Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Talk

Small talk usually means a brief conversation about the weather, but for farmers the subject of weather is extremely important. Figs need lots of weeks of heat. Corn, wheat and barley need early and later rain. Orchards need frost free nights and warm days. Food farmers are always examining the weather patterns. They can irrigate but they cannot control the rain, frost or heat.

James reminds us of the farmer's patients waiting for the early and later rains. We can experience frustration and anger when we are unjustly treated and it seems it is not coming to an end any time soon. But God is aware of what is going on. He will teach us humility through our suffering, but he will eventually deal with the unjust.

However, It is wiser to focus on our attitudes as we wait on the Lord's justice (James 5:7-8).

Thursday, November 29, 2012


There are warnings in the Bible about being wealthy (Jeremiah 9:23; Matthew 19:34-24; 1 Timothy 6:10). Some men gain wealth by cheating others from their pay or fair wages (James 5:1-6). God pays attention to the misery of the poor. Those who cheat employees or servants will answer to God, either now or eternally. Hell is not worth any amount of wealth.

Mind you, it is not sinful to be wealthy, nor does poverty make one righteous. God placed Daniel and the three Hebrew boys in positions of wealth. Joseph, the son of Jacob was wealthy. Abraham became exceedingly wealthy. David and Solomon were among the wealthiest men in history. The wiseman from the East were rich.

Mary and Joseph were poor. Jesus had no permanent home. His disciples were poor. The widow women lived in poverty (Mark 12:38-33).

The point is not the wealth, but that wealth exposes the heart.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time to Respond

One of my husband's favorite sayings is "Life's too short to carry grudges." He is right..

When my brother feels attacked, he takes a moment or two before responding so that he can give himself time to think and pray. He wants his behavior to reflect God. He recognizes his need for divine intervention in his thinking processes. As a result he is able to make wiser decisions. He does not allow other people's actions to control his.

James says because our lives are so quickly passing, we need to make sure our deeds and words are good. Not to take time to do the right thing, is sin (James 4:17).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Christmas Vapor

Every year Christmas comes faster. The older we get the faster the year passes. James likens our lives to a vapor (James 4:14). It feels like we are born one minute and die the next. But that vapor is a gift from God. It has a divine purpose from our first breath to our last.

We cannot see the spiritual world. Our physical limitations prevent us from grasping what is going on around us (2 Kings 6:17). We are in a battle (Ephesians 6:12) but the victory is predetermined(Hebrews 4:1-4). There is no day, as ordinary as it may seem, that God is not working in us, through us and for us.

This is the day The Lord has made for you (Psalm 118:24).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making plans

There are believers who make financial plans and carry them out without so much as asking God if the plans are ordained of him. James tells us this is a grave mistake. We are always to ask God for his will, then make plans. It is The Lord who decides whether our plans will make a profit or not, or whether we will live long enough to make a profit.

Our life and the length of it are in God's control (James 4:13-16).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

In America this is Thanksgiving Day. It is traditionally a day of eating turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, corn, stuffing, casseroles, pumpkin pie and many other desserts. For some it is a day of watching sports on television while others work endlessly in the kitchen. For others this is the big deer hunting weekend of the year.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving, honor the name of the Holiday by being especially thankful today. We have a savior who rescued us from endless bondage and brought us into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fruit Inspectors

What does it mean to judge someone? A person recently told me that Christians are to be fruit inspectors. They were undoubtedly referring to Matthew 7:20. When Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them.

Looking at the context of Jesus's comment we learn he is talking about doing God's will. If someone says they belong to God but do not live out God's will, the person does not belong to God (Romans 6:6-7; 1 John 3:6).

But we get into trouble when we base our fruit inspection on our own persuasions and opinions, and not on God's direct commandments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Judge and Jury

The most popular verse in the Bible is probably John three sixteen. The most well know verse is Psalms 23:1, but the most quoted verse in the Bible by sinners is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not lest ye be judged". Unfortunately the verse is often quoted to excuse sins.

James approaches the subject from another angle. He tells us not to say evil against our brother or sister in Christ. Doing so puts us behind the judges desk that only belongs to God.

I saw one of the worst displays of this immediately after the election in America as brothers and sisters in Christ deemed members of the opposing party as unbelievers. It is important that we remember we cannot see into someone else's heart.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Ultimate Cover up

We are not left in a continual state of mourning over our sin. God graciously lifts us up. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up" (James 4:10).

If we sincerely ask to be forgiven, he forgives us completely. He removes the sin and unrighteousness from us (proverbs 28:13; Romans 10:10; 1John 1:9).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kettle on the Stove

James describes repentance as weeping, lamenting, and mourning. This all sounds extreme until we get a glimpse into the holiness of God.

Imagine the most beautiful location you have ever seen in person, a place your thoroughly enjoyed. Then later finding out that somehow your actions destroyed the entire area. Or imagine your home burning to the ground while you were away and finding out the fire started by you leaving a kettle burning on the stove. Or imagine the emotional pain you would feel if somehow you were responsible for your child's death.

That is the kind of grieving James speaks of when he tells us to lament over our sinful ways (James 4:9).

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Imagine having someone tell everyone he or she is dating you, but they never call, never come by to see you, and if you run into them on the street they act as if they have no idea who you are, they ignore you. Are you dating? Does their declaration that they are dating you make it true?

Drawing near to God will be reflected in how we interact with God (James 4:8).

James puts it this way, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded."

We cannot save ourselves, but when God saves us there is a corresponding change in our actions (Ephesians 2:9-10; James 4:8).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Draw Near

One of the most wonderful sentences ever written is found in the book of James. "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8).

If you pause, right this second, and focus on God, his love, his mercy, his power, his creation, you will sense his presence immediately.

