal Entry ~ 06/25/18

24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? - James 2:24-25 It’s interesting that James goes from using Abraham, the father of the Jews, as an example to Rahab, a Gentile prostitute. Abraham is well respected by his audience as a great man of faith, and James chose his most faithful act as an example of his works. It’s an act many of us struggle to imagine committing in our own lives.  But then in the next breath, James chooses someone who would typically not be respected by his audience. Not only is she a prostitute, but she is a Gentile as well. Gentiles were not people not related to the Israelites by birth, and discriminated against by the Jews. At the time, there was much debate about whether or not Gentiles were to be allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Rahab had heard about the Israelites and their i

Journal Entry ~ 06/24/18

20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"-and he was called a friend of God. - James 2:20-23 Abraham is an incredible example of faith in action. God asked him to offer his son up on the altar, and Abraham was obedient. You see, Isaac was the seed of the covenant between God and Abraham. God had promised to grow a nation of His people through Abraham, and Abraham waited until he was an old 100 years before his first child was born, so sacrificing Isaac was sacrificing God’s promise to him. And even though it didn’t make any sense to him, Abraham walked Isaac up to the altar, trusting God had a plan. What incredible faithful

Journal Entry ~ 06/23/18

18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder! - James 2:18-19 Faith is a deep seated belief in the existence of God that radically changes the way we live our lives. A saving faith must produce consistent good works, or that faith is empty. We can believe in God, yet not have that truth impact our lives. Here James challenges those who believe in the existence of God, but do not allow that faith to impact their works by reminding the reader that even demons acknowledge the existence of God and tremble at His greatness. James is not considering his audience to be demons, but he is claiming that our faith must be more than an intellectual pursuit. The demons agree that God exists in the same capacity, but they do not allow that knowledge to change who they are, and therefore, are not saved. The

Journal Entry ~ 06/22/18

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2:17 Work without faith cannot save you - we don’t get into heaven because we’ve been good. None of us are good enough to make it into heaven on our own, though many hold up their works to others and justify their salvation comparatively - at least I’m not as bad as he is!  At the same time, James reminds us here that faith without works cannot save us either. Our works are the fruit of our faith and what demonstrate that faith is alive in us. It is both faith and works working together that bring us into relationship with Christ and the promise of eternal salvation.  Some have discounted the book of James for this very reason - even Martin Luther thought that James’ focus on works was claiming that our salvation is a result of our works. But James is not saying one is more important than the other, he is claiming that both faith and works are equally important when considering salvation.  It is true the

Journal Entry ~ 06/21/18

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? - James 2:15-16 So many people who call themselves Christians keep their faith tucked away in a safe place they can control. They believe they are a saved Christian because they go to church, but beyond that, it really doesn’t impact their lives. Some may say prayers when they’re facing a difficult situation, but they don’t independently open His Word in a regular basis. Some may even have some verses memorized, but not something they work to live out in their lives. Many people profess Jesus as their Lord when in the presence of other believers, but clearly do not have God as their focus when interacting with the world. Sunday Christians who are lovers of the world Monday through Saturday - that’s who is being challenged here.  James challenges what faith l

Journal Entry ~ 06/20/18

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? - James 2:14 These verses are popularly debated among different Christian denominations. Some believe it is our works that save us, that somehow we earn our way to heaven with our good works. That is not what James is saying here. Understand this: you cannot earn your way to heaven. There is no amount of good works you can accomplish to prove yourself worthy of eternal life. Your are a broken, sinful person deserving of His eternal wrath. It is ONLY the grace and mercy He pours out on you as you accept Jesus died in your place that will get you into heaven. You can’t earn it and you don’t deserve it.  What James is referring to in these verses is our work as the evidence of our faith. There are some who profess they have submitted their lives to Christ with their mouths, yet their is no evidence of the surrender in their lives. They say they believe in Jesus, but they c

Journal Entry ~ 06/19/18

12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. - James 2:12-13 These verses cause confusion for some believers. If Jesus died for our sins, and we are forgiven, I thought we were exempt from judgment?  So, what does it mean to be judged by the law of liberty? If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, then we are saved from God’s eternal wrath and punishment. We will not face His eternal judgment and have been promised a place in heaven with Him. Christ bore the punishment for our sins and we can stand a forgiven people in front of God.  However, we know from scripture that we still will stand before God in judgment of our lives. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. - 2 Corinthians 5:10. Our sins have been forgiven by Christ, b

Journal Entry ~ 06/18/18

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. - James 2:10-11 We have such a tendency to minimize our sin. It’s easy to look at others and see their sin, but we don’t have the ability to see our own in the same light. We often get caught in the trap of comparative righteousness - “at least in not as bad as she is” or “it’s not like I’ve committed murder or anything!” Partiality or favoritism is one of those sins we tend to minimize. It’s subtle and quiet, and it’s not like it’s one of the big 10, so we have a tendency to dismiss its severity.  James sets that record straight. Sin is sin. It doesn’t matter what kind of sin you have committed, any sin separates us from God. We are guilty before God if we stumble even in one point. Some view the law on a spe

Journal Entry ~ 06/17/18

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. - James 2:9 Just in case you were wondering if showing favoritism to some people over another is sin, James says it plainly in this verse. Discriminating against people for any reason is a sin against God.  We have such a tendency to minimize our own sin. We hold it up and compare it to others and think we’re not that bad. Our hearts are so deceitful as we hide what truly lies within us. Partiality is one of those sins that lies so deep in our hearts it has become a generational stronghold. Our culture has taught us in very subtle ways how to treat people of different economic status, different religions, different sexual identities, different races. These lessons get stored in our hearts so discreetly that we don’t even recognize them as sin much of the time.  James is trying to shake us awake with this statement, helping us to understand what great wickedness showing partial

Journal Entry ~ 06/16/18

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. - James 2:8 We are told multiple times throughout scripture that the greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is nothing greater than this commandment. So, this means when we show partiality, we are violating this command because we are not showing God’s love to others.  It’s important to note that modern culture has taken a hold of this command and shifted its meaning to focus on ourselves. We’ve all heard the phrase, “you can’t love others until you love yourself first.”  This isn’t the point of God’s great commandments to us at all. He calls us to focus first on Him, and secondly on others. Love of self comes naturally for us - we have no problem catering to our own needs, defending our own position or our own self-righteousness

Journal Entry ~ 06/15/18

6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? - James 2:6-7 James seems to spend so much time on not judging others and treating others fairly because he truly wants to drive home the point that Jesus calls us to love others as ourselves, yet we fail at this all the time in our judgment of others. How many times have you made assumptions about someone because of the way they look?  If I am being honest, far too many times in my life. I definitely am working to overcome those assumptions and stereotypes in my mind, but if we’re being truthful, those assumptions have been bred into us by our culture and run far deeper than we care to acknowledge.  Working in a school, it’s easy to make the assumption that a mom who cannot take time off work to come tend to her sick child is a terrible mother, or sending a child to school wit

Journal Entry ~ 06/14/18

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? - James 2:5 When we judge others, we are essentially putting ourselves in God’s place. We are grabbing ahold of His sovereignty for ourselves. When we show favor to anyone based on their outside appearance, we are making assumptions about their hearts that only God can see or know. We see people who are wealthy and it’s easy to make the assumption that they are doing something right in their lives and God is blessing them; and likewise, we see people who struggle financially, and we assume they must be doing something wrong and God is punishing them or allowing them to walk through difficult trials. There is great wickedness in judging others. We are warned multiple time in scripture that we are not to judge others.  At the same time, we should not misunderstand this verse to mean that God only shows favor to

Journal Entry ~ 06/13/18

2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2:2-4 James is addressing the obvious differences in the rich and poor people, and how people judge based those outward appearances, but I believe he is making a broader statement about how we treat people who are different than us.  To show favoritism to people based on outward appearance is wickedness, and something that plagues a human heart no matter who you are. The reality is we prefer people who look like us and think like us. These are the people we are most comfortable around, these are the people we most easily trust. It ta