We live in God's presence (Acts 17:28). We need to take time to notice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Formula for Sucess

Wouldn't you like to have the formula for getting along with everyone? Or how about the formula for making lots of money? How about a formula to persuade people to do what you want? Maybe you want the formula to have peace in your family, or the formula for loosing weight, or the formula to get the job you have always wanted. As simple people, we would like to have a formula for everything.

James gives us a formula that is far more important than any other we could wish for. He gives us the formula for overcoming Satan. "Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

The order of actions is top priority. Submit to God comes first. We are far too weak to fight Satan on our own. We need the power of our Creator to defeat the enemy of our soul. Submitting to God means yielding to all his ways, commands and principles.

This is quickly followed by resisting the devil. The word resist denotes action on our part, things like running in the opposite direction from the temptation. Peter puts it this way, "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Peter 2:22).

Then Satan will flee (run away as fast as he can) from you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Draw Near

There is more to drawing near to God than simply thinking about him. Drawing near means getting to know him. He has written us many books which we call the Bible. It tells us about his character, his ways of doing things, what he hates, and what he loves.

He has promised if we do not hide sin in our hearts (refuse to leave it) he will respond to our prayers (Luke 6:45; Ps 119:2-3; Psalm 38:18; Psalm 51:2; Psalm 66:18).

Living in his presence means living through his Word. It guides our decisions. It gives us hope. It strengthens us.

Talking to him, listening to him, draws us near to God, not because we have earned it, but because he has chosen to draw near.

Angel of Light

Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. False prophets and deceitful workers mimic Satan by making themselves out to be Apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:14). The devil's name used to be lucifer, which means light. He weakens nations and creates havoc (Isaiah 14:12-19). He tempts God's children to sin (Matthew chapter 4 and 1Peter 5:8).

If this powerful enemy can disguise himself as an angel of light, how are we mere humans going to tell when we are being deceived?

God has given us litmus tests, two of which are in the book of James. 1) Satanic actions are filled with envy, selfish ambition and pride (James 3:13-16). 2) Satanic motives are to gather things for ourselves at the cost of others (James 4:1-5). 3) Satanic motives are to place ourselves or others before God (1 John 4:1-3).

James also tells us how to overcome Satan. "Submit yourselves to God, resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:6).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Jealous God

James quotes "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously" (James 4:5). Exodus 34:14 says "...for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God..." Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 4:19; Ezekiel 39:15 and Nahum 1:2 all say God is a jealous God.

I have heard some bizarre teaching based on God being jealous. The will known interviewer and actress Oprah Winfrey said when she learned from her pastor that God was jealous of her, she decided this could not be true so she rejected Christianity.

But we dare not use our twenty-first definition of the word Jealous to interpret ancient text. When scripture says God is jealous over you, it does not mean he wishes he could be like you (what blaspheme). It means he guards and protects his relationship with you.

He will not tolerate his children worshiping of other gods.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Thank You

American culture emphasis self confidence, self assurance and self focus. Advertisements and slogans reinforce our narcissism; "If it feels good, do it. If you want it, buy it. If it advances you, move forward regardless of the affect on others. Life is about feeling good."

James warns that this attitude puts us in a position of conflict with God (James 4:4-6). God resists the proud.

Do we honestly want God to be as a brick wall toward our prayers? Do we want God working against us? Do we want to face life without God intervening?

No, thank you!

Murder and Christians

James is writing to believers, so why does he accuse his readers of committing murder (James 4:2)?

He is most likely not speaking of physical murder, though many times envoy is a motive for taking someone else's life. But there is a kind of spiritual murder. Envy leads to resentment and results in a focus on the wealthy person's faults.

We comfort ourselves by saying money cannot buy peace, or wealthy people are miserable, or we pronounce any other generalization that makes us feel comforted that we do not possess as much wealth as we would like to have.

James makes it clear that possessions are not to be our focus. God may give us jobs that produce much wealth, or he may give us jobs that do not do much more than put food on the table. In all cases we are to be thankful and use our wealth for God's glory, not for our own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Earth Bound Prayers

"If God is real, why doesn't he answer my prayer?" Many Christians respond, "He answers every prayer by saying, yes, no, or not now". However when James was asked this question he came out swinging.

" Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?"(James 4:1-4).

Prayers focused on earthly values reflect earth bound hearts.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sewing Righteousness

"Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18).

Both righteousness and peace come through living out the Word in personal trials and temptations (chapter one). In chapter two righteousness and peace are directly associated with our interactions with the body of Christ and again, the living out God's Word. And in chapter three he points out the direct connection between our tongues and our hearts for making or breaking peace.

In the sentence we are considering, James says righteousness is a fruit. That means it is a result of healthy growth. The lack of nutrients and water kill a tree and its fruit. So our self focus kills any fruit of righteousness. If our hearts are not at peace our actions will not produce either peace or righteousness.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is, Is Not

There is man's wisdom and God's wisdom. They are naturally opposed to one another (Galatians 5:17; Isaiah 55:8). James gives us guidelines to be able to tell the difference between the way God does things and our own inclinations.

Godly wisdom is pure. It has no ulterior motives. It does not appear to be one thing and is another. It is straight forward and honest.

Godly wisdom also is peaceable. It does not stir up trouble for the sake of advancement (Romans 12:18). That does not mean a wise decision will not meet with resistance. It means that is not our purpose.

Godly wisdom is willing to yield. This does not mean willing to compromise the truth. It does mean we are ready to examine our decision in the light of new information and to admit when we are wrong.

Godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. We are careful of other's feelings, desires and ready to forgive offenses.

Godly wisdom is without partiality and hypocrisy. Our decision would be the same, given the same circumstances, regardless of whether we are dealing with someone we like or someone we dislike; someone who can help us advance or has no influence over our advancement.

Not an easy requirement. We need God (James 3:17).