Journal Entry ~ 06/12/18

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. - James 2:1 While this passage in James focuses on showing partiality to rich over poor, it can really be applied to all places we show partiality in our lives. When we pause to really consider how we treat others, the truth is we find more partiality than we would like to admit. Do we always show mercy to others as He has shown us mercy?  Do we always forgive others as He has forgiven us?  Are we always patient with others as He is with us?   The reality is we tend to be more judgmental of others' intentions or actions than we are giving the people in our lives the same grace that is daily showered on us. The truth is we don't always respond as He responds because we don't share His heart. Our hearts are ruled far too often by what we want over what He wants.   The grace we fail to give others demonstrates how desperately we still need His grace. While I continue

Journal Entry ~ 06/11/18

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. - James 1:27 Our religion, or our belief system, is pure and undefiled when it is free from external pollutants. In other words, the world has not stained a pure and undefiled faith with its lies and deceit. There are no idols or immoral behavior, there is no self-focus, no jealousy, no judgment, and no control. It is the faith God calls us to have in this world.  James gives an example in this verse of what that kind of faith looks like in action - to visit orphans and widows. Visit in this context is more than just a quick chat over a cup of coffee, it means to look in on, to care for their needs, to support them in their struggles in tangible ways. Orphans and widows have one thing in common - they have lost their support system. They will endure the same trials in life that we will, but they have lost the people w

Journal Entry ~ 06/10/18

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. - James 1:26 This verse is always convicting to me - every time I say it and every time I hear it. The tongue is a reflection of what lives in our hearts. There are times words come out of my mouth that reflect a darkness in my heart that simply grieve me. I wish I could say I’ve been a Christian long enough to tell you I’ve gotten control of my tongue, but that would be far from the truth. Religion in this context means the outward behavior of worship, so James is addressing those who appear to be religious by what they do. But we know God sees our hearts and is not deceived by our outward actions. He looks at what lies within us, what motivates us, He knows our desires and our passions, He knows what brings us joy and what brings us sorrow.  Anything we do or think apart from God has no value to Him. When we are united with the Spirit, there is

Journal Entry ~ 06/09/18

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. - James 1:25 I love the comparison of the Word in this passage to the Word of God. Like a mirror, scripture can reveal to us the very thoughts and intentions of our heart that we cannot see on our own. Our hearts are self-focused, and it can be creative at hiding our sin, but the Word exposes our pride, it confronts our lack of compassion, it reveals our greed and our lust, it exposes our anger and our hurtful words. It has the power to help us to see what we cannot see with our own eyes.  But the Word only does this when we spent time in it regularly and meditate on it. If we pass by it with a quick glance, we hold its power at bay. The Word cannot change us unless we spend time in it.   When you look intently at the Word, you discover it truly is the law of liberty. You find freedom from the sin that binds you b

Journal Entry ~ 06/08/18

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. - James 1:22-24 We are to be doers of the Word, not just hearers. When God commands us to do something, we are to do it. The problem is our hearts are deceptive, and we live in a world so contradictory to what scripture teaches us, that sometimes we get fuzzy on what scripture tells us to do.   It is essential to our faith to be in the Word daily, looking for where our behavior or our thoughts don’t line up with His commands, then we should be working to change that.  God tells us we should be storing His Word in our heart, then we should be memorizing scripture. God tells us we should not neglect meeting together, then we should be at small group. God tells us we should humbly submit to authority and o

Journal Entry ~ 06/07/18

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. - James 1:21 James makes about pretty direct statement here about our choices. While we know that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit when we are saved, and that Spirit guides and directs our behavior, we still ultimately make the choice about what we think about and how we act. We can choose to put away those impure or negative thoughts, we can choose to stop the angry words coming out of our mouths, we can choose to end the silence in a difficult relationship. We do choose our responses to difficult people and difficult circumstances. If we choose to continue in our filthiness or our wickedness, we grieve the Holy Spirit, and we silence its influence in our lives.  A word of caution about filthiness and wickedness - these words seem abhorrent, rarely would any of us describe ourselves as filthy or wicked. Those words seem to be saved for